Modern Games Wins Wild Juvenile Turf for Purse Money Only

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Modern Games (Ire) | Horsephotos

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For Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, not to mention the betting public, the lead up to Friday evening's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf could not have been more of a roller coaster. Godolphin's two charges, rail-drawn Modern Games (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and GI Summer S. winner Albahr (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) to his immediate outside, stepped into the gate the top two wagering choices. But the latter, who had already been acting up before loading, reared in the gate and was briefly cast, perhaps bothering Dakota Gold (Freud) to his outside in the process. Modern Games was let out of the front of his stall, but didn't get far. Albahr was an automatic scratch at that point (he reportedly suffered only minor cuts), but as the rest of the field circled behind the gate waiting for the cue to re-rack, Modern Games–as low as 8-5 in the betting–was also scratched on the tote. That action turned out to be premature, and Modern Games was allowed to run for purse money only after being examined. You can probably guess what happened next…

Modern Games, the handsome chestnut last seen taking the G3 Tattersalls Somerville S. at Newmarket Sept. 23, did not break particularly alertly, but crept closer down on the fence approaching the first bend to sit just north of midpack behind an honest pace. William Buick pushed Modern Games along for more and swung him out after a :46.89 half and into a six-furlong split of 1:11.24. Grafton Street (War Front) took over and briefly opened up, but Buick unleashed Modern Games at the top of the lane and he blew right over the top of his competition, reporting home 1 1/2 lengths to the good and galloping out to a chorus of boos. Tiz the Bomb (Hit It a Bomb) was the “winner” as far as wagers were concerned, with local hope Mackinnon (American Pharoah) crossing the line third and Grafton Street fading to fourth.

“A testament to the horse and William,” said Appleby, now a three-time winner of this race for Godolphin, and possibly a would-be fourth if not for a disaster trip for eventual G1 Derby winner Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) the last time the Breeders' Cup was contested at Del Mar in 2017. “On a big stage like that and things, a quite dramatic incident happening there in the gate. But for him to compose himself and get himself back in there, back in the mindset, and for William to also, like I say, taking on board at one minute you're not sure whether you are or are not in the race that day… But the horse came into the race with a lovely profile. He was a progressive 2-year-old, and he's really pleased us since he's been here. And so we were confident coming into the race that we were going to be a big player anyway.”

Appleby confirmed that Albahr, who was set to be ridden by Frankie Dettori, escaped the incident relatively unscathed, as did his rider.

“He went straight back, I saw him go out there under the pony rider,” Appleby said. “He jogged back to the barn and the team are looking after him. He's got some minor cuts, but no more than that. My vet's there now and just giving him a thorough examination. But, yeah, it looked uglier than, hopefully–we were expecting the worst and luckily horse and rider walk away from it.”

Buick also piloted the team's last Juvenile Turf winner, Line of Duty (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), in 2018.

“He does everything in his stride and not at any stage was I worried that he was not focused,” said Buick of Modern Games. “He remained calm. He remained focused. He didn't change complexion at all. And that makes it much easier.

“In regards to the race, we jumped a tad slow from the gate, but having the one hole you can get a bit more space on the inside and a bit more time. So we managed to get into a nice position. The pace was even, and look, the race–to be honest–was very straightforward. This place, the turf track at Del Mar, a lot of luck is involved in the way the race unfolds, but with a horse like him, you're able to put the luck in your own hands a little bit.”

Appleby and Godolphin have now won six Grade I events in North America this year, plus a Jockey Club Derby with Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), one of the connections' two hopes in Saturday's GI Longines Breeders' Cup Turf to go with another pair of contenders for the GI Fanduel Breeders' Cup Mile. Appleby also has at least two more highly regarded juvenile colts for Sheikh Mohammed's operation back at home in four-for-four MG1SW Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) and G3 Emirates Autumn S. hero Coroebus (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}).

“I think one of the things Sheikh Mohammed enjoys the most is international competition and certainly with the Dubai World Cup he always loves to see so many participants from so many different places come to run. And the same here with the Breeders' Cup, a world championship whereby this is so exciting to bring European horses over here,” said Godolphin's Jimmy Bell. “It just adds such an element to it. And to be a homebred, to be a part of this thing, I know how proud he is of Charlie and how well he brought these horses over here and knows who to bring and so adept at doing that.”

A second-out winner at Newbury in July, Modern Games was a close second at Leicester Aug. 8 before annexing a Doncaster handicap by daylight Sept. 8. He showed good speed and a strong late kick when dominating the Somerville last out.

