Virginians Going to the Breeders’ Cup: Who to Cheer For

Four Virginia-connected horses have headed off to Santa Anita to try their luck at racing’s most prestigious day: Saturday at the Breeders’ Cup. Check out our easy guide to who you should be cheering for this weekend!

HARDEST CORE

Virginia-owned Hardest Core wins the Grade I Arlington Million. Photo courtesy DRF.

Virginia-owned Hardest Core wins the Grade I Arlington Million. Photo courtesy DRF.


Race

Breeders’ Cup Turf, 3:23 PT Saturday

10/1 morning line

9th post position

Virginia connections

Owned by Andrew Bentley stables, selected by Virginian Rusty Carrier.

What’s the story?

Hardest Core is sitting on a four-race win streak that includes the Grade I Arlington Million last out. Originally purchased to be a steeplechase prospect, the son of Hard Spun won the Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware before the Million and secured his path as a flat horse. Carrier, for his part, isn’t surprised: “When I went to sign the ticket [to buy the horse],” Carrier said, “my hands were shaking. I’ve picked out a few good ones over the years and this is the one I liked more than any of them.”

THANK YOU MARYLOU

Thankyou Marylou romps in the Grade III Dogwood. Photo courtesy Churchill Downs.

Thankyou Marylou romps in the Grade III Dogwood. Photo courtesy Churchill Downs.


Race

Filly & Mare Sprint, 1:21 PT

20/1 morning line

4th post position

Virginia connections

Bred in Virginia by Mr. and Mrs. C. W. McNeely.

What’s the story?

This Virginia-bred daughter of Birdstone put in a dominating performance in the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs in September. No stranger to stakes races, the 3-year-old’s debut was a winning one in the Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs last summer–a victory she followed up with a second-placed finish in the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga and a victory in the Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream. Named by current connections Ken Ramsey for Marylou Whitney, this chestnut filly is living up to her classy namesake.

V.E DAY

Virginia-owned V.E. Day winning over Virginia-raised Wicked Strong in the Grade I Travers. Photo courtesy Chelsea Durand.

Virginia-owned V.E. Day winning over Virginia-raised Wicked Strong in the Grade I Travers. Photo courtesy Chelsea Durand.


Race

Classic, 5:35 PT

20/1 morning line

5th post position

Virginia connections

Owned by Virginian Maggie Bryant.

What’s the story?

V.E. Day put together a four-race win streak this summer that culminated in a little race called the Travers. The son of English Channel went off at long odds despite winning the Curlin Stakes in his previous start, paying $41 to win — but he won with a decisive rally, a head over Grade I Wood winner and stablemate Wicked Strong. “I got to watch him train all winter, really liked him and liked him at the sales,” recalled Bryant’s bloodstock agent Cindy Tucker. “Mrs. Bryant in particular liked English Channel and we bought him at the OBS March sale.”

TONALIST

Grade I Belmont winner Tonalist winning the Grade II Peter Pan by 4 lengths. Photo courtesy Chelsea Durand.

Grade I Belmont winner Tonalist winning the Grade II Peter Pan by 4 lengths. Photo courtesy Chelsea Durand.


Race

Classic, 5:35 PT

5/1 morning line

11th post position

Virginia connections

Bred by Virginians Rene and Lauren Woolcott and raised at their Woodslane Farm in The Plains.

What’s the story?

This 3-year-old son of Tapit not only secured classic honors with a Belmont victory in June, he also kicked away to a strong victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last out. Winner of the Grade II Peter Pan, third in the Travers and second in the Jim Dandy, Tonalist has been out of the money only once in his career — and that was a fourth-placed finish in his debut. When asked about Tonalist as a young horse, Lauren Woolcott calls Tonalist “lightning in a jar.”

“He was very laid back, really super conformation the whole way,” Woolcott said. “Very easy, pleasant horse. Easy keeper.”