The Week In Review: A Weekend Report Card

Up to the Mark | Sarah Andrew


The next best thing to the Breeders' Cup is a weekend filled with Breeders' Cup preps. That was the story last week as 31 graded stakes races were contested, many of them races that would help shape the fields for the Breeders' Cup races. Who were the big winners? Who were the big losers? Here's our reports card:

Up to the Mark: A+

It had been a depressing year for North American-based turf horses, who lost race after race to European shippers, including some whose credentials were rather modest. Saturday's GI Coolmore Turf Mile at Keeneland looked like it might be a case of more of the same as the favorite was the Charles Appleby-trained Master of The Seas (Dubawi {Ire}), who was coming off an impressive in the GI Woodbine Mile S. But in Up to the Mark (Not This Time), he was facing the best turf horse in the U.S. Had he been able to beat him handily that would have reaffirmed the message that the European turf horses are light years ahead of the ones based in the U.S. and that the Breeders' Cup turf races would certainly be dominated by shippers from the other side of the Atlantic. It was hardly a dominant performance as Up to the Mark beat Master of The Seas by a nose, but it showed that our very best turf horses can compete with Europe's best. This was the third straight Grade I win for Up to the Mark. If the GI Breeders' Cup Classic is won by an outsider and if Up to the Mark wins his Breeders' Cup race he could be Horse of the Year.

Muth: A

Muth (Good Magic), a $2 million purchase at the OBS March sale, didn't beat the toughest group of horses in Saturday's GI American Pharoah S. at Santa Anita, but the way he pulled off the victory was impressive and bodes well for his future. In his first two starts, he looked a lot like a precocious, fast horse who would fit best in sprint races. In the mile-and-a-sixteenth American Pharoah, he was relaxed and settled into fourth before launching his bid at the top of the stretch. If Muth is that good, how good is his stablemate, Prince of Monaco (Speightstown)? He beat him decisively when winning the GIII Best Pal S by 4 1/4 lengths.

Idiomatic: A

Yes, Idiomatic (Curlin) had a dream trip in the GI Spinster S. Sunday at Keeneland. And that's the only reason she doesn't get an A +. Florent Geroux managed to get her to the front by 1 1/2 lengths after an opening quarter was run in 24.49. At that point, the race was already over. The lineup that awaits her in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff is tough one, but after the Spinster Idiomatic has to be considered the one to beat. She's won four straight, all stakes and two Grade I's in a row.

Gina Romantica: A-

All that stands between an undefeated season for the Chad Brown-trained In Italian (GB) is Chad Brown. For the second straight race, In Italian went off as a heavy favorite in the GI First Lady S. at Keeneland only to be beaten by a stablemate. This time it was Gina Romantica (Into Mischief). She nailed In Italian by a head at the wire, not an easy thing to do considering that In Italian got the trip she needs, controlling the pace. This race came out of nowhere for Gina Romantica, who increased her best lifetime Beyer by 13 points, from a 92 to a 105. But if she can duplicate the effort in the Breeders' Cup she'll be a horse to watch.

War Like Goddess: A-

What a cool horse. War Like Goddess (English Channel) beat the boys for the second straight year in the GI Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Aqueduct. She RNA'd for $1,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale before selling for $30,000 the following year at OBS June. She's now earned $2,495,184 and has won three Grade I's. The competition will get tougher in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf, but this was one of the better efforts of her career and showed that she's still at the top of her game at age 6 and more than capable of beating males.

Didia: A-

Few horses have flown under the radar more this year than Didia (Arg) (Orpen). Since arriving here last year from Argentina, she had been beaten only once in five tries and that was when she couldn't catch a loose on the lead Marketsegmentation (American Pharaoh) in the GI New York S. Trainer Ignacio Correas IV gave her four months off after that race and brought her back for Saturday's GII Rodeo Drive S. at Santa Anita. Facing a tough foe in the 3-year-old Anisette (GB) (Atwaad {Ire}), who was undefeated in three U.S. starts, she proved to be clearly the better of the two, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Correas may not be a household name in the U.S., but he proved what he can do when he won the 2019 GI Breeders' Cup Distaff with Blue Prize (Arg) (Pure Prize).

Locked: B+

At first glance, the win by Locked Gun Runner) in the GI Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland doesn't look that impressive. As the 3-5 favorite, he won by just a half length and had to survive a stiff stretch battle from The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso). His Beyer was an 87, a drop off of nine points from his last race. But, breaking from the eight post, he was wide on both turns and lost a ton of ground while The Wine Steward was never more than two paths off the rail.

Timberlake: B+

Brad Cox had Timberlake (Into Mischief) entered in both the GI Champagne S. at Aqueduct and the GI Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and it certainly looks like he made the right call sending the 2-year-old to New York for the Champagne. He was last seen running second in the GI Hopeful S., where the winner, Nutella Fella (Runhappy) got a Beyer figure of only 72. But with Timberlake winning the Champagne by 4 1/4 lengths, that race looks a lot better now. Timberlake probably won't be any better than the fouth choice in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he proved in the Champagne that he belongs.

Nations Pride: B

No, Charles Appleby isn't perfect. The first three horses he ran over the weekend all got beat. That meant that Nations Pride (Ire) (Teofilio {Ire]) was his last hope. Sent to Woodbine for Sunday's GI Canadian International S., he came through with a 2 1/4-length win as the 2-5 favorite. He'll now return to the GI Breeders' Cup Turf, where he finished fifth last year at the 5-2 favorite. Didn't beat much in this race, thus his grade.

In Italian: C

In Italian didn't run terribly in the First Lady when beaten by stablemate Gina Romantica, but that's two straight races she has lost as an odds favorite in which she had no real excuse.

Nest: C-

When Nest (Curlin) kicked off her 2023 campaign with a 2 1/4-length win over Clairiere in the GII Shuvee S. it looked like she was well on her way to a possible Eclipse Award. Nothing has gone right since. She was third in the GI Personal Ensign S. and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the Spinster in which she was beaten 11 /4 lengths. A terrific filly who, for whatever reason, didn't have it in her last two starts.

Rebel's Romance: D

Rebel's Romance (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) won last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, but nothing has gone right for him since. He returned to New York for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic after clipping heels and losing his rider in the GII Bowling Green S. Sent off at 1-2, he showed nothing, finishing fourth.

Fierceness: Incomplete

Considered one of the most impressive maiden winners at Saratoga, where he won by 11 1/4 lengths in the slop, Fierceness (City of Light) was pounded down to 1-2 in the Champagne. This time he didn't show up, losing by 20 1/4 lengths. He had all sorts of problems at the start, where be lunged and then got bumped, and maybe that explains the poor performance. We'll probably see him next at Gulfstream, where he'll have every chance to regroup.

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