Meanwhile, as disgruntled horseplayers took to social media to air their grievances, track officials attempted to sort through the chain of events.

The following explanation was released by the California Horse Racing Board: “Concerning the 10th race at Del Mar today, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf: Prior to the start of the race, #1 Modern Games (IRE) reared up and hit the back of the gate; #2 Albahr (GB) flipped over and became lodged underneath the starting gate. The scratch of #2 Albahr was relayed to the stewards and that horse was taken out of the wagering pools. Albahr appears uninjured. The veterinary staff then relayed a second scratch of #1 Modern Games (IRE) to the stewards based on initial observation. Upon confirmation that #1 also was to be scratched, the stewards removed the horse from the wagering pools. After further discussion among the regulatory veterinarians at the gate and after further observation of #1 Modern Games, that horse was declared fit and racing sound, and this fact was relayed to the stewards, who pursuant to CHRB rule 1974 allowed the horse to run for purse money only. The CHRB and the Breeders' Cup are reviewing the current veterinary and scratching procedures to ensure that this does not occur going forward.”

Rule 1974 stipulates that “If a horse is removed from the wagering pool due to a totalizator error, or due to any other error, and neither the trainer nor the owner is at fault, the horse shall start in the race as a non-wagering interest for the purse only and shall be disregarded for pari-mutuel purposes.”

The Breeders' Cup later followed up with a release noting that the event was being held under the authority of the CHRB.

“We thank the CHRB for their thorough review of this situation, and we regret the impact this has had on the betting public,” said the statement. “The health and safety of our equine and human athletes is our top priority and we are thankful for the safety of all involved.”

Friday, Del Mar
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE TURF-GI, $920,000, Del Mar, 11-5, 2yo, c/g, 1mT, 1:34.72, fm.
1–MODERN GAMES (IRE), 122, c, 2, by Dubawi (Ire)
1st Dam: Modern Ideals (GB), by New Approach (Ire)
2nd Dam: Epitome (Ire), by Nashwan
3rd Dam: Proskona, by Mr. Prospector
1ST GRADE I WIN. O-Godolphin LLC; B-Godolphin (IRE);
T-Charles Appleby; J-William T Buick. $520,000. Lifetime
Record: 6-4-1-0, $595,348. Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for
the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Tiz the Bomb, 122, c, 2, Hit It a Bomb–Tiz the Key, by Tiznow.
($330,000 Ylg '20 FTKSEL). O-Phoenix Thoroughbred Ltd;
B-Spendthrift Farm LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G McPeek. $170,000.
3–Mackinnon, 122, c, 2, American Pharoah–Scat Means Go, by
Scat Daddy. ($200,000 Ylg '20 FTKOCT; $285,000 2yo '21
FTFMAR). O-ERJ Racing LLC, Madaket Stables LLC & Dave
Kenney; B-International Equities Holding Inc. (KY); T-Doug F
O'Neill. $90,000.
Margins: 1HF, NK, HD. Odds: 0.00, 7.80, 6.30.
Also Ran: Grafton Street, Dakota Gold, Slipstream, Stolen Base, Portfolio Company, Coinage, Dubawi Legend (Ire), Great Max (Ire), Glounthaune (Ire), Credibility. Scratched: Albahr (GB), Detroit City, Ready to Purrform. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

Pedigree Notes:

Modern Games's Breeders' Cup victory gives his prolific sire Dubawi his 47th Group 1 victory. The fourth of six foals out of Modern Ideals (Ire), the Godolphin homebred is one of three winners and the leading performer produced by the half-sister to G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere-winning Ultra (Ire) (Manduro {Ger}), G3 Prix Minerve scorer Synopsis (Ire) (In the Wings {GB}) and dual stakes-placed Epic Similie (GB) (Lomitas {GB}), herself the dam of MGSP Figure of Speech (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). The winner is a great grandson of MGSW Proskona (Mr. Prospector), a half-sister to MG1SP sire Keos (Riverman) and G3 Prix Chloe-winning blue hen Korveya (Riverman). The family also includes MG1SW sire Act One (GB) (In the Wings {GB}), G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains third Gharir (Ire) (Machiavellian), G1 Fillies' Mile runner-up Summer Symphony (Ire) (Caerleon) and GI Belmont Oaks Invitational third Summer Solo (Arch). This is also the family of Friday's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). Modern Games's 11-year-old mare is responsible for a yearling filly by Exceed and Excel (Aus) and a filly foal by Mastercraftsman (Ire).

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