Tickets Please! Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, Other Graded Action Whistles Into Weekend

Cody's Wish | Sarah Andrew


Just over 100 years ago, the Jockey Club's resident New York handicapper, William Vosburgh, knew the value of history and understood how it could be applied when he penned his magnum opus, Racing In America, 1866-1921.

The turf wordsmith revealed his intent in the Preface when he said, “I shall show that, owing to want of popular support, racing had fallen so low, and so infrequent, as to excite little or no interest.”

What he was talking about was a sport in crisis, as progressive forces in America drove racing to the edge of extinction. With renewed governmental support from states and a bit of luck from private sources in the 1920s, everything began to turn around. Investment coupled with excitement, revived American competition.

It's a cycle of precipices Thoroughbred racing has continued to weather to this day.

In the current era, one of the sport's greatest innovations, the Breeders' Cup World Championships, is set for its 40th edition in November. As we celebrate the final month of the Challenge Series, here's a preview of all the weekend graded activity which will leave the station at Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, and Aqueduct.

Next Stop, Churchill

Chugging into Louisville, the Saturday action lands under the Twin Spires for the GIII Ack Ack S. going a mile around one turn. With a trip to the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile up for grabs, GII Louisiana Derby runner-up and 'TDN Rising Star' Zozos (Munnings) will serve as the 6-5 morning-line favorite. The Brad Cox trainee was last seen running fourth in the GIII Philip Iselin S. Aug. 19 at Monmouth Park.

Zozos | Horsephotos

The 4-year-old colt will face a number of challengers which includes MGSP O Besos (Orb), the last out winner of the GII John Nerud S. at Belmont Park Three Technique (Mr Speaker) and come from behind hero Aug. 13 of the R.A. Cowboy Jones S. at Ellis Park in 'TDN Rising Star' Stage Raider (Pioneerof the Nile).

Also scheduled is the nine-furlong GII Lukas Classic which pits GISP Rattle N Roll (Connect) against GI Cigar Mile champ Americanrevolution (Constitution). Shortleaf homebred Whelan Springs (Street Sense), who incidentally won the Iselin S., will look to upset both for trainer Lindsay Schultz.

Santa Anita, The Place To Be

The whistle stop tour of graded events doesn't stop there because Santa Anita Park begins its Autumn Meet with a number of key Saturday and Sunday races.

The GI Awesome Again S., which the TDN previewed and highlighted in a special edition of Friday's paper, will lead a packed weekend at 'The Great Race Place', as nine will face one another for the chance to line up in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic.

Three Grade II races compliment the Saturday card and it is going to be quite a duel in the GII Santa Anita Sprint Championship S. between former winner Dr. Schivel (Violence) and GI Woody Stephens S. hero and 'TDN Rising Star' Arabian Lion (Justify).

Heading to the Downhill Turf Course, a competitive group of grass specialists will cross paths with one other led by MGSW Bran (Fr) (Muhaarar {GB}) from John Sadler's stable. The dark bay gelding will line up along the inside next to MGSP Sumter (War Front), who goes with the blinkers for Richard Mandella.

Staying on the grass, the GII City of Hope Mile S. wraps up the evening with a route as local favorite MGSW Hong Kong Harry (Ire) (Es Que Love {Ire}) returns to a course where he has captured three wins in five attempts.

Arabian Lion | Sarah Andrew

The Sunday Santa Anita slate has its share of graded action as the GII Zenyatta S. marks the return of Michael Lund Petersen's Adare Manor (Uncle Mo), who comes in riding a four-race win streak. Also featured will be the GIII Tokyo City Cup S. and the GII John Henry Turf Championship S.

Sunday's BAQ Forecast, Brighter Days Ahead

Speaking of the Jockey Club's New York historian and handicapper, William Vosburgh received a nod from the New York Racing Association when they named a race after him. Now moved to Sunday because of a deluge, the GII Vosburgh S. continues to be a mainstay on the NYRA stakes schedule and, with the Belmont Park construction, returned to Aqueduct last year for the first time since 1986. The seven-furlong event offers paid entry into the GI Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Last year's GI Breeders' Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile champ Cody's Wish (Curlin) certainly impressed when the 5-year-old took home both the GI Churchill Downs S. and Belmont Park's GI Met Mile earlier this summer. Even though the stretch out in the GI Whitney H. at Saratoga did not yield a win, his ability is unmatched even over a wet surface against five others here.

“One turn and seven [furlongs] to a mile is good for him,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “We wanted to see if he could win the Whitney–it's a very important race and if he could win the Met Mile and the Whitney, those are two very big races.”

The Sunday BAQ card also sports three other graded races. Heavy morning-line favorite Caramel Swirl (Union Rags), who was a runner-up in last year's GI Ballerina at Saratoga, finished fourth this time around to MGISW Echo Zulu (Gun Runner). The 5-year-old mare will look to get back on track in the GII Gallant Bloom S. when she faces five others.

A soggy turf course at Aqueduct will not deter runners for the GI Joe Hirsch Turf Classic S. Going the distance will be MGISW War Like Goddess (English Channel), who faces the boys once again after she missed by just a neck against older females in the GII Glens Falls S. Aug. 3 at Saratoga. Also headed to the post will be GI Breeders' Cup Turf victor Rebel's Romance (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who last lost his rider in the GII Bowling Green S. July 30 at Saratoga. The dark bay gelding will not only have to contend with War Like Goddess but also MGISP Soldier Rising (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and MGISP Stone Age (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).

Algiers | Dubai Racing Club

Finally, a can't miss on this Sunday card is the GII Woodward S. 'TDN Rising Star' Charge It (Tapit), winner of the GII Suburban S. July 8 at Belmont, and GISW Zandon (Upstart), who will head to stud duty at Spendthrift Farm next year, will take on G1 Dubai World Cup runner-up Algiers (Ire) (Shamardal). The Simon Crisford trainee is making his first U.S. start after taking the summer off.

“It is a fact-finding mission,” said Ed Crisford, who shares a license with his father. “We want to see if he can handle the American dirt because it is different than Meydan. I do think the New York tracks are more similar to Meydan than some of the other tracks. We want to see what he can do against top American dirt horses. If he goes well, wins or runs very well, we can justify going to the Breeders' Cup. If not, we'll probably just take him back to Dubai. It all depends on what happens on the weekend.”

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