Knicks Go, ridden by Joel Rosario, leads the field to win the Breeders Cup Classic during the Breeders' Cup Championships at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar Calif., on Saturday. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 8 (UPI) -- One of the lingering questions about the Breeders' Cup is: What would have happened if Life Is Good had run in the Classic rather than the Dirt Mile and provided a pace challenge for Knicks Go?
We might find out. And that potential matchup some three months down the road is only one of the fascinating prospects for future racing around the world to come out of the two-day Breeders' Cup meeting at Del Mar in sunny Southern California.
Classic winner Knicks Go is headed back to his Churchill Downs barn on a Tuesday flight with a stop in Indianapolis and the possibility that, before going to stud, he could defend his title in the Group 1 Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfsteam Park.
"If he comes out of it good and he trains well, we'll point for the Pegasus," trainer Brad Cox said. "It's a good purse, it's a surface he likes and if he's doing well, there have been horses that won the Breeders' Cup and ended their careers with that, between the likes of Gun Runner and City of Light.
"It's always a nice race that you can pick off hopefully before going off to stud."
If that comes to pass, the Pegasus could be a showdown between the departing Knicks Go, a 5-year-old son of Paynter, owned by the Korea Racing Association, and developing 3-year-old superstar Life Is Good, the runaway winner of Saturday's $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Owned by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, Life Is Good easily could have been the Kentucky Derby favorite but for an untimely injury. His impressive, 5 3/4-length win Saturday shows he's fully recovered.
Asked about next year and the possibility he might contest the Saudi Cup and/or the Dubai World Cup, WinStar's Elliott Walden said, "Yeah, will certainly consider all the options."
The Pegasus is a gateway race to the $20 million Saudi Cup, newly designated an International Grade I event for 2022 and trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday that progression has been in the back of the team's mind since his recovery was confirmed.
"He certainly ran well enough to proceed in that direction," Pletcher said.
The immediate discussion of the world's richest races, thousands of miles away, demonstrates clearly the self-anointed Breeders' Cup "World Championships" actually are growing into that role.
Perhaps the biggest potential impact of the 2021 Breeders' Cup on the international scene was the emergence of Japanese runners.
After going 0-for-13 in previous entries on America's big day, Japan scored twice at Del Mar, winning the $2 million Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf with proven globetrotting mare Loves Only You and the $2 million Longines Distaff on the dirt with 50-1 chance Marche Lorraine.
The path forward is uncertain for Marche Lorraine, whose previous form justified her long odds Saturday.
But Loves Only You, already proven at home, in Dubai, in Hong Kong and now in America, is headed back to Hong Kong for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup, and trainer Yoshito Yahagi said the Breeders' Cup triumph gives the entire Japanese racing establishment a boost.
"It's a dream come true for Japanese horse racing history," he said. "I'd love to come back to the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland next year and do the same thing."
Ocean Road, a 3-year-old Australia filly based in England, finished sixth in the Filly & Mare Turf and also figures to play an international role. "She ran very well and is going to be a lovely filly for next year," trainer Hugo Palmer said. "I expect her to keep improving."
Yibir, winner of the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, is a gelding so he's likely to be on the scene representing Godolphin for years to come.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said the 2022 campaign will be "a walk back for a Breeders' Cup next year." But he said the Longines Hong Kong International Races next month are a no-go for the boys in blue.
"They have been in touch with me and logistics are obviously still a bit tricky," Appleby said. "But more importantly, the horses have had a busy campaign and 3-year-olds are young horses and I hope to have them around for a few years yet. So they'll all have a nice holiday now."
Trainer Wesley Ward was the pioneer in bringing American horses regularly to Royal Ascot and that history included Golden Pal's runner-up showing in last year's Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.
After he won Saturday's $1 million Turf Sprint virtually effortlessly, Ward already was eager to get him back across the Atlantic.
M.V.Magnier, representing the owners, the Coolmore "lads," said that group will "have a discussion about that ... I don't think Wesley's going to have a difficult job convincing people."
As always in horse racing, surprise stories will rise from the Breeders' Cup results going forward to 2022 and beyond.
Meanwhile, there was lots more racing during the weekend, at Del Mar and elsewhere, including the final Group 1 event of the European season. Please, read on:
The Breeders' Cup weekend opened with a "B B Bang" as trainer Bob Baffert saddled the exacta in Friday's first race.
Moreover, the winner, Triple Tap, a half brother to American Pharoah, won the race with a stunning move from well back in the field to defeat stablemate Sumo convincingly. Triple Tap, by Tapit, was making his comeback after winning at first asking in March at Santa Anita.
The Godolphin team kicked things off for what proved to be a super weekend in Race 2 as Ryan Moore got Astronomer up the rail to score a late-running win in the $150,000 Qatar Gold Mile for 2-year-olds who didn't get into the Breeders' Cup races.
