The determined head of Iridessa in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) prevented the internationals from going winless at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup.

Although a couple had tough trips, the biggest factor overall was how well, or poorly, they adapted to circumstances at Santa Anita.

Report Card:

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

The Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) was the first piece of evidence, as the European youngsters couldn’t cope with the sheer pace of Four Wheel Drive around a fast, turning five furlongs. Once out of their comfort zone early, they didn’t land much of a blow late either, with Dr Simpson faring best in fifth. While she had experience around a turn, so did seventh-placer Dream Shot, to no avail. The best international, A’Ali, was effectively beaten before he even got to the turn. He did not scramble into stride quickly enough, and that was about it for the usually forward type.

Looking ahead to the 2020 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, it’s worth remembering that Europeans had run third and fourth in the 2018 Juvenile Turf Sprint going 5 1/2 furlongs on a yielding course at Churchill Downs. And Europeans had swept the superfecta in the 2017 edition over five at Del Mar, before it became a Breeders’ Cup race. In other words, failure at Santa Anita need not necessarily translate to other venues.

At any rate, Wesley Ward’s juggernaut promised to make it tough on the internationals in the Juvenile Turf Sprint anyway, and his Kimari flew late to snatch fourth to stablemate Four Wheel Drive. By blitzing home in :10.94 according to Trakus, Kimari was the only one to break the 11-second barrier in the last furlong. She would have made a stronger impact with a more prominent trip, making her one to follow from this race.

Juvenile Turf Sprint International Runners

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
Dr Simpson (FR) 5815-1
Dream Shot (IRE) 7415-1
Alligator Alley (GB)8612-1
A’Ali (IRE)10106-1
King Neptune111115-1
Band Practice (IRE)12212-1

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

The more pointed European disappointment came in the Juvenile Turf (G1), where Arizona appeared to bring sterling credentials, not only on form, but aptitude for the trip on a lightning-quick surface. You can’t maximize your natural talent if you don’t break alertly, and that was his downfall from post 12. The Aidan O’Brien pupil actually has tactical speed that would have played here, in a relatively soft pace by American standards, but he wasn’t in position to use it. Instead, he found himself in a poor spot with Ryan Moore, and in the circumstances, did well to reel off his last eighth in :11.23 for a frantically closing fifth.

Adding to the frustration was the fact that stablemate Fort Myers, drawn even worse in post 13, was able to secure more sensible early position for Wayne Lordan – as did stablemate Etoile in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), from post 14, with Frankie Dettori. It didn’t help them, but Arizona surely could have used their trip.

Of course, Arizona wasn’t the only one compromised by a tough trip in the Juvenile Turf. The top domestic hope, Decorated Invader, was held up as far back, but stacked out hopelessly wide into the stretch. Thus his final quarter in :22.85 is particularly eye-catching in the context of his navigating 60 feet more than the victorious Structor, according to Trakus. A neck ahead of Arizona in the bunched-up finish in fourth, Decorated Invader also covered 30 feet more than his Irish rival, and brings considerable scope to develop in 2020.

Juvenile Turf International Runners

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
Decorated Invader444-1
Arizona (IRE)5125-2
Fort Myers71312-1

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

The two leading Europeans in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Daahyeh and Albigna, performed in keeping with the propensities described in my International Scouting Report on Daahyeh, a handy type who figured to prosper here, got rolling sooner than Albigna, who powered through her gears a little too late. Although they had to settle for second and fourth, respectively, to Sharing, both ran well. Albigna is by far the more attractive classic prospect, an impression renewed by the way she lengthened over the ground in :11.31. Etoile, who faded to 10th in just her second start back from a setback, also brings upside into next season for O’Brien. This excursion was probably more for the sake of experience than a true indicator of her ability.

Juvenile Fillies Turf International Runners

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
Daahyeh (GB)255-1
Albigna (IRE)499-2
Croughavouke (IRE)6220-1
Tango (IRE)8810-1
Shadn (IRE)9310-1
Unforgetable (IRE)13620-1
Living In The Past (IRE)14115-1

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Sprint & Classic

Only one international tackled the dirt on “Future Stars Friday,” and Japan’s Full Flat exceeded my expectations in fifth in the Juvenile (G1). In fact, he outperformed his much more accomplished stablemate in Saturday’s Sprint (G1), Matera Sky, who faded right back to last behind Mitole. As a turf sprint maiden winner, Full Flat looked up against it stretching out to two turns on dirt in a Breeders’ Cup race.

RELATED: International Scouting Reports: Breeders’ Cup Sprint

That’s just another data point in the strangeness of this year’s Juvenile – on a main track that contenders throughout the championships either handled or sank to oblivion. From Dennis’ Moment losing all chance with his stumbling start, and Eight Rings’ lackluster display, to the 45-1 Storm the Court and 28-1 Golden Gate turf debut romper Anneau d’Or fighting out the finish, it defies deciphering. One who ran less badly in the Juvenile than it first looked was Scabbard. Despite laboring a long way out and losing position, Scabbard came on again for fourth. That was vaguely similar to Elate’s fourth in the Classic (G1). She retreated a few spots before kicking on through a final quarter in :26.60 – second only to the conquering Vino Rosso’s :26.20.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Distaff & Turf Sprint

If Matera Sky failed to reproduce his best on Saturday, Korean star Blue Chipper rose to the occasion with a third in the Dirt Mile (G1). I’d wondered aloud in the International Scouting Report that his dominance over the deep, sandy tracks at home could be a pointer to his handling Santa Anita, and Flavien Prat wisely used his tactical speed to get him in the game early. Omaha Beach, unfortunately, was in a less desirable spot, and it testifies to his class that he found a :25.40 final quarter to rally for second. Spun to Run was not for catching, but had Omaha Beach taken up a more forward position, he probably would have.

