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Clocker rates Breeders' Cup prospects based on body language
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- The following is the final report card for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card from observations I have made here at Churchill Downs over the past two weeks.
Master of Hounds : Was not crazy about the way this top European contender got over the turf, both warming up before and during Thursday’s three-furlong blow-out.
Banned : Had two drills over the local turf course, the first of which did not go smoothly when he inadvertently wound up hooking in with another worker. Finished willingly enough in his final prep and may have the best chance among the U.S. contingent of upsetting the potent Euro team in this event.
Madman Diaries: Trained on a daily basis over the local grass for more than a week but was outfinished by 2-year-old filly stablemate mate Nina Fever when the pair drilled five furlongs in company on Oct. 31.
Pluck : Had some traffic issues near midstretch in his one breeze over the Churchill turf course, yet finished willingly without urging but slightly behind the juvenile filly More Than Real.
Big Drama : Legged up nicely with a series of sharp works over deep Calder strip prior to shipping locally, where he has had nothing more than a series of easy gallops to acclimate to the main track.
Hamazing Destiny: Worked an easy and non-descript half-mile nine days out for the race. Outsider did turn in career-best effort over his home track earlier this season.
Smiling Tiger: Turned in arguably one of the most eye-catching works of the past week, overcoming some unexpected traffic to breeze five furlongs over a slightly dead track in 58.40 seconds despite being forced to angle five- or six-wide into the stretch.
Cash Refund: Is not a pretty mover by any means during his regular morning gallops but did show his usual high turn of speed working in company last week, zipping an opening half in 46.42 seconds before tiring some near the end and during his gallop out. Figures to be a major pace presence.
Supreme Summit : Appeared to be trying to bear out at the end of his fast six-furlong work at Hollywood Park and he gave similar indications during routine gallop here earlier this week.
Riley Tucker: Ran far and away the best race of his career over the local surface but was a little rank and held his head a bit high prior to and during the early stages of his final half-mile breeze in which he did not finish quite as strong as I might have expected.
Atta Boy Roy : Another who is proven over the local surface and obviously a major pace factor although he did shut down a bit abruptly coming to the wire and galloping out when breezing a half-mile last weekend.
Warrior’s Reward : Didn’t finish as strong as I would have hoped in his penultimate Breeders’ Cup work but did so and more six days later in an impressive half-mile drill during which he completed his final quarter in 23.41 under wraps and galloped out another furlong in 13 around the clubhouse turn. Pace and traffic issues are the keys to his success.
Rose Catherine : Speedy filly gave every indication she remains on top of her game while also showing the ability to rate when cruising early, unleashing a 23 final quarter without need of urging while testing the local turf course for the first time. Gets acid test Saturday against the boys.
Due Date : Took a bit of an erratic path in early stretch when swapping leads but finished willingly enough to post a bullet half-mile drill on the grass in his final prep for toughest test of his career.
California Flag: Defending champ has been asked for speed in both local drills on the grass, although leaving the impression he’s just not as sharp as he was coming into this event a year ago at Santa Anita.
Biondetti : Unbeaten European invader is an imposing looking colt who has handled his heavy work load quite willingly this past week. Galloped a staggering three miles over the main track on Tuesday, looking as strong the third time around as the first. That type of stamina could prove a big advantage in a race absolutely loaded with speed.
Boys At Tosconova: Did all his final preparations in relative obscurity at Aqueduct but he certainly gets an “A” on good looks since his local arrival.
J B’s Thunder: Was given only a maintenance move since shipping over from Keeneland, going in company with an older, multi-winning stablemate. Handled that test well, inching just past his work mate at the wire while well in hand throughout. Has never raced on dirt but should have little trouble adapting to the surface change from the looks of this move.
Riveting Reason: Appeared to tire some during the final stages of his only work since arriving from the West Coast but did turn in a series of very strong gallops coming out of that drill.
Stay Thirsty: Worked in company and held his own against more fancied stablemate Uncle Mo, neither being asked to do too much in their final, maintenance type drill.
Uncle Mo : Undefeated juvenile makes an imposing looking presence and as mentioned above, was never asked at any time during his lone local prep in company with Stay Thirsty.
