BC Challenge races at The Spa and you can not miss this preview, three horses will have the chance to earn a guaranteed berth to Del Mar this Nov 6th.

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Personal Ensign Stakes

The first BC Challenge races at The Spa Can they catch her? Can anyone catch Letruska? Many try, but few have succeeded. A bit like Knicks Go, when she’s out there on the lesd, she never comes back.

The five-year-old has been beaten just once in her last six starts, in the Grade 2 Azeri at

Gulfstream in March, and that was the only time she didn’t set her own fractions. Letruska

(6-5) already has two Grade 1s on her resume this year, the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn (Swiss Skydiver third) and the Ogden Phipps at Belmont (Bonny South (10-1) runner-up), and last time out the former Mexican champion took her field apart when dropped in class in the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs, powering home by five and three-quarter lengths.

“She’s a horse with a very strong character,” trainer Fausto Gutierrez told Thoroughbred

Daily News. “If she can beat you, she’ll beat you. If she has the chance to kick you, she will.

And she just wants to run all day.”

Last year’s Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver (7-2) has had a difficult year, with various problems keeping her on the sidelines between mid-April and August. She had to use the Grade 1 Whitney as a prep for this, and although she kept tabs on Knicks Go for a long way she was overmatched against top-grade males.

This will be easier, and she can confirm Grade 1 Beholder Mile form with west-coast shipper As Time Goes By (6-1). Royal Flag (10-1), cosy winner of the Grade 3 Shuvee over track and trip with her stablemate Dunbar Road (20-1) a lacklustre fifth, has a chance of hitting the board, and Miss Marissa (20-1) – who wired her field in the Grade 2 Delaware over an extra furlong shouldn’t be ignored despite her boxcar odds, as this race will be all about the lead and she won’t be far from it.

But Letruska’s plan of attack is simple and beautiful, and so effective that it has taken her to the top of the older fillies’ division in short time. This is probably the strongest field she has faced, but they can only beat her if they can catch her . . . and so far, they can’t. Prediction Letruska

HorseJockeyOdds courtesy of Jazzsports
DUNBAR ROADFlavien Prat+2000
AS TIME GOES BYMike E. Smith +600
BONNY SOUTH Manuel Franco +1000
SWISS SKYDIVER Jose L. Ortiz +350
ROYAL FLAG Joel Rosario +1000
LETRUSKAIrad Ortiz. Jr+120
MISS MARISSADaniel Centeno +2000
HARVEY’S LIL GOIL Luis Saez +800
GRACEFULL PRINCESSJohn R. Velazquez +1500
Prediction Letruska

Sword Dancer Stakes

A Sword Dancer victory will guarantee the winner a place in the Breeder Cup Turf race as one of the BC Challenge races at the Spa. Europe’s turf horses are, in general, better than those in the US, so when a Limey crosses the Atlantic to have a crack at Uncle Sam the hint should usually be taken.

The case for Japan is not straightforward, though. The Japan of two years ago would beat this lot by daylight. The Japan of last year would be beaten out of sight. This year’s Japan?

An improvement on last year, but not the 2019 vintage.

The five-year-old opened the campaign with victory in a Group 3 at Chester over a staying trip, and was then twice below par before picking up the thread again with a hard-fought and narrow success in a Group 3 at Leopardstown over nine furlongs. The form itself is nothing special, but the fact that this middle-distance stayer had the speed and guts to win over a much shorter trip could be significant.

Fast ground would be to his advantage, and with that sharpener under his belt and a weight concession from his principal rivals, there is confidence that Japan (9-2) may be ready to move back towards his peak.

On their European form, Tribhuvan (2-1) wouldn’t be allowed in the same race as Japan, but he is very effective Stateside as he showed when winning the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth last time, and when runner-up to top-ranker Domestic Spending in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont, with Gufo (3-1) third and Rockemperor (6-1) fifth.

His preference to be on the lead puts him in opposition to fellow front-runner Channel Maker, who won this 12 months ago but hasn’t fired in 2021, and last time out was a distant seventh behind Saratoga sweetheart Cross Border in the Grade 2 Bowling Green here over a furlong shorter.

Cross Border (4-1) is six-for-seven at The Spa, his only defeat coming in this race last year when beaten nearly six lengths by Channel Maker (8-1), and although he probably isn’t good enough to win, his affinity for the Spa makes him a definite for trifectas. Prediction Japan.

Horse JockeyOdds courtesy of Jazzsports
TRIBHUVAN Flavien Prat+200
GUFOJoel Rosario+300
ROCKEMPERORIrad Ortiz. Jr+600
CHANNEL MAKER Manuel Franco+800
MORETTIJose L. Ortiz +1500
JAPAN Ryan L. Moore +450
CROSS BORDER Luis Saez +400
Prediction Japan

Ballerina Handicap

Sometimes it pays not to be too clever, and to accept what’s staring back at you from the pages of the racecard, where it says that Gamine is a lock for the Ballerina, a ‘win-and-in’ for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, which already appears on her roll of honour.

Champion filly sprinter Gamine (3-5) has won eight of her nine races, including the Grade 1 Test over this track and trip, and her only defeat came when stretching out to the nine furlongs of the Kentucky Oaks. At shorter trips she is immaculate, already has four Grade 1s in the bank, and if she gets out of the gate on time there is nothing and no-one to stop her going wire-to-wire from her inside post.

Her west-coast compadre Ce Ce (4-1) was a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream last time out, beating Estilo Talentoso by three and a quarter lengths, and has Grade 1 credentials at a mile and slightly further.

Gamine should simply be too quick for her, as she was for Sconsin (9-2) and Estilo

Talentoso (8-1) when they filled the trifecta in the Grade 1 Derby City Distaff at Churchill Downs in May. Gamine bobbled at the start that day but was soon on the front end, and had a length and a half and a length to spare over those two rivals at the wire, spotting them 5lb in the process.

Whichever way you cut the Ballerina, it always comes up Gamine. She’s no price for bettors, though, and an option on that front could be to play Lake Avenue (12-1), beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Honourable Miss here over six furlongs last month, for the minor placings.

Prediction Gamine (Lake Avenue to show)

HorseJockeyOdds courtesy of Jazzsports
GAMINEJohn R. Velazquez -167
LAKE AVENUE Junior Alvarado+1200
CASUAL Ricardo Santana. Jr+1500
TRUTH HURTS Joel Rosario+5000
SCONSINIrad Ortiz. Jr+450
CE CE Victor Espinoza +400
Prediction Gamine

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