As we get closer to the Breeders’ Cup the prep races are coming fast and furious. October 7
th at Belmont is the big preview day when we will see leading Horse of the Year candidate BERNARDINI try to stamp himself as the best horse in the country with his run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His big match-up with INVASOR will have to wait as he is out of the race because of a fever that caused him to miss some training time. There will be five Grade I stakes races on Super Saturday with all of these races impacting the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on November 4th.
Over the weekend of September 30
th-October 1st we saw two races at Belmont that could impact the Breeders’ Cup. On September 30th Belmont hosted the Grade II Kelso Breeders’ Cup Handicap at a mile on the turf, this race can have an impact on the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The favorite in the race was ART MASTER who was shipping in from overseas and moving into the Bobby Frankel barn with ASHKAL WAY a close second choice. With longshots BARON VON TAP and FRIENDLY ISLAND setting the quick pace it set it up perfect for an off the pace type. With ART MASTER finding traffic at every turn the ultra consistent ASHKAL WAY came running with a wide run to win at the wire by head; running his record to five wins from six tries in the United States with one second. FREE THINKING, an 11-1 shot just got beat late after stalking leaders early on and finished more than two lengths clear of the third place ART MASTER who finally found room to run third late. METEOR STORM a veteran 7yo who was coming off an injury finished an even fourth and is prepping for longer races. Now this wasn’t a very strong Kelso from a quality or quantity standpoint but ASHKAL WAY is very consistent and does have a shot in the Breeders’ Cup mile if he can work out a similar trip.
On Sunday Belmont hosted the Grade II Jerome Breeders’ Cup Handicap at one mile for three year olds. Even though this race has less quantity and quality than the Kelso did the day before we have seen the best horse in all the world. DISCREET CAT, another top three year old put on a huge display in a race that didn’t have much behind him but he was so impressive that he might have earned his way into the Breeders’ Cup. He was very aggressive early on making the lead and then drawing away at will, without ever being asked for his best. The plan all along was to run in the Jerome and then the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and then back to Dubai for some time off until next year. However, since coming back from Dubai he has scored in an allowance race in a very impressive 1:21:2 and then an easy win in the Jerome to run his record to five wins from five tries. The ease at which he handles these fields has got many racing fans yearning for a match-up of the Breeders’ Cup Classic with BERNARDINI. This is what the Breeders’ Cup was created for to have the best horses face off on racings biggest day to decide year end championships.
Next week we will take a look at the five Grade I races at Belmont as the Breeders’ Cup draws closer and the races start to come in a clear picture.