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Breeders' Cup Clocker: Uncle Mo erases all doubts about fitness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Any doubt how Uncle Mo might have bounced out of his relatively disappointing final work for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on Sunday morning were erased the moment he stepped out onto the racetrack shortly after 6 a.m. here at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. He turned in an exhilarating training session during which he galloped as strong, as sound and as spectacularly as could be expected leading up to such a major event.
Uncle Mo’s appearance was the highlight of a long and extremely busy training session here Wednesday with nearly all the 179 prospective Breeders’ Cup starters out on the track at one time or another during the course of the morning. There were only two recorded works on Wednesday, Speightscity (Juvenile) drilling a half-mile in 48.40 seconds with a final eighth in 12.09 over the main track and Broken Dreams (Turf Sprint) zipping three eighths in 35.80 with a final quarter in 22.74 over the firm turf albeit under some vigorous late urging.
The “Band of Seven” French horses who paraded around single file for an easy jog on Tuesday were back together again shortly after the renovation break but this time for a little more serious exercise . After stretching their legs with a one-mile jog, the group separated and open galloped around the turn and through the stretch, each completing their final three-eighths in times ranging from 39 and change to 40 and change, including Goldikova and Sarafina , both of whom looked very happy.
All the Classic starters trained Wednesday except for So You Think , who will not clear quarantine until late Thursday. Aside from Uncle Mo, the best of the group were Drosselmeyer and To Honor and Serve, who had another spectacular morning while again training in his now familiar one-cup blinker. Flat Out looked strong again, Havre de Grace had a relatively easy morning galloping under trainer Larry Jones, Ruler On Ice looked good galloping in company for the second day in a row, while Game On Dude made a favorable appearance in his first morning over the track.
Among the Saturday Breeders’ Cup starters to catch my eye were Hansen (Juvenile), Faraaj (Juvenile Turf), who trained in one form or another for at least 45 minutes, Finale (Juvenile Turf), and Union Rags (Juvenile).
The following are my impressions of some of the horses I have either seen work or gallop here over the past 12 days in preparation for Friday’s six Breeders’ Cup events.
Seeker: Has trained well all week but was on a tight left rein trying to bear out a bit turning for home in his final maintenance move. It is probably not a real concern other than he is drawn down on the rail.
Sum of the Parts: Finished willingly enough in his final prep on Monday, might outrun his odds.
Trinniberg: Expected to see a little quicker final work from the gate considering he went 34 and change just prior to the Hopeful and he was not extending all that well galloping here either Tuesday or Wednesday mornings.
Secret Circle: Strictly the one to beat although the first impression of him on Wednesday during just a routine gallop was nothing special.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Dayatthespa: She reportedly held her own with stablemate Stacelita in her final serious prep prior to shipping locally and that alone makes her a major player. Made a very nice appearance galloping over the main track on Monday.
Stopshoppingmaria: She passed her turf test with flying colors, working slightly better than her proven grass-running stablemate Sweet Cat over the weekend. A question mark at the distance but Stopshoppingmaria may ultimately prove the one to catch.
Stephanie’s Kitten: Her final grass work over the weekend turned out to be a bit of a disaster due to rider error but she’s looked extremely sharp training over the main track ever since with a particularly eye-catching session on Wednesday.
Sweet Cat: This steadily improving filly was under slightly more pressure to finish breezing in company with Stopshoppingmaria over the grass but did fight back to be on even terms during the gallop out. She figures to be a major factor with another forward move.
Elusive Kate: European invader is the one to beat on paper although she looked just average at best during her first two visits to the local turf course. She might be just enough of a question mark to try to beat at a short price.
Somali Lemonade: Undefeated filly looked great (on videotape) galloping out during her final serious prep last week at Keeneland and she has been equally impressive since shipping to Churchill Downs, especially on Wednesday morning when able to keep up a steady “two minute” pace galloping 1 1/4 mile s over the main track. Unfortunately, she must overcome a very difficult post.
Filly and Mare Sprint
Turbulent Descent: Hard to draw any conclusions from what I have seen from her first two visits to the track but certainly the one to beat at her best.
