By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Four Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge races at Belmont Park headline another US Saturday programme laded with G1 stakes.
Under normal circumstances, the storied Jockey Club Gold Cup would provide the main Belmont attraction in terms of prestige and prize-money but in this upside-down COVID-19 era, all four G1s are worth $250,000.
Moreover, the two-year-old races both feature juveniles who have already landed runaway G1 victories in the shape of Jackie’s Warrior and Vequist, respective winners of the Hopeful and Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.
Jackie’s Warrior’s 95 Beyer was the highest of the season for any two-year-old, which is probably why he is favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, while the filly Vequist scored by nearly ten lengths.
Ex-French Magic Attitude heads the $500,000 QEII Cup at Keeneland three weeks after winning the Belmont Oaks on her US debut.
Shall we talk about it?
Belmont Park: Champagne Stakes G1 $250,000 1m, dirt, 2yo (6.58pm BST)
Jackie’s Warrior: “He handles everything well. Just like his races are, that’s how he is. He’s done everything very professionally and he’s very straightforward. I don’t see the mile being an issue at all.” Toby Sheets (assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen)
Midnight Bourbon: “He’s never run shorter than a mile, so all along we’ve always thought he would be capable of being a distance horse. It’s interesting how we were able to find four races at one mile at three different tracks. He’s a big horse – I think moving forward, he’s going to have a lot to work with. He’ll get better as the distances get longer. But he’s got his work cut out for him trying to catch Jackie’s Warrior.” David Fiske (Winchell’s racing and bloodstock manager)
Reinvestment Risk: “He’s doing super. I’m looking forward to getting him out another furlong. He’ll have no problem with more distance.”
Chad Brown (trainer)
Belmont Park: Frizette Stakes G1 $250,000 1m, dirt, 2yo fillies (7.30pm BST)
Cantata: “She’s come in and done everything correctly. She’s quite the individual. We’re looking forward to seeing her step up her game a little bit. She’s a racehorse. She does her job and has it down.” Toby Sheets (assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen)
Vequist: “She has to confirm it; anybody can do it once. You have to do it a couple of times to really prove you belong at that level. But she jumped from 4½f to seven-eighths and against G1 company, so it was impressive, and I really liked the way she handled herself. We got up to Saratoga a couple of days ahead of time and she acted really great in the paddock. The way she acted was what impressed me more than anything else. She handled it like a seasoned, old racehorse.
“I think the further, the better with her. With two turns the Alcibiades was a pretty good prep for the Breeders’ Cup, but this race fits her perfectly and we know she can handle the one-turn mile, so this seemed like the better way to go.” Butch Reid (trainer)
Belmont Park: Jockey Club Gold Cup G1 $250,000 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+ (9.48pm BST)
Happy Saver: “We almost had him ready to run here last fall, but we had to give him a break; he just had some baby setbacks. It just took him a little while to get ready, but he’s certainly made up a lot of ground in a short period of time. He’s a lightly raced three-year-old going up against older horses, but he’s done everything that we’ve asked of him so far.” Todd Pletcher (trainer)
Mystic Guide: “We were very, very pleased with his Jim Dandy run. He stepped up and found his way to the top level. A little of it was the blinkers and getting him more involved in the race early not giving him too much to do at the end. We’re looking forward to the distance of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He seems like a horse that will finish up well and not get tired.”
Jimmy Bell (Godolphin US president)
Prioritize: “He’s doing well physically. He’s a nice horse, which he showed us last time. He seems to be getting better and hopefully he improves even more. The good thing is that we know he can get the mile-and-a-quarter distance. Luis is a master and we’ve been doing this together a few years now. I’ll let him figure it out when he leaves the starting gate. We could end up close to the lead, he could be further back. A small field like this is a rider’s race a lot of the time, so he’s got to get him in the right position.” Jim Bond (trainer)
Tacitus: “We’ve been working on getting him a G1 win That’s been my job and goal. I hope maybe this is the one. He came out of the Woodward fine and has put in some good, useful breezes since then.” Bill Mott (trainer)
Keeneland: Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup G1 $500,000 1m1f, turf, 3yo fillies (10.30pm BST)
Magic Attitude: “I was thinking they are going slow [in the Belmont Oaks] and they are all going to kick – it was a good effort from her and I think she appreciated the firm ground. It probably will be her last race of the year, and the question is the three weeks. Will she bounce back well? So far, she has been showing all the right things, and she had a nice maintenance move the other day.” Arnaud Delacour (trainer)
Micheline: “Micheline is going into this on the back of a very impressive win at Kentucky Downs, which was her best race ever. She is giving Michael Stidham all the right signals that she is thriving and going to give her best effort. It’s a pretty tough spot for her but these G1 races are supposed to be tough and we feel she deserves her place in the field.” Jimmy Bell (Godolphin USA president)