Breeders’ Cup 2021 Future Stars Friday Review: Favorites Win From The Front

Wesley WardThere was tremendous talent displayed on Future Stars Friday at the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on November 5 with considerable success for many horse race bettors before drama and disappointment in the final race.

The five-furlong Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint was the first of the championship contests. Wesley Ward saddled three of the 12 runners including the unbeaten 2/1 favorite, Averly Jane, who broke from gate eight under Tyler Gaffalione. A shipper from England, Armor was also popular with bettors but it was another Ward trainee, Twilight Gleaming (5/1), who broke best from gate six. Ridden by Irad Ortiz she soon took the lead and was never headed.

Owned by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, this daughter of National Defense out of a Dansili mare beat another European shipper, Go Bears Go (123/10) half a length. The winner’s least popular barnmate, Kaufymaker at 245/10 took third ahead of Averly Jane who was a disappointing fifth.

Ward attributed Twilight Gleaming’s success to her being really fresh. She had not run since winning a listed race at Deauville in France in early August. Averly Jane had raced much more recently, beating Kaufymaker three lengths in the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland on October 10. Gaffalione did not make any excuses for her, saying that he broke well but his filly was not there for him on the day.

Steve Asmussen’s Echo Zulu was the 4/5 favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies run over a mile and half a furlong on the dirt, despite her outside draw in stall six. She came into the race unbeaten in her three starts under Ricardo Santana Jr but Joel Rosario took the ride for the first time for reasons that were not disclosed.

Bettors who supported her never had cause for concern, she took the lead three strides after the gates opened, easily passing her rivals and grabbing the rail and was never challenged. Rosario did not have to do much to achieve his 14th Breeders’ Cup win by an impressive five and a quarter lengths. He barely moved but had a precautionary look over each shoulder in the stretch to check that no one was closing.

The win was particularly special for Asmussen as he trained Echo Zulu’s sire, the legendary Gun Runner for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm. Echo Zulu is his best produce to date and was purchased by Winchell for $300,000 as a yearling. It was her third grade one win and she did it with her ears pricked.

Echo Zulu’s victory was made easier by the no show of one of her main market rivals, Hidden Connection (17/5) who was a disappointing fourth. Brad Cox’s Juju’s Map (3/1) took second under Florent Geroux closely followed by Cherie DeVaux’s Tarabi (98/10), both tracked the winner but were left for dead when it mattered.

The betting suggested that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf run over a mile was a more open contest. Arnaud Delacour’s Koala Princess was the 48/10 favorite ridden by Rosario and Chad Brown’s Haughty and Consumer Spending were both popular at around 6/1.

The George Boughey-trained Cachet (209/10) broke best from gate three under Luis Saez and quickly took the lead. She looked very likely to continue the trend of winning from the front, setting sensible fractions but was passed by three of her rivals 75 yards from the wire.

Pizza Bianca (10/1), a daughter of Fastnet Rock, had been held up by Jose Ortiz and closed late to provide Christophe Clement with his first Breeders’ Cup win. She beat the shipper from France, Francis Graffard’s Malavath (18/1) half a length, who had also been ridden patiently by Ryan Moore. Haughty was a neck further back in third. Koala Princess could only finish seventh, beaten two and a half lengths.

It was Pizza Bianca’s owner and breeder, the celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who wanted to target this race. His celebrations after her victory were appropriate for a man who invested over $1 million to purchase her dam, a daughter of Galileo, as a yearling who never made it to the racetrack. Undeterred he decided to breed from her.

Ortiz was widely praised for the ride he gave this filly. His only instruction was to save ground and his brave decision to take a route close to the rail was a race-winning one. Clement said she looked and trained like a three-year-old and was extremely patient with her. Flay thought he was the best trainer in the world never to have won at the Breeders’ Cup and was delighted to have provided him with a winner.

Bob Baffert’s Corniche was the clear market leader at 7/5 for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after the scratch on the day of the futures’ favorite, Jack Christopher. Baffert also saddled Pinehurst (6/1) and Barossa (19/1). He was required by the California Horseracing Board to provide extra security and testing for all his starters.

Corniche continued the theme of winning from the front on the dirt despite setting scorching fractions under the 56-year-old Mike Smith. Corniche gave him his 27th Breeders’ Cup win and third victory in the Juvenile. Smith admits that his schedule has been scaled back through no desire of his own – his errors on the pace are many – he had only three Breeders’ Cup rides. Mark Casse’s Pappa Cap 15/1 took second beaten almost two lengths ahead of the Dale Romans trainee, Giant Game 22/1.

A son of Quality Road bred by Bart Evans and Stonehaven Steadings out of a Najran mare, Corniche was purchased by Speedway Stable for $1.5m as a two-year-old. He was viewed by many as the most impressive performer of the day and immediately became the 2022 Kentucky Derby favorite. Baffert has been banned for two years from Churchill Downs so we can expect Corniche to be placed with another trainer soon.

Godolphin’s Modern Games was the 3/1 favorite for the Future Stars finale, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Drawn in stall one, his UK trainer Charlie Appleby also saddled Albahr for Godolphin who was set to start beside him. Albahr was known to have gate issues and entered them wearing a blindfold without his jockey, Frankie Dettori, who subsequently joined him.

As other horses were loaded Albahr reared up, momentarily managing to get his front legs over the top of the gate and fell over backwards. His actions left him stuck on the floor, facing the wrong way, frantically flinging his legs around. Modern Games was released from the front of his stall by the starters as he was in danger of getting kicked by his prone barnmate. Both Albahr and his jockey appeared to be ok after the experience, unlike one of the starting team who helped Dettori to dismount and was treated by the medics. Albahr was withdrawn for obvious reasons.

Modern Games was initially scratched but was subsequently announced as a participant in the race but running for purse money only and all bets on him were canceled. The veterinarians stationed behind the stalls thought he had broken out of the gates, a situation that demands a horse should be scratched in California. When they realized that he had been deliberately released and was undamaged he was allowed to run but was not reinstated in the betting. Bettors who supported him would only get their money back. Danny Gargan’s Dakota Gold ultimately started as the favorite at 5/2.

Chad Brown’s Portfolio Company (22/5) surged into the lead under Flavien Prat after breaking well from gate six. Mark Casse’s Coinage (32/1) chased him as did Dakota Gold whilst Will Buick settled Modern Games mid pack. Buick started pushing two furlongs from home and angled wide going into the stretch. The response of his colt was impressive, he gradually passed the weakening front runners and took the lead 100 yards from the wire and beat Kenny McPeek’s closer, Tiz The Bomb (78/10), by a length and a half. Doug O’Neill’s Mackinnon (63/10) was close up in third, beating the fourth placed Grafton Street (226/10) a head. Dakota Gold was fifth.

Appleby said he had experienced drama at the start of a race before and was relatively calm after Albahr’s antics as he has four children. After that disaster he was delighted when Modern Games managed to close and win. He praised this son of Dubawi bred by Godolphin for coping with the trauma that he experienced. Modern Games is apparently a cool dude who leads other horses when they work in the morning.

Both Echo Zulu and Corniche were extremely impressive and are obvious ‘Future Stars’, but Modern Games may achieve more than both of them. He does not need to win from the front and is able to perform when he has every excuse to fold.