Early Retirement Seeks to Defend BC Turf Crown

BC Turf (Grade 1)- $4,000.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Half on the Turf
November 2, 2019

It is the Super Bowl of turf racing, the 17th annual BC Turf, coming to us this year from SA. It is here where the greatest turf horses in virtual racing will have the opportunity to win a large purse and the distinction of being called a BC Turf champion. This is a race that I have had the privilege to cover a few times, but I can’t forget how impressed I was last year with Early Retirement, who won the race by almost a full second over the legendary Spanish Showboat. Mb Stables has won this race two years in a row now, but Spanish Showboat was not one of them. That horse retired this year, but it was definitely not an early retirement, as he enjoyed a 60-race career. In my opinion, he was the greatest horse in the game that never won a BC race. There are a few others that can be a part of that distinction, but Spanish Showboat was a special one. Early Retirement will have a chance this year to add to his own impressive resume and perhaps become the second horse to win this race twice. Bronze Sabre holds that honor right now to himself. It is an exciting field, so let’s take a moment to meet our field of fourteen!

#1- Raj Action Packed (Arindel, ridden by E J Zayas)- The gelding had a long career with Night Rider Stables, but that trainer seemed to lose faith in him and dropped him into claimers. Arindel took a chance, claiming him for $35.000, and has been absolutely rewarded. He has won three of four in Arindel silks, and comes into the BC Turf off a win in the Grade 1 Hirsch Turf Classic. Arindel seems to have changed up his running style in these longer races, and it is remarkable the difference that it has made and the horse makes their first BC start here.

#2- Happy Model (Estero Farms, ridden by M Tunon)- Did not fare well in his last start when running on three weeks rest in the Northern Dancer BC Turf. Unfortunately, he was not that great in the race before that either, placing fifth in the Sword Dancer. He has been rested since then, so if that is all that he needed, he might be able to go back to being the incredibly consistent horse that he was when he hit the board in 12 straight races, beginning in January 2018. To pick him, you have to be completely confident that the rest he has had will get hin back on track.

#3- Winter Solstice (John Henry, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- One of two horses in the field that will be debuting for a new trainer in the BC Turf, but this one really surprises me. As a part of Maxmillion Farm, one of the game’s top turf trainers, if not the best, he seemed like he would be one of the favorites for this race as the year progressed. I’m surprised that Max gave him up for this race, and for what I consider “only” $550.000. Yes, he has only won once this year, but with a little more luck at the wire, he could have three more wins. From John Henry’s perspective, I think this can become a borderline steal, and I expect Winter Solstice to turn in a big one.

#4- Face Your Fears (Mb Stables, ridden by R Bejarano)- The trainer will have three going to post of this race, something that surprises no one. Perhaps we should be calling him the king of the turf, too, because he has, after all, won this race the last two years. Face Your Fears, who is by Proud Chai, the same sire of 2017 BC Turf winner Clockwork Chai, has two wins in seven starts this year. His biggest score of the year was the $1,000.000 SAR Derby at the beginning of August. Comes off of being a well beaten favorite at the Northern Dancer and looks to make amends here.

#5- Spiral (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- In covering these races for so long, and Mb often in the process, it is a horse like Spiral that he is particularly deadly with in a race like this. While his other two have attained plenty of experience, Spiral has raced just four times, made has made the most of them with three wins. The big win came in the $1,000.000 JC Derby, a race that will be notorious now for its 44-second half mile. It will be interesting to see where he ends up on the odds board.

#6- Video Master (Aer Stables, ridden by J Lezcano)- Had an excellent summer that wold be capped off by winning the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at beautiful Saratoga Race Course. He defeated five horses in that race that he will be facing again here, and that would include Early Retirement. Additionally, he won the San Juan Capistrano right here in June, earning a 100 SRF for the effort. His last race was a dud, placing a distant 11th in the Hirsch. It’s a stunning turn of form, and has me wondering if it can just be attributed to something like meters and is a total throw out.

