Breeders’ Cup Thursday Notebook: Turf Horses

(Arklow / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team:

EUROPEAN HORSES

 The James Tate duo of Hey Gaman (Mile) and Dream Shot (Juvenile Turf Sprint) were the first of the overseas challengers out on the main track Thursday morning. Hey Gaman led Dream Shot in a steady canter but just as they were getting toward the end of the stretch Dream Shot dislodged his rider Afzal Muhammed. The son of Dream Ahead was soon caught by one of the outriders and was reunited with his rider.

Friday’s jockey for Dream Shot, Chris Hayes said, “I’m really excited to be here to ride in the Breeders’ Cup. The horse seems to be improving so there’s no reason he won’t put in a big effort tomorrow.”

The Japanese tandem of Matera Sky (Sprint) and Full Flat (Juvenile) soon followed and both looked very much at ease on the Santa Anita track. They walked a full circuit before doing a steady canter and returning home.

Castle Lady (Filly & Mare Turf) who breezed 3f Wednesday jogged for half a circuit of the main track before turning around and doing a gentle canter down the stretch.

Henri-Alex Pantall said, “She seems to have come out of her Keeneland race (the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup) very well and seems very settled here in Santa Anita. I was very pleased with what I saw out on the track today.”

The turf was next on the agenda for the overseas invaders and once again it was the John Gosden-trained Fanny Logan (Filly & Mare Turf) who led the way with Frankie Dettori once again in the saddle. The daughter of Sea The Stars looked extremely happy out on the Santa Anita Turf and did a strong canter down the stretch. She was soon followed by William Buick on the Charlie Appleby-trained Old Persian (Turf) who also did a strong canter down the stretch before returning back to the barn through the paddock.

“He felt good and I’m happy with him,” Buick said of Old Persian. “Hopefully he puts in a good performance and if he runs up to his best form he will have a big chance. We just need a bit of luck now.”

Lord Glitters (Mile), who will be bidding to give David O’Meara his first Breeders’ Cup winner, was another overseas challenger who looked at ease with his surroundings. Having stretched his legs out on the turf, work rider James Cowley was very pleased with the gray son of Whipper saying, “He feels really good. He seems to be really enjoying it here. His work has been good so we will just keep ticking him over until race day.”

O’Meara’s other runner Suedois (Mile) stayed in the barn along with Archie Watson’s Band Practice (Juvenile Turf Sprint) who just had a walk around the quarantine barn. “We just gave her a nice walk this morning,” Watson said. “I have been very happy with her since she’s arrived. She has adapted well to her new surroundings and is really thriving.”

 

Karl Burke who arrived in California Wednesday night was trackside to oversee Living In The Past (Juvenile Fillies Turf) stretch out on the turf.  “She lost quite a bit of weight from traveling and it might have taken more out of her than we first thought but she has put it all back on now so we are delighted with her. She looked good out on the track and Harrison Shaw her work rider couldn’t be happier,” Burke said.

A’Ali (Juvenile Turf Sprint) who has three Group 2 wins already to his name this season will be hoping to go one better in the Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday. The son of Society Rock did a steady canter out on the turf and pleased his connections. Les Reynolds, Simon Crisford’s traveling head lad was very pleased with what he saw. “He is a very uncomplicated horse and is very easy to train. He looked really good out there and in all honesty he is a bit of a dude.”

Last to go out on to the turf was the Ken Condon-trained Trais Fluors (Mile) with regular rider Fernandes Da Silva in the saddle. Again the son of Dansili had the services of a pony and did two laps of the turf track at a steady canter. “That was so much better than yesterday,” Da Silva reported.

The Curragh-based Condon was more pleased with his 5yo than he was Wednesday. “Much better today. He is more settled and seemed to enjoy being out on the track this morning. Having the pony seemed to keep him calm so we are much happier at this stage.”

South Korean challenger Blue Chipper was first on to the main track after the break and cantered two and a half laps of the track before heading back to the barn.

Just after 8 a.m. Shadn (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Dr Simpson (Juvenile Turf Sprint) and Albigna (Juvenile Fillies Turf) all followed out on to the main track. All three did nothing more than a steady canter around the Santa Anita track.

Yorkshire-based trainer Richard Fahey was trackside to see Space Traveller (Mile) do a routine canter  on the training track.

