Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Safe Voyage

December 31st, 2020

Better than ever as a seven-year-old, Safe Voyage has developed from handicapper to Group 1 performer. His tactical speed as primarily a 7-furlong type in Europe, combined with habitual proficiency around left-handed courses, suggests he can bring his “A” game to Keeneland for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

North Yorkshire-based trainer John Quinn has nurtured the Irish-bred throughout his career, since sourcing him at the Doncaster (now Goffs UK) Premier Yearling Sale for £52,000. Safe Voyage’s pedigree didn’t leap off the page. By Fast Company, best known in the Americas for siring Robert Bruce, he is out of the multiple stakes-placed Mujadil mare Shishangaan.

Safe Voyage plied his trade in ordinary handicaps for a few seasons. But he turned the corner in his limited 2018 campaign by winning a couple of better handicaps at Haydock and Galway.

Making the transition to stakes company in 2019, Safe Voyage burst through to land the Spring Trophy back at Haydock and added the John of Gaunt (G3) over the same track and 7-furlong trip. In both, he beat Suedois, the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Mile fourth.

Safe Voyage took another step up in class for last summer’s The Minstrel (G2) over 7 furlongs at the Curragh, where he was a closing third to multiple Group 1 winner Romanised in 1:22.07. After a grinding third in the Hungerford (G2) at Newbury, Safe Voyage made his first Group 1 attempt the 2019 Prix de la Foret (G1), finding himself one-paced at a key stage but then picking up for fourth behind One Master.

A 40-1 longshot in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) on heavy going on Champions Day, Safe Voyage outperformed his odds with a respectable third. He was anchored much further back than usual in the straight mile contest, but stayed on relentlessly to make the frame behind King of Change and The Revenant (who just won the Oct. 17 renewal of the QEII). That was a fine conclusion to his breakout season, but even more was to come.

Safe Voyage kicked off 2020 with a title defense in the June 7 Spring Trophy. Although he suffered his first Haydock loss when edged by Space Blues, he lost no stature. Space Blues had the benefit of a warm-up run at the Dubai Carnival, and the classy Godolphin runner was commencing a four-race winning streak that culminated in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1).

Rebounding as the 6-5 favorite in a course-record Surrey on Derby Day at Epsom, Safe Voyage closed off a hot pace to clock 7 furlongs in 1:19.88. He did not enjoy so good a trip in the Lennox (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. Safe Voyage endured a lock-up on the inside (like Kameko suffered in the Sussex), with the difference that he did offer a belated spurt to grab fourth to familiar foe Space Blues.

A new career high came next out in the City of York (G2), turning the tables on Foret star One Master by a resounding 3 1/2 lengths. It was a clever ride by regular pilot Jason Hart, taking the initiative in a race lacking an obvious front runner, but there was nothing opportunistic about how Safe Voyage kicked further away from One Master in the final furlong.

Safe Voyage came right back to score in the mile Boomerang (G2) during Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. Getting the jump on Sinawann, he outdueled that talented Aga Khan colt to get the head-bob on the line, with Vatican City (who had been runner-up to Siskin in the Irish Guineas) a distant third.

Back to Paris for another crack at One Master in her pet race, the Foret on Arc Day, Safe Voyage could not deny her unprecedented three-peat. But he performed considerably better than last year in a close third. Safe Voyage stalked Earthlight, again hit a flat spot as he did in his previous visit to Longchamp, then finished with renewed energy to miss by a grand total of a half-length.

Quinn deliberately skipped another try at the QEII on Champions Day in order to have Safe Voyage at his best for the Breeders’ Cup. Adept at securing good early position, the enthusiastic stalker has historically preferred a bit of ease in the ground, although he’s gotten better at handling quicker surfaces. Keeneland in early November should be ideal.