Fourstardave makes Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series ‘Win and You’re In’ debut

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The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series rages on with four “Win and You’re In” races in two different countries over the weekend. On Saturday, August 10, Arlington hosts the Beverly D. Stakes and Arlington Million, while Saratoga will run the Fourstardave Handicap. The next day, horses in France will try their luck in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held for the 36th time, returning to Santa Anita Park in California on Nov. 1-2.

The 14 Breeders’ Cup races attract the best Thoroughbreds in the world to compete for more than $30 million in purse money and awards, and the selection of starters in each race is determined in part by a points system for graded stakes and the selection criteria of a panel of experts. However, there is one way for an owner to bypass the secondary criteria and secure a spot for their horse in a Breeders’ Cup race, and that is by winning a stakes race in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.

The Fourstardave, a one-mile Grade 1 turf event at Saratoga, was added to the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series Presented by America’s Best Racing this year. First run in 1985 as the Daryl’s Joy Stakes, it was renamed in 1996 after its two-time winner(1990-91), known as “The Sultan of Saratoga.” The Fourstardave is one of the perennial highlights of Saratoga’s summer race meet, and it’s also been a very influential race on the Breeders’ Cup starting back in 1985, the second year of the World Championships. Mourjane finished third in the Turf at Aqueduct and went on to win the Daryl’s Joy in ’86.

In 1989, the abovementioned Steinlen won the Daryl’s Joy Stakes two starts prior to his Arlington Million score; he tallied a win in the Mile that fall and won the Eclipse Award as champion turf male. And in 1993, the sensational Lure romped by three lengths in the Daryl’s Joy two starts before scoring a repeat win in the Mile. Posting two Breeders’ Cup wins and more than $2.5 million in earnings, the Shug McGaughey-trained Lure was voted into the  Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.

Three years later, another horse scored the Fourstardave-Breeders’ Cup Mile double – the hard-knocking Da Hoss. That Michael Dickinson-trained gelding defined courage after his ’96 Mile win as he was sidelined for nearly two years before coming back and improbably winning another Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1998.

Jump ahead to the mid-2000s and champion and eventual Kentucky Derby-winning sire Leroidesanimaux won the Fourstardave in 2005 and finished second to Artie Schiller in that year’s Mile. And earlier this decade, the Fourstardave was an integral part of two Horse of the Year campaigns for the ever-popular Wise Dan. Mort Fink’s gelding scored back-to-back wins in the Fourstardave and in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in both 2012 and 2013. During a span from October 2011 until his retirement in 2015, Wise Dan won 17 of 19 starts and was second twice by margins of a head and 1 ¼ lengths, and he was undefeated on turf – truly one of the most impressive peak-form runs by a racehorse this century.

The Fourstardave-Mile linkage has remained strong during the second half of the 2010s. In 2016 and 2017, a pair of top-class turf milers won both races: Tourist and World Approval, respectively. Live Oak Plantation’s World Approval was honored at the Eclipse Awards as 2017 champion turf male for his campaign.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with the Fourstardave Handicap from Saratoga on August 10. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. on NBC.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.