“I’m happy with him, he’s done everything right since he landed here so it’s all systems go,” Fahey said. “It is a bit different to when we brought Ribchester over as that was his final opportunity but with Space Traveller he’s improved all year and we’ve a lot to look forward to in the future.”

Billesdon Brook (Filly & Mare Turf), winner of the Group 1 Sun Chariot stakes in her most recent  start also stretched her legs out on the dirt. Sean Levey who is having his first Breeders’ Cup ride was on board the daughter of Champs Elysees. “She feels great and seems to be very well and relaxed. We will have to see if she sees out the trip but I’m hopeful she will. We just did a canter this morning after coming out of the gates and all went really well,” Levey said.

Villa Marina (Filly & Mare Turf) another European contender in this race also stretched her legs on the main track. Having gone out with a pony the daughter of Le Havre did a steady canter for a circuit of the track.

Stephane Duprey, who is looking after the filly, said: “I am really happy with her and everything is OK.”

Joseph O’Brien’s quartet of Air Force Jet (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Alligator Alley (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Iridessa (Filly & Mare Turf), Unforgetable (Juvenile Fillies Turf) all did a steady canter on the dirt and all seemed to be in great shape.

Once the Joseph O’Brien team had done their routine exercise it was the turn of his father Aidan to send his10 strong team out on to the track. As in previous years the Ballydoyle team did nothing more than to walk to the top of the backstretch before turning around doing a very gentle canter down the home stretch and then walking back to the barn.

The team from Ballydoyle all looked well and seemed happy to be out on the track after their trip over from Ireland.

Daahyeh (Juvenile Fillies Turf) who was scheduled to go out at 7:50 spread a plate in the barn and had to be reshod and this meant that her exercise was delayed until after the break. The daughter of Bated Breath did her strongest piece of work since arriving in California and did a strong canter before stepping up the pace down the home stretch.

The German raider Alounak (Turf) also did his strongest piece of work and like Daahyeh cantered around the track before quickening up down the stretch.

Jockey Jamie Spencer got a feel of the Santa Anita main track Thursday morning when he was given the leg up on the Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Ambassadorial (Dirt Mile). Spencer, who will be riding the son of Elusive Quality for the first time in Saturday’s race did a very steady canter before returning back to the barn via the paddock.

Spencer who is due to fly to Australia straight after the Breeders’ Cup said: “It is great to be here at Santa Anita. I have a nice book of rides and am really looking forward to the two days before I go Down Under.”

 

LONGINES TURF

 

            Acclimate – Acclimate, who earned his way into Saturday’s starting gate for the Longines Breeders’s Cup Turf as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge winner, went to the training track early Thursday for a 1 1/4m gallop with regular exercise rider Humberto Olguin. Trainer Phil D’Amato declared his charge “fit and ready” for the testing 1 1/2m race.

 

Arklow – Arklow, who is returning to the Turf for the second consecutive year, stood in the gate Thursday and then galloped 1 5/8m over the main track. He had galloped over the turf Wednesday on his first day at Santa Anita.

“He’s doing fantastic,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He looks amazing, really took to the turf course here (Wednesday). If he can get the trip, I think he can be right there. It’s a solid group, but I don’t think it’s any tougher than what he faced last year and he was fourth. He’s a better horse this year, there’s no doubt about that. I know he hasn’t won as many races, but he’s faced better company all year. He’s shown up and given a big effort every time.”

Arklow enters the Turf off his first career Grade 1 victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park. It was breakthrough win for the 5yo Arch horse, who had been knocking on the door in some big races.

“I’m not sure if it was good feeling or a relief,” Cox said of the win. “It was a great race to watch. A couple times down the lane, I was thinking he was going to at least hit the board, but for him to get his head in front at the wire just shows his mental toughness, how tough he is. He gives you his best effort every time. It doesn’t matter if the turf is firm or soft, he shows up every time. He’s so honest.”

 

Bricks and Mortar –Turning heads consistently this week has been Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar, who will go to post as the likely favorite in the Turf. The Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence-owned son of Giant’s Causeway left Barn 48 and galloped just over a mile Thursday in preparation for his career swan song Saturday. He was joined to and from the barn by Grade 1-winning Chad Brown-trained stablemates Dunbar Road and Sistercharlie.