The Air Force Blue colt, trained by Simon Callaghan, backed up his maiden win at Golden Gate Fields Oct. 2.
Big Switch got by Big Novel in the stretch run of the Golden State Juvenile Fillies and rolled on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that rival. Both were sired by Mr. Big, himself a son of the immortal Dynaformer.
Big Switch, with Irad Ortiz Jr. at the controls, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.39, winning for the second time in as many starts. John Sadler trains both fillies.
A G Indy squeezed through between horses at the top of the stretch in the $200,000 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares and prevailed by a neck over Time Limit. Hear My Prayer was third.
A G Indy, a 4-year-old filly by Take Charge Indy, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.71 seconds for jockey Umberto Rispoli, scoring her third win from her last four starts.
Finneus launched a determined bid outside the leaders in the final furlong of the $175,000 Golden State Juvenile and wore down those rivals to win by 1/2 length. Slow Down Andy was second with Fast Draw Munnings third, another 3/4 length in arrears.
Finneus, a Stay Thirsty colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.00 under Joel Rosario. He was second in both the Grade II Best Pal and the Grade I Del Mar Futurity before finishing sixth in the Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita while trying two turns for the first time in his last start.
On Saturday, Lone Rock tracked pacesetting Tizamagician through the first 1 1/4 miles of the $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes, took over when pointed down the stretch for the second time and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Tizamagician held second with Cupid's Claws third.
The 1 5/8 miles went in 2:42.61, breaking the track record set in 1957, as Ramon Vazquez rode the winner. The race was formerly known as the Marathon Stakes and took the place on the long-abandoned Breeders' Cup Marathon.
Lone Rock, a 6-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding bred by Town and Country Farms, won for the sixth time in eight starts this year and finished second in the other two.
Going Global got going turning for home in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Goldikova Stakes for fillies and mares, easily passed the tiring favorite, Princess Grace, and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Zofelle made a bid for the lead at the top of the lane, but settled for second with Princess Grace third. Going Global, a 3-year-old Irish-bred filly by Mehmas, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.57 for jockey Flavien Prat.
Raced in her native land last year, she has been a revelation for trainer Phil D'Amato this year in California, winning six of seven starts. She won the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her previous start.
On opening day Wednesday, Livingmybestlife led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory over odds-on favorite Moonlight d'Oro in the $130,000 Seashell Stakes for fillies and mares.
Livingmybestlife, a 3-year-old filly by The Big Beast, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.53 with Juan Hernandez aboard.
Thursday, Team Merchants rallied from mid-pack to capture the $130,000 Let It Ride Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths with long shot Nerves of Steel along for second.
Team Merchants, a Nyquist colt, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.41. Mario Gutierrez rode for trainer Doug O'Neill.
On Sunday, Bella Vita drafted behind the speed in the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, got to a narrow lead entering the stretch and held well to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Warren's Showtime. It was another 1 3/4 lengths to Big Sweep in third.
Bella Vita, a 4-year-old Bayern filly, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.23 with Flavien Pratt up.
Rockefeller jumped quickly to the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Nashua Stakes for 2-year-olds and wasn't caught, winning by 2 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Cooke Creek rallied to gain second with Judge Davis third.
Rockefeller, a Medaglia d'Oro colt trained by Bob Baffert, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:33.66 with Luis Saez up. He was fourth in the Grade I American Pharoah, won by Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Baffert stablemate Corniche, after winning his first start at Del Mar.
Orglandes raced mid-field through the early furlongs of Sunday's $150,000 Zagora Stakes for fillies and mares, launched a bid through the lane and was just up in the final jumps to win by a neck over Beautiful Lover. Early leader Candy Flower held on for show money.
Orglandes, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Le Havre, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:29.28 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding for trainer Chad Brown. It was her second win from seven U.S. starts.
Gibberish tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares, seized the lead inside the 3/8th pole and drew off to score by 3 3/4 lengths.
So Darn Hot was second, 5 lengths better than Jilted Bride. The odds-on favorite, Miss Marissa, settled for fourth.
Gibberish, a 4-year-old filly by Lea, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.93 with Dylan Davis riding for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. She finished second in the Grade II Delaware Handicap two starts back in her previous best of 2021.
Somelikeithotbrown dropped back to the state-bred ranks to pick up a victory in Saturday's $200,000 Mohawk Stakes. Sent off the heavy favorite, the 5-year-old son of Big Brown led all the way and then held off Sanctuary City by 1/2 length at the end.
Jorge Vargas Jr. steered Somelikeithotbrown over 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:42.39. The Mike Maker trainee was coming off a series of seconds and thirds in graded stakes in Kentucky and also won last year's Mohawk.
