Breeders' Cup International Horse Profile: Acanella

December 30th, 2021

Filly & Mare Turf

Although Acanella doesn’t sport the resume usually associated with Juddmonte’s Breeders’ Cup stars, the blueblood sophomore has progressed since beginning her career in April. And distance could be the key to further improvement.

By Dansili, sire of Filly & Mare Turf winners Dank (2013) and Queen’s Trust (2016), Acanella is a three-quarter sister to champion Flintshire, who was twice runner-up in both the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and the Turf. Her dam is a daughter of Oasis Dream and Group 2 heroine Dance Routine, who is herself a full sister to the dam of the great Enable, a two-time Arc queen as well as the 2018 Turf victress.

Acanella is trained by Ger Lyons, who developed Juddmonte’s Siskin into a top juvenile and a classic winner until his anticlimactic finale in the 2020 Mile. The filly needed more time to emerge as a Group performer, but she was long highly regarded by connections, according to

Debuting over a mile at Leopardstown Apr. 14, Acanella stalked and pounced to win well as the 2-1 favorite. She went straight to the Irish 1000 Guineas Trial (G3) over the same track and trip, but wound up a non-threatening eighth behind front-running Joan of Arc. Acanella did make a brief move out wide from last, though, before flattening.

After a two-month break, the blaze-faced bay lowered her sights at Naas July 3 and added a tongue tie. Acanella again advanced from last, but this time sustained her bid for the length of the stretch. The 7-2 chance did her best work late in the seven-furlong affair and missed by a head to Storm Legend, who will continue his career in Hong Kong.

Acanella wheeled back for the Cairn Rouge at Killarney, but she failed to land a blow going about a mile around the sharp left-handed circuit. At the back of the 15-filly field, the 10-1 shot angled to the outside and crossed the wire in ninth.

The Aug. 11 Hurry Harriet at Gowran Park gave her an opportunity at about 1 3/16 miles, only to endure a messy stretch run. Caught behind horses going nowhere, Acanella made belated headway in a dead-heat sixth at 8-1. The finish was fought out between older pace factors Solene Lilyette and Astadash (the next-out winner of a Group 3 at the same course and distance).

Acanella put it together to spring a 16-1 upset in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Fairy (G3) at the Curragh, thanks to a tactical tweak by regular rider Colin Keane. After settling into stride further back, Keane had her advance earlier into striking range. Acanella then switched off again, in much better position to offer a meaningful rally. She didn’t keep her head straight when organizing herself, but it didn’t matter as she punched on strongly to beat classy (if off-form) veteran Champers Elysees, and turn the tables on Solene Lilyette.

The combination of stepping up in class, and down in trip, for the “Win and You’re In” Matron (G1) back at Leopardstown proved too much. Again last early, the 10-1 shot could not accelerate enough against milers. To be fair, she checked and lost momentum when Empress Josephine, the eventual fourth, came over on her. But Acanella wasn’t exactly gaining at the time, and even if she could have finished a bit closer than seventh, it’s doubtful she would have made the superfecta.

Acanella is eligible to find more on the stretch-out to 1 3/8 miles, especially with a solid pace on a quick surface. Whether she can mobilize in time on Del Mar’s tight track is another question, on top of the class test. But she has the profile of a filly who’s yet to reach her potential.