Weekend horse racing sets stage for Breeders' Cup at Del Mar

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Letruska wins Sunday's Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes. Photo courtesy of Keeneland
1 of 2 | Letruska wins Sunday's Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes. Photo courtesy of Keeneland

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Stars such as Letruska and Bell's the One and lots of promising 2-year-olds earned "Win and You're In" spots in next month's Breeders' Cup in weekend racing at Keeneland and Belmont Park.

With that action in the books, the preliminaries are almost over. Only one qualifying race remains during the coming week at Keeneland.


Among the most notable feats of the weekend: Horses trained by Chad Brown finished first and second in Grade I turf races at both Belmont Park and Keeneland.

The 2-year-olds also were in action in England, France and Japan. We've got more from Australia.

Let's go.


Letruska looked invincible coming into Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland and looked even more so as she was being led into the winner's circle afterward.

The 5-year-old Super Saver mare, winner of six of her previous seven starts, jumped right to the front in the Spinster, led the way, got a breather heading into the far turn and cruised home 1 3/4 lengths in front of Dunbar Road. Bonny South was third.


Letruska, with Irad Ortiz Jr. along for the ride, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.01.

The Spinster was a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Distaff and trainer Fausto Gutierrez sounded enthusiastic about that prospect.

"She right now is one of the top contenders of the division," Gutierrez said. "For her to win [this] 'Win and You're In' for the Breeders' Cup. ... What can I tell you? This is a strong year for this horse."

On Sunday at Belmont Park, Royal Flag rallied down the stretch to win the $250,000 Grade II Beldame Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths. Horologist was second, 1/2 length in front of Miss Marissa.

Royal Flag, a 5-year-old Candy Ride mare, ran 1 1/8 miles on a good track in 1:50.02 with Joel Rosario up. She went to the post as the odds-on favorite despite having finished third -- behind Letruska and Bonny South -- in her last race, the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga. She, too, is trained by Chad Brown.

"We'll see what's next for her," said Brown's assistant, Dan Stupp. "Off that race, I'm sure Chad and [owner William Farish] will consider the Breeders' Cup. We'll get her back and see how she comes out of it and they'll come up with a plan."



Special Reserve looked like a sure winner midway down the Keeneland stretch in Friday's $250,000 Grade II Phoenix Stakes.

But as the finish neared, there were visions of his previous race when he was caught in the shadow of the wire to finish second in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, ending a modest two-race winning streak.

This time, he held on to win by a neck over Aloha West with Mucho 2 lengths farther back in third. Special Reserve, a 5-year-old Midshipman gelding, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.56.

Asked about the Breeders' Cup Sprint, trainer Mike Maker said, "That's been the plan all along." Aloha West's trainer, Wayne Catalano, said his horse also might try that race.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Bell's the One, under a confident ride by Corey Lanerie, was up in time to score by a neck in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. Club Car also closed smartly to finish second with Estilo Talentoso another head back in third.

Bell's the One, a Majesticperfection filly trained by Neil Pessin, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.63. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, in which Bell's the One finished third last year.



As noted, trainer Chad Brown continued his march through the ranks of top-level turf racing, saddling the winner and runner-up in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.

Unaccountably, both were dispatched at double-digit odds. Rockemperor was jostled at the start, raced wide and still got up to win by 2 lengths over stablemate Serve the King.

The favorite, Gufo, led briefly turning for home and was all out to hold third. Old rivals Channel Maker and Arklow finished fourth and fifth and Irish raider Japan was a disappointment, defeating only Cross Border.

Rockemperor, a 5-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf with Javier Castellano riding. The win was only his second in 13 starts since arriving from France in the summer of 2019.

Asked about plans for the Breeders' Cup, Brown said, "Both horses, you'd have to look at it. We'll see how the figures come back, but I'm not going to make any decisions right now."

Brown struck again Sunday in the $150,000 Grade III Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont as Sacred Life rallied from the back of the pack to win by a head over Field Pass. Temple was third, another 1 3/4 lengths back.


With Jose Ortiz up, Sacred Life, a 6-year-old Siyouni ridgling, finished 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.66.