Switch: She worked fast but not very impressively on Sunday when rank leaving the pole and popped several times with the stick down the stretch while appearing uncomfortable throughout. She did bounce back with a very energetic and much happier looking gallop on Wednesday. Can’t forget this filly finished second off a similarly unimpressive final prep in the 2010 running of this same race.
Golden Mystery: She was extremely sharp zipping a fast half-mile in hand on Monday, came back off that work looking well and full of herself 48 hours later. Main caveat is the fact I have seen her work in a similar manner on several occasions down in Florida but she’s obviously at the top of her game right now.
Her Smile: She has worked just about as well as anybody here over the past couple of weeks, completing the final quarter of a half-mile work in 23.29 seconds while completely within herself before galloping out even better all the way back to the six- furlong pole on Saturday morning. Seems to love this track, may be a sleeper if she is able to perform up to her recent works.
Questing: Euro invader has made a favorable impression since being released from quarantine earlier in the week.
Rocket Twentyone: Worked just an ordinary half mile from the gate then was not overly impressive when returning to the track to gallop several days later.
Putthebabiesdown: She was rank leaving the pole, never settled and appeared to be trying to drift while tiring down the stretch, barely managing to finish on even terms with her maiden stablemate Yes He’s Trouble, who was going much easier throughout.
My Miss Aurelia : Undefeated filly has looked the part over the past couple of weeks and it was encouraging to see her relax during her final maintenance run on Monday, suggesting she will handle the added distance without an issue in the Juvenile Fillies. It looks like her race to lose.
Filly and Mare Turf
Stacelita: Another favorite who has looked the part and even more so since her arrival from New York, putting in a series of very high-energy gallops while stretching out impressively on each successive trip over the Churchill Downs main track. Has trained in a bubble cup blinker to protect her injured eye and will more than likely race in the same equipment on Friday.
Aruna: Turf and artificial surface specialist attempted to emulate Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom with a test run on the main track for trainer Graham Motion but did not appear comfortable over the surface and as a result will remain on the grass for the Breeders’ Cup. She did not look nearly as sharp as stablemate and Filly and Mare Turf rival Shared Account when the pair galloped over the inner course here Wednesday.
Shared Account: Defending Filly and Mare Turf champ was overlooked a year ago and is flying under the radar again the second time around but appears to be coming back to Churchill Downs at the top of her game. She looked very happy and fit while extending beautifully over the turf course here during a routine gallop while travelling not far behind Aruna on Wednesday morning.
Dynaslew: She turned in a very ordinary prep over the turf last weekend and has since done little more than pony without tack since returning to the track following that uninspiring work.
Pachattack: Her only official work since finishing second in the Spinster came at Keeneland, but I really have liked the very high-energy level I have seen from her on a regular basis since she shipped to Louisville.
It’s Tricky: Did not arrive from New York until Tuesday, went to the track Wednesday and was razor sharp, giving the appearance she might run off once hitting the backstretch before coming to hand and settling into a nice relaxed gallop. All in all a very favorable first impression for the two-time Grade 1 winner.
Satans Quick Chick: Her only local work did not go well as she was rank on the way to the pole then had to be strongly encouraged to complete her final quarter-mile in nearly 25 seconds while also appearing to drift approaching the wire.
Ask the Moon: She was not asked for speed at any time in what amounted to nothing more than a maintenance move in her only local prep but has been very sharp and full of energy during all routine gallops coming out of that drill.
Royal Delta: She turned in two similarly spectacular works within a one-week span, the second of which may have been the best move turned in by any Breeders’ Cup participant, a super easy half-mile during which she completed her final quarter in 22.63 with the rider sitting as still as a statue throughout. Her gallop out was even more impressive, if that’s possible. Nobody is doing any better coming into this year’s Cup.
Plum Pretty: All her major preparations have been on the West Coast but she looked good during a routine gallop when visiting the track for the first time here on Wednesday. She figures to vie for the top prize in Friday’s main event with Royal Delta.
Super Espresso: She’s not the prettiest mover in the morning and her final work was just marginally better although she did manage to edge away at the end from her accomplished work mate Alma d’Oro albeit under pressure through a final quarter that barely shaded 26 seconds.