Archive for October, 2015

An American Classic: Triple Crown champion rolls to Breeders’ Cup triumph

Owner Ahmed Zayat couldn’t bear to watch such a glorious scene come to end.

 
After three years of seeing the bay colt he bred develop into something that hasn’t been produced in a couple of generations, after witnessing start after start move his charge deeper into the history books and a sport off its jaded foundation, Zayat took one last glance at the 12th Triple Crown winner breaking the will of seven rivals in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and said his own silent farewell.

 
“I really did not watch the final eighth. I closed my eyes,” the founder of Zayat Stables said. “I see him opening. I know it’s done and I got extremely emotional and, you know, that’s all.”

 
No one connected to champion American Pharoah has wanted to fully accept that Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile  jaunt around Keeneland would be his final career start before heading off to stud. As it were, the last impression the son Pioneerof the Nile made was on par with every other key moment of his life.

 
He took all the hype, all the expectations, all the hope  placed upon his bay shoulders and answered the bell as if the most arduous of challenges were folly to him.

 
American Pharoah, the colt who swept the American classics with casual ease to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, made his last competitive outing another one for the ages as he captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 1/2 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion before a crowd of 50,155 that attended the second day of the two-day World Championships.

 
The margin of victory ties Volponi in 2002 for the largest ever in the Classic and the final time of 2:00.07 was a new track record for 1 1/4-miles.
This year’s Breeders’ Cup had been billed as a “homecoming” in that it was being held at Keeneland and in the heart of Central Kentucky for the first time in its 32 year history.

 
What it really served as was an encore to a coronation. While not every great athlete gets to walk off their playing field of choice with a championship in their grasp, Saturday’s Classic was the latest example of American Pharoah being all he was billed and then some.

 
“I just have never seen anything like him, never trained anything like him,” his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “I’m just glad that the Pharoah, he goes out the champ that he is, and it’s going to be sad to see him go. But I think he’s done enough.  He’s proved enough.”

 
American Pharoah retires with nine wins from 11 career starts and $8,650,300 in earnings. He could have been done proving anything, however, after he cemented his Triple Crown feat with his 5 1/2 length Belmont Stakes triumph on June 6.

 
To the delight of a racing nation, the colt kept working his flawless mechanics to the tune of a 2 1/4 length win in the Grade I Haskell Invitational on August 2. Then came the Grade I Travers Stakes where the oft-proclaimed “Graveyard of Champions” that is Saratoga jumped up and bit him  when he ran second to Keen Ice after taking all the heat from Frosted throughout that 10-furlong race.

 
“I felt bad for the horse, but…to me, racing, we’ve got this big horse, we can’t be afraid to run these horses,” Baffert said. “I’ve had horses that were maybe, on a given day, they were as fast as him, but they had a small window.  And his window has been wide open the whole time.”

 
Zayat is overly emotional in the best of times and, in the aftermath of the Travers, his initial feelings were telling him to just go ahead and send American Pharoah onto Coolmore’s Ashford Stud, where he will enter stud for 2016.

 
Baffert countered that he didn’t see a horse whose well had run dry. As usual, American Pharoah backed up his conditioner with another jaw dropping performance.

 
The complexion of the Classic totally changed when the champion mare Beholder was scratched out of the race due to a fever on Thursday and fellow Grade I winner Smooth Roller scratched Saturday morning due to a tendon issue.

 
With no one pressing him on the front end, American Pharoah had jockey Victor Espinoza on a joy ride as he broke sharply from post No. 4 and cantered through fractions of 23.99 and 47.50 with eventual runner-up Effinex hanging out a length behind him.

 
“When it came up with an eight-horse field, when two horses who looked like they had speed…scratched, everybody was riding to be safe,” said Shug McGaughey, trainer of multiple Grade I winner Honor Code, who closed as well as he could to get third.