Rogue Romance : I only got to see his final Juvenile prep on tape from Keeneland but he looked extremely sharp getting over the synthetic surface. He will be testing dirt for the first time on Saturday.
Jaycito : Improving California invader looked very happy getting over the ground while galloping with blinkers on here Thursday.
Gio Ponti: Has done very little since arriving from New York and did not appear to be striding out very smoothly or with a lot of enthusiasm in his second visit to the main track on Thursday.
Sidney’s Candy: Was very aggressive leaving the pole, had to be corrected with a left-hand stick to keep from lugging in near midstretch of fast local turf drill last weekend. Did not give the impression he will be able to carry his abundant speed the distance with this stellar group.
Goldlikova : Not the most imposing looking mare but obviously all business out on the racetrack. Was a handful to keep from doing too much when blowing out over the main track on Thursday.
Proviso : Has arguably had the best week and a half of anybody on the grounds preparing for this year’s Cup, turning in a series of high energy level gallops while looking very happy and on top of her game. Was never asked for much during her lone local workout, doing her best running when galloping out full of run around the clubhouse turn.
Dakota Phone: He has looked solid since his arrival from California, open galloping strongly on Tuesday before blowing out a sharp three-eighths the following morning.
Mad Flatter: He has been full of energy galloping over the local strip and gives the impression he could be gearing up for another career-best performance.
Thiskyhasnolimit: This 3-year-old is peaking at the perfect time. Has turned in two high-caliber local works, finishing up strongly without need of urging in both drills. Expecting him to outrun his odds in this very competitive event.
Hurricane Ike: He hugged the rail under Calvin Borel while turning in a fairly strong six-furlong drill, but pulled up very abruptly once passing the wire, which seemed a little out of character for any horse Borel works in the morning.
Mine That Bird: The 2009 Derby winner turned in an unconventional final Breeders’ Cup drill from the gate when struggling to keep up with younger maiden work mate under pressure.
Vineyard Haven: He completed all his final major preparations in New York but made a very good appearance galloping on Thursday.
Al Khali: He will have his hands full with the strong European contingent but he couldn’t be doing any better coming into the race. Showed off his long, fluid stride on turf at the tail end of an easy 1:01.51 five-furlong breeze last weekend.
Behkabad: He was fairly aggressive open galloping three furlongs down the stretch about five lengths in front of Goldlikova on Thursday.
Quality Road: He appeared a little stiff breaking off to gallop the first couple of days on the track after arriving from New York but moved fluidly in an easy and efficient half-mile maintenance move last week.
Paddy O’ Prado: His final Classic work not quite as flashy as his last over a sloppy track prior to this year’s Kentucky Derby but it certainly was enough to suggest that he continues to relish the going at his home course.
Haynesfield: Jockey Club Gold Cup winner has consistently looked the part of a Classic winner the past couple of weeks. Was a handful just to settle early in his final prep, cruised home willingly, then did his best running in the gallop out when tugging his exercise rider through a 12.55 eighth-mile around the clubhouse turn. Major upset threat if allowed to relax on the lead once again in his present form.
First Dude: Nobody makes a better appearance than this strapping 3-year-old, who like stablemate Paddy O’Prado, gave every indication he just loves the local surface by the way he has been training these past 10 days. Will be a player from the outset.
Blame: Couldn’t have looked better in his final serious prep, a five-eighths drill at Keeneland, and has maintained that form since shipping over to Churchill Downs, where he has proceeded to put in a series of very solid gallops and a predictably easy half-mile breeze.
Zenyatta : She looked very happy and full of energy in her first two gallops since arriving from the West Coast and is giving every indication she will be ready to deliver her best one last time on Saturday.
Pleasant Prince: Doesn’t have the prettiest way of going in the morning and did appear to tire approaching the wire and galloping out in his only local Breeders’ Cup prep last weekend.
Espoir City : Japanese hopeful has not looked comfortable over the track either during his gallops or series of local works, seemingly bobbling on occasion while also drifting out and finishing in the middle of the track in the second of his two half-mile drills within a 72-hour span on Wednesday.
Lookin At Lucky: Has really been on his toes and full of run in his first two local gallops since arriving from the West Coast and looks ready to deliver a career-best effort in the Classic. Showed his affinity for this racetrack six months earlier with a stellar, final Derby prep.