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Japanese Breeders' Cup Classic Hope Espoir City Settles In at Churchill Downs
ESPOIR CITY SETTLES IN AT CHURCHILL DOWNS – The Yushun Horse Club’s Japan-based star Espoir City (JPN) arrived at Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning for a run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), settling in his stall in the quarantine barn at 4:30 a.m. (EDT).
“It was his first time to travel out of Japan and he handled it well,” trainer Akio Adachi said through an interpreter. “All the flights were on time and there were no problems.”
Espoir City flew from Japan to Chicago, where he changed planes for the short flight to Louisville. Accompanying Espoir City on the flights was Artiste.
“It was a long flight and he was his companion,” Adachi said. “He is a racehorse, but he will not race here and not train with Espoir City in the morning.”
Espoir City is expected to be in quarantine for 48 hours and Adachi said the 5-year-old would go to the track for training Thursday morning “if time permits.”
Jockey Tetsuzo Sato is scheduled to come to Louisville this Friday for a three-day stay before returning to Japan to honor a riding commitment and then return to Louisville.
Sato accompanied Adachi to Louisville in July to get a firsthand look at Churchill Downs. As Adachi watched horses train Tuesday morning, he was asked how preparations had gone with Espoir City since the last time he was in Louisville.
“Better than expected,” Adachi said. “His first race back (from a five-month layoff) was good and he needed that race.”
The two-time Group I winner has compiled a record of 20-11-4-1 for earnings of $5,963,979 with Sato aboard for eight of the victories.
Adachi said he has not committed to giving the horse one or two works prior to the Classic, scheduled for a 6:45 p.m. post time on Saturday, Nov. 6. Although it will not be dark for the race, the lights will be on at Churchill Downs.
“The lights are not a concern,” Adachi said. “The JRA (Japan Racing Association) has lights and he has raced under the lights.”
CHAMPAGNE D’ORO DIFFERENT FILLY FROM INITIAL CD APPEARANCE – Trainer Eric Guillot says Champagne d’Oro is a different filly this time around than the model he saddled in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) at Churchill Downs six months ago.
“She is more seasoned to sprint now,” Guillot said of the 3-year-old filly who is owned by Southern Equine Stable and Mike Smith and is being pointed toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) to be run Friday, Nov. 5. “To get to the (Kentucky) Oaks (GI), I had had to rush her to get to the maiden race at the Fair Grounds and then had to rush to get to the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).”
In the Kentucky Oaks, Champagne d’Oro finished 11th in a field of 14.
“She had trained as well here before the Oaks as any Oaks horse,” Guillot said. “She had a rough trip. She had her head turned sideways at the start and got shuffled back.”
Cutting back to one turn after the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, Champagne d’Oro won the Acorn (GI) at a mile and followed that victory up with a runner-up effort in the Prioress (GI) at six furlongs and a 4 ½-length victory in the Grade I Test at Saratoga at seven furlongs, the distance of the Filly & Mare Sprint.
“She had run in three straight Grade Is and we gave her a break,” said Guillot, who brought Champagne d’Oro back to the races off a two-month layoff to run in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club America at Keeneland on Oct. 9. “The timing was right for the Keeneland race as well as the distance. I only had to ship an hour rather than go across the country.”
Champagne d’Oro finished fourth two lengths behind likely Sprint rival Dubai Majesty in the TCA.
“She didn’t like the Polytrack at all,” Guillot said. “She got left (at the start) and the field got away from her, but she kept running to the wire.”
Guillot said that Champagne d’Oro would have a five-furlong work this coming Saturday and then a half-mile breeze on Saturday, Oct. 30 with regular rider Miguel Mena scheduled to be aboard for the moves.
“She doesn’t have to have everything her way to win now,” Guillot said. “It is going to be a full field and it’s going to come down to who gets the best trip. You can’t get boxed in.”
BC MARATHON HOPEFULS A.U. MINER, FALLING KNIFE WORK – Two horses under consideration for the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GIII) to be run at 1 ¾ miles on the main track on Friday, Nov. 5, turned in works over a fast track Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Don Benge’s A.U. Miner, who earned a spot in the starting gate with his victory in the Greenwood Cup Handicap at Philadelphia Park in July, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40, fifth fastest of 24 at the distance. Fractions for the work were :12.20, :24.40, :36.20, :48.80 and out six furlongs in 1:14.60 for trainer Clark Hanna.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Falling Knife worked a half-mile in company with King of Stripes in :48.20, third fastest of 30 at the distance. The two worked on even terms throughout in fractions of :12.20, :24, :36 and out five furlongs in 1:01.80 for trainer Tom Amoss.
BARN TALK – Two horses from trainer Mark Casse’s Canada-based stable arrived at Churchill Downs for possible Breeders’ Cup engagements: John Oxley’s Delightful Mary (Juvenile Fillies) and WinStar Farm’s Blue Laser (Juvenile). The horses are stabled in Barn 17. …
Arriving Monday for a possible run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI), was Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s Al Khali. Trained by Bill Mott and housed in Barn 19, Al Khali ran fourth in last Saturday’s Canadian International (GI) at Woodbine. …
Trainer John Ward, who has won a Kentucky Derby with Monarchos and a Kentucky Oaks with Gal In A Ruckus, said that John Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams could show up in the Oct. 31 Pocahontas (GII) for 2-year-old fillies. A daughter of Tapit, Dancinginherdreams was no surprise in her debut on Oct. 10 at Keeneland, going off at 3-2 in a field of 12 and rallying from far back to sweep to a five-length victory in the six-furlong sprint. “We are probably going to look at it,” Ward said of the one-mile Pocahontas that carries a purse of $150,000. “If we miss that target, we can come back at the end of the meet (for the Grade II Golden Rod on Nov. 27). I am not going to subject her to the mud.” …
Nominations close Wednesday for four stakes to be run during Breeders’ Cup World Championships weekend. The $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the turf will be run Thursday, Nov 4, the $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 5, the $150,000 Chilukki (GII) for fillies and mares going a mile on the main track to be run Saturday, Nov. 6 and the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (GIII) for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf on Sunday, Nov. 7.