Turf Mile

In Love provided an exclamation point to a Saturday of graded stakes upsets at Keeneland, rallying six-wide into the stretch to win the $750,000 Grade I Keeneland Turf Mile by 1 1/2 lengths over fellow longshot Tell Your Daddy.

Somelikeithotbrown settled for third after taking a brief lead while the favorite, Irish invader and 2020 Breeders' Cup Turf Mile winner Order of Australia, called it a day very early and finished last of 12.

In Love, a Brazilian-bred gelding by Agnes Gold, finished in 1:34.84 with Alex Achard up for trainer Paolo Lobo. Lobo also trained last year's Keeneland Mile winner, Ivar, who finished fourth Saturday and said both are contenders for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

In Love earned a spot in that heat through the "Win and You're In" scheme.

Kieran Murphy, who handled Order of Australia for trainer Aidan O'Brien," said the result was "a disappointment ... He had a tough draw, 10 of 13, and he doesn't like to be in around other horses."

Blowout, after a recent history of lead-and-surrender, finally hung on to one in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I First Lady at Keeneland. After showing the way and shaking off a challenge early in the stretch, the 5-year-old, British-bred Dansili mare prevailed to win by 1/2 length over Regal Glory.


Both are owned by Peter Brant and trained by turf maestro Chad Brown. Blowout, with Flavien Prat riding, finished 1 mile on good turf in 1:34.86. Well-regarded European raiders Empress Josephine and Althiqa, finished third and fourth.

The First Lady was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 6. That race, however, is carded for 1 3/8 miles, a distance likely well beyond the scope of any of the top finishers in Saturday's tilt.

None of the trainers was on hand at Keeneland to tip plans for their charges, but Kieran Murphy, assistant to trainer Aidan O'Brien, said Sunday that the performance by Empress Josephine was "very encouraging.

The plan is to run her back Saturday [in the Group I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 1 1/8 miles], and I think the extra furlong should benefit her."


They were all following Following Sea in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Vosburg Stakes at Belmont Park as the 3-year-old Runhappy colt led virtually all the way to a 4 3/4-length victory. The odds-on favorite, Firenze Fire, was second while Baby Yoda and Good Effort completed the order of finish.


Following Sea, with Joel Rosario riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.20, ridden out.

The victory, over much more experienced older horses, earned Following Sea a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Pletcher said of that race, "It's got to be in play." He earlier finished second in the Grade I Haskell and third in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Memorial.

Turf Sprint

Trainer Wesley Ward has called Golden Pal perhaps his best horse ever, a accolade that would put him atop some very good horses. But he did nothing to lower that estimation in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Woodford at Keeneland.

The 3-year-old Uncle Mo colt jumped to the lead right out of the gate, then exploded down the stretch after being headed briefly by Firecrow.

With only a few taps of jockey John Velazquez's whip, he won by 2 1/4 lengths, trailed by this year's Group1 Al Quoz Sprint winner Extravagant Kid and County Final. He got 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:03.12.

The Woodford was a good bounce back after Golden Pal finished seventh, fading late in the late going of the 5-furlongs Grade I Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York in England in his previous start.



Rattle N Roll ran like a well-oiled NASCAR machine down the Keeneland stretch to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity by 4 1/4 lengths.

The Connect colt, trained by Kenny McPeek, was halfway back in the 13-horse field on the stretch turn, came four-wide to challenge and found no resistance.

With Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons, he ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.78. It was his second straight win after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs Sept. 23.

Although Rattle N Roll earned a "Win and You're In" slot for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, McPeek said, "I am not going to commit yet. My first instinct is to wait for the [Grade II] Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 27. The Breeders' Cup is an 'away game,' and I know he likes Churchill a lot."

Juvenile Fillies

Juju's Map ran to her notices in Friday's $400,000 Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland, tracking the early leader before surging to the lead and a 4 1/4-length victory. Distinctlypossible and Sequist completed the trifecta.

Juju's Map, a Liam's Map filly, completed the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.52 with Florent Geroux up for trainer Brad Cox. Her two previous starts, both at Ellis Park, produced a second and a victory, the win by 5 3/4 lengths.