#7- Jamie Mach (RNP Stables, ridden by J K Court)- This gelding by Plucky Mach has won 11 of his 31 overall races, but the percentage slowed a little this year, taking two of ten. In July, he was impressive, winning the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap by four lengths. His last two races, the WO Mile and the Hirsch have seen him fail to pick up a piece of the purse, but are the kind of race lines that suggest he was a part of a beloved cluster HRP finish at the wire in each. J K Court is back in the saddle after a one race hiatus from it.

#8- Techfluence (The Sidley Stud, ridden by A Beschizza)- This will be the third time that Techfluence runs in the BC Turf, and the six year old has finished fourth on both occasions. He began this year very well, winning three of four, a run that culminated in the Grade 1 Man O War. While the winning did not continue, he remained consistent, and has earned a portion of the purse in every race he has run this year. No reason to think that he can’t get it done here, especially in considering his overall experience at running in this race.

#9- Early Retirement (Mb Stables, ridden by E Maldonado)- Last year, Early Retirement put on quite a show in the BC Turf, winning the race by four lengths. He returns here looking to duplicate the feat of Bronze Sabre, but does that mean he is the favorite in this race? Since we last saw him in this race, he has two wins in seven starts, which included a similar effort, style wise, in the San Luis Rey right here in March. Won the Grade 1 Manhattan in June, so Early Retirement is indeed still going to be a threat, and it is hard to look past him when remember how he handled this race last year.

#10- Give Your All (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by A A Gallardo)- This will be his debut for Team 7 Illusions, as he was acquired in private sales from Mb Stables for $250.000 just last week. Perhaps part of the reason for that was because he would not have been in Mb’s top three for the race. This is the 38th career start for the six year old gelding, and third BC race for him. They have all been different, first the Sprint, then the Dirt Mile, now this. Adapted to the turf well in August, but will have to live up to his name against this crowd.

#11- First Class Male (Team 7 Illusions, ridden by J Pimentel)- Ran in the Pattison three weeks ago on yielding turf, and could only manage a fifth place finish. That came off a win in the Northern Dancer BC Turf, but the two races before that are disappointments. He was better with his consistency running in ungraded stakes, and while he has had his moments in graded stakes, he is a tough horse to throw a lot of support behind in a race like this.

#12- Sumi Gaeshi (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by O Flores)- The post draw was not kind to Max, as his two entries in the race will draw this spot as well as #14. His former runner, Winter Solstice, is in a much better position. The post might not matter that much for Sumi Gaeshi, though, since he has become a horse that likes to come from way off the pace. Three weeks ago, he was ten lengths back at the midway point of the Pattison but charged hard to get the win by half a length. The Pattison was just three weeks ago, but Sumi Gaeshi was rested fine going into that.

#13- Dead Madness (John Henry, ridden by L Contreras)- This three year old gelding is becoming one of the top horses in this division, and he has shown that he knows how to win. This year, he’s won five of eight, and for his career, he’s 7-for-12. He’s riding a four out of five streak as we speak, a run that began in a $75.000 stake. That’s part of the reason that he does not have the name recognition yet that several others in here, do. Earned back to back wins in the BEL Derby and Arlington Million. Last month, he won the Grade 2 Hill Prince. He’ll have to deal with this post, and with his running style he could be vulnerable to the outside push.

#14- Call Me Spanish (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by D E Centeno)- Spanish Showboat may be gone from this race, but we still have some Spanish flair with this four year old gelding. It will be his third race in five weeks, and his tendency to throw in some real duds on his past performances without warning is cause for concern. He’s won once this year, coming in late September in the Grade 2 Henry Championship. Early Retirement was the only horse in that race that is also here. If he is on, he’s as good as any, but in a race like this, and in a post like this, I’ll pass.

Prediction: 8-3-9-6

— NS

Categories: BC 2018-20, Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES, THE BREEDERS CUP

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