Belmont Park, Santa Anita Offer Breeders Cup Preps

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Ted Black

September 29th, 2016

This Saturday afternoon thoroughbred racing fans will focus their attention on Belmont Park in New York and Santa Anita in Southern California as those two ovals host a collective sum of 10 stakes that will serve as major peeps for the Breeders Cup races at Santa Anita the first weekend in November.

Belmont Park will offer five stakes, four of which are Grade I events. Not all five races appear playable and onlookers should bear in mind that while these events offer lucrative purses they are still preps for the Breeders Cup, the main objective for many of these runners.

The Grade I, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic kicks off the stakes portion of the card and the compact field of four features one of the best turf horses in the world in a race that seems decidedly unplayable.

Flintshire has won all three of his starts this year for trainer Chad Brown and all three have come in Grade I events. He owns an 8-10-1 slate and whopping $8.8 million lifetime bankroll from 22 career outings in which he has traveled across the globe to compete in the biggest races and against the best turf horses in the world.

In the Turf Classic on Saturday, Flintshire will likely be the 1-9 favorite in the field of four and this event should set him up perfectly for the Breeders Cup Turf at Santa Anita. He seems destined for champion turf horse honors and perhaps two more Grade I wins could get him into the argument for horse of the year.

One race later in the Grade I Gallant Bloom Stakes for fillies and mares on the main track. Wavell Avenue will seek to give Brown the first two stakes on the card. The runner-up in this event last year, Wavell Avenue came right back to capture the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint which is assuredly her main objective again this fall.

Looking to upend Wavell Avenue on Saturday will be Wonder Gal, who has banked nearly $800,000 in her career and Hot City Girl, who sports a 6-3-1 slate and $600,000 bankroll from 15 starts and was second in the Grade I L Brea at Santa Anita to cap her previous campaign for trainer Linda Rice.
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Then one race later in the Grade I, $500,000 Vosburgh for older male sprinters on the main track, most of the attention will clearly be focused on AP Indian. Perfect in five starts this year for trainer Arnauld Delacour, this Maryland-based speedster won two Grade I sprints at Saratoga and has banked nearly $1 million this year.

AP Indian has emerged as the best sprinter on the East Coast and will look to defend that status in the Vosburgh against a solid group that includes Weekend Holiday, Holy Boss, Joking, Green Gatto and XY Jet. XY Jet was the top sprinter in the winter and was second in the Golden Shaheen at Meydan in his most recent start. Joking has won three of four starts this year and arrives off stakes victories in the Grade II True North and Diablo at Belmont Park.

Then a solid group of older fillies and mares will be on display in the Grade I Beldame. Forever Unbridled, Go For Broke, Paola Queen and Off The Tracks all have Grade I experience and three of them sport at least one Grade I score. Paola Queen won the Test last out at Saratoga at 55-1 after benefiting from a speed duel up front.

Just as Belmont Park is putting the finishing touches on its handful of graded stakes, Santa Anita will be unveiling its Breeders Cup preps.

Just last the midway point of the card the two-year-old colts will take center stage in the Grade I Front Runner. Among the seven entrants it will not be tough to find the favorite.

Klimt has won three of four starts for trainer Bob Baffert, including stakes victories in the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity. Straight Fire and Midnight Pleasure, who finished second and third, respectively, in that event will both look to upend the Baffert trainee in their final Breeders Cup prep.

Then one race later in the Grade I Awesome Again, fans will not have to look hard to find the favorite in this event.

California Chrome, who has won all four of his starts and banked nearly $7 million this year and already boasts 14 wins and a staggering $13.25 million career bankroll, will be the odds-on choice from the rail. California Chrome already sports victories in the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic and is clearly the west coasts best chance for a victory in the Breeders Cup Classic and its leading candidate for horse of the year.

Looking to upend California Chrome on Saturday will be Dortmund, Hopportunity, Soi Phet and Hard Aces. Of course, all of them will have to show considerable improvement to topple the favorite in the Awesome Again.

Then in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes, much of the attention will be on two talented distaffers, Beholder and Stellar Wind.

After winning her first two starts of the season handily, Beholder was in the conversation for horse of the year honors. But she was upset by Stellar Wind in the Clement Hirsh then second to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic and now might need a win this weekend and another in the Breeders Cup Distaff to garner division honors.

Stellar Wind, who toppled Beholder in the Clement Hirsch and was second in the Breeders Cup Distaff last fall at Keeneland, will look to increase her chances for division honors on Saturday. The talented Virginia-bred who began her career at Laurel Park, has won 6 of 10 career tries and banker over $1.2 million.

Then in the Chandelier Stakes for two-year-old fillies, any number of these juveniles could claim favoritism and the lions share of the purse in this wide open affair.

With Honors has won both of her starts, including the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. American Cleopatra, Champagne Room and Noted And Quoted were second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Del Mar Debutante. Blitzkrieg won the Barrett's Debutante and is 2-for-2 and one of two Ohio-breds here. Datz a Violation and Nikki My Darling, the other Ohio-bred in the group, both garnered their diplomas against maiden special weight foes at Thistledowns.