‘Royal Ascot here we come!’ – Golden Pal stars for Wesley Ward on Breeders’ Cup day one

By Nicholas Godfrey

So you know Golden Pal scorched the turf for Wesley Ward and Brad Cox scored a double with the impressive Aunt Pearl and Essential Quality on Breeders’ Cup Day 1 at Keeneland. You’ve probably seen the races – but here’s some other stuff you might like to know …

Nicholas Godfrey on Breeders’ Cup 2020: the good, the bad and the ugly

What’s going on?

Juvenile Turf Sprint: Golden Pal – ‘Royal Ascot here we come’

Wesley Ward was talking about Royal Ascot even before hot favourite Golden Pal had led all the way under Irad Ortiz in the Juvenile Turf Sprint.

He was singing the same tune after the lightning-fast son of Uncle Mo held Cowan by three-quarters of a length. “Royal Ascot here we come – he’s going to get them next year!” grinned Ward, as he completed back-to-back victories in the $1m contest after Four Wheel Drive in 2019.

Horse Racing Golden Pal Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint day one
Golden Pal (Irad Ortiz) wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire (Scott Serio)

Ladbrokes make Golden Pal 5-1 favourite for the KIng’s Stand after connections expressed a preference for that race over the Commonwealth Cup. “He’s a lot better over five than six but he’s just got such quality that he was able to sustain that extra 16th of a mile,” said Ward. 

Owner-breeder Randy Lowe added: “I think the plan will be to rest him and then bring him back here at Keeneland in early April. But the big plans are the King’s Stand Stakes, the Nunthorpe and the Breeders’ Cup again next year.”

Ubettabelieveit ‘ran a blinder’

Jockey Rowan Scott was overjoyed with his Breeders’ Cup debut on Yorkshire-trained Ubettabelievement, who was third after missing the break. “I’m really happy with him,” said Scott. “He ran a blinder. It’s been some experience. I’m made up.”

Trainer Nigel Tinkler felt the Flying Childers winner “didn’t quite get the trip”. 

Juvenile Turf: 30-1 shot Fire At Will overpriced

Getting a clear run in a messy race, 30-1 shot Fire At Will was the emphatic winner of the Juvenile Turf over a staying-on Battleground. The runner-up’s Irish compatriot Cadillac was fourth with French G1 winner Sealiway fifth.

“I thought he was way overpriced – he’s done nothing wrong and is a very professional and classy horse,” said winning trainer Mike Maker, saddling his third Breeders’ Cup winner after Furthest Land (2009 Dirt Mile) and Hansel (2011 Juvenile).

Horse Racing Fire At Will Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf day one
Fire at Will (Ricardo Santana) wins the Juvenile Turf. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire (Wendy Wooley)

The winner is a son of Declaration Of War representing turf specialist Mike Maker, Panamanian jockey Ricardo Santana was winning his BC race after Mitole’s Sprint last year.

Battleground has ‘big future’, says Ryan Moore

Next year’s 2,000 Guineas favourite Battleground is a long-striding Ballydoyle representative who looked unsuited by the tight turns before doing all his best work at the finish to snatched second, failing by just one place to emulate his Breeders’ Cup-winning dam Found.

“He ran a lovely race, I like him a lot,” said Ryan Moore. “My horse ran super – he’s a horse with a big future. He ran on really well at the finish, but the winner had gone.”

New Mandate is ‘over the top’

Royal Lodge Stakes winner New Mandate was last of 14 after racing just off the pace under Frankie Dettori, who felt the season had caught up with the Ralph Beckett-trained gelding. “I think he’s over the top – he ran with the choke out,” he said. “It was one too many.”

Juvenile Fillies: Rosario rides rails on Vequist

Joel Rosario earned the plaudits for a rails-skimming ride as Vequist shot through an opening on the inside to turn the tables on her front-running Belmont conqueror Dayoutoftheoffice in the Juvenile Fillies.

Trainer Butch Reid was maintaining a 100% Breeders’ Cup record – his sole previous runner Afleet Again won the now-defunct Marathon at Churchill Downs in 2011.

After stalking the pace, longtime favourite Princess Noor faded tamely to finish fifth of seven.

Juvenile Fillies Turf: Aunt Pearl simply awesome

Most impressive winner on ‘Future Stars Friday’ was Aunt Pearl, who took her unbeaten record to three with a spectacular all-the-way success.

Breaking like a shot from a gun, she was soon clear of her field, followed by Royal Ascot winner Campanelle, who faded to fourth in the stretch as the Irish pair of Mother Earth and Miss Amulet finished well for the minors without ever threatening a totally dominant winner.

Horse Racing Aunt Pearl Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf day one
Aunt Pearl (Florent Geroux) wins the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire (John Voorhees)

Florent Geroux keen on England for brilliant winner

Although the Europeans went winless, Aunt Pearl herself has transatlantic antecedents. She is a Irish-bred daughter of Lope De Vega sold for 280,000gns out of Tattersalls Book One in October 2019.

Florent Geroux mentioned the idea of a trip to Britain in 2021. “She’s phenomenal – she’s purely gifted,” said the jockey. “Her workouts in the morning have been exceptional. She goes so fast, but she comes back to me. I hope we can go to England with her next year – that would be great.”

Syndicate spokesman Michael Dubb wasn’t to be drawn on the subject. “We will talk to the partners and of course to Brad, we will leave it up to him to plot a campaign,” he said.

Asked if Royal Ascot might feature, he added:“I leave everything up to my trainer and I don’t want to start telling him where he should run.”