Mischievous Kiss rallied three-wide to gain the late lead in Saturday's $100,000 Chelsea Flower Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and held off Caironi by 1/2 length for the win. Kneesnhips was third.
Mischievous Kiss, a daughter of Into Mischief from the Kris S. mare Kiss the Devil, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.89 under Eric Cancel.
Mystic Eyes led all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Stewart Manor Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and won by a neck over late-running Hot Fudge. Gal in a Rush rushed up six-wide to finish third.
Mystic Eyes, a Maclean's Music filly, got 6 furlongs on the firm grass course in 1:09.97 with Manny Franco in the kip for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Gerrymander led gate to wire in Friday's $150,000 Tempted Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, turning back a late challenge by Magic Circle to get home first by 1/2 length. Nest was third.
Gerrymander, by Into Mischief, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.13 with Eric Cancel up for trainer Chad Brown. Bred by Town and Country Farms, Gerrymander finished second to Breeders' Cup winner Echo Zulu in her last race, the Grade I Frizette -- albeit 7 1/4 lengths behind that one.
General Ken closed stoutly through the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Awad Stakes for 2-year-olds and just put a nose in front of the long-time leader, Geno, as the duo crossed under the finish line. Daunt was third, 1 length farther back.
General Ken, a Violence colt trained by Chad Brown, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.76 for jockey Dylan Davis.
Doctor Jeff showed the way in Friday's $100,000 Atlantic Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds, opened a big lead and coasted home first by 3 lengths. Trust Daddy was second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Longshadow.
Doctor Jeff, a Street Boss colt, ran 6 furlongs on the firm inner turf in 1:09.61 with Jose Lezcano up.
Classic Liberty rallied to the lead in the stretch run in Friday's $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over Cara's Dreamer.
Classic Liberty, a 6-year-old mare by Jimmy Creed, ran 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:43.35 with Paco Lopez in the irons.
Canadian legend Pink Lloyd got his 25th career stakes victory Sunday in the $100,000 (Canadian) Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, pressing the pace, then dueling to the wire before finishing first by a neck over Souper Hot. Told It All was third.
Pink Lloyd, a 9-year-old Old Forester gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.52 for jockey Rafael Hernandez. That time was about 1.5 seconds off the course record, which he set in 2018.
Necker Island used most of the long Churchill Downs stretch to get home first by a head over the pacesetting favorite, Mucho, in Saturday's $300,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes. Sir Alfred James finished third after contesting the early lead.
Necker Island, a 4-year-old Hard Spun colt trained by Chris Hartman, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.22 with Mitchell Murrill riding.
The race was compromised as Vertical Threat clipped heels and fell on the turn. Rough Entry fell over that rival and a couple other runners, including the winner, were checked to avoid trouble. Rough Entry walked off after the incident, but Vertical Threat was vanned.
Inthewinnerscircle came from last of 10 to win Friday's $65,000 Cellars Shiraz Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Mademoiselle Nova. Tik Tok Famous was just another neck back in third.
The appropriately named winner, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, ran about 1 mile, 70 yards on the new Gulfstream all-weather track in 1:42.17 with Cristian Torres up for trainer Mark Casse.
King of Dreams pursued pacesetting favorite Moonlite Strike into the turn in Saturday's $65,000 Showing Up Stakes for 3-year-olds, got the advantage when that rival was taken up sharply and dropped out of contention and went on to win by 3 lengths over Fighting Force in 1:41.41 over the new all-weather course.
The stewards had a look at the incident on the turn, but took no action.
The Chosen Vron got past pacesetting Minister of Soul in deep stretch to win Friday's $60,000 Hank Mills Sr. Stakes by 1/2 length over that rival. El Chavo Del Ocho was third.
The Chosen Vron, a 3-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.74 with Harry Hernandez aboard.
Blazingbellablu came with a late run through the stretch to capture Saturday's $60,000 Jeff and Jack Coady Sr. Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. Arizona Sun was next-best with the favorite, On Deck, never firing and finishing eighth.
Blazingbellablu, a 3-year-old Grazen filly, got 6 furlongs in 1:09.93 for jockey Alex Cruz.
Muad'dib, the odds-on favorite, was along late to capture Saturday's $75,000 A Huevo Stakes for West Virginia-breds by 1 3/4 lengths. Long shot Martin Man finished second, 7 3/4 lengths to the good of William and Mary.
Muad'dib, a 4-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:54.87. Arnoldo Bocachica rode.
Golden Gate Fields
Saturday's $65,000 Joseph T. Grace Stakes came off the grass onto the fast main track with two scratches. Of those left, it was Camino Del Paraiso, under Catalino Martinez, rallying from well back to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Big Fish.