“He’s just so consistent,” Brown said. “He’s all heart with such a strong closing kick. I think we’ve seen his best and on Saturday he just has to show it again.”

 

United – It may have been a surprise for some people when LNJ Foxwoods’ United showed up in the entry box for the Turf, but it wasn’t for his Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, who won the Turf in a dead heat in 2003 with Johar along with three other Breeders’ Cup races that day.

“He’s going very good,” Mandella said. “This race has been in my mind all summer. Last race, he was jumping around five or six days out and took some stitches in his ankle. Because of that I had to keep him in his stall for two days and cut his grain back. It took the edge off him. For some horses, it may have worked the opposite, but it took the edge off him. In the race he was just kind of quiet. He did finish real nice. I wouldn’t say it was his best race. I do think there’s more there to come. An extra quarter of a mile and going into the race without hiccup, he might rise to the occasion.”

 

Zulu Alpha – Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha galloped 1 1/4m at Santa Anita Thursday morning in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Turf.

Trainer Michael Maker opted to run the 6yo son of Street Cry in the Turf after excusing a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park in his most recent start.

“The U.S.-based horses are the same horses taking turns beating each other. They’ve been doing that for a lot less money,” Maker said. “Cross out his last race and he definitely deserves the chance.”

Zulu Alpha saved ground from his inside post before swinging wide off the turn into the homestretch but was unable to mount a serious challenge while finishing sixth.

“At Belmont he had the one hole. There was a very slow pace. He kind of got boxed in there and he never rally had a chance to run,” Maker said. “He didn’t run true to form, so we’re just crossing it out.”

Zulu Alpha previously won the 1 1/2m Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs by 3 ¼ lengths.

 

 

TVG MILE

 

Got Stormy – On paper, there doesn’t appear much in the way of speed in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile. Though she typically does her best running from off the pace, Got Stormy has been acting like a horse ready to take the pace scenario into her own hands Saturday.

The chestnut daughter of Get Stormy has been one of the most visually impressive contenders on the track in recent days, galloping with enthusiasm under exercise rider Kim Carroll and returning to the barn like it was nothing. While she is typically a high-energy and confident horse, trainer Mark Casse says he never has seen the 4yo act as ready for a race as she currently is.

“She is fired up and ready to go. You ever hear that saying, you have to have a butterfly net to catch her?,” Casse said with a grin. “She is a good-feeling filly but I’ve never seen her like this. She is on her game. There is not a lot of speed in the Mile, she may be the speed.”

Get Stormy put in her usual strong gallop Thursday under Carroll and is set to jog early Friday morning.

 

Lucullan – Godolphin LLC’s Lucullan galloped 1 3/8m at Santa Anita Thursday morning for his scheduled quest to win his fourth race in his past five starts in Saturday’s Mile.

“He’s 3-for-4 and the other time he didn’t break sharp, was down inside and drifted late,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

Lucullan came off a 14-month layoff to win an optional claiming allowance at Belmont July 3 before capturing the Lure Stakes at Saratoga a month later. The 5yo son of Hard Spun recovered from a slow start and early traffic to finish third in the Sept. 14 Woodbine Mile, only to be placed fourth via disqualification for drifting out late. He rebounded to capture the Knickerbocker at Belmont in his most recent start.

“He’s a nice horse. If you look back when he was 3, he was second in the Hill Prince to Yoshida and Bricks and Mortar was third,” McLaughlin said. “He’s been a nice horse for a long time. We look forward to the race on Saturday.”

Luis Saez, who has been aboard Lucullan in his four 2019 starts, has the return mount.

 

Uni – Leaving Barn 48 at 9:10 a.m. in tandem with Chad Brown-trained stablemate Wow Cat, last-out G1 winner Uni proceeded to gallop 1¼m over the Santa Anita main track. Leading Wow Cat by about eight lengths throughout, the Head of Plains Partners, Michael Dubb, Robert LaPenta and Bethlehem Stables-owned 5yo mare showed marked enthusiasm. On the morning line, the late-running chestnut charge is the co-second choice at 7-2 and will be ridden by regular pilot Joel Rosario from post 11 of 14.

