Everybody is working for….the Weekend Preview
Real Writing on Racing 💯
The Fall racing season has arrived with the protracted Aqueduct season (aka Belmont at Aqueduct which feels oddly like just plain old Aqueduct) kicked off (with a steeplechase no less), the first of the two Churchill autumn sessions opening Thursday night, the Monmouth at Meadowlands weekend turf festival (of sorts) launching last night and the Keeneland September yearling sale now in full swing.
It’s a far cry from the old Belmont Fall Championship season, one of the great meets of the past that was shredded to bits by the rise of Breeders Cup importance and modern ‘training techniques’, which call for far more training than they do racing. Alas these are the times in which we exist and deal with the changes we must. I’m not going to pontificate deeply today as there is literally so much negative in racing to discuss I’d rather just skip it for now and preview some of the weekends interesting races. Ultimately the races are the hook, without the on-the-track competition, this industry is just a glorified equestrian exercise and trust me we don’t need to see the vast majority of our human participants in britches.
🆓 DRF Formulator PP’s for the Woodbine Mile (Gr I) can be found here
🇮🇪 Some Breeders Cup news from the lads on the other side of the pond here.
⏱️ Click here for a link to free video workouts taking place at Keeneland and Churchill Downs listed by name of the horse, an invaluable resource sponsored by the KTA.
🇨🇦 Big weekend north of the border but….Natalma stakes being grade 1 races is quite a stretch. Outside of Lady Speightspeare (a legit grade 1 runner) the winners of the Natalma since 2016 have generally not even been very successful let alone grade 1 competitors. Victory to Victory raced two more seasons never hitting the board in a graded stakes in 5 tries. Capla Temptress (Ire) won one graded stakes, the Grade III My Charmer. La Pelosa (Ire) ran once more and was 10th in the BC juvy turf. Abscond ran three more seasons, never won another race though was multiple graded stakes place, none in grade 1’s. Wild Beauty won but a single race, the grade 3 Fred Darling stakes at Newbury, the remainder of her career and last years winner, Last Call hasn’t won a race nor is graded stakes placed since. Having the Breeders Cup Juvy Filly turf and this race being the same grade shows the weakness of the current graded system (yes I realize this is a Canadian grade).
🇫🇷 If you are up early, check out these two group 3 stakes from Chantilly for two year olds, you never know there might be a Breeders Cup horse in one of them.
We get inundated with negative stories in racing…here is positive one from Jay Hovdey
💰The Going in Circle’s Digest Video play of the day (race 7 🇨🇦 Woodbine) from ‘the Sniper’ Barry Spears 💵
Iroquois (Gr III) $300,000 2yo 1 mile CD (10 KYD pts)
Liberal Arts - has improved in each start culminating with breaking his maiden in the latest at Ellis Park. Arrogate colt needs to continue to get better but note Medina has done very well when stretching horses out (26% w/$3.84 ROI 1st route and 28% w/$3.49 ROI sprint ➡️ route) and this guy could be an on-the-board player at a long price.
West Saratoga - only horse in the field to have raced and/or won at the distance of the Iroquois. Won in start number five and while he has run solid figures last two, he improved quite a bit over the summer and may have plateaued. Also figures to be a pace player in a race that seems to be designed to have a quick early tempo which isn’t a positive for the son of Exaggerator.
Union Roll - Pletcher colt by Union Rags was sharp beating maidens in debut at Monmouth last month. Not sure of the quality he faced that day as he ran an 11.5 TG and won in hand by 5 which doesn’t say much for the others at this point. Certainly has a right to improve while stretching out though Pletcher traditionally hasn’t done as well at CD as he has at most of the other top venues (14% vs 23% overall).
Edified - Tapit colt ran a representative race when breaking his maiden at Ellis in early July (defeating Liberal Arts) but had a ton of early trouble in his stakes debut in the Saratoga Special (Gr II) where he didn’t do much running. Expect a better showing with clean trip though the jury is out on just how good he is.