 
With his mount’s ears pricked to the sky and the most perfect stride in the game in full flight, Espinoza lets his mount roll for all he was worth towards the wire, giving the crowd and the sport one last look at everything it hoped to see.

 
“I am so glad that American Pharoah goes out the champion he is,” Baffert said. “We’re all going to miss him.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Stephanie’s Kitten goes out with a roar in Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Practically every aspect of Stephanie’s Kitten’s final career start was telling her connections the fantasy send off they had in mind wasn’t meant to be.

 
About the two worst things that can happen to a turf horse is to be sitting last with zero pace to close into. And as the tepid fractions flew up during Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf with the bay mare’s white striped face at the rear of the 10-horse field, concern amongst her crew started morphing into dismal resignation.

 
That is until the old girl found arguably the best stride of her life. And four years after she first stormed her way into the Breeders’ Cup history books, Stephanie’s Kitten elicited one of the biggest outbursts from the family that redefines what it means to be passionate about the Thoroughbred industry.

 
The full circle journey of Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Stephanie’s Kitten finished with a most explosive kick as the 6-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy made her move inside and then surged clear between horses in midstretch to win the Filly & Mare Turf by 1 1/4 lengths over favored Legatissimo, one day before she is slated to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton November sale.

 
The triumph gives Stephanie’s Kitten her second career Breeders’ Cup victory as well as the distinction of the longest gap between Breeders’ Cup wins. The bay mare captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs and has been a Grade I winner at ages 2, 4, 5, and 6.
She is also the unofficial “family pet”. Ken Ramsey named his durable distaffer after his granddaughter Stephanie, one of the many reasons this particular runner tugs especially hard on his heartstrings.

 
As the wire approached Saturday and Stephanie’s Kitten’s 11th career win from 25 starts was secure, the man who holds nothing back in terms of emotion had it all come spilling down his face as his family embraced.

 
“It’s the culmination of all our breeding and everything that has gone into this,” Ken Ramsey said. “This has been a family pet, this is her third Breeders’ Cup (start) and it’s emotional.  I’ve had some highs and a few low and this is definitely one of the highs.”

 
Stephanie’s Kitten had her share of hard luck runs this season, dropping three straight races at one point before getting before her win in the Grade I Flower Bowl at Belmont Park on October 3.

 
Where she sat close the pace that day, her position after breaking from post No.  9 left her at the back of the field Saturday as Secret Gesture went the opening half mile in 49.26 over a course rated good. After jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. started moving her up and picking off rivals on the rail, her stride kept growing under left-handed urging as she hit the wire in 1:56.22 for the 1 3/16 miles test.

 
“She was wide in the first turn and far behind, two things you don’t want in a turf race,” trainer Chad Brown said. “I’m just so proud of her, the way she kicked home. She just overcomes so much this filly. The two things we sort of learned about her is she didn’t care for Keeneland’s turf course and she doesn’t run inside horses. And she did all that today.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

American Pharoah set to write his final chapter in Breeders’ Cup Classic

He is the answer to the question that was endlessly speculated on for nearly four decades, the tangible evidence the Thoroughbred industry had sent a search party out to find, but was losing hope of discovering.

 
What would the modern racing world look like if it finally got to witness a Triple Crown winner again? A silver-bullet fix to racing’s ailments are thoroughly unreasonable to expect from a single entity. But the query of whether the end of a drought would live up to the collectively hope had been dangling like an albatross over Thoroughbred racing for 37 years.

 
In sauntered American Pharoah with his bottomless well of ability and indefatigable cruising speed. He made each leg of the American classics look easier than the one before and injected emotion into the most unshakable of hardboots.

 
In the months since his Belmont Stakes clincher on June 6, the son of Pioneerof the Nile has been a crossover ambassador featured on everything from fashion magazines (Vogue) to publications across the globe. Coincidentally or not, even overall handle on United States races has jumped .86 percent from to 2014 in the year to date comparison to this point.

