Twelve Hope to Follow Quiet Return’s Lead in The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim (Grade 2) (BC)- $200.000 Purse
AQU- For Two Year Olds
One Mile and One Sixteenth on the Inner Turf
October 1, 2023

This Sunday at AQU, a group of twelve two-year-olds will hit the track for The Pilgrim with the hopes of winning the ticket to the BC Juvenile Turf while scoring the winner’s share of the $200.000 purse. The race first appeared in 2004 with modest conditions, and not even a $100.000 purse, but in 2008 it would become a Grade 3, and then took the next step in 2020. We used to find this race at BEL, but it was moved to AQU in 2022 when it was won by Quiet Return and Allinthegate. He has gone on to have a great career, although it would not be on the grass where it would happen. As we remember, he won the KYD, ran second in the PRK, and continues to be a star. So, who knows, it might not be the BC Juvenile, but the BC Juvenile Turf again, where we see our next great three-year-old. Here’s a look at those taking part!

#1- Numbskull (Blazin D, ridden by F Pennington)- Won on debut at PRX against fellow PA-Breds in July, and would then attempt the $125.000 Soaring Free Stakes at WO after that. There, he finished in the middle of the field, but started in the back and never really got involved with the frontrunners and has since been gelded. Too lightly raced to know what we really have here yet with him, but we’ll see how he stacks up.

#2- Pollards Best (La Canada Racehorses, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- In 2020, his sire Pollards Vision ended up winning the Pilgrim, but never did much in the BC. Pollards Best follows in his footsteps to get here, winning his first two races before heading to DMR for the Grade 3 OT Juvenile Turf. After a steady third there, he looks to make his dad proud, but he will not have a foal of his own to watch one day, as he was recently gelded.

#3- Targeted Breeding (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by M Franco)- After struggling with shorter distances on the main track, Targeted Breeding successfully converted to the grass and broke his maiden at DMR last month. That brought him to the always very competitive Grade 1 Summer Stakes two weeks ago, and while his race line doesn’t seem impressive, given how strong that race always is, his effort may have been a lot better than it seems. Short rest, however, is a concern.

#4- Convincing (Diablo Diablo, ridden by Mar Garcia)- Began his career with three second place finishes before eventually winning in what was also his turf debut. Following that, he had an interesting race at ELP, where he came back from eleven lengths down to get up for second and finish within a length. The Grade 3 With Anticipation was next, and I like that he was closer to the front there, but he never made a move on the leaders. Obviously, that was a better race, but so is the Pilgrim.

#5- Last Destiny (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by A Jimenez)- This is a maiden, but that is something that I do not worry about in two-year-old stake races. Also consider that he has recently changed trainer hands and will make his third start now with Maxmillion Farm, who’s known for excellence on the grass. I’m not really impressed by his last race, though, and note that the horse that finished one spot ahead of him attempted the KD Juvenile Sprint and was a dud (although that was on very short rest). You can see the potential in his works, and I understand taking the shot here, but this is one I need to see win first.

#6- Force Power (Arkansas Elite, ridden by L Saez)- One of just two horses in this field that have won multiple races coming into this. In April, he won on debut at FON, so not sure how much celebrating the trainer did after that one and then went to the TX Stallion Stakes- Avenger, where he ran third of five. Was gelded very soon after that, then went to MTH and won an allowance at the end of July. So, he’s had plenty of rest and will be ready to roll here for both his turf and his going long debut.

#7- Pirates Cup (Riggins Racing, ridden by P Husbands)- This will be the sixth start for the Black Friday colt, and he has been hit and miss in his first five. His career began with three races on the main track, and he actually debuted against Force Power at FON. Good and bad in those races, mainly not being able to step up to increased competition at CD. Has been better at on the grass, winning at ELP, but again not stepping up to better rivals at SAR. That makes me concerned that he could rise up to this challenge, but the trainer has had time to work on that.

#8- Jiri (Royalty Stables, ridden by P Lopez)- His career followed a similar path as others in here, not getting a win on the dirt surface, before moving to the grass and breaking his maiden. For Jiri, that came at DMR at the distance he will be running here in the Pilgrim, where he came from behind to win by two lengths. I also like how he is working heading into this race and feel that he is ready to run a great race and figures to be one of the top choices.

#9- Expeditiously (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Made his debut on a rain soaked day at FE, and ran respectfully, placing third there. Following that, it was off to WO, where he took on ON-Breds and ran with the leader most of the way before getting the win in the stretch. His SRF for that was an 88, which may be a little low in comparison to others, but I think that he showed more than it seems in that one.

#10- Soho First (Allinthegate, ridden by R M Hernandez)- The trainer looks to win the Pilgrim for the second straight year, and from there can wonder if he can follow Quiet Return’s path. Obviously, that is an extreme case, and Soho First is a bit raw coming into this. He’s one of three overall, but all of those races have been on the dirt, and he has not run more than five and a half furlongs. His longer work times are okay, but others in here are doing better.

#11- Sinche Pree (Arindel, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- One of just two horses to come out of the Grade 3 With Anticipation at SAR, and it does surprise me that we do not see more of them here. For Sinche Pree, it came on about three weeks rest after he broke his maiden, also at SAR. He was gelded after his first two races, and he looks to be an example of a horse that really needed to undergo the snip with the way he responded. Came from off the pace in the With Anticipation and should be a threat here.

#12- Bregman (Luz International, ridden by L J Luzzi)- After a midpack finish in the Grade 1 Hopeful, the trainer has shifted his hopes with Bregman to the grass, and he will run on this surface for the first time. Has no public works on the turf to get a feeling on how this may go, but the trainer would not make this kind of move if he did not see the potential privately. I did like his run two back in the Mountain Top Futurity for NM-Breds where he was close second and feel that we will be seeing a lot of Bregman over the next year or so. For now, we’ll see what he can do on the grass.

Prediction: 11-2-8-4

— NS

Categories: Grade II, STAKES ARTICLES

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