Both Coasts Host Sunday Stakes Showdowns

I'm Very Busy | Susie Raisher

By J.N. Campbell

While U.S. television sets await a rainy French Arc Day in the morning, both the right and left North American coasts will emcee three graded stakes races apiece, as Sunday afternoon comes calling. The Big A and The Great Race Place (Aqueduct and Santa Anita, in case you were stationed under a rock) host. The former is accommodating Belmont's Fall Meet, while “Big Sandy” undergoes an extreme makeover tunnel edition; while the latter is back in business under the picturesque mountains and ray filled sun in SoCal.

Howdy Pilgrim…

The Sunday October action begins with the annual renewal of the GII Pilgrim S., going a mile and a sixteenth on the grass. A couple years back this was upgraded from a Grade III to a Grade II, and the 2022 edition promises to be another hallmark. The real prize is a ticket to the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland, which is a little more than a month away.

A year after 'TDN Rising Star' Annapolis (War Front) proved victorious last year in this spot, this year's race includes a well-matched field of a dozen runners. Of course, 'Rising Star' I'm Very Busy (Cloud Computing), is a colt that sparkled in his only race to-date. Flavien Prat used the gears he was handed, and won nicely in one of those tough turf maidens at Saratoga.

However, you cannot overlook the presence of Shug McGaughey and his entry Battle of Normandy (City of Light), a sire that is garnering some major attention. The colt just missed in the GIII With Anticipation S. at the end of August at Saratoga, and he should be ready to offer a devasting late leg kick. One other that merits mention is Graham Motion's Dataman (Tapit). He stretched out nicely at Colonial Downs in August and rallied for the win. Joel Rosario climbs back aboard, riding for a barn that is always dangerous in situations like these.

NYRA Series Filly Finale…

Also on the docket is the final exam for young freshmen fillies. NYRA's series for these types included the GIII Adirondack S. and GI Spinaway S. at Belmont and Saratoga, and now it's time for the capstone-GI Frizette S. The one-mile distance will be one last prep, as the victress moves on the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The major question in the field of seven is was Phil Serpe's Leave No Trace (Outwork) performance a fluke when, at odds of 14-1, she declared victory in the Spinaway? Jose Lezcano has the return call, and the filly will be looking to remain a perfect three for three to prove the doubters wrong.

“Everything is good with her. She had a nice work and all systems go,” said Serpe. “She did it pretty easy. I was surprised looking at the watch how fast she was going. The 58 and change was a work where you're like, 'Wow, this filly is really fast.' Everything is just kind of moving along.”

Standing in her way are Frank Fletcher's American Rockette (American Pharoah) for trainer Bill Mott, and Todd Pletcher's Repole Stable-owned Chocolate Gelato (Practical Joke). The latter posted a stellar speed fig when she broke her maiden at Saratoga in mid-August.

“She was impressive. Her debut, the track was very demanding and tough for a first-time starter,” Pletcher said. “She got a little tired late in the race. The second start was more of what we were expecting from her.”

Not to be overlooked is 'TDN Rising Star' The Great Maybe (Upstart), a filly that is looking to capitalize on a nice debut win, dispelling any doubt concerning her name.

“She trained well out of that [race] so we're taking the chance with the one turn mile with her,” said DeVaux. Jockey Javier Castellano continues the hot riding that he exhibited upstate at Saratoga.

This is the Waya…

Glen Kozak and his excellent NYRA ground squad got the Aqueduct turf into shape early, what with the shift over from Belmont. Grass riding traditionally is a November and April activity in Ozone Park, but the lawn is tended and ready for settling and some furious endings.

This year's GIII Fasig-Tipton Waya S. is another distance hurdle for deeper routers, as they traverse the 1 3/8ths. Coming from off-the-pace is in order, unless a runner can control the fractions up front. Chad Brown could rack up a fourth win in a row in this race as he sends out the well-bred Capital Structure (GB) (Lope de Vega (Ire). Another Klaravich Stables runner with budding talent, she lost all chance last time out at Pimlico in a non-graded affair due to saddle slippage. Look for Kelsey Danner's classy Gladys (Medaglia d'Oro) to be an overlay. The full-sister to Rachel Alexandra exits a close fourth in the All Along at Old Hilltop.

The Stoutest of Queens…

The GII Zenyatta S. was re-named in 2012 after what many consider one of the greatest of all-time, male or female. She was regal and magnificent, and most of all, she knew it. Beating up on the boys was her signature, as was guzzling that Guinness Stout. We will not soon forget John Shirreffs' 'Queen.'

These ladies have much to live up to. A compact field of five assembles, with Empire House (Empire Maker), Soothsay (Distorted Humor) and Samurai Charm (First Samurai) all carrying 122 pounds. They will be up against a pair of 3-yr-olds in Midnight Memories (Mastery) and Awake At Midnyte (Nyquist). This is a wide-open affair, and could be seen as anyone's game, as these females seek to wear the crown.

Chillingworth, You Say!…

A graded event since 2014, the GIII Chillingworth S. gives a nod to the longtime director and executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association. Out of these older females, we have a Breeders' Cup celebrity appearance by Mike McCarthy's versatile Ce Ce (Elusive Quality). Her 2021 GI BC Filly & Mare Sprint victory at Del Mar was a masterpiece, and if she is at her best, with Victor Espinoza aboard, then no one in this race is going to be able to catch her by the time the wire arrives.

Tokyo Drift…

Who could forget Big John B, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, Campaign, and Cupid's Claws when they won the GIII Tokyo City Cup S.? My Racehorse and Spendthrift's own Tizmagician (Tiznow) joined that cadre last year, and the 5-year-old is back once more. What did it take? The ability to track, just behind a good, honest pace. Do that, and you might be able to outlast them all in this drift. A former Bob Baffert runner comes calling. Newgrange (Violence) is now in Phil D'Amato's care. It's his dam side, Bella Chianti by Empire Maker, that could be a clue to his ability to handle this distance test. The same goes for Peter Eurton's Storm the Court (Court Vision), who hasn't run this far on the dirt since the 2020 GI Kentucky Derby. Specialists like John Sadler's Heywoods Beach (Speightstown) and Richard Mandella's Extra Hope (Shanghai Bobby) have the experience and could have the advantage.

Bonus Round…Speakeasy For BC Hopefuls…

The Speakeasy S. might not be graded, but that doesn't mean there are not major implications for the winner. A group of 2-year-olds will be traveling at a high rate of speed on the grass at Santa Anita, looking to book passage to Keeneland for the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is not known for his turf horses, although he had a strong one in Du Jour a few years back. His Speed Boat Beach (Bayern) is fast (imagine that), so look for Juan Hernandez to secure the lead early, and hold on tight. T-minus 5 furlongs and counting.

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