Breeders' Cup Prep Weekend Primer

From sea to shining sea and even international showcases overseas, it’s a massive Breeders’ Cup prep weekend. Our national handicapper Jeremy Plonk looks at the keys to following literally all of the action.

Friday | Santa Anita | Race 8 | Chillingworth Stakes | Filly & Mare Sprint
Home-field advantage for the BC F&M Sprint could be on the line as Eda goes for an eighth straight victory and 3-year-old filly Clearly Unhinged returns from a sharp Saratoga effort to her local base. It's a race that Ce Ce used in 2021 to prep for her winning FMS run at Del Mar, set a half-furlong shorter than the main event in five weeks.

Saturday | Santa Anita | Race 6 | Santa Anita Sprint Championship | Sprint
Seven BC Sprint champs and two winners of the Dirt Mile have exited this race in past years, and Saturday’s cast is a Who’s Who of west coast sprinters. Dr. Schivel won this race in 2021 and missed adding the BC Sprint by a nose. CZ Rocket makes a fourth SA Sprint Championship appearance at age 9 and seeks his second such trophy. Sophomore Arabian Lion won major stakes on the Preakness and Belmont undercards and will face elders for the first time.

Saturday | Santa Anita | Race 8 | Awesome Again Stakes | Classic
This race has spring-boarded seven BC Classic winners and two additional Dirt Mile titlists, providing names like Ferdinand, Mucho Macho Man, Tiznow and more recently Accelerate. Bob Baffert has defending Awesome Again champ Defunded along with Preakness winner National Treasure in the lineup. This year’s Santa Anita Handicap winner Stilleto Boy returns to the scene of his biggest win.

Saturday | Santa Anita | Race 9 | Eddie D. Stakes | Turf Sprint
Three BC Turf Sprint winners launched from the Eddie D., including 2008 and 2009 renewals also held on the Santa Anita course. Lane Way was second in this race last year for Richard Mandella, while the miler Balnkihov tries to cut back in distance.

Saturday | Santa Anita | Race 10 | City of Hope Mile | Mile
A once dominant BC Mile prep that produced 4 winners from 1999-2004 alone, this race also developed 2016 Turf Sprint cut-back artist Obviously. Only five of nine entered are Breeders’ Cup nominees with no standout on paper.  Hit the Road was a close third here last year, but hasn’t won since March 2021. Hong Kong Harry (not a BC nom) has been freshened for his late kick that’s had SA success.

Saturday | Churchill Downs | Race 9 | Ack Ack | Dirt Mile / Sprint
All seven entered are Breeders’ Cup nominees and it’s possible to see some Dirt Mile interest here with the likes of Zozos and last year’s BC Sprint fifth-place finisher O Besos. Three Technique was sixth in last year’s BC Dirt Mile and exits a win in Belmont’s Nerud in July.

Saturday | Churchill Downs | Race 10 | Lukas Classic | Classic / Dirt Mile
Knicks Go used this race en route to the 2021 BC Classic crown, but the mile and one-eighth race could also provide a cut-back opportunity toward the Dirt Mile. Pimlico Special winner and Stephen Foster runner-up Rattle N Roll headlines a field that includes Monmouth’s Iselin 1-2 finishers Whelen Springs and Trademark. Americanrevolution won the 2021 Cigar Mile but has raced only once this year, while Longacres Mile winner Five Star General adds regional intrigue.

Saturday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | Race 3 | Vosburgh | Sprint / Dirt Mile
The Vosburgh got its first BC Sprint winner since 2004 last year when Elite Power used this race to become its sixth Sprint winner all-time. Now the race welcomes reigning BC Dirt Mile winner Cody’s Wish as trainer Bill Mott will be heavily favored to go back-to-back. Accretive has won both allowance starts this year for Chad Brown and leads a light list of five challengers.

Saturday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | Race 5 | Gallant Bloom | Filly & Mare Sprint
Wavell Avenue exited the 2015 Gallant Bloom en route to BC F&M Sprint glory and this cast of six has five BC nominees hoping to follow suit. With division heavyweights Echo Zulu and Goodnight Olive resting post-Saratoga, there’s a chance for pursuers like Caramel Swirl and last year’s third-place finisher Sterling Silver. Sophomore Undervalued Asset meets elder stakes performers for the first time as the Chad Brown trainee could provide a sidekick to stablemate Goodnight Olive’s F&M Sprint division title defense.

Saturday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | Race 6 | Joe Hirsch Turf Classic | Turf
This race has produced a BC Turf winner in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, but is looking for its first since 2012. When you get the 1-2-3 finishers in last year’s BC Turf at Keeneland in a final prep rematch, what more can you ask for? Rebel’s Romance, Stone Age and War Like Goddess are back … but each with a rebound in pursuit after defeats. War Like Goddess could give trainer Bill Mott a record-padding sixth win in the Hirsch.

Saturday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | race 7 | Woodward Stakes | Classic / Dirt Mile
Horses like Ghostzapper, Saint Liam and Gun Runner have prepped in the Woodward just before BC Classic victories. Corinthian and Liam’s Map used it en route to Dirt Mile wins. So Saturday’s mile and one-eighth could go a few directions for Met Mile and Whitney runner-up Zandon, Suburban winner Charge It and Dubai World Cup runner-up Algiers for English-based Simon Crisford. The latter’s connections have indicated a desire for the BC Dirt Mile after this.

