Steve Asmussen is a Hall of Fame trainer who ranks 2nd all-time in career wins in North America with 8,619 (as of 24/10) and second in earnings with $318 million.
He has won six Breeders’ Cup races, most recently the 2017 Classic with Gun Runner. This year, he brings six horses to the meeting including likely race favorites Midnight Bisou (Distaff) and Mitole (Sprint).
Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
WICKED WHISPER (Juvenile Fillies): Unbeaten in two starts, she won a six-furlong maiden race at Saratoga by 6 1-4 lengths then came back to win the Grade 1 Frizette, a one-turn mile at Belmont Park, both in front-running fashion. She was eased down late by her rider in both races.
Wicked Whisper is a half-sister to Point of Honor, who earlier this year won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at 1 1-8 miles, suggesting that a 1 1-16-miles should be within her scope.
“I think pedigree-wise we’re aware of whose she’s related to; the prospects of her stretching out are very good,” Asmussen said. “With what we saw in the Frizette, she’s a Grade 1 winner at a mile in two starts. I think her resume looks good, we’ll try to add a championship to it by her performance in the Juvenile Fillies.”
SHOPLIFTED (Juvenile): After a good-looking maiden win at Saratoga, this son of Into Mischief finished a distant second to stablemate in Basin in the Grade 1 Hopeful run over a sloppy track. Basin was subsequently injured and removed from Breeders’ Cup consideration.
Shoplifted was shipped to Southern California for a start in the Grade 1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita where he didn’t break and had a wide trip in finishing fifth, 9 3-4 lengths behind Eight Rings.
He remained in California and has trained satisfactory to be given another shot in the Juvenile.
“The American Pharoah to me proved the importance of being there and being adjusted for our stable,” Asmussen said. “That was not the race we were hoping for. He’s put in the work, he’s a quality horse and he’s fixing to run a very good race.”
SNAPPER SINCLAIR (Dirt Mile): Though his biggest wins have come on turf, he has been versatile enough to run competitive races on the dirt, including a runner-up finish in the Grad 2 Risen Star Stakes as a 3-year-old. The now 4-year-old son of City Zip is coming off a win in the Tourist Mile on turf at Kentucky downs, his second win as many tries at that track.
“I think Snapper Sinclair is a very versatile horse with a ton of talent that deserves the opportunity,” Asmussen said. “Nothing but respect for how competitive the field is, he deserves this chance. We’ve won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita before with Tapizar, a horse that similarly to Snapper, on their best day they’re of this quality.”
MITOLE (Sprint): One of the fastest horses in North America, he’s 5 for 6 this year with Grade 1 victories in the Metropolitan Handicap, the Forego at Saratoga and the Churchill Downs Sprint at Churchill Downs. His lone blemish this year came in a third-place finish to Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, a result he can avenge as Imperial Hint is back in this field.
“The Met Mile win was more than special, it being the significant race that it is in America racing and with the field that was assembled for it this year especially,” Asmussen said.
Not leaving anything to chance, Asmussen had Mitole work out of the gate on October 22nd, the colt drilling five furlongs in a fast 58.80 seconds.
“Not everybody that I’ve taken to California has left the gates well,” Asmussen said. “This is our last run with him and we are all in for it.”
Mitole, a son of Eskendereya, will retire to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky after the Breeders’ Cup.
ENGAGE (Sprint): A nice secondary colt to have for this race. He punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup with a half-length victory in the Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland, his second win in as many starts for Asmussen. The horse was previously trained by Chad Brown, for whom he won a pair of six-furlong stakes at 2 and 3.
While Mitole will be part of or close to an expected hot pace, Engage will likely try to pick up the pieces late.
“I feel he’s doing extremely well physically,” Asmussen said. “Mentally, his confidence is where we want it to be for what is shaping up to be a tremendous race.”
MIDNIGHT BISOU (Distaff): She ended her 3-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She hasn’t lost since.
This 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute has gone 7 for 7 in 2019, putting her in the running for the Eclipse Award as the North America’s Horse of the Year. She has three Grade 1 victories and three Grade 2 victories and has raced over five different surfaces.
Previously winless at 1 1-8-miles, she has won her last two starts at that distance including a hard-fought nose score over Elate in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on August 24th. She then had a bit of an easier time winning the Grade 2 Beldame at Belmont by 3 1-4 lengths over fellow Distaff starter Wow Cat.
“She’s a truly special mare that has matured into a great racehorse and this is going to be a very exciting race for her,” Asmussen said. “I think she’s been in a wonderful place mentally and physically, she’s very confident. She’s taken the tough racing well and I think, when given a chance in a couple of easier spots, she has done nicely with them.”
Before Asmussen took over Midnight Bisou’s training midway through her 3-year-old season, Midnight Bisou won three of four starts - all graded stakes wins - at Santa Anita. Though Asmussen points out the surface she won over as a 3-year-old is not the same surface that currently exists at Santa Anita.
“She’s trained very nicely over it recently,” Asmussen said.