 

Without Parole – Somewhat of a surprise entrant into the Mile is Without Parole, who must answer the age-old question of “what have you done for me lately” when he goes to post in the 8f affair.

Owned by reigning champion breeders John and Tanya Gunther and trained by three-time champion trainer Chad Brown, the son of Frankel is already a Group 1 winner, but has yet to win since that 2018 Royal Ascot effort.

The final horse to make the field after defections, the bay charge has been impressive in his morning gallops at Santa Anita. On Thursday, he once again left along with Brown-trained 2yos Structor and Selflessly and proceeded to gallop 1¼ miles on the main track.

His nine lifetime starts began with four consecutive wins, including a thrashing of subsequent Group 2 winner Ostilio at second asking in April 2018. Stepping up again, he beat subsequent Group 2 winner Vintager in the Heron Stakes one month later, setting him up for Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace (G1), one of Europe’s top races for 3yos, where he easily defeating a top-class field. Winless since, he was seventh behind Lightning Spear and subsequent Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Expert Eye in the Sussex and then disappointed two more times in top company before being rested for the winter.

The half-brother to Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz resurfaced when chasing the $6 million purse of the Dubai Turf in late March, but wound up chasing one of the world’s top-rated horses, Almond Eye, when finishing a respectable fifth by six lengths. He last raced when trailing 14 in the Lockinge at Newbury in May.

Now in the care of Brown, the former John Gosden trainee is ambitiously placed for his American debut, racing in one of the world’s top mile events.

“Tanya and I talked about it and felt that we should aim toward the Breeders’ Cup and take a shot, which is why we originally shipped him over from Gosden to Chad Brown,” John Gunther said. “We were expecting to run in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland as a prep, but Chad said he needed a couple more works. He has been working with Bricks and Mortar and has been really impressive. He wouldn’t let him get by in the breezes. And, he does run well fresh, so I’m not worried about that part of it.

“We think he’s still a very genuine horse. In his second start at Yarmouth, he earned one of the highest Timeform ratings for a second start in the past decade, but things eventually just went pear-shaped,” Gunther continued. “Chad is very excited with the way he’s been training the last couple months. With him working so well with Bricks and Mortar, Chad said we should take a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Mile without any prompting from Tanya or myself. My only thought was we may not get in. We were 18th on the list, so being able to get in makes us pretty happy.

“We took our time and he’s come around to where he’s working really well and we are taking a shot,” he concluded. “We’re still debating on keeping him in training next year at this point. Chad hopes to run him in the Pegasus (World Cup Turf Invitational) in January. We’ll see how he comes out and then evaluate.”

 

MAKER’S MARK FILLY & MARE TURF

 

Sistercharlie – No horse entering the Breeders’ Cup has been more dominant in its division than Peter Brant’s defending Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf winner and champion Sistercharlie. Going through her training this week, she has been fluid and consistent, much like her career, leaving Barn 48 in company with Chad Brown-trained stablemates Bricks and Mortar and Dunbar Road. On Thursday, she galloped about 1¼m over the Santa Anita main track.

Since arriving in America, the French Oaks-placed daughter of Myboycharliehas lost just twice, when running out of real estate in both the Belmont Oaks and New York. Otherwise, she has closed with aplomb to land seven G1 stakes from 8-10f against the fillies and mares, including her past six runs.

“We’ve thought of possibly trying her (against the boys),” Brown said. “With the schedule we put her on, it just didn’t make sense and just didn’t work out.”

If she wins once again, she will have to do so without her usual pacemaker, Thais, who was withdrawn from the race Wednesday. Brown declined comment on the scratch.

 

Vasilika – All Schliach Stables, Janet Hollendorfer, Gatto Racing and George Todaro’s Vasilika galloped at 5 o’clock Thursday morning, the second consecutive day she has gone about her business at Santa Anita since arriving from Los Alamitos on Tuesday.

Trained by Dan Ward, Vasilika is an 8-1 third choice on the morning line for the Filly & Mare Turf and will be partnered as usual by Flavien Prat on Saturday.

“Flavien really likes her and he says she has made him a better rider,” Ward said of the jockey who has been aboard the 5yo mare for 10 consecutive victories over the Santa Anita turf.

Vasilika was claimed for $32,000 in November 2017 at Aqueduct and then brought to Southern California.

