Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Glass Slippers

December 31st, 2020

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Although Glass Slippers has not won since Keeneland last November, the defending Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champion has run well in three outings this term. The fall has been her time to shine for the past couple of years, suggesting that she could have another solid effort up her sleeve.

The Bearstone Stud homebred is by five-time Group 1 champion Dream Ahead, who closed his career by edging Goldikova in the 2011 Prix de la Foret (G1). Glass Slippers gets even more speed from her dam, a daughter of five-furlong specialist Mind Games.

A useful juvenile who won two of five starts in 2018, including a round left-handed Chester, Glass Slippers improved markedly through the second half of her sophomore campaign. She scored a breakthrough in the about six-furlong Prix Moonlight Cloud at Deauville, then excelled on the cutback to five furlongs. After storming from the rear to get up in the 2019 Prix du Petit Couvert (G3) at ParisLongchamp, she starred in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on Arc Day over the same course and distance – but with a twist. Glass Slippers surprisingly ended up on the lead and dominated by three lengths, on very soft going that wasn’t supposed to suit.

As a four-year-old in 2020, Glass Slippers again peaked later in the season. She was a ring-rusty fifth behind Battaash in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot, but moved forward next out to finish second to the same superstar in the King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. Glass Slippers was ready to fire in the Flying Five (G1) at the Curragh, where she stalked and stayed on to earn her ticket to Keeneland. On the way, though, she mounted a title defense in the Abbaye and just missed by a neck on heavy going.

Glass Slippers thus arrived at last year’s Turf Sprint in outstanding form, but confronted by the stat that no European shipper had managed to win. That turned out to be a red herring in her case, and she proved great value at 10-1. Working out an ideal ground-saving trip off the pace, and muscling between foes in the stretch, Glass Slippers burst through to end the European shut-out by a half-length. Others were not so fortunate, including the close fourth Extravagant Kid, who endured a wide trip from post 14.

Kept in training as a five-year-old, Glass Slippers got a belated start to her 2021 campaign. Ryan intended her to resurface at Royal Ascot, interestingly in the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee (G1) rather than the King’s Stand over five, but a pulled muscle ruled her out. Thus Glass Slippers was not seen until the July 30 King George, and her 22-1 odds reflected her need for the race. Yet she placed a creditable third to the race-fit sophomores Suesa and Dragon Symbol. Ranging into contention until tiring late, she fared best of the older brigade, ahead of an aging Battaash in his career finale.

Glass Slippers improved off that tightener in the Sept. 12 Flying Five back at the Curragh, where she was beaten less than a length in her repeat bid. The 7-2 chance traveled well just behind the leaders and struck the front, only to be outfinished by the 16-1 Romantic Proposal and longshot A Case of You.

Judging by her pattern from the prior year, the third start off the layoff should have been the charm. Heavy ground in the Oct. 3 Abbaye, however, clouded that hypothesis. Glass Slippers was characteristically game, boxing on in a distant third behind A Case of You, and turning the tables on Suesa. For whatever it’s worth, she had gone a lot closer in similar conditions last fall.

Glass Slippers commands respect in her 2021 title defense, but circumstances still pose a question. While she put her best foot forward in the 5 1/2-furlong scramble at Keeneland, the Del Mar version is a half-furlong shorter, on even quicker ground. And she’d need to enjoy a similar trip in a race that can require luck. At the risk of underestimating her win chances (as I did a year ago), she could be in the hunt for the minors rather than adding her name to the two-time Breeders’ Cup honor roll.

As one of the elite 5-furlong performers on the European scene, Glass Slippers deserves the chance to advertise her form in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. The hesitation is that international shippers have historically failed to reproduce their best in this turning sprint, and the best of the division, Battaash, would have brought a more compelling argument to override the daunting stat.

Trained by Kevin Ryan, whose only other Breeders’ Cup starter was 2018 Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) runner-up East, Glass Slippers is by a European champion sprinter in Dream Ahead. Her dam, the Mind Games mare Night Gypsy, is also responsible for Group 3-placed stakes winner Electric Feel.

The Bearstone Stud homebred was third to future Princess Margaret (G3) victress Angel’s Hideaway in her juvenile debut at Haydock, then a traffic-dogged sixth to Feel Glorious (now a multiple stakes winner in New York) at Goodwood.

Glass Slippers prevailed in her next two in that summer of 2018. After dropping to 5 furlongs to take a Beverley novice by daylight, she handled 6 furlongs around a left-handed turn well in a Chester conditions race, picking up late to score by a neck. Glass Slippers wasn’t as effective over a straight 6 furlongs on heavy in the Firth of Clyde (G3), where she made progress before retreating to sixth.

A non-threatening 14th in the 7-furlong Fred Darling (G3) in her 2019 bow (where she lost both front shoes), Glass Slippers cut back to six furlongs in the Cecil Frail at Haydock. She finished a better fifth to Forever in Dreams, who went on to place in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) and British Champions Sprint (G1). Glass Slippers reverted to five furlongs and stayed on strongly to miss by a neck in the Land O’Burns Fillies’ S. back at Ayr.

Stepping up once more to six furlongs, Glass Slippers had mixed results. She was in the hunt in York’s Summer (G3) before fading and barely salvaging fourth behind Royal Intervention, the eventual winner of the Goldene Peitsche (G2) over older males. Glass Slippers had better luck seeing out the trip at Deauville in the Prix Moonlight Cloud, where she seized command and bravely lasted in her first stakes win.

But it was shortening up into a 5-furlong specialist that was the making of her, in concert with physical improvement over the course of her sophomore season. In last September’s Prix du Petit Couvert (G3) at ParisLongchamp, Glass Slippers roared from the tail of the field to spring the upset, edging Shades of Blue who’d beaten her at York.

Very soft going was expected to be her undoing over the same course and distance in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on 2019 Arc Day, but the rampant improver surprised even her connections. Uncharacteristically going to the early lead, Glass Slippers scampered away by three lengths at 12-1, as the odds-on Battaash was never in it.

When Glass Slippers and Battaash both returned to action in the June 16 King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot, the veteran gelding was back to his best, and the filly had yet to find hers. Thus Battaash careered away, and Glass Slippers checked in fifth behind him and his stablemate Equilateral. They met again in the July 31 King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. Battaash held sway for the fourth straight year, in a course-record :55.62, and Glass Slippers took a step forward in a hard-trying second.

Again peaking toward the fall, Glass Slippers regained the winning thread in the “Win and You’re In” Flying Five (G1) on Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh. She was nestled just behind the leaders on the inside before keeping on determinedly to prevail from a trio of outsiders, with Equilateral a slow-starting sixth.

Glass Slippers was favored to repeat in the Oct. 4 Abbaye after Battaash opted to avoid the heavy ground, and she came up just a neck shy. Always prominent from post 10, she was denied by Wooded, who might have benefited from being on the rail.

For Glass Slippers to transfer this form to Keeneland, she’ll need to break alertly – and not relapse into a leisurely start. If her Chester win from ages ago is any indication, she might be able to do herself justice, but chances are it would take a Battaash-like character to end the European shut-out.