 
The racing world has had nearly five months to drink in the champagne bubble of the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. Leading into Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, the reality of his existence is being overtaken by the actuality that the on-track exploits of the chosen one are coming to an end.

 
It is both a blessing and a stress for horsemen to know in advance they are leading over a legend for a final time.  With the 1 1/4-miles Classic set to be American Pharoah’s final start before retiring to Ashford Stud, his connections have had ample time to try and accept that the horse who multiple lives upside down in a joyous sense only has one more chance to take his greatness to another level.

 
“We’re taking it day by day,” said owner Ahmed Zayat, who also bred American Pharoah. “He’s a happy horse and I’m focused on keeping him happy until the day comes. This is a big race for him, this is his grand finale and I want him to go out (on top) for Pharoah. He’s changed everybody’s lives, he changed the sport, he’s changed everything. And we just want him to run the race of his life.”

 
The real way American Pharoah has spoiled everyone is by his continued presence on the racetrack. Where some thought the economics of the current racing landscape would translate into the champion colt being retired shortly after he cooled out following his 5 1/2 length Belmont Stakes triumph, Zayat and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert stuck to their word of showcasing the seven-time Grade I winner.

 
There was the high of his Grade I Haskell Invitational effort on August 2 where American Pharoah was geared down from midstretch on by jockey Victor Espinoza en route to a 2 1/4 length win. While his upset loss to Keen Ice in the Grade I Travers Stakes on  August 29 sparked regret over the decision to wheel back so soon after his Haskell venture, arguably the most painful thing his camp has had to sit with is the notion that their charge is going to end his racing days with a level of upside still within.

 
“Just watching him work (Monday)…it hits me when I talk about it,” Baffert said. “Just watching him train, watching the way he goes around there, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to train him. He’s just an incredible athlete.

 
“He’s a horse in the morning who is always brilliant, Pharoah is Pharoah,” added Zayat. “The more (Baffert) is working him, the more he is asking of him the more he is loving it. I’m kind of sad that he’s going to miss that part of it, of him going and doing what he loves which is to compete.”

 
The immediate impact of American Pharoah becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 was literally right in Zayat’s face post-Belmont.

 
“I will never forget the day, a grandfather comes to me and he gives me a kiss,  and I don’t know this man,” Zayat recalled. “And he looks at me and says, ‘I just want to thank you’. But it’s not about me, it’s about the horse. That’s what this horse has done for the fans.”

 
On Wednesday morning  while watching American Pharoah walk the shedrow instead of training over the rain-drenched main track, Baffert showed the live feed of the Santa Anita Park stall that the best horse he’s ever conditioned occupied until yesterday.

 
It sits empty now, and Baffert has given orders for it not to be filled yet. After Saturday, tending to the void will be a new mantle for the entire racing community to take up.

 
“It’s getting a little bit tough,” Baffert said. “I feel like his father and I want to make sure my son goes out there and puts on a good performance.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Smooth Roller scratched out of Classic

Grade I winner Smooth Roller, who was a candidate to challenge Triple Crown winner American Pharoah on the front end, has been scratched by the stewards from the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Saturday.

Smooth Roller’s scratch came on the recommendation of Kentucky State Veterinarian Will Farmer due to a ‘tendon’ issue in his left foreleg.

With Smooth Roller scratched and champion Beholder being declared out of the race on Thursday, this year’s Classic field is reduced to eight horses and is tied with the 1984, 1985 and 1989 Classics for the smallest field ever.

Trained by Victor Garcia, Smooth Roller has only made four career starts but earned his way into the Classic field with a win in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 26. Speculation about his status for the Classic has swirled since he arrived in Kentucky on October 19 as the 4-year-old Hard Spun gelding had not worked since going five furlongs at Santa Anita on October 17 and did little more than job during his training at Keeneland.

With both Smooth Roller and Beholder out of the Classic,  Grade I winner Frosted would seem to be the only remaining entrant capable of putting any pressure on American Pharoah on the front end.

