With the Breeders’ Cup just around the corner we thought we’d have a closer look at the trio of runners who carry our hopes of success on one of the biggest stages in the world of racing.
Let’s get stuck straight in with the big one, the Classic. Seen as one of the toughest and most prestigious races in the world, the feature contest of the meeting is one every owner and trainer wants to win, and we are delighted to have Axelrod as our first runner in it. He’s a horse that has a very interesting profile with his best form coming in the second half of this season. A third-place finish in the Grade Three Affrimed Stakes, at Santa Anita in June, seems to have acted as the catalyst for a quartet of performances that saw the Michael McCarthy trained runner improve his form from one run, to the next. Case in point was his breakthrough Graded success, in his very next start, when taking the Indiana Derby while there’s no doubt his performance when winning the Smarty Jones Stakes turned a few heads, running out a four-length winner over Diamond King. After those sorts of runs the son of Warrior’s Reward had earned his shot at a Grade One and still brimming with confidence, he ran McKinzie to one and a quarter length in the Pennsylvania Derby. Perhaps a slightly awkward juvenile he has quietly improved and started to fulfill the promise his trainer has always thought he had.
“When I bought him, I thought he’d be a useful racehorse. But he’s that and a little bit more than that,” McCarthy said of Axelrod, when speaking to Blood Horse from Churchill Downs this week “He’s a horse that has all the confidence in the world right now, and when they think they’re good, there is nothing they can’t do. So we’re going to ride that a little bit into the race this week.”
“He was super in the Smarty Jones, and certainly there was no disgrace running second to McKinzie, who is probably the best three-year-old still around right now.”
Axelrod, owned in partnership with Slam Dunk racing, will carry the Phoenix colors for the first time in the Classic before a possible tilt at the Dubai World Cup.
Well before we see that colt in action under the iconic Twin Spires we will have already seen two of our bright prospects run on Future Stars Friday. First let’s cast the spotlight on Splashy Kisses, slated to run in the Juvenile Fillies. We’re reluctant to trot out the well-worn cliché that she’s “on an upward curve” but if you were to take the time and plot her performances on a graph, you’d see a line with a steep enough gradient that would keep even the most pessimistic salesman happy. Her first start was, by all accounts, a little inauspicious finishing well down the field at Del Mar but like all good juveniles, she learned from the experience. The progeny of Blame returned to the same track and ran out a good winner of a maiden, which has stood the test of time from a form perspective. Up next was the Grade Three Pocahontas Stakes and she did her job well to find just Serengeti Empress too good; we have our fingers crossed for another good run.
To round off our Breeders’ Cup team, Pocket Dynamo makes a bold raid from the UK in the new Juvenile Turf Sprint race and will be trainer Robert Cowell’s first runner at the World Championships. For those not familiar with the Newmarket based handler, he is particularly noted for his work with Sprinters and has won pretty much every notable race over the shorter distances in the UK and France. As for the horse, he’s has had a very good season and was purchased to race under the Phoenix banner after his excellent runners-up finish to Shang Shang Shang in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. His run in the Prix Robert Papin was very encouraging given he wasn’t beaten far in a race which didn’t unfold in his favour. He added a very nice prep-run for his trip to the States when fifth in the ultra-competitive Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket.
“He’s had a great year and he’s a wonderful horse” Cowell told us on a Stable Tour earlier this year. “He’s got a great race record and his form has worked out brilliantly each of his starts. He’s a very tough horse, the Prix Robert Papin didn’t quite work out for him. We didn’t want him in front, but nothing was going to lead so it made sense to make the running. Ideally he wants to be sat behind a rocket fast hard speed and he can grind it out.”
It’s that sort of race you’d expect he’d face on Friday and he’ll be fully tuned for a challenge that has been his big race target from the moment he was purchased.
Our presence at the Breeders’ Cup this year highlights our continued growth as a major presence on the International Stage and with more exciting horses to look forward to in the coming months we would hope to have an even bigger team for this event next season.