"We'll obviously talk it over with [the owners], and as long as she comes out of it in good order, I think we'll march on toward California," Cox said of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. "It was a good trip last time and hopefully she can show up and run her race and be very effective."

Juvenile Turf

Tiz the Bomb stalked the pace in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, came six-wide into the lane and was along in time to win by 3/4 length over Stolen Base. Credibility was third.

Tiz the Bomb, a Hit It a Bomb colt, broke through the gate before the start but was corralled with minimal effort and reloaded easily. He won for the third straight time and earned a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" spot.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Bubble Rock stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Matron at Belmont Park, advanced when prompted by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and was along in the final yards to win by 1/2 length. Gal In a Rush was a long shot second, another 1/2 length to the good of pacesetter Mystic Eyes.

Bubble Rock, a More Than Ready filly trained by Brad Cox, got 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.01, winning for the second straight race after finishing second in her debut.


Juvenile Turf Sprint

Averly Jane had no trouble earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint with an effortless, 3-length romp in Sunday's $200,000 Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland.

The Midshipman filly, trained by Wesley Ward and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, went straight for the lead in the 5 1/2-furlong event, showed the way and was not asked for her best at the end.

She remains undefeated after four starts, three of them stakes races, and has never been seriously threatened in any of them. It was her first start on the turf, but Gaffalione commented, "It doesn't really matter" what surface she runs over. "She's just a quality filly."

Slipstream started last of eight in Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Futurity at Belmont Park, proved a handful early for jockey Joel Rosario but then settled down, picked off rivals down the stretch and won by 1 length over pacesetting long shot Run Curtis Run.

Biz Biz Buzz was third and the favorite, Chi Town Lady, was a never-involved fifth. Slipstream, a More Than Ready colt, ran 6 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:08.36.

Even though Slipstream scored a "Win and You're In" spot for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, trainer Christophe Clement said he would prefer to enter the colt in the longer Juvenile Turf.


Around the world, around the clock:


Native Trail looks like a real prospect going into hibernation for the 2022 season.

The Oasis Dream colt, trained by Charlie Appleby, rather effortlessly rolled to his fourth straight win in Saturday's Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, rallying to the lead when asked by jockey William Buick around the furlong marker and kicking clear to win by 2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.

Dubawi Legend and Bayside Boy trailed Native Trail home.

The Newmarket triumph followed an even more impressive score in the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland in his previous start.

"We've got some exciting horses on our hands," said Appleby, who also trained the other 2-year-old winners on the Saturday card, Goldspur and Coroebus.

Inspiral goes into her winter's repose undefeated after winning Friday's Group 1 bet365 Fillies Mile at Newmarket comfortably.

The Frankel miss, with Frankie Dettori up, took full command in the final furlong and won by 2 1/2 lengths from Prosperous Voyage. Trainer John Gosden, attention firmly fixed on the 2022 1,000 Guineas, said no consideration is given to pointing Inspiral to Del Mar for the Breeders' Cup.



Sunday Racing had three of the seven starters in Saturday's Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup for 2-year-olds at Tokyo Racecourse and they finished 1-2-3 as the favorites.

The lone colt in the bunch, Command Line, a son of Deep Impact, edged Sternatia, a Lord Kanaloa filly, by 1/2 length with Stunning Rose, a daughter of King Kamehameha, third.

Christophe Lemaire rode the winner, who took command with some 300 meters left in the 1,600-meters test and, despite the relatively close margin of victory, always seemed to be in charge. He won his only previous start in June. Sakae Kunieda trains Command Line.


While Godolphin was having a field day with 2-year-olds at Newmarket in England, the global operation's top Australian 3-year-old, Anamoe, was doing his thing equally emphatically, down under.

The Street Boss colt, trained by James Cummings, came running in the closing yards of Saturday's Group 1 Neds Caulfield Guineas to win by 1/2 length over Captivant. It was his second win from three starts this season and he was barely pipped by In the Congo in the loss.