Market Street - broke maiden nicely back in the mud in June yet didn’t switch leads that day. Has been a pace factor for Lukas in all his subsequent races, all in stakes including the last where the Street Sense colt set a slow early fractions before fading on the grass. At this point he seems like he is regressing and his main contribution to this stakes is setting or pressing a quick early lead.
Seize the Grey - did zero running 1st out at Ellis before jumping up in the slop and wiring a Saratoga MSW for Lukas. Arrogate colt ran a decent race in the off-the-turf Skidmore, encountering tons of traffic and still running on to be third in the mud. He has to improve here and also show that he can handle a dry track but if you are searching for a potential upsetter at a price he may be interesting.
Gettysburg Address - it’s hard to make ‘four score’ or any other score on Brad Cox trained runners as they usually are well bet but this might be an opportunity to try. Yet another that figures to appreciate the added distance after breaking his maiden in a workmanlike fashion at Ellis Park, blinkers on for that debut where he didn’t take much tote action. It hasn’t been a productive race thus far though the 8th place finisher Tifareeh did win next out on grass at Kentucky Downs. Prat is named to ride and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see improvement, just make sure you get a decent price.
Risk It - impressive debut when throttling a group of MSW runners at the Spa 4 weeks ago. Showed good early speed that day and has to avoid getting caught up in a heated pace battle in this event. His TG of 7 is good but not so good that you wouldn’t believe that he can’t pair it up again. The Gun Runner colt is the likely deserving favorite but I’d avoid playing him at undervalued odds (anything under 8/5).
Patriot Spirit - son of Constitution crushed Colonial maidens in his debut three weeks ago. The main track in Virginia is very tight and regularly produces fast times so take the speedy early fractions with a grain of salt. Still he was very sharp that day for veterans Campbell and Castanon though the former is 0-21 at Churchill over an extended period and I question the quality of the field he faced in his only start. Tread lightly at 7-2 morning line or price close to that.
Jockey Club Oaks (Gr III) $350,000 3yo fillies 1 3/8 turf
Last Call - a grade 1 winner that hasn’t looked like one since she took down the Natalma (Gr I) exactly a year ago. Not that she has been bad as a 3yo but she just hasn’t improved much, if at all. That said this is an amazingly soft group for a race of this caliber and while her late running style may not be flattered by what looks to be a softish pace, it’s hard to toss her completely.
Quarrel - wired a pretty ordinary group last out at Saratoga, setting slow early fractions and fending off the closers late. Will almost assuredly be on the lead here as the groups only confirmed speed type but the question is can she see out the 11 furlong trip as a daughter of Speightstown? Her dam Promotional was grade 3 type turf marathoner and her 1/2 brother Daunt (by Nyquist) has a win at 1 3/8 on grass so there is a glimmer of hope. That said it’s a tough ask for her as she hasn’t run a race good enough and even under ideal conditions last out she topped out at a TG of 10.75 and returns on short rest.
Neecie Marie - PA bred much better since transferred to the grass for trainer Butch Reid. Ran a huge TG last out when ridiculously wide when winning Parx stake but that was a far softer group than even this below par bunch. Another with the question of ability to handle the 11 furlongs and add in Reid is only batting 7% at Aqueduct, far lower than his overall 19% win percentage. Scratched out of a tougher spot, the ungraded overnight stake, the Winter Memories on Friday afternoon for this. There are just too many turf stakes at too many Eastern/midwestern locales during the late August-October period and it’s really negatively impacting many of the fields.
Stephanie’s Charm - trainer Jimenez has 1198 lifetime wins and as far as we can tell, exactly one of those was on the turf. This filly by Distroted Humor is out of a mare that could run all day but that hasn’t translated to her foals yet. Chased Quarrel to no avail last time and honestly hasn’t even been close to clearing an entry level allowance race. If she wins the race should lose its grade.