Juvenile: Essential Quality shows Kentucky class

Godolphin have a serious Kentucky Derby prospect on their hands after homebred Essential Quality stayed on to win the Juvenile under an all-action Luis Saez.

Successful with Aunt Pearl in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Kentucky-based trainer Brad Cox was completing a high-profile double. “He has an amazing amount of stamina and is a spectacular horse for the Godolphin operation,” said Cox. 

“I was hoping he wouldn’t flatten out, but that never looked like happening and moving forward we will point him at the Kentucky Derby.”

The coming man among US trainers, Cox was taking his Breeders’ Cup total to five winners, all of them in the last three years following Monomoy Girl (Distaff 2018), British Idiom (Juvenile Fillies 2019) and Covfefe (F&M Sprint 2019).

Pace too hot for Jackie’s Warrior

Odds-on favourite Jackie’s Warrior couldn’t make the lead before being swamped in the stretch. He finished fourth. “It (the pace) was too much too soon,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. 

“He’d accomplished a lot coming here and obviously we planned on winning and ended up coming fourth. Pace makes the race and it did not set up well for us today.”

Horse Racing Essential Quality Breeders' Cup Juvenile day one
Essential Quality (Luis Saez) wins the Juvenile. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire (Scott Serio)

Shall we talk about it?

Wesley Ward (Golden Pal’s trainer): “He’s just amazing. I got a little worried on the backside. Irad kind of lost a little momentum there and took a pretty good hold of him, but then he just accelerated down the lane. When he accelerated past the quarter-pole, I knew we were OK. I got a little worried on the last part and was hugging onto my son, but we got there. He’s a champion colt.”

Nigel Tinkler (Ubettabelieveit’s trainer): “He obviously missed the break a little. We put earplugs in as we didn’t want him to hear the bell – but he got the run of the race possibly because he was slowly away. I think he ran a great race. He probably didn’t quite get the trip – he’s a five-furlong horse, it was five-and-a-half today and in the last 50 yards he just got a little bit tired, it stretched him at this age. He needs to step up again next year against the older horses but he’ll aimed at all the major races over five furlongs.”

Rowan Scott (Ubettabelieveit’s jockey): “He got a good run round there. He was just a little bit slow here because his usual running style is coming from off the pace. He picked up well but the first two were away and gone.”

Mike Maker (Fire At Will’s trainer): “I tell you we have been high on him since day one and with each race he’s got better. I thought he was way overpriced – he’s done nothing wrong and is a very professional and classy horse.” 

Ryan Moore (Battleground’s jockey): “My horse ran super; he ran a lovely race, I like him a lot. He’s a horse with a big future. He ran on really well at the finish, but the winner had gone.”

Jessica Harrington (Cadillac’s trainer): “He ran a great race. Shane said he got into a bun fight early on which pushed him back to eighth and messed the race up for him. But I’m really pleased with his run and especially the way he stayed on to the line.”

Shane Foley (Cadillac’s jockey): “He had a bad trip, got shuffled back on the first bend. He then got a nice run later on and he hit the line really well.”

Horse Racing Vequist Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies day one
Vequist (Joel Rosario) wins the Juvenile Fillies. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire (Alex Evers)

Butch Reid (Vequist’s trainer): “She looked great coming in. I knew we would be laying up close. She’s a sharp filly. She doesn’t mind the inside obviously. I don’t know that you ever have that kind of feeling but we knew she was doing very well and we know she’s a very talented filly.” 

Joel Rosario (Vequist’s jockey): “I tried to save ground. It was hard for her in the turn because I had a horse outside me. But she did great. I never gave up my position. As soon as I asked her she went on with it. It was a very good performance.” 

Bob Baffert (Princess Noor’s trainer): “She was in a good spot, he had her in a perfect spot there but she just didn’t kick on. I’m pretty disappointed. She just came up empty. I had a lot of confidence in her but the winner ran a big race. They were going pretty fast. She just didn’t have it.”

Brad Cox (Aunt Pearl’s trainer): ““That was a devastating performance. She is an amazing filly. Very proud of her. Speed is her weapon and she knows how to use it. I was pretty confident when I saw the :47 and he (jockey Florent Geroux) obviously knows her well.
”She did a similar opening quarter to what she did in the Jessamine Stakes here – I felt pretty confident she would have some kick left and she certainly did.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt (she can improve) and if you dig into her pedigree a little bit it looks like she could maybe even go beyond a mile. She’s a super-talented filly and I’m very proud of her.”

Ken Condon (Miss Amulet’s trainer): “We’re delighted with her run. She’s run a big race after a busy season and is extremely reliable as well as being talented. I’m sure we will have plenty to look forward to next season.”

Frankie Dettori (Campanelle’s jockey): “I had to chase her out of the gate before restraining her and that meant giving the winner four lengths. I followed the winner. I got to the seven furlongs, but couldn’t get the mile.”

Brad Cox (Essential Quality’s trainer): “It was a tremendous effort from Luis, who stayed at him the whole way. He has an amazing amount of stamina and is a spectacular horse for the Godolphin operation. I was hoping he wouldn’t flatten out, but that never looked like happening and moving forward we will point him at the Kentucky Derby.”

Jimmy Bell (president of Godolphin USA, Essential Quality’s owner): “This was a pretty amazing performance. To do what he did to come from off the pace, to run them down like that in his third lifetime start, it takes a ton of talent to do that. I’m sure he’s still learning. It’s so exciting for everybody this is what you live and dream of.” 

Luis Saez (Essential Quality’s jockey): “Today he was very focussed and really responded when I got at him. He ran right by them.”

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