News and STORIES

Gretzky the Great Receives Breeder’s Cup Berth with Summer Stakes Victory

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Tuesday September 22, 2020
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Gretzky the Great pushed ahead to score the Sept. 20, CA$280,500 (US$212,452) Summer Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine. The victory awarded the runner a spot in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Gretzky the Great was joined by jockey Kazushi Kimura and is trained by Mark Casse. He stalked the pace early behind Ready to Repeat, who was at the front of the field through fractions of :24.10 and :47.82 for the first half-mile.

Ready to Repeat and jockey Luis Contreras held a comfortable pace along the rail through the backstretch and continued to do so into the turn. Gretzky the Great sat in second, and he stayed in the two path as they went into the stretch.

Gretzky the Great pushed forward and targeted Ready to Repeat, and they went head-to-head going for the wire. Gretzky the Great pulled away, taking a half-length lead. 

As the two moved closer to the finish line, Kimura moved back toward the rail as the two continued to fight. By the end, Gretzky the Great had a clear lead and finished 3 1/4 lengths in front. 

He finished the mile in 1:34.53, and Ready to Repeat finished one length ahead of Dolder Grand in second. American Monarch followed in fourth. 

First Grade 1 Win for Kimura

The Summer Stakes was Kimura’s first grade 1 victory.

“He is such an amazing horse,” said Kimura. “He's an easy horse—I mean to control. If I want to do something, I can do anything. When I came to the final turn then come through the final stretch, he had a tremendous explosion. He sometimes was a little bit lugging in, but he's just still a baby."

Contreras filed a complaint against Gretzky the Great after the race, claiming foul in the stretch. The claim was dismissed after a stewards’ inquiry, keeping the end results. 

Coming Into the Race

Gretzky the Great came into the Summer Stakes following a victory in the Aug. 23 Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine. 

With his Summer Stakes win, the 2-year-old son of Nyquist was awarded an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T), which will run on Nov. 6 at Keeneland. 

Kimura has been Gretzky the Great’s jockey in the runner’s last four starts.

"First time out, it was only five furlongs on the (Woodbine inner) turf, then when he won the first time, I was like, 'Oh, that will be a stakes horse for the future," said Kimura. "And then winning a stakes and now a grade 1, he's such a nice horse." 

With his victory, Gretzky the Great became the second grade 1 winner for Nyquist. The other was his daughter Vequist, who won the Spinaway Stakes (G1) Sept. 6 at Saratoga Race Course. 

Gretzky the Great was bred in Ontario by Anderson Farms, and he was offered in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearlings Sale by his breeder. However, he did not reach his reserve on a final bid of $295,000. The impressive runner has scored three of his four starts, and he has earnings of $252,205. 

Natalma Stakes

In another top performance on Sept. 20, Lady Speightspeare struggled at the starting gate before easily defeating six others in the CA$253,000 (US$191,623) Natalma Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine. 

With her victory, the 2-year-old was awarded an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) Nov. 6 at Keeneland. The event was part of the Breeder’ Cup Challenge Series. 

"That's always nice to see," trainer Roger Attfield said. "When you break your maiden and you're going into a race like this off of going wire-to-wire, you really haven't had any education or anything going into something like this, so it was nice to see that for sure." 

As for going to the Breeders’ Cup, it “would be up to Mr. Fipke, and I would say knowing Mr. Fipke, we probably are,” Attfield said.