“When we got her, she had run some good races but still had her conditions,” Ward said. “We got her through her conditions and she kept winning and got her confidence up (before going into graded-stakes company).”

Vasilika comes into Saturday’s race off a third-place effort in the First Lady at Keeneland Oct. 5.

“She came out of that fine and it was the perfect prep,” Ward said.

 

TURF SPRINT

 

Imprimis – Breeze Easy LLC’s Imprimis, scheduled for a start in Saturday’s $1 million Turf Sprint, jogged the wrong way around the Santa Anita track Thursday morning under exercise rider Jay Glass.

“It went real well. He’s excited. He feels good,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “He’ll jog again tomorrow. We’re only going five furlongs. We’re good.”

Imprimis began his 2019 campaign with victories in the Silks Run at Gulfstream Park and the Shakertown at Keeneland before being shipped to England for a start in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. The 5yo son of Broken Vow finished a troubled sixth, beaten 4 ¾ lengths by victorious Blue Point. Jockey Frankie Dettori was aboard at Royal Ascot and will return to the saddle Saturday.

“Frankie got off the horse and said he was looking for a turn and the straight confused him. He said it again today in an interview. He said [the straight] confused him and that he was happy to be on him here,” Orseno said. “He’s got the turn. It might come up a little quick, but he’s got one.”

Imprimis was favored in his past two starts but could only manage a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint and a third-place finish in the Woodford at Keeneland after less than ideal trips.

“After Royal Ascot, I freshened him up and I thought it went well. At Kentucky Downs and Keeneland we had two troubled trips, that’s all there is to it. It’s not anybody’s fault. He just got unlucky,” Orseno said. “I don’t think it was being stuck on the inside. You can be on the inside and win. He just got trapped down in there – Keeneland worse that Kentucky Downs. At Keeneland, it was just atrocious. I thought he was tons the best and didn’t get a chance to show it.”

 

Leinster/Totally Boss – Trainer Rusty Arnolds’s two Turf Sprint hopefuls, Leinster and Totally Boss, were done with their Thursday morning activity before 6 o’clock.

“Totally Boss was out here at 5:01,” Arnold said as he watched Leinster perform a similar exercise of jogging a mile and galloping a mile a half-hour later with Crystal Conning aboard both horses.

Susan and Jim Hill’s Totally Boss is the 5-1 co-second choice for the Turf Sprint and will break from the rail under Jose Ortiz. Leinster, who drew post seven with Tyler Gaffalione, is owned by Amy Dunne, Westrock Stables, Brenda Miley and Jean Wilkinson.

The 4yo Leinster made his first 11 starts for D. Wayne Lukas and joined the Arnold barn at the end of last year and made his first grass start for Arnold in January at Gulfstream Park.

“Wayne got unlucky with him,” Arnold said. “He entered three times on the grass and all the races came off. Amy Dunne wanted to try him on grass. He is a half-brother to (two-time defending Turf Sprint winner) Stormy Liberal, so I got him in Florida.

“The first time I entered him, the race came off the grass and I didn’t run. When we got to Keeneland, he was still a maiden and I entered him in an allowance and he landed on the also-eligibles. There were some scratches, he drew in and won the first of three in a row.”

The third of those victories came in the Troy at Saratoga in his stakes debut. He followed that up with a third-place finish in the Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs and a runner-up effort in the Woodford at Keeneland.

Saturday’s race will mark the second time the half-brothers have faced off. At Kentucky Downs, the 7yo Stormy Liberal finished a nose and a neck in fifth behind Leinster.

“They are side by side in the gate,” Arnold said. “He’s the six and we are the seven. That’s pretty cool.”

 

Stubbins – When a horseman has a 3-year-old who shows flashes of brilliance on dirt, one can’t fault them for seeing if a dive into classic waters might be something their runner can handle.

Such was the case with McShane Racing’s Stubbins in the aftermath of his eight-length victory in the 1m Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita this past March. A trip to Dubai was put on the docket to see if he could snag some Kentucky Derby points with a good effort in the UAE Derby. But following a sixth-place finish in that overseas venture, the son of Morning Line eventually returned to his shorter-distance wheelhouse and now looms a live contender for the Turf Sprint.

