JC / Railbird

Breeders’ Cup

#BC16 Links, Etc.

Beholder for the Distaff!

Breeders’ Cup 2016 is here! And I have links: First, to the big HANA Monthly Breeders’ Cup issue (PDF). Stats, Q&As, and my Distaff pick (clue in the photo above). Then, to the Hello Race Fans BC Friday picks grid. Look for HD replays of every BC race on the 2016 Breeders’ Cup YouTube playlist. Replays should be up within minutes after each race.

I’m hanging out on Twitter and Instagram this weekend, live from Santa Anita.

11/5/16 Update: And Breeders’ Cup Saturday picks are up.

Super Eli

I loved this moment so much that I had to GIF it:

Lady Eli

Lady Eli enters the Belmont winner’s circle to applause after the Flower Bowl — the champion’s second start back after beating laminitis. “It takes such a rare horse to overcome what she has,” said trainer Chad Brown. “I think she’s one of the all-time great turf mares.” It’s onward to the Breeders’ Cup.

Tea Leaves

American Pharoah returned to Del Mar on Monday, apparently none the worse for his second-place finish to Keen Ice in the Travers, and the track announced that the Triple Crown winner would parade for fans on Sunday. Should owner Ahmed Zayat decide to retire American Pharoah, as he said his “gut feeling” was in the hours following Saturday’s race, “his Del Mar appearance might serve as a racing farewell.” So, that’s one open-to-interpretation phrase to parse as to the 3-year-old colt’s future.

Jay Privman reports, though (DRF+):

… it appears American Pharoah will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland, and Baffert said Tuesday that he could even have a prep race, though he emphasized it’s “too soon to make that call.”

(Also? Baffert’s as done as anyone with talking about the Travers results. “It’s over with. He just got beat. Time to move on.”)

Trainer Aidan O’Brien added some intrigue to the Breeders’ Cup Classic scene, announcing that star miler Gleneagles would point to Keeneland:

“Given suitable ground, Gleneagles will run in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday week,” the trainer said. “Failing that, he will be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October. His end-of-season target is the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, where he may face American Pharoah.”

Kellie Reilly wonders if there’s a deeper meaning:

Let’s consider this from the Coolmore chess-pieces angle: the global bloodstock juggernaut owns Gleneagles, and will stand Triple Crown champion American Pharoah upon his retirement to stud. Given the timing of this declaration of intent, it’s tempting to read between the lines and think that the chances of American Pharoah making the Classic may be receding. That’s not to say there can’t be the clash that Aidan O’Brien mentions in his statement on Gleneagles, but doesn’t it maximize the benefit to Coolmore to emphasize the hypothetical for the time being?

I’d like to see American Pharoah make it to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not least because, as Amanda Duckworth writes, “it would be a shame if he never competed against his elders.” It would be more of a shame if the reason he didn’t compete against older had nothing to do with injury or unsoundness. Zayat has been outspoken about racing American Pharoah through this year for the good of the game and the thrill of the fans. “When Zayat told NBC on Saturday that he was thinking only of Pharoah’s fans and the horse’s legacy, I finally believed him,” Bob Barry writes in today’s Blood-Horse Daily (PDF). I believe him too, I believe he means it. But it’s a fragile trust.

The Bright Side

Greg Wood finds something positive in the retirement of dual champion and defending Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence:

… the loss of Main Sequence from this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be staged at Keeneland for the first time, is a definite setback for the event. From a European point of view, however, it does leave the Turf looking very open indeed. Fabre may feel he has some unfinished business where Flintshire is concerned, and if it looks as though his five-year-old is likely to find at least one opponent too good at Longchamp in early October, it is at least possible that the race in Kentucky will assume greater significance.

Chasing Pharoah

With the connections saying the Triple Crown winner will run again — so long as he’s sound, happy, and healthy — and that a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland will be his career finale, tracks are bidding for an American Pharoah appearance. The Haskell at Monmouth Park seems the most likely spot for his return (the locals are asking), which leaves a late summer, early fall race open. Del Mar would like to get him for the Pacific Classic:

“If they decide the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the goal for his last race, then they’ll need some races before that,” Del Mar’s Craig Dado said. “Backing up from the BC Classic, there’s the [Awesome Again Stakes vs. older horses] at Santa Anita in September or early October. But why not the Pacific Classic…. He’s the Triple Crown winner so he doesn’t have anything to prove against 3-year-olds. Why not go against older horses and not have to ship?”

And Parx, which drew California Chrome and Bayern for the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby, plans to be aggressive in courting Pharoah for this year’s race:

Elliott said the existing conditions of the Pennsylvania Derby are already written to pay a $100,000 appearance bonus, split between the owner and trainer, to any horse that wins any one of the Triple Crown races, the Haskell, or the Travers. The per-race bonuses are cumulative, so American Pharoah’s connections, Elliott said, could be in line for at least a $300,000 base payday just for showing up at Parx, or $400,000 if the horse wins the Haskell.

“And I believe we intend to make a little better offer than that,” Elliott said, without disclosing how much more Parx would be willing to pay above the announced bonuses. “I’m going to try in the not-too-distant future to go to wherever Mr. Baffert is and meet with him to talk about it.”

Canterbury Park is a longshot, but they’re throwing themselves into the mix:

Wednesday, the Shakopee track doubled down on its grand idea, announcing it would offer a $2 million purse for the late August race if American Pharoah shows up. And according to Halstrom, owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert didn’t consider it crazy, either. Halstrom said both men told him Tuesday that they were willing to listen to offers, leading track officials to begin assembling a proposal that will convince Team Pharoah to bypass prestigious races in New York and California in favor of Minnesota.

Saratoga can’t be ruled out, for either the Jim Dandy or Travers, and New York Senator Charles Schumer is making an appeal via letter and press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the owner and trainer of recent Triple Crown winner from the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah, to bring their champion to the historic Saratoga Race Course this summer. Schumer urged owner Ahmad Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert, to bring the legendary colt to one of the most historic and renowned race tracks in the country.

Saratogians are rallying.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, trainer Bob Baffert told the crowd: “When he comes back, I want him to really bring his fastball … I’m not going to embarrass him because somebody made some offer or whatever.”

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