A win by Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Saturday would pretty much make trainer Brad Cox’s weekend.
He got a huge head start on a successful weekend by sweeping two races on Friday, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, with Aunt Pearl, and the Juvenile, with Essential Quality, which stamps Essential Quality as an early contender for next year’s Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Essential Quality took advantage of a torrid early pace that involved 4-5 betting favorite Jackie’s Warrior and won by three-quarters of a length over 94-1 bomb Hot Rod Charlie, setting up a $0.10 superfecta that paid $4,077.69.
“It was a tremendous effort by this horse,” Cox said. “Luis stayed after him the whole way. He overcame a lot today. He’s a nice colt. Distance is no issue with him. He’ll run all day.
“What a horse. At the three-eighths pole, Luis stayed after him pretty good and I was hoping he wouldn’t flatten out. But he stayed on. He’s a tremendous horse, has an amazing amount of stamina. We’re going to enjoy this one, and obviously [the Derby] will be our goal moving forward.”
“My horse broke so well,” Saez said. “He was in the right spot. I knew there was going to be a lot of speed, so we were in the right spot. At the three-eighths he gave me that kick, so I knew we had a chance to win the race. He can run all day.”
Essential Quality, who went off as the 7-2 second choice, remained undefeated from three starts and is a two-time Grade I winner, having come into the BC Juvenile off a victory in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
Jackie’s Warrior, who came in undefeated from four starts that included the Saratoga Special and Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course, stalked an early pace set by Dreamer’s Disease and Likeable that rolled through the quarter-mile in 22.58 and the half in 45.31.
Those two fell way back by the time Essential Quality crossed the finish line, but Jackie’s Warrior, ridden by Joel Rosario, did well to hold on for fourth, just 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
“It is obviously disappointing, but the fractions were just too fast,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s accomplished a lot coming into here. We planned on winning, but ended up fourth. Pace makes the race, and we ended up fourth.”
“It looked like there were a couple of horses on the outside that wanted to go a little bit, so I held my spot and let them go,” Rosario said. “It looked like we were going at a good pace in front of me. I thought I was in a good spot. Too bad that those horses came and beat us. He’s a good horse. I was in a good spot and he kept running, but those on the outside came strong and beat us.”
Essential Quality’s win completed a late double for Cox, who saddled Aunt Pearl to victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf just prior to the Juvenile.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, Aunt Pearl used her usual front-running style to wire the field by 2 1/2 lengths, maintaining that margin pretty much all the way around the track.
“That was a devastating performance,” Cox said. “She is an amazing filly. Very proud of her. Speed is her weapon and she knows how to use it.”
GOLDEN PAL IMPRESSIVE
The Breeders’ Cup portion of the Keeneland card kicked off with the Juvenile Turf Sprint, and Golden Pal kicked his way to the lead early and never gave it up to back up his impressive win in the Skidmore at Saratoga Race Course with a three-quarter length win over the late-charging Cowan.
It was the second win in a row in this race for the trainer-jockey combination of Wesley Ward and Irad Ortiz Jr., who teamed up with Four Wheel Drive last year.
“He’s just amazing,” Ward said. “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.”
Ward is known for taking turf horses, especially his young ones, overseas to race at Royal Ascot in Great Britain, and said he intends to do the same with Golden Pal, who beat stablemate Fauci by 3 1/2 lengths at Saratoga.
VEQUIST WINS JUVENILE FILLIES
Another 2-year-old who won a stakes at Saratoga, Vequist, caught front-runner Dayoutoftheoffice to win the Juvenile Fillies by two lengths and turn the tables on that filly after having finished second to her last time out in the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park.
Prior to that, Vequist had won the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga.
“She looked great coming in,” trainer Butch Reid said. “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.”
“It was hard for her in the turn because I had a horse outside me,” said Rosario, who picked up the mount on Vequist because Saez was committed to Simply Ravishing. “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.”
Simply Ravishing, a dual winner at Saratoga, and Saez had a difficult trip that started with a bobble at the start. She finished fourth in the seven-horse field.
“The filly stumbled in the gate,” Saez said. “They [starters] grabbed her tail, and they never have done that before. I don’t know why. I had to grab her, and that cost us a little bit because we were supposed to be right there, one or two. That didn’t happen.”
SOUMILLON TESTS POSITIVE
Jockey Christophe Soumillon tested positive for COVID-19 from a test that was administered on Wednesday and immediately left the Keeneland grounds to remain in isolation after a second test came back positive.
Soumillon, who was asymptomatic, was not scheduled to ride on Friday, but had to be taken off two mounts on Saturday’s card.
Colin Keane picked up the mount on Tarnawa in the Turf, and Pierre-Charles Boudot will ride Order of Australia in the Mile. Boudot was available because his original Mile mount, One Master, was scratched. Order of Australia drew in as the only horse on the also-eligible list.
PLETCHER HITS 5,000
Trainer Todd Pletcher didn’t have a win on the Breeders’ Cup card, but reached the 5,000 mark for career victories anyway when Microsecond won the seventh race at Aqueduct.
The 53-year-old had already ranked eighth on the all-time list in North America.
“It’s such a great tribute to the whole staff and a lot of people who put in so much hard work,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association in a phone call. “But mainly it’s about the horses. I’ve just been blessed to have so many good clients who provide us with good horses who are capable of performing well.
“It would have been kind of cool to do it in a Breeders’ Cup race, but we always say when we have a horse in that our goal is to do the best we can. Every win counts and we’re happy to get it.”
It didn’t take Pletcher long to get win No. 5,001 — 36 minutes, to be exact, as Malathaat won the eight race at Aqueduct, the Tempted Stakes. Kendrick Carmouche rode both Microsecond and Malathaat.
“It’s good to be a part of something like this,” Carmouche said. “He’s won 5,000 races and so many Grade 1s, but he’s not only a good trainer, he’s a good person.”