“We were trying to get the points for the Kentucky Derby because every owner’s dream is to have a good 3-year-old in the Kentucky Derby,” said Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “Going to Dubai trying to get 100 points, or even finishing second, he would have clinched a spot in the Derby. We didn’t get that lucky, but we’re back.”

A victory in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 5 got Stubbins back on track, putting an end to a four-race losing streak that began with his UAE Derby loss. Prior to that skid, the dark bay colt recorded three consecutive wins — all at Santa Anita –  to start his 2019 season, but it took a couple trips to the Bluegrass State to get his form heading back in the right direction.

A second-place outing in the 6 1/2f Franklin-Simpson Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 12 set Stubbins up for his run at Keeneland where he defeated fellow Turf Sprint entrants Leinster and Imprimis.

“We’d love to keep the same momentum he had in Kentucky,” Mora said. “Coming over here, I think I feel much better because he started off here in at Santa Anita and he won in the slop and on dirt and down the hill so he is familiar with the area.”

Stubbins jogged Thursday under the watch of Mora and will jog again Friday morning.

 

JUVENILE TURF presented by Coolmore America

 

Decorated Invader – If the team at West Point Thoroughbreds had not taken a little more time at the Keeneland September Sale in 2017 it might have missed out on Decorated Invader, who has turned into a big prospect and a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner.

Joe Migliore, a sales and partner relations specialist for West Point, smiled as he explained how it came to acquire the Declaration of War colt for $200,000 at the end of the Book 2 portion of the yearling sale.

“It was almost the last day we were looking that we were probably going to be done buying at the sale,” Migliore said. “He was all the way up on the hill in one of the back barns up there. It was at the end of a four-hour session of looking at horses and everybody was a little bit tired, but the second he came out of the stall all of us in unison were like, ‘Who is this?’ He was actually the last horse that we bought at the sale there.”

Trained by Christophe Clement, Decorated Invader ran second by three-quarters of a length in his debut at Saratoga on July 13, grabbed his maiden win on Aug. 10 by 3 ¼ lengths. On Sept. 15 at Woodbine he won the Summer Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” race over a yielding course.

“I think the stallion is a little bit underrated at this point in time,” Migliore said. “I know that he’s been moved to Japan. We’ve had several other Declaration of Wars as well and we’ve loved every one that we’ve had. He’s obviously the standout of that bunch. He’s done everything right from the very first day that we’ve seen him.

“He was broken at Eddie Woods’ farm in Ocala (Florida). He was one of the first ones to leave there. He was one of the first ones for Christophe to call us and say ‘this horse has a lot of ability.’ He’s been the shining star of our 2-year-old class to this point.”

Migliore said that inexperience and greenness probably cost the colt in his debut and that he was much more professional in his second race.

“We targeted the race in Canada because it was a Win and You’re In and we also really liked the spacing that it gave us from that race to this race. He’s coming in with a very healthy work tab since that race.”

In the Summer, he did not break well and was stuck behind a slow pace.

“He was just classy enough to do the job anyway,” Migliore said. “Every time we’ve run him, we’ve expected that kind of effort and we expect that kind of effort again on Friday.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Decorated Invader from post four.

 

JUVENILE FILLIES TURF

 

Sweet Melania – Lawana and Robert Low’s Sweet Melania’s quest for a victory in Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita may have been made a little bit more trying when she drew post 12 at Monday’s draw.

“The post is less than ideal. It’s a short run to the first turn, so an outside horse, you have to use them earlier to get position,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “But she’s been traditionally a good gate horse. We hope she can get away cleanly and let Jose [Ortiz] work it out from there.”

Sweet Melania, a $600,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September sale, finished third in her first two career starts on the main track at Belmont Park and Monmouth.

“She was training well on dirt,” Pletcher said. “In fact, we were expecting her to be quite competitive her first two times. She didn’t run badly but not what we were hoping for. When we breezed her on turf, we thought we saw some improvement. That’s why we made the change.”

The juvenile daughter of American Pharoah captured her turf debut at Saratoga July 14 before finishing a close-up second in the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga and rolling to a 5 ½-length score in the Jessamine at Keeneland.

A return to dirt is unlikely, said Pletcher.

“That’s not really in the plans at the moment,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear and see, but as long as she’s successful on the turf, we probably won’t change too much.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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