Tripoli a “Shore” Thing in Breeders’ Cup Classic

With our previous longshot Dr Post apparently not running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic let’s go back to the bench and find a suitable pinch hitter who has the ability to knock one out of the park.~ Steve Haskin

Tripoli a “Shore” Thing in Breeders’ Cup Classic?

By Steve Haskin

Now that it appears as if Dr Post will not run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic I will just take his jockey Irad Ortiz and transfer him onto another horse I believe could be a live longshot. And that is Tripoli, a horse who has a lot to recommend him, especially considering his success over the Del Mar surface.

One might look at Tripoli’s past performances and ask why it took so long to put a horse with an eight-race losing streak on grass in a dirt race and then discover he was a dirt horse all along.

Well, the answer might have been that he is by Kitten’s Joy, a champion grass horse who is a seven-time leading grass sire and has sired the winners of several Breeders’ Cup turf races and European classics. In addition he has made zero impact as a dirt sire.

But there is a reason why his offspring have made little or no impact on dirt and that is because no one ever runs them on dirt. One look at Kitten’s Joy as a sire and it’s automatically on the grass. And that no doubt is why trainer John Sadler kept running Tripoli in allowance grass races even though he was nothing more than mediocre and headed for an undistinguished career.

When you really look at it, though, Tripoli is out of a Tapit mare and that alone would seem like an inducement to try the dirt, especially if you have an allowance horse whose career doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Also, let’s remember that Kitten’s Joy’s sire El Prado, although a champion 2-year-old in Ireland and being by Sadler’s Wells, is the sire of Medaglia d’Oro, one of the top dirt horses of this century, who won the Travers, Whitney, Oaklawn Handicap, Donn Handicap, and three other graded stakes, while placing in the Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, Dubai World Cup, and Pacific Classic. At stud, Medaglia d’Oro has sired the great Rachel Alexandra, as well as top-class dirt fillies Songbird and Elate and a number of other major stakes winners on dirt. El Prado also is the sire of Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby in his dirt debut.

As for Tripoli, he had been turning in several outstanding works on dirt, including a powerful six-furlong drill in company in 1:12 4/5. But his move to the dirt after 11 grass races was by necessity, not by design.

“He needed to run and was working lights out (on dirt), but there were no turf races for him, only a dirt allowance race,” said co-owner Kosta Hronis. “So, boom, we were in and got a big surprise.”   In other words, genius often is achieved by accident.

As Sir Alexander Fleming, who was experimenting with the influenza virus, said when he returned from a two-week vacation, “What’s that mold growing?”

Now, I’m certainly not comparing the accidental discovery of penicillin with the discovery that Tripoli is a dirt horse, but John Sadler and the Hronis brothers are going to make a lot more money from their discovery than Fleming did. And their biggest payday could be in two weeks.

One thing about the Hronis horses, they age well, much like their grapes. In 2018 they had a horse named Accelerate, who appeared to be having a mediocre career, having won only four of his 15 starts for earnings of $786,000 and three stakes victories (two Grade 2 stakes and a listed stakes). Then, at age 5, he won five Grade 1 stakes and a Grade 2 stakes, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Pacific Classic for earnings of over $5 millon.

Could Tripoli be heading down that same path? He is going to have tough competition from Knicks Go, Essential Quality, Medina Spirit, Art Collector, Hot Rod Charlie, and Max Player, and has to make up eight lengths on Medina Spirit off his defeat at the hands of the Kentucky Derby winner in the Awesome Again Stakes.

But the Breeders’ Cup Classic looks to have a totally different script, with Tripoli having a much more favorable part.

Let’s go back to his rebirth this past June 19. He had ended his eight-race losing streak seven weeks earlier with a nose victory in an allowance race. It was only his second career victory in 11 starts, both by margins of a nose. It didn’t matter what distance Sadler ran him – five furlongs, 5 ½ furlongs, six furlongs, 6 ½ furlongs, one mile, 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles – it was all pretty much the same result. It was a forgettable career on the road to nowhere.

Then on June 19, Sadler was basically forced to try the dirt when he couldn’t find another allowance grass race, and lo and behold he scored a game half-length victory, with his Beyer speed figure jumping from an 88 to a 100 and his Thoro-Graph figure from a “6 ¾” to a “2 ½.”

Sent to Del Mar, he closed fast to finish second, beaten a half-length by graded stakes winner Express Train, in the grade 2 San Diego Handicap, despite breaking from the outside post and going four-wide on both turns. As it turned out the 1 1/16-mile distance was too short for him.

Stretching out to 1 ¼ miles in the grade 1 Pacific Classic, he again showed good tactical speed, this time from the inside. He was put to pressure around the far turn and just kept pouring it on. He was eased off the rail, ran right by Tizamagician nearing the eighth pole, and dew clear to win by 1 ¼ lengths, with a gap of 4 ½ lengths to the third horse. This time his Beyer number jumped to a 104 and his Thoro-Graph number to a “negative-½.”

Many will look at his fourth-place in the Awesome Again Stakes as the 5-2 second choice, beaten 8 ¼ lengths, as a reason to throw him out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If he couldn’t be competitive against Medina Spirit, how can he possibly reverse the tables on him and also defeat all those other top-class horses?

Well, first off, they are back at Del Mar. Medina Spirit will not be able to control the pace this time with the presence of three other brilliant pace horses – Knicks Go, Art Collector, and Hot Rod Charlie – all of whom want to be on or just off the pace. Knicks Go is by far the fastest horse in the race, but has never been 1 ¼ miles. Essential Quality, Tripoli, Max Player, and Idol as the only horses who have won going 10 furlongs, with Tripoli having already done it at Del Mar.

As for the Awesome Again, Tripoli raced so wide every step of the way he still received the same “negative-1/2” Thoro-Graph number he did in the Pacific Classic, which was only three-quarters of a point slower than Medina Spirit.

I am not saying I love Tripoli to win this race. He hasn’t been facing horses anywhere near the quality of the horses he’ll be facing in the Classic. I’m not even saying he can outclose Essential Quality and Max Player, the two horses who should be right with him behind the leaders in midpack. I am saying that if you are looking for a longshot who could be an overlay over his home track, over a distance at which he’s already won, and with a pace setup that should suit him, then he could be worth a play and certainly worth putting in the exotics. Sadler has proven he has the ability to get horses to peak at 4 and 5 and the switch from Pereira to Ortiz has to move him up. With only four starts on dirt, we really have no idea how high his ceiling is and how much more improvement he has in him.

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire


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