 

 

 

Stopchargingmaria a dream come true for Town and Country in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Kiki Courtelis and her mother moved from Florida to Kentucky eight years ago for a simple reason. After years of involvement with Arabian show horses – heading up the breeding stock for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum no less – they wanted in on the Thoroughbred industry. And they wanted to be in the heartland to do it.

 
Around this time last year, Courtelis came to the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion with equally determined intentions. She wanted a filly to her family’s Town and County Farms on the map.

 
What she got was a distaffer who has now put her operation on a list alongside some of the most influential owners the sport has seen.

 

 
The first day of first Breeders’ Cup hosted by Keeneland yielded the kind of result that drives parties into the Thoroughbred business to begin with. Multiple Grade I winner Stopchargingmaria gave Town and Country its first Breeders’ Cup victory in its initial try when she held off Stellar Wind and then survived a claim of foul to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff by a neck before a crowd of 44,947.

 
“It’s just a dream come true to be a breeder and win the Breeders’ Cup with such an amazing filly with so much heart,” Courtelis said. “We wanted to get a filly who would put us on the map in Thoroughbred racing and we took a chance and thought it would be her.”

 
Plans never pan out as simply as they are crafted. And part of the reason Stopchargingmaria landed in the hands of Courtelis and racing manager Shannon Potter was due to one goal going awry.

 
A multiple Grade I winner at age 3, Stopchargingmaria was offered up for sale by owner Mike Repole last November but ended up a buyback at $3.15 million. It was then that trainer Todd Pletcher, who has conditioned the daughter of Tale of the Cat throughout her now 16-race career, suggested the Town and County crew try to buy the dark bay filly privately.

 
“Todd was with us when we bid on another horse…and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t we take a run at Stopchargingmaria’,” Potter said. “He said ‘I think she’ll continue to just flourish’.  So we struck a deal with Mike, and that’s kind of how it came about.

 
“We were looking for a horse, not necessarily looking for Maria. But boy…we were lucky we didn’t get the one we bid on so we could get Maria.”

 

 
Stopchargingmaria is a filly that runs best fresh. Hence, Pletcher has only given her four prior starts this season and opted to not to squeeze one more Breeders’ Cup prep into her after she finished fourth in the Grade I Personal Ensign on August 29.

 
With Javier Castellano in the irons, Stopchargingmaria was on point after breaking from post No. 4 as she rated in an outside path in fifth alongside race favorite Wedding Toast while My Sweet Addiction carved out an opening half mile in 47.28.

 

 
She came with her sustained run four wide around the final turn and hooked up with Stellar Wind to her outside. Though jockey Victor Espinoza lodged a claim of foul against Stopchargingmaria saying Castellano moved out on him, the stewards let the result stand.

 
“I felt pretty comfortable watching the head-on that we were going to be OK,” said Pletcher who earned his ninth career Breeders’ Cup win and also saddled third-place finisher Curalina. “She runs her best races sometimes when she’s fresh. I think that was the key, and how she trained here. I thought her work last Saturday was exceptional.”

 
Final time for the 1 1/8-miles distance was 1:48.98.

 
A beaming Courtelis said as long as Stopchargingmaria is healthy, the door is open for her to return to racing next year and try and add to her stockpile of nine wins and $2,924,000 in earnings.

 
“She gives 150 percent every single time,”  Courtelis said. “I just think she goes after everything knowing she’s going to win.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Liam’s Map goes out on top with Dirt Mile victory

There are times when one can brace for the expected and still be bowled over by its  reality.

 
After having to check up at the start and then having to rate his brilliant self behind rivals, Liam’s Map swung out on the final turn and unleashed that crushing blaze of speed most everyone figured would have no rival in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland on Friday.

 
The son of Unbridled’s Song proved all those expectations valid when hit the wire 2 1/2 lengths in front of his 10 challengers, the eight furlong distance the only thing preventing the margin from being wider.