The Distaff (G1) lacked a South American “Win and You’re In” participant, but the continent can take rightful pride in Argentine-bred winner Blue Prize. Yet Midnight Bisou lost no luster in her first defeat of the season, considering that she wasn’t traveling over the surface. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t foresee Blue Prize outmoving her on the backstretch and around the far turn. Indeed, Midnight Bisou might have willed her way into second on sheer class. Another deserving mention here is Dunbar Road, the only one to finish her last furlong in :13 and change aside from Blue Prize and Midnight Bisou. She was too far back to propel herself into a placing, but improved into to fifth.

The Turf Sprint (G1) was also devoid of internationally based runners, but Belvoir Bay supplied the foreign flavor. Aside from being a British expat, she brandished global form through her second to Blue Point in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night.

Breeders’ Cup Mile

The best “European” performances in the Mile (G1) likewise came courtesy of British imports based stateside. Chad Brown’s Uni delivered a devastating late kick to prevail, and stablemate Without Parole made a swashbuckling first start for the barn to get up for third. The Frankel colt ripped his last eighth almost as fast (:11.33 versus :11.29) as Uni. Had Without Parole gotten a prep in, rather than having to roll the dice off the bench, he might have had a shot at bridging the 2 3/4-length gap with the winner.

O’Brien’s Circus Maximus fared best of the European shippers, just deprived of third late by Without Parole, in a race that didn’t unfold well for him at all. As noted in the International Scouting Report, Circus Maximus is vulnerable to a sharper turn of foot over this kind of track. But I’d envisioned him working out a trip closer to the pace that would enable him to put his stamina into play. That notion was out the window when Circus ended up midpack early – for a horse who’s excelled with forward trips over the stiffer miles of Europe, he was simply never going to do his best from that position here. Fellow Euro Hey Gaman scorched himself up in a pace war with El Tormenta, while the deep-closing Lord Glitters, as feared, simply didn’t have time to wind up on such a short stretch.

Mile International Runners

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
*Uni (GB)1117-2
*Without Parole (GB)3620-1
Circus Maximus (IRE)493-1
Hey Gaman (GB)71312-1
Space Traveller (GB)8312-1
Lord Glitters (FR)91212-1
True Valour (IRE)10520-1
Trais Fluors (GB)11420-1
* = domestic

Breeders’ Cup Turf

The Turf (G1) held out the promise of a clash between U.S. Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar and O’Brien’s Epsom Derby (G1) hero Anthony Van Dyck, but it didn’t materialize. The Ballydoyle sophomore was still trying to negotiate a passage, put briefly on hold in the stretch, and the loss of momentum came at the decisive point. Bricks and Mortar was in the process of asserting his class, and as he prevailed in a dogfight with the unlikely United, Anthony Van Dyck couldn’t gather enough momentum. That’s not to say that Anthony would have served up a meaningful challenge to Bricks and Mortar, but his margin of defeat would probably have been fewer than 1 1/4 lengths if not for his stop-start passage.

The O’Brien runner most missed here was Japan, hero of the Juddmonte International (G1) over Crystal Ocean and a better-than-appears fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). In his absence, Anthony Van Dyck performed honorably in defeat, and second-stringer Mount Everest quickened for sixth despite a poor start. Both are eligible to do well next year, but Japan continues to hold the greatest interest.

The other two internationals in the Turf threw in markedly contrasting efforts. Godolphin’s Old Persian, who over-raced behind the slow early tempo, backpedaled to 11th. Look for him to rebound in the friendly confines of Meydan. The surprise package was Germany’s Alounak. Hard ridden turning for home, he dashed up the inside in fifth, beaten a shade more than two lengths.

Although Anthony Van Dyck met with ideal conditions on paper, he did not meet an ideal passage in running against an exceptional American in Bricks and Mortar. Fellow Irish shipper Iridessa, however, met her ideal conditions both in theory and in reality, and when her exceptional rival, defending champion Sistercharlie, underperformed, the Filly & Mare Turf was ripe for the taking.

Turf International Runners

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
Anthony Van Dyck353-1
Alounak (FR)5720-1
Mount Everest (IRE)6415-1
Old Persian (GB)11104-1

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Aside from history-making trainer Joseph O’Brien, a large share of the credit goes to Lordan, who made sure to work out the right trip. Lordan hustled Iridessa from her rail post into a stalking third, so she was on the premises to offer her challenge as Vasilika pounced. Iridessa also uncorked a field-fastest :22.83 final quarter, but her early position was key to making her acceleration count.

In contrast, fellow Euros Fanny Logan (:23.15 while covering 71 feet more than the winner from post 10) and Just Wonderful (:22.99) rallied smartly for fourth and fifth, but had too much to do. French-based sophomores Villa Marina and Castle Lady were done in by a far faster pace, on the fastest ground, that they’d ever encountered.

Sistercharlie wasn’t able to make up as much ground as usual, but soldiered on for third. It turned out that Santa Anita didn’t suit her as much after all – another reminder that however outstanding one’s form is in the abstract, it has to be replicated in concrete circumstances.

The trick is identifying whether the conditions are right in advance. That will be a whole new discussion for contenders, both foreign and domestic, going into the 2020 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

Filly & Mare Turf

HorseFinish PositionPPML Odds
Iridessa (IRE)118-1
Fanny Logan41215-1
Just Wonderful51120-1
Villa Marina (GB)798-1
Billesdon Brook (GB)8410-1
Castle Lady (IRE)1088-1

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