International horses to know for Breeders’ Cup Future Stars Friday

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Future Stars Friday often brings some of the best future stars into the spotlight with classic winners War of Will and Anthony Van Dyck among the horses who ran in the races just last year. Often, Europeans send over some of their best and brightest over to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships — including the last two Epsom Derby winners in Masar and the aforementioned Anthony Van Dyck.

Here are some of the international horses you should keep an eye on in 2019 during the five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds this Friday.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

The winner of three of his five starts, A’Ali (6-1 morning line) may be the strongest of the European challengers in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. The colt’s only off-the-board finish came on heavy ground in an August Group 1 race against a monster in Earthlight. Other than that, he has barely put a step wrong with a second in his debut by a neck his only other loss. A’Ali comes into this race with two Group 2 victories — including a one-length win last out — and trainer Simon Crisford has been aiming him here for a while so you know he’ll be primed to run well.

Two-year-old filly Band Practice (12-1 ML) comes into this race off three straight victories, although none of those have been at the group-stakes level. The Archie Watson-trained filly did win a listed stakes in France in her last start and has been untouchable since breaking her maiden in September. All three of her wins came between Sept. 2 and Sept. 30, so she’ll have more a month off before competing in this race so she should be fresh and ready to go come Friday.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America

An eight-length victor in his second start, Arizona (5-2 ML favorite) has shown promise throughout the year and looks to get his first Grade/Group 1 victory here. The colt has the Breeders’ Cup in his genes as his sire, No Nay Never, finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in 2014 and his dam’s sire, English Channel, won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2007. If you think you’ve heard Arizona’s name before, you probably heard it at Royal Ascot in June when the colt won the Group 2 Coventry Stakes. He hasn’t won since then but has finished on the board in two Group 1 races in his last two starts behind probable European champion Pinatubo.

Fort Myers (12-1 ML) joins stablemate Arizona in this race for 12-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won this race four times (most recently with Mendelssohn in 2017). The colt has had a busy season with seven races starting in April but has been consistent with no finish worse than fourth. Fort Myers is looking for his first group/graded stakes win but scored by a length in the Star Appeal Stakes Oct. 4 and has hit the board at both the Group 2 and Group 3 level.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Trained by Jessica Harrington for the legendary Niarchos Family, Albigna (9-2 ML favorite) is coming into the Juvenile Fillies Turf off an impressive Group 1 victory in the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac Oct. 6. Her only misstep in four career races came two starts ago when sixth in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. One start before that she won a Group 2 races five weeks after breaking her maiden. Harrington has never had a starter in the Breeders’ Cup before but looks to be bringing a strong contender here.

A Group 3 winner at Royal Ascot, Daahyeh (5-1 ML) comes to Santa Anita off a win in the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes which followed a close second in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. Trainer Roger Varian gave the filly a few months off over the summer after she’d run three straight months from May to July, and she’s coming into this race fresh off a month break after running two times in 14 days in September.

Shadn (10-2 ML) was thrown into the deep end quickly after winning on debut and, while that Group 2 race at Royal Ascot didn’t go well for her, it did see her come on quite a bit. The No Nay Never filly won her next race and then closed for a pair of thirds in her next two starts before winning a French Group 2 race by a head in October. Somewhat surprisingly, this will be her trainer Andrew Balding’s first time running a horse at the Breeders’ Cup.

Etoile (12-1 ML) is coming into the race with only two starts under her belt for Aidan O’Brien who has two seconds and one third in this race but has yet to win it with 12 starters. By War Front — sire of Omaha Beach and War of Will — the filly won a Group 3 in her debut in May but was eighth in a Group 1 in September. Etoile was pre-entered for the Juvenile Fillies as well, but O’Brien opted to target this race instead. Post-position 14 is a tough assignment with a short run into the first turn.

TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Japanese-trained horses have run in 10 Breeders’ Cup races since the inaugural Breeders’ Cup event in 1984 and Full Flat (30-1 ML) is one of two Japanese entries bringing that number up to 12 this year. Bred in Kentucky, Full Flat was bought for $250,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale and is making a bit of a homecoming back to the U.S. for this race. Full Flat broke his maiden in his second career start back in August and comes into this race off a fifth-place finish in the Momiji Stakes a few weeks ago. The Speightstown colt will be the first Japanese-trained horse to run in a 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup race and, if he can hit the top three, will also have the best finish of any Japanese-trained horse in a Breeders’ Cup race.

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.”

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.