Saturday | Laurel Park | Race 6 | Selima Stakes | Juvenile Fillies Turf
Impressive Saratoga debut winner Brocknardini wheels back quickly off a troubled trip two weeks ago in Woodbine’s Natalma for George Weaver. She’ll meet Colonial stakes winners Low Mileage and Carmelita, as well as Graham Motion’s Kentucky Downs maiden breaker Yatta.

Saturday | Laurel Park | Race 10 | Laurel Futurity | Juvenile Turf
This mile and one-sixteenth lacks a standout on paper though Monmouth debut winner Tropandhagen could be one to watch after fast fractions on the front end in his only start. Runners from Saratoga, Kentucky Downs, Monmouth and Colonial all make their Laurel turf debuts.

Saturday | Gulfstream Park | Race 9 | Hollywood Beach | Juvenile Turf Sprint
Bulletin came out of this race in 2018 to win the first BC Juvenile Turf Sprint, and earlier this year we saw GP’s turf sprint series develop Royal Ascot’s Queen Mary winner Crimson Advocate. Joe Orseno-trained Mattingly has a couple of stakes runner-ups on his resume to date.

Sunday | Longchamp | Race 4 | Arc de Triomphe | Turf
An event-best 10 BC Turf winners – as well as a Filly & Mare Turf victor – have come out of France’s most prestigious race. Highland Reel (2016) and Enable (2018) are the most recent successes in the BC. French Derby winner Ace Impact and German Derby winner Fantastic Moon challenge older horses in this 15-runner affair, including King George 1-2 duelers Hukum and Westover. Frankie Dettori makes his Arc swansong in search of a record-padding seventh victory in the race and partners with Free Wind.

Sunday | Longchamp | Race 5 | Prix de l’Opera | Filly & Mare Turf

Last year’s BC Filly & Mare Turf winner Tuesday exited France’s Arc Day undercard headliner, making her the fourth such runner to do so and third since just 2017. Thirteen are entered Sunday with French Oaks heroine Blue Rose Cen a solid favorite in the international bookmaking markets. Her Nassau Stakes conqueror Al Hussn looks to bounce back off a disappointing Yorkshire Oaks effort that snapped her four-race winning streak. The Arc Day card also features the Prix de l’Abbaye for Turf Sprint hopefuls, including Highfield Princess, and top Mile performers like Kinross in the Prix de la Foret.

Sunday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | Race 5 | Miss Grillo Stakes | Juvenile Fillies Turf
After producing 5 JFT winners between 2008-2018, this race looks to get back on track. Chad Brown has won it a record 8 times, but not the past 3 years. He has Hard to Justify and Steel Lute entered, but neither vies for favoritism. Lightning-fast Monmouth debut turf sprint winner Camila T is the boss until proven otherwise off her 13-length romp for Juan Avila, but it’s a long ways from five furlongs to 1-1/16 miles. Grade 3 With Anticipation winner Gala Brand beat the boys last time, is 2-for-2 for Bill Mott and rates a serious late threat.

Sunday | Belmont-at-Aqueduct | Race 7 | Pilgrim Stakes | Juvenile Turf
Responsible for the 2016, 2019 and 2020 JT winners, this Pilgrim edition features With Anticipation 3-4 finishers Spirit Prince and Get Spooled. Pay close attention how With Anticipation winner Gala Brand fares in Race 5 (Miss Grillo Stakes) for further barometer. Colonial raiders Triple Espresso (Todd Pletcher) and Fulmineo (Arnaud Delacour) showed promise in Virginia. Pletcher has won this race a record 5 times, including 2 straight, and also will be represented by Agate Road.

Sunday | Santa Anita | Race 4 | Zenyatta Stakes | Distaff
Eight times in history the BC Distaff has run through this Santa Anita prep, but not since Beholder in 2016. Just four entered, led by Adare Manor on a 4-race winning streak. Adare Manor’s trainer Bob Baffert has won a record 5 editions of this race, including 2 straight. She’s been microscopic .60, .30, .70, .50 offerings on the tote during that skein and short stuff again on Sunday.

Sunday | Santa Anita | Race 5 | Unzip Me Stakes | Turf Sprint
The filly & mare accompaniment to Saturday’s Eddie D. Stakes, this race looks to propel its first BC winner. That’s even less likely considering there are no BC nominees in the gate. Justique makes her turf sprint debut with a late pick that’s sputtered during her 3-year-old season. Del Mar Oaks pacesetter Ruby Nell cuts back the trip for Richard Mandella.

Sunday | Santa Anita | Race 6 | Tokyo City Cup | Classic
More likely to produce a marathoner for the BC undercard in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes, there’s a longshot Classic projection at the end of this mile and one-half given the local venue. Del Mar’s Cougar II winner and runner-up, Order and Law and Azul Coast, lead a field of just five. Kiss Today Goodbye has done his best work at Santa Anita and could rebound off a beaten favorite / bad trip in the Cougar II.

Sunday| Santa Anita | Race 7 | John Henry Turf Championship | Turf
Eight west coast Turf division hopefuls, all BC nominees, are entered in this mile and one-quarter grass test. Gold Phoenix took the Eddie Read and Del Mar Handicap this summer with late runs and came up just a neck short as the favorite in this race last year behind Phil D’Amato stablemate Masteroffoxhounds, who’s also back. Graham Motion sends Speaking Scout west, a move that was profitable in winning last year’s Hollywood Derby. This race has not produced a BC Turf winner since Northern Spur in 1995 and has accounted for three all-time.