Highland Grace - Barclay Tagg takes a shot with this daughter of American Pharoah, freshened since winning a first level allowance race going 1 1/4 on soft grass in early July at Belmont. She had broken her maiden a month earlier at todays distance which is notable though her speed figs have been pretty ordinary as her lifetime top is TG 9.5. You could play her assuming that she will improve and clearly has the required stamina and merits a long look though demanding a price around the morning line of 5-1 is suggested.
Eternal Hope (Ire) - if this was 2022, you could basically circle this one and put her in the books as Chuck Appleby and crew were almost automatic when they showed up on these shores. That said, even in his weakened state of only being 17% stateside this season, Appleby sends out a formidable challenger here as the daughter of Teofilo (Ire) exits a good 3rd in the group II Prix Alec Head at Deauville in her last. That was good enough for a 101 Timeform rating and TG had her earning a 7 which is tops in this group (other than the suspect Parx fig for Neecie Marie). David Aragona has her listed at even money in the morning line and she likely ticks under that price but I’d be a bit wary at taking her at odds on especially with the esteemed Bill Buick not in the saddle, replaced instead by the Jaime Spencer experience. Is she the likeliest winner? Sure but don’t forget it’s 2023 not 2022.
Speirling Beag (Ire) - recent import ran okay against much tougher in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (Gr I) back in early July, when beaten a little less than 3 lengths checking in 6th behind Aspen Grove who would be 4-5 in here. Motion tried softer competition for her subsequent start and might have got all the money in the Searching Stakes at Laurel if not for being crowded in deep stretch, just missing by a nose. Gets Franco who has a stellar record when paired with Motion runners (31% at BAQ and 24% overall) and you’d have to give her a shot stretching out with a clean trip.
Woodbine Mile (Gr I) $1,000,000 3&up 1 mile Turf
Master of the Seas (Ire) - Euro shipper comes into this off of blowout score in handicap race at Ascot in July where he earned a Timeform rating of 125 (TG 1.5). Appleby named William Buick to steer the gelded son of Dubawi (Ire) from the rail in the one turn grade 1 and on class he seems like a cut above most of these. That said old Chuck isn’t running a training clinic as he has the last few years and some doubt must be cast at taking this guy at a really short price. He could absolutely win here but are you willing to take an underlaid price?
War Bomber (Ire) - five year old gelding by War Front has never run a figure good enough to beat these but he is consistent and should get an excellent trip staking what seems to be loose leader My Sea Cottage (Ire). Trainer McKnight has been ice cold for the last few months as he is only batting 7% over the last 90 days with 81 starters, a far cry from up his lifetime number of 23%.
Shirl’s Speight - world traveler since his surprising runner up finish in last fall’s Breeders Cup Mile, prepped for this with an even effort when 4th in the King Edward (Gr II) last month, his first race since a foray to Dubai this spring. I’d expect an improved effort in here as Attfield is a master when pointing to a specific spot and his best is better than most of this fields. Johnny Velazquez is named to ride and in an interesting bit of trivia, he has won this race more than any other jockey (5 times).
Ice Chocolat (Brz) - ran well in the Fourstardave (Gr I) in his latest, closing ground on Casa Creed and Annapolis late. Will there be enough early pace set by My Sea Cottage (Ire) in here to flatter his late running style? That’s the question and is he actually better at two turn races than one turn one?
My Sea Cottage (Ire) - refugee from the starter allowance ranks figures to be the early pace setter after being supplemented to this race. Not surprisingly both of his higher rated barnmates are dead closers so he can ensure that there is at least some pace in here and perhaps soften up War Bomber (Ire) too.
Lucky Score - the third Casse entrant, like Ice Choclat (Brz) does his best running late in the race and needs Davis on My Sea Cottage (Ire) to set the table for him. Likely needs a lifetime best to win this but to be honest, this isn’t exactly a deep field and anything close to the 15-1 morning line would make him very playable.