Trainer Barclay Tagg has sent out eight previous Breeders' Cup starters and will be looking for his first winner when he saddles Cassies Dreamer in the Juvenile Fillies and Verve's Tale in the Distaff at Churchill Downs.
A 2-year-old daughter of Flatter, Cassies Dreamer was claimed for $50,000 out of her maiden score on August 3 at Saratoga. Tagg claimed the dark bay filly at the behest of owners Turf Stable Racing (Rusty Jones) and Hayward R. Pressman. Since the claim, Cassies Dreamer has kept steep company, finishing third in both the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 1 Frizette.
“I haven't claimed a horse in 40 years. I was never really interested in claiming horses, I like to buy horses and develop them and go that route,” started Tagg. “So, I said, 'let me take a look at her.' She walked down the path from the barn over to Saratoga, and that's like walking the gauntlet with all the kids and people over there. I thought if she walks through there and looks alright to me, I'll go ahead and claim her. As soon as I set eyes on her, wow, what a gorgeous filly. Just a big, strong strapping filly. I had to take her. I put the claim in, we got her, and she won the race. And she really hasn't done anything wrong since. Everything she does is in the right direction.”
Following a bit of trouble at the gate in the Spinaway, Cassies Dreamer came from last of 11 to get within 2 1/4 lengths of Juvenile Fillies-rival Sippican Harbor.
“It takes time trying to load a lot of babies into the gate and they have to fuss with them to get their head straight. I'm not blaming anyone at the gate, it's just a tussle sometimes and she came out of it slow and it cost her. I figured it was all over and we'd try and develop her on from there. All of a sudden, she was coming and maybe could have won it with a bit of a better start,” said Tagg.
On Friday morning, Cassies Dreamer worked in company with Brucia La Terra, runner-up in the Frizette last time out, covering four furlongs in 48.44 seconds over the Belmont main track. Brucia La Terra will make her next start in the Grade 3 Tempted on Opening Day at Aqueduct.
“I've worked them together pretty much every work and I was very happy with how they went this morning,” Tagg said. “I feel good about her [going into the Breeders' Cup]. You never know until you get them in against the heavy hitters, but she's held her own so far. She's a young filly but she's trained well and done everything we've asked her to do. We're really pleased with her progress.”
Pressman and Jones are new clients for Tagg and the veteran conditioner has enjoyed the partnership. At their suggestion, Manny Franco will take over from Junior Alvarado.
“The owners asked me if I'd ride Manny and I said yes. So far, saying yes to them has been working out,” Tagg said with a laugh.
Charles Fipke's homebred Verve's Tale will make her Breeders' Cup debut in the Distaff. The 5-year-old Tale of Ekati mare has yet to win in five starts this campaign but will go into the Distaff off a rallying third in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational.
“She's a tough, old gal. She's as honest as the day is long. She likes to come from off the pace. If you let her lay up close, she doesn't have as good a finish. It's a little hard with 14 horses to come from off the pace but the good riders and good horses can do it,” Tagg said.
Brian Hernandez, Jr. will take over from Manny Franco aboard Verve's Tale at Churchill Downs and be tasked with finding a winning trip.
“She's pretty honest. If you ease her back and just wait and wait and wait on her, she'll finish strong for you,” Tagg said. “She won a stakes race [the Summer Colony] at Saratoga doing that, only by a nose, but she gets there. You never know what can happen in a big field.”
Verve's Tale breezed five furlongs in 1:01.37 this morning on the Belmont main.
“I asked them to go off in 12 and change and finish up in a minute and they were pretty close to it. She galloped out strong,” Tagg said.
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