 
They may have known it was coming. But it didn’t stop exercise rider Nick Bush from running joyously after his favorite charge onto the track. It didn’t stop Taylor Made Farm president Duncan Taylor from falling over himself with emotion. It didn’t stop trainer Todd Pletcher from chucking his stoic demeanor and plastering the widest of smiles on his face.

 
The final chapter of Liam’s Map’s short, but exceptional, career was storybook. The 4-year-old gray colt – who is retiring to stud at Lane’s End Farm for 2016 – overcame a slow start and having to steady more than once under jockey Javier Castellano before blowing by fellow Grade I winner Lea in the stretch to earn his sixth win in eight career starts.

 
Liam’s Map became the fourth Breeders’ Cup winner for his sire Unbridled’s Song, the flagship stallion for Taylor Made Farm who passed away in 2013.

 
“This horse is the best I’ve ever sat on,” beamed Bush as he stood with the blanket of flowers draped over his shoulders. “We wanted to go to the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic with him but the (1 1/4 miles) distance was kind of a question.

 
“He’s unbelievable. He’s freakish. The way he moves…the way he does everything.”

 
Liam’s Map has been wicked on the front end, as evidence by his gate-to-wire, 4 3/4-length triumph in the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga on September 5.

 
In the Dirt Mile, he showed he could equally handle being taken out of his game. After gathering himself up after getting away slow out of post No. 3, 1-to-2 favorite Liam’s Map rated fourth on the rail behind Bradester as that one was pushed by Mr. Z through an opening quarter in 23.10.

 
Castellano had to hit the breaks around the half mile mark when Liam’s Map ran up on those two. But when Lea took over the lead on the final turn, Liam’s Map came up outside of Mr. Z and found his best run en route to covering the distance in a track record time of 1:34.54.

 
“What was so impressive is that he recovered a couple times,” said Pletcher, who later won the Distaff with Stopchargingmaria. “He got steadied about the five-eighths pole and didn’t have anywhere to go. He took it to another level today. It’s hard to find horses this talented.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Bawina out of Filly & Mare Turf; Siding Spring draws into Juvenile

Edited release:

Wertheimer et Frere’s Bawina, trained by Carlos Laffon Parias, has been scratched from Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

The 4-year-old daughter of Dubawi got tied up behind after exercise on Wednesday morning and although she showed improvement Thursday when going for a trot on the training track, having discussed matters with the veterinary team in the quarantine barn Carlos Laffon Parias decided to scratch the filly from the race.

This now allows another European challenger Talmada, owned by Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum and trained by Roger Varian, into the race Saturday.  The daughter of Cape Cross comes into the race with solid form having finished second in the E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in her latest start.

Charles Fipke’s Tale of S’avall has been declared from the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, allowing for Mark Casse-trainee Siding Spring to draw into the race, breaking from the far outside post 14.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said of Tale of S’avall’s defection, “He’s been having a problem with sore ‘frogs’ in his feet. We’ve been working on the problem all week but the vets recommend that he not run Saturday. He’ll be all right going ahead.”

The homebred son of Tale of Ekati was listed at 30-to-1 on the morning line after winning his career debut at Saratoga and finishing fifth in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in his only two starts.

 

 

Champion Beholder declared out of Breeders’ Cup Classic

Trainer Richard Mandella kept his sense of humor. Spendthrift Farm manager Ned Toffey kept perspective in the forefront.

 
Yet, none of it could really cushion the blow of having their champion mare Beholder knocked out of a potentially historic Breeders’ Cup run for a second straight year.

 
Spendthrift Farm’s two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder, the 3-to-1 second choice on the morning line for Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, was declared out her anticipated showdown against the likes of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah after an endoscopic examination performed following a routine gallop Thursday morning revealed she had bled slightly.

 
Beholder’s connections had been especially diligent in monitoring her after she spiked a slight fever on October 20, one day after she shipped from California to Kentucky.