On the same program, Probabeel and Nonconformist battled to the finish in the Group 1 Neds Might and Power Stakes with Probabeel victorious by a short head. Zaaki, the heavy favorite and hot thing for the upcoming Cox Plate, could only finish third, 1 3/4 lengths farther back.


Probabeel, a 5-yaer-old Savabeel mare, put paid to a two-race losing skid while Zaaki, a 6-year-old gelding by Leroidesanimaux, saw a five-race win streak ended.


Malavath survived a three-way test of staying power in the final yards of Saturday's Group 2 Critérium de Maisons-Laffitte for 2-year-olds, winning the 1,200 meters test by a neck over Have a Good Day. The favorite, Desert Dreamer, also was in the mix late but failed to sustain the effort, finishing third.

Malavath, an Irish-bred filly by Mehmas, made it two wins in a row after opening her account with a third and second, all in France. Despite the name, the race was contested at Chantilly as Masons-Laffitte, to the dismay of local horsemen, is shuttered.

Meanwhile, back in North America:


Special Forces closed well in the stretch run to win Sunday's $180,000 (Canadian) Durham Cup Stakes by 1/2 length over the favorite, Sir Winston. It was another 2 lengths back to Halo Again in third.

Special Forces, a 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.36 with Justin Stein riding.

Art of Almost came from last of six to win Sunday's $180,000 (Canadian) Ontario Matron by 1 1/4 lengths over Skygaze. The early leader, Juxtapose, was third.


Art of Almost, a 3-year-old Dansili mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.99 for jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson.

In an early test for the 2022 Queen's Plate, God of Love chased down pacesetting favorite Fast Feet in the stretch drive of Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Cup and Saucer Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-olds and ran on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. Stronger Together was third.

God of Love, a cleverly named colt by Cupid, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:47.86 with Rafael Hernandez riding. It was his second start, following a seventh-place finish going 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather course.

Marie Mackay jumped out to the lead in Friday's $150,000 (Canadian) Shady Well Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies, led comfortably throughout the 5 1/2 lengths on the all-weather course and won by 2 1/4 lengths from the odds-on favorite, Aubreta. It was another 2 1/4 lengths to Ya Mar in third.

Marie Mackay, a Noble Mission filly, was clocked in 1:04.00 with Justin Stein aboard.

Ironstone also led from gate to wire in the companion $150,000 (Canadian) Clarendon Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds, drawing off to score by 6 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Silent Runner and Silent Resent were second and third.


Ironstone, a Mr Speaker colt, got home in 1:03.53 with Ademar Santos in the kip.

Not So Quiet romped as the favorite in Saturday's $100,000 Overskate Stakes for Ontario-breds, drawing off in the stretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths. Told It All was second-best, 1 1/4 lengths better than Wave Baby.

Not So Quiet, a 6-year-old Silent Name gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.46 with Rafael Hernandez up.

Charles Town

Muad'dib pressed the pace made by Hero's Man in Saturday's $300,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic, moved by that rival when asked and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Hero's Man held second by 3/4 length over North Atlantic.

Muad'dib, a 4-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:54.97 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons.

Star of Night, the overwhelming favorite, started last of 10 in Saturday's $175,000 Caveda Breeders' Classic, moved up heading into the stretch and won a long battle to the wire by 3/4 length over long shot Privately. Bridging the Gap was another 6 lengths back in third.

Star of Night, a 4-year-old Creative Cause filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:26.53 with Bocachica in the irons.


Santa Anita

England's Rose made up lots of ground with a wide trip through the stretch to win Saturday's $70,000 Swingtime Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Norma Jean B. Brooke was just a neck back of that one in third.

England's Rose, a 5-year-old English Channel mare, completed 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.99 with Victor Espinoza riding.


Fashionably Fast was fast enough to post a 1 1/4-length victory as the favorite in Saturday's $75,000 Harris Farms Stakes for California-breds.

The 6-year-old Lucky Pulpit gelding pressed the pace and won driving, finishing 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.90 with Tiago Pereira up. Top Harbor was second and Jamming Eddy third.

Latest Headlines