Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Tarnawa

December 31st, 2020

A perfect 3-for-3 this campaign, Tarnawa is fulfilling the promise she’d shown from the beginning. And Irish horseman Dermot Weld just tabbed her as “unquestionably” his best chance of scoring an elusive first Breeders’ Cup win.

The Aga Khan’s homebred is by the influential Shamardal, who likely supplies needed speed to her stamina-laden dam Tarana. That Cape Cross mare was twice a stakes winner in the vicinity of 1 1/2 miles, notably beating males in the 2014 Martin Molony, and she also placed third in the 1 3/4-mile Curragh Cup (G3).

Tarnawa placed in all three starts as a juvenile in 2018, including a debut third to future dual classic winner Hermosa and a runner-up effort in a listed stakes at Navan. Up in trip to 1 1/4 miles in her sophomore bow, Tarnawa promptly broke her maiden at Leopardstown.

Next in the Salsabil at Navan, Tarnawa was on hold in the stretch before splitting foes to take third to Pink Dogwood. But it wasn’t a hard-luck story, for she looked a tad dour compared to Pink Dogwood, then the 2019 Oaks (G1) favorite.

Although Tarnawa raised her game to beat 4-year-old Who’s Steph in the Blue Wind (G3) at Naas, she again shaped like one needing further when all out to force her neck in front on the line. A step up to 1 1/2 miles appeared just what Tarnawa wanted, but it turned out that she wanted no part of Epsom’s idiosyncrasies as she was a too-bad-to- be-true 11th in the Oaks.

Weld freshened her up for the 1 1/2-mile Give Thanks (G3) at Cork, expecting her to thrive on the flat track, and Tarnawa rebounded with a decisive display. Relaxing well back early, she cruised closer, neared the vanguard while still on the bridle, and surged once set down in earnest.

Tarnawa successfully turned back in trip for the 1 1/4-mile Blandford (G2) during Irish Champions Weekend, attending the pace and punching early to make maximum use of her stamina. She ended the season on an anticlimactic note in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) at Ascot, where she retreated to ninth. Thus the only two unplaced efforts of her career came in Great Britain.

After a long 3-year-old campaign that might have left its mark on her by Champions Day, Weld deliberately mapped 2020 out to concentrate on the fall. The expectation was that Tarnawa would be like her dam, in reaching her peak as a 4-year-old – only she’s a lot better.

Resurfacing to defend her title in the Aug. 8 Give Thanks back at Cork, Tarnawa was the 8-1 third choice because she was spotting 10 pounds, and recency, to the classic-placed sophomores Cayenne Pepper (Filly & Mare Turf) and Passion. Neither of those points mattered as Tarnawa swept past them to win handily.

In the Prix Vermeille (G1) on Arc trials day at Longchamp, Tarnawa again bided her time off the pace, traveled smoothly into striking position, delivered the coup de grace, and gapped a quality field by three lengths. Favored Raabihah, along for second, would go on to run a decent fifth in the Arc, while Vermeille fifth Wonderful Tonight has since won two straight Group 1s (the Prix de Royallieu and Oct. 17 British Champions Fillies & Mares).

Tarnawa opted for the Prix de l’Opera (G1) on Arc Day rather than the main event. Revealing just how far she’d progressed from last year, she turned in the most dynamic 1 1/4-mile performance of her career. The tepid pace on heavy ground played into the hands of the forwardly placed, but Tarnawa still mowed them down from far back – the outstanding 3-year-old filly Alpine Star, Audarya (Filly & Mare Turf), and hitherto unbeaten Tawkeel.

Her Opera “Win and You’re In” ticket made the Filly & Mare Turf an option, if not for the fact that Tarnawa would have to shorten up to 1 3/16 miles. Thus Weld mentioned it only if the ground were soft enough to make it a stiffer test.

Otherwise, the Turf is a better fit distance-wise, so that’s where she has landed. She’s won on every type of ground, and judging by how she acts around Cork (albeit right-handed), a flat track like Keeneland ought to bring out the best in her.