 
Toffey said that a “touch of blood” was found in her scope following her five furlong breeze in 59.40 on Monday. The 5-year-old mare galloped without issue on the training track Thursday, but Mandella said a subsequent scope revealed “some irritated lungs that are vulnerable right now.”

 
“There was just a touch of blood the other day but we were delighted with the gallop this morning,” said Toffey, who manages Spendthrift Farm for owner B. Wayne Hughes. “Really, we kind of felt like the other day that the little bit of blood there was probably just residual from the fever and all of that. And, it’s never been part of her history. We were cautiously optimistic that we were going to be just fine but we were also going to take every precaution.

 
“Normally you wouldn’t even scope after a gallop. But that was part of why we did.”

 
Beholder, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and 2013 Distaff, was attempting to become the first horse to win three different Breeders’ Cup races – Goldikova won three straight editions of the Mile from 2008-1010 – and join Zenyatta as the only female runners to prevail in the Classic.

 
This marks the second straight year Beholder has had to miss the Breeders’ Cup due to ailment. The daughter of Henny Hughes had to bypass last year’s Distaff after spiking a fever about a week and a half out and was later found to have inflammation in her lungs which necessitated her being turned out for two months.

 
Toffey said, given that history, they have ultrasounded Beholder’s lungs a couple of times this week. He added, however, that bleeding had not been part of her history.

 
“We don’t think it’s serious at all other than we have some irritated tissue in her lungs that is making it a weak spot that is bleeding under pressure,” Mandella said. “She’s fine, but if I put her under pressure of a race, she would do some real damage to it and we couldn’t take that chance.”

 
Both the Spendthrift team and Mandella had previously said they hoped to bring Beholder back for a 6-year-old campaign as long she was healthy and willing. Even with this latest setback, that plan remains in place.

 
“We will fully investigate (the lung irritation) and we plan to run her next year if everything is good,” said Mandella, who has won eight Breeders’ Cup races in his Hall of Fame career but none outside of California. “I guess I’m destined to just be in Breeders’ Cups at Santa Anita.”

 
The loss of Beholder from the now 9-horse Classic field changes much of the race’s complexion as her easy, high cruising speed was capable of staying right with 4-to-5 morning-line choice American Pharoah.

 
Though his expected toughest foe is out of the way,  Bob Baffert, trainer American Pharoah, took no joy in the misfortune of a fellow champion.

 
“That mare means to Richard Mandella what American Pharoah means to us,” Baffert said. “Anything can happen and we still have 48 hours. This is unfortunate, but that’s  why we’re all on pins and needles. She was the horse to beat.”

 
Beholder was coming into the 1 1/4-miles Classic in as good form as she has ever boasted in a career bound for Hall of Fame induction. The bay mare stepped up to face males for the first time in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22 and destroyed that field by 8 1/4 lengths under mild urging from jockey Gary Stevens.

 
Her most recent start was another variation of a paid workout as Stevens had Beholder totally geared down during her 3 1/4 length victory in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 26.

 
Bred by Clarkland Farm, Beholder has won 15 of 20 career starts including nine Grade I wins with earnings of $4,436,600. She was originally slated to be sold at last year’s Fasig-Tipton November  sale before her illness prevented her from shipping and prompted Hughes to keep her in training.

 
Given the brilliance of her 2015 campaign  – and the fact the 2016 Breeders’ Cup is at Beholder’s base of Santa Anita Park – her connections are hoping for another blessing in disguise.

 
“You know (Hughes) he’s been in this business for a long time and he’s had his share of bad news,” Toffey said. “He always handles it with class. He’s obviously disappointed but his intention is to keep her in training next year. We have an expression around here that when you have luck in this game, you don’t know at the time if it’s good luck or bad luck.

 

“The good news is we still have a really nice mare and our intention is this will just be a temporary setback.”

