December 11, 2023

Breeders’ Cup berths on line in rescheduled Pilgrim, Miss Grillo

Gala Brand wins the With Anticipation (Photo by Adam Coglianese/Credit Chelsea Durand)

Triple Espresso, who made a notable impression with a rallying second in his debut in the Kitten’s Joy S. at Colonial Downs on Sept. 9, figures to get another long look from bettors on Wednesday in the $200,000 Pilgrim (G2) at Aqueduct.

The 1 1/16-mile Pilgrim, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Juvenile Turf (G1), is joined on the midweek card by the $200,000 Miss Grillo (G2) for two-year-old fillies, a Challenge prep for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Those two stakes, and the entire Wednesday program, was originally scheduled for Oct. 1, but torrential, flooding rains in New York last week forced NYRA to re-schedule them for what is normally a dark day on the circuit.

Although forecasted to be considerably dryer leading up to Wednesday, the amount of rain the turf course absorbed last week was significant and unlikely anywhere near firm.

A son of Omaha Beach, Triple Espresso had just one horse out of 13 beaten with a furlong to go in the Kitten’s Joy, but turned on the afterburners to pass all save the winning Tok Tok, who scored by 1 1/4 lengths.

Triple Espresso is joined by stablemate Agate Road, who turned in a similar style performance to break his maiden by a neck at Saratoga on Sept. 2. That followed a debut second by a nose in an off-the-turf event the previous month.

“He got a very wide trip, which maybe turned out to be a blessing with all that was going on at the eighth pole,” Pletcher said of Agate Road. “Turning for home, I thought he had way too much to do, and he really kicked in late.”

Also entered in the Pilgrim are Spirit Prince and Get Spooled, the respective third- and fourth-place finishers in the With Anticipation (G3)., while Tifareeh and Fulmineo step off last-out maiden wins at Kentucky Downs and Colonial Downs, respectively.

Gala Brand, the filly winner of the With Anticipation, will instead start in the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo, which has come up a highly contentious race on paper.

Last-out graduates Gold Lightning, Life’s an Audible, Hard to Justify, Camila T, Memorialize, and Whimsically are all plausible contenders, and so are some fillies that came up short on debut, including the Chad Brown-trained Steel Lute.

The only other with previous stakes experience is Dancing Spirit, who exits a distant third in the off-the-turf P.G. Johnson S. most recently but broke her maiden on the grass two back.