LEXINGTON, Ky. — Bettors were lukewarm to Wonder Wheel in Friday’s $1.84 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland after she had staggered home first in last month’s track-and-distance Alcibiades (G1) after leading all the way. That proved a mistake.
Showing a completely different style of running, Wonder Wheel rallied from near the back of the pack in the final half-mile to post an authoritative win while providing jockey Tyler Gaffalione his first Breeders’ Cup win.
“She’s usually close. I thought ‘I can’t believe she’s not running.’ She’s tough,” trainer Mark Casse said.
Wonder Wheel broke tardily in the 1 1/16-mile event and had just two rivals beaten in the field of 13 through the opening six furlongs. However, she was able to save ground and began to find a number of openings as she advanced into contention around the far turn.
“She didn’t break very well. I got pushed back a little further than I wanted to be,” Gaffalione said. “But when she broke her maiden, she took dirt and went in between horses and I wasn’t too concerned (today). Spots kept opening up inside so I just going forward and it just worked out.”
Getting off the inside to go around horses in the short stretch, Wonder Wheel easily sped past Spinaway (G1) winner Leave No Trace to win by three lengths. Raging Sea rallied for third and was followed by Sabra Tuff, You’re My Girl, Grand Love, Atomically, And Tell Me Nolies, Alma Rosa, Vegas Magic, Shoplifter, Chocolate Gelato, and 2-1 favorite Chop Chop.
Owned by D. J. Stable, Wonder Wheel covered one lap of the fast Keeneland track in 1:44.90 and paid $15.
Wonder Wheel will enter winter quarters with a 4-for-5 record. A winner of her first two starts, including the Debutante S. at Churchill Downs by 6 3/4 lengths, Wonder Wheel endured her only loss to date when second in the Spinaway (G1) behind Leave No Trace. A mild 4-1 favorite in the Alcibiades, Wonder Wheel just lasted by a nose over Chop Chop.
“There was lots of doubt (that we would win) probably the entire race given the way she has run in the past,” Casse said. “She is just a really good horse. She is just special and now she is going to be champion.”
Bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm and Clearsky Farm, Wonder Wheel sold for $275,000 at Keeneland September. By Into Mischief, she was produced by the multiple stakes-winning Wonder Gal, a daughter of Tiz Wonderful whose four Grade 1 placings included a third in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.
The Juvenile Fillies was a point-scoring opportunity for the 2023 Kentucky Oaks (G1). Wonder Wheel earned 30 points, boosting her total to 40. Leave No Trace earned 12 points and now has a total of 15, while Raging Sea earned nine points for a total of 11. Sabra Tuff earned six points and now has seven in total, while You’re My Girl boosted her total from four to seven.