Following are notes from the official Breeders' Cup Notes Team at Churchill Downs on the Calder-based horses entered in this weekend's Championships:
Jessica Is Back/First Passage - Trainer Marty Wolfson will have mixed emotions after the Filly & Mare Sprint no matter how Jessica Is Back fares in the race. After her performance on Friday, she will be paraded in the sales ring at the Night of Stars on Sunday at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale in Lexington.
"Yes it will be bittersweet," Wolfson said. "I really want to keep her, but she will be in that sale no matter what."
A lifetime earner of almost $800,000 from 45 starts, the Farnsworth Stables color-bearer has two wins, two seconds, and two thirds in 2010. Wolfson has trained her in only 15 of those starts after claiming her for $50,000 in April 2009.
"I claimed her after watching her run so many times," he said. "I liked the way she ran, but I also wanted her as a broodmare."
The 6yo mare has been idle since finishing third behind Filly & Mare Sprint morning line favorite Rightly So in the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on August 28th, but Wolfson said that Jessica is Back is in fine form for Friday. She is scheduled to gallop 1 1/2 m Thursday morning.
Her stablemate First Passage, a $1.2 million yearling purchase, was also pre-entered in the race, but she is second on the also-eligible list so Wolfson will start her in the Chilukki Stakes on Friday's undercard.
"It's very disappointing because I really wanted to run her in the Breeders' Cup along with Jessica," said Wolfson, who will also put First Passage in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale.
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Awesome Feather - In 2009, trainer Stanley Gold trained the Jacks or Better Farms' 2yo colt Jackson Bend to a sweep of the Florida Stallion series at Calder. Jackson Bend didn't make the Breeders' Cup, but the undefeated freshman filly Awesome Feather, who has followed a similar path for the same connections, has.
"Jackson didn't go (to the Breeders' Cup) because we didn't want to travel to California and run off a three-week layoff," Gold said. "People knocked his credentials, but this year (after a private sale) he was beaten only 1 ½ lengths in the Preakness. This year, the naysayers are knocking our filly's pedigree and her competition. We hope she's as good as we think she is. Friday's (Juvenile Fillies) will be the real acid test."
Awesome Feather is perfect from five starts, and was last seen winning her two-turn debut in the restricted My Dear Girl Stakes at Calder by 8 ¼ lengths.
"We've had high hopes all along," Gold said. "She's stepped up each time. We thought after the second Stallion Stakes (Aug. 28) that she might be Breeders' Cup caliber. We were confident she'd be at her best around two turns, and she did nothing to change our minds last time out."
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Big Drama - Trainer David Fawkes sent his contender for the Sprint out for a 1m gallop on Wednesday morning and pronounced the 4yo colt in fine order for race day.
Yet Fawkes know that the field is highly competitive and having the disadvantage of the far inside post won't make things any easier.
"It's tough. This will be his toughest race yet, but I think he's doing super," he said.
Big Drama raced last on Sept. 4 in the Forego Stakes at Saratoga, when after stumbling at the gate, he led into deep stretch and the dug in for the place. In 15 career starts he has competed at seven different tracks and amassed more than $1.5 million in earnings. The Sprint will be his first time racing on the Churchill Downs surface but his trainer isn't concerned.
"He doesn't need to take his track with him," Fawkes said before watching some of Big Drama's competition train on the racing strip. "He runs over anything."