Camino Del Paraiso, an 8-year-old Suances gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:43.49.
Hawthorne Race Course
Wildwood Sicilian ran down pacesetting favorite Fast Jack at the sixteenth pole in Sunday's $64,500 Sun Power Stakes for Illinois-breds and ran on strongly to win by 4 lengths over that rival. Vitale was third, another 4 3/4 lengths back.
Wildwood Sicilian, a gray gelding by Ghaaleb, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.43 with Chris Emigh in the irons. Scott Becker trains the winner for owner Charles W. Ritter.
Purr Sea spurted quickly to the lead in Saturday's $64,500 Showtime Deb Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies and made the advantage stand up, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Ouvre chased futilely but got place money, finishing 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Ghaaleb's Ranger.
Purr Sea, a Midshipman filly owned and bred by S.D. Brilie, ran six furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.58. Rocco Bowen rode for trainer Michele Boyce.
Around the world, around the clock:
As often happens, the Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup was eclipsed, at least in North America, by the Breeders' Cup. Pity. The race was more than worthy with Veery Elleegant taking a star turn, rallying past the solid favorite Incentivise at the 300 meters and running on to win by a whopping 4 lengths.
Irish raider Twilight Payment, last year's winner, finished 11th.
Veery Elleegant, a 6-year-old Zed mare, capped a sparkling springtime that also included a victory in the George Main Stakes, second in the Winx Stakes, a third in the Cox Plate and a fourth in the Turnbull Stakes -- Group 1 events, all.
For Incentivise, it was a bit of a beetle crusher after wins in the Caulfield Cup, Turnbill and Makybe Diva.
"I love her to bits. She has been so good to I can safely say she is a champion now isn't she? She knows," winning jockey James McDonald said.
Sunday at Flemington, Nature Strip easily outstripped eight rivals to win the Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic by 3 1/4 lengths as the prohibitive favorite. Swats That beat the others. Nature Strip, a 7-year-old Nicconi gelding, was the logical pick as he was returning from victory in The Everest in his last start Oct. 16.
Zaaki, also the heavy favorite, won the day's co-featured Paramount + Mackinnon Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths from Cascadian with Mo'unga another 1 3/4 lengths in arrears in third.
Zaaki, a 7-year-old gelding by Leroidesanimaux, was third in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes in his previous start after winning the Group 1 Underwood in September.
James McDonald rode both the Group 1 winners.
Sunday's Allianz Grosser Preis von Bayern at Munich was the final Group 1 event of the European year and Alpinista made it a worthy finale. The 4-year-old Frankel filly took the lead 3 furlongs out in the 2,400-meter event and held on gamely to win by 3/4 length over Mendocino. Nerium was third. Luke Morris rode the winner for Sir Mark Prescott.
Alpinista improved to 5-for-5 this year with the last three wins coming in Germany. In the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin on Aug. 8, she soundly defeated eventual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Torquator Tasso.
She also won the Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne September, completing a trifecta her granddam, Albanova, achieved 17 years earlier.
"You wouldn't have a clue if it's been done before but these races were the plan and she's done everything foot perfect," Racing Post quoted Sir Mark as saying.
"It's very seldom a plan like that comes off, but she'll run next year and I suppose she'll go for the glitzy Group 1s having won these German ones."
If Sunday's Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies Purse at Sha Tin Racecourse is to be seen as a preview for the Longines International Races in December, it will have to be with a focus on the also-rans. The winner, Tourbillon Diamond, is being given a less-ambitious program, according to trainer Danny Shum.
Tourbillon Diamond, under Alexis Badel, won a three-way sprint to the finish in the race, just edging Ka Ying Star by a nose with Reliable Team a neck farther back.
Well-known names Champions Way, Glorious Dragon, Columbus County, Butterfield and Southern Legend completed the order of finish and most will be expected to improve into contention for the big races. Not so the winner.
"I think he is OK in Group 2 under handicap conditions," Shum said. "But set weights is very difficult. We will see how we go."
Friendly was a pleasant surprise for Aidan O'Brien and jockey Wayne Lordan Thursday at Dundalk, winning the Fast-Track Qualifier for the Coral All-Weather Fillies & Mares Championship by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 31-1. The daughter of Galileo put in a bid in the final furlong and got the job done by 2 1/2 lengths.
The win, however, is unlikely to impact the All-Weather Championships program further, as the mare is due for the breeding shed in the spring.
The win came in Friendly's 13th start of the year, a campaign which also found her sixth in the Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas.
"It has been a while, but on that run in the Guineas, I guess she was entitled to win tonight as she wasn't beaten far that day," Lordan said.
"She is a very well-bred filly and this is another feather in her cap before going to the breeding sheds. Hopefully, she can breed something special."