Delacour Hopes ‘Very Clever’ Koala Princess Can Step Up In BC Juvenile Fillies Turf

Trainer Arnaud Delacour has finished fourth, third and second with his first three Breeders’ Cup starters.

The Tampa Bay Downs conditioner believes he has a good chance of continuing that upward trend in Friday’s $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar with his 2-year-old Koala Princess.

“She is very fast and she is very clever. She’s smart about everything,” said Delacour, who will send Koala Princess out against 13 rivals in the 1-mile race. “If the rider doesn’t ask her, she doesn’t go, and if he asks her, she goes. She listens to the rider all the time.”

Koala Princess, who is 2-for-2, will be ridden by Joel Rosario, who was aboard for her Sept. 12 victory in the Ainsworth Stakes at Kentucky Downs. She came from far back in the 6 ½-furlong race to win going away from 10 rivals. Koala Princess had broken her maiden on Aug. 21 at Monmouth Park in a commanding gate-to-wire performance, resulting in an 8 ¼-length victory under Hector Diaz, Jr.

Koala Princess is the 6-1 co-second choice in a race that may be the most wide-open of any among the 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championships races scheduled Friday and Saturday in southern California.

“At this time of year, you never really know which horse is going to make that step forward, who is going to peak that day,” Delacour said. “And with 14 2-year-old fillies in the race, you need to get a good break from the post and have a clean trip to have a good chance of winning.”

Koala Princess and Rosario will break from the No. 9 post. The daughter of More Than Ready is owned by her breeders – Runnymede Farm, Inc., Peter Callahan and Frederick C. Zinkhan – in partnership with John C. Oxley.

The first of Del Mar’s 10 races Friday begins at 2:55 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, with each of the day’s five Breeders’ Cup races featuring 2-year-olds. The Juvenile Fillies Turf, at a distance of a mile, is the eighth race on the card.

Saturday’s 12-race card, which includes nine Breeders’ Cup races, starts at 1:15 p.m. Eastern. Saturday’s showcase is the $6-million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Knicks Go, Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, Medina Spirit and Art Collector among the contenders.

Koala Princess is one of three Breeders’ Cup entrants from the barns of Tampa Bay Downs trainers. H. Graham Motion will be represented on Saturday in the fifth race, the $1-million, 5-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, by 4-year-old filly Caravel. Jose Ortiz will ride the 20-1 shot for owners Bobby Flay and Elizabeth M. Merryman, who is also Caravel’s breeder. Caravel drew the No. 8 post in the 12-horse field.

While the 8-year-old Florida-bred gelding Extravagant Kid – who won the 2019 Florida Cup Zaxby’s Sprint Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs – is also part of the Turf Sprint field, another Oldsmar fan favorite, 7-year-old gelding The Critical Way, is on the also-eligible list, needing a couple of late scratches to draw into the race.

Trained by 2020-2021 Oldsmar runner-up conditioner Jose H. Delgado for owner Monster Racing Stables, The Critical Way won the $100,000 Turf Dash Stakes here on Feb. 24 and has won his last two starts, including the Grade 3 Parx Dash Stakes on Aug. 31 at Parx Racing.

Back to Delacour, who has had a couple of close calls in his previous Breeders’ Cup attempts. In 2014 at Santa Anita, his then-5-year-old mare Ageless finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, less than a length behind winner Bobby’s Kitten and Rosario.

Two years later, Delacour brought 6-year-old gelding A. P. Indian, a multiple-Grade 1 winner, to Santa Anita for a third-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, won by Drefong. His third try, at Churchill Downs in 2018, was almost the charm, as his 4-year-old filly Chalon fell victim by a head to Shamrock Rose’s whirlwind rally in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

While assistance from the racing gods is always welcome, Delacour is mainly relying on Koala Princess’s speed and desire to land her in the winner’s circle. He and his wife Leigh, who exercised the filly when she first arrived in their Tampa Bay Downs barn last spring, had high hopes from the beginning.

“She was doing everything right,” said Delacour, who trained the filly’s mother, Koala Queen, to three career victories. “We had in mind starting her at Belmont Park in the spring, but she had a minor shin issue so we backed off. She ran very impressively in both of her races. When you have a filly who wins sprinting and shows that much speed, you always worry about their ability to settle in longer races. But she has been so easy in the mornings and in her races, I don’t think it will be a problem.”

While Delacour seeks his first taste of Breeders’ Cup nectar, Motion – best known as the trainer of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom – has won four Breeders’ Cup races. He won the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now; the 2010 Emirates Airline Filly and Mare Turf with Shared Account; the 2014 Longines Turf with Main Sequence; and the 2019 Juvenile Fillies Turf with Sharing.

Motion took over the training of Caravel from the filly’s breeder and owner Elizabeth Merryman – a good friend who, like Motion, conditions horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland – after her victory on July 24 in the Grade 3 Caress Stakes at Saratoga. That result came after celebrity chef Bobby Flay bought a majority interest in Caravel.

”Graham has so much experience going that (Breeders’ Cup) route,” Merryman said at the time of the trainer change. “It seemed like a really smart thing to do from my perspective as well. Not that I don’t think I could handle it, but with the change in the ownership, Graham has a system that works great and he’s been through all that.”

The daughter of Mizzen Mast, whose 7-for-11 record includes five stakes triumphs, was the only female competitor in both of her races under Motion. She finished third on Aug. 22 in the Grade 1 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine, then finished in a dead-heat for sixth on Sept. 25 in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Stakes at Parx Racing.

The 12-horse Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint field includes four fillies and mares to go with eight colts and geldings.

“I thought the (Highlander) was an excellent performance with it being her first Grade 1 race and her first time running against males,” Motion said. “Plus she wound up being on the lead early, which is something she is not accustomed to. I drew a line through the (Turf Monster) because the turf was in terrible condition and we probably should have scratched her.”

“She is coming into the race in good form and the fact that Jose is able to stay with her is a bonus,” Motion added.

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As for Delgado, he can only take a wait-and-see approach toward the possibility of The Critical Way getting into the race. “He is a very consistent horse who gives 100 percent no matter where I take him,” said Delgado, who has campaigned The Critical Way at six different tracks this year. “He’s been eating good and looking happy, but now we have to see what happens.”

Another Tampa Bay Downs trainer, Juan Arriagada, hoped to have his first Breeders’ Cup starter in Saturday’s $1-million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. But the connections were forced to scratch the 4-year-old daughter of Maclean’s Music due to an issue with her right foreleg.

It was a tough break for Estilo Talentoso and Arriagada, who had sold her to a partnership before her June 4 victory in the Grade 3 Bed o’Roses Stakes at Belmont Park while continuing to train her.

“It’s not easy to come from so far away (Delaware Park) and get scratched,” Arriagada said.

Estilo Talentoso is slated to be sold at Tuesday’s Fasig-Tipton auction in Lexington.

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