 
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Champion Untapable to miss Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff,  will not get the chance to defend her title in that spot as the champion filly spiked a fever and was declared out of the 1 1/8-miles race on Tuesday.

Owner Ron Winchell said that Untapable “scoped with a bit of mucus” after working four furlongs in 50.20 on Monday. The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit was attempting to join Bayakoa (1989-1990) and Royal Delta (2011-2012) as the only horses to win back-to-back editions of the Distaff.

“She got a slight temperature. She scoped with a little bit of mucus…and we were hoping for the best,” Winchell said. “Unfortunately, it’s the right thing to do. You have to treat her with some antibiotics and that pretty much declares her out of the race. She’s done so much for us and we just want to be careful.

“We trained her lightly all year basically preparing for this event. So, disappointment is an understatement.”

Untapable had drawn post No. 11 in the 14-horse field for the Distaff as was installed with 5-to-1 odds on the morning line. Untapable’s defection allows Grade I winner Peace and War, third in the Grade I Cotillion Stakes on September 19, to draw in off the also-eligible list into the Distaff field.

The 2015 season has been a downcast one for Untapable. After winning six of seven starts last year en route to being named champion 3-year-old filly, Untapable has only been victorious in one of six starts in 2015 – though that win did come in the Grade I Apple Blossom.

In her most recent start, Untapable was beaten a neck by Got Lucky in the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on October 4. Winchell said that while no firm decisions have been made for next year, he is currently leaning towards keeping his filly in training for her 5-year-old campaign.

“I haven’t made my mind up but I’m probably leaning towards running her next year,” Winchell said “That’s my first thought, especially after having to scratch out of this race. It kind of makes you want to come back and attempt one more.”

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Untapable has won nine of 17 starts with earnings of $3,816,725.

Beholder works five furlongs in advance of Breeders’ Cup Classic

Exercise rider Janeen Painter played the role of statue in the saddle. The champion mare beneath her performed her usual act of making the taxing look effortless.

With owner B. Wayne Hughes and the rest of her admirers looking on from the grandstand, two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder put in her last piece of work before the Breeders’ Cup Classic when she breezed five furlongs in :59.40 over the Keeneland main track.

The move comes  less than a week after the 5-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes spiked a slight temperature after shipping to Kentucky from her base in California. The strength of her morning gallops have put that episode behind her and Beholder further solidified she is spry as ever with Painter sitting motionless as she clocked splits of 12 2/5, :24, :36 with a gallop out in 1:12 4/5.

“She was just having a nice time, the time was good, she was good,” trainer Richard  Mandella said of the move. “I would have preferred to work yesterday but us trainers don’t know what we’re doing anything.  It was just maintenance, just get some wind in her because it’s been a while between works. Just testing the water and the water looked good.”

Mandella says that Spendthrift Farm owner Hughes “has worn a different look on his face this year than he ever has before.” So deep is Beholder’s hold on her connections that Hughes has decided to go against his own business model of taking some money off the table and has said he would not sell his champion mare at public auction as previously planned.

“If you saw that race (her 8-1/4 length win in the Pacific Classic) I think it transformed all of us on her ability,” Hughes said. “It’s the first horse  that I’ve ever had the emotion of being really proud of her and proud of being associated with her.”

Bred by Clarkland Farm, Beholder has won 15 of 20 career starts including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic. With her expected start in the Classic, the bay mare will be attempting to become the first horse to win three different Breeders’ Cup races – Goldikova won three straight editions of the Mile from 2008-2010 – and join Zenyatta as the only female runners to win the Classic.

She also may not be done. Hughes has repeatedly said that as long as Beholder is sound and happy, he would seriously consider bringing her back for a 6-year-old campaign.

“Everyone is enjoying her running and I think we retire horses pretty early in this business nowadays and that hurts the racing business,” Hughes said. “So to have her come back is not only good for us to enjoy her but also for fans.

“She’s going to have to be perfect though or we’re not going to bring her back.”

 

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