Breeders' Cup July 8 Divisional Update: Turf Races
The path to the Breeders’ Cup turf races has taken major strides in June, with Royal Ascot, the Belmont Stakes carnival, European classics, and top Japanese events grabbing headlines.
Since the last TwinSpires Edge Breeders’ Cup divisional update there have been nine Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on turf, and though many winners won’t take their place at Keeneland, enough happened in these and other major races to warrant attention from a Breeders’ Cup perspective.
As always with the turf races, there’s a question mark about which overseas horses will make the journey to North America. Keeping that in mind, here’s a look at where the turf races stand.
2021 Turf winner Yibir regained some prestige lost in a couple of surprise defeats with victory in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes (G2) at Newmarket. It was comfortable enough, but he still didn’t look quite as impressive as he did at the end of last year. However, unlike some of his European rivals, he is more likely than not to be aimed at the race.
Breeders’ Cup Challenge races for the 1 1/2-mile Turf held in the past month included the Grande Premio Brasil (G1), won by Nautilus, the Takarazuka Kinen (G1), taken out by Titleholder, and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, won by State of Rest.
It’s unclear if Nautilus will head north, but the other two are unlikely runners. Titleholder is expected to leave Japan but his target is probably the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) in early October, and while the Irish-trained State of Rest has scored at Grade 1 level in the United States, he hasn’t raced past 1 5/16 miles and his Australian connections seem more inclined to defend his 1 1/4-mile Cox Plate (G1) title in Melbourne.
Last year’s Turf runner-up Broome was back to his best with an all-the-way victory in the Hardwicke (G2) at Royal Ascot. Other older horses to impress in Europe around 1 1/2 miles include Coronation Cup (G1) winner Hukum, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) heroine Alpinista, and last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Torquator Tasso, who won the Hansa-Preis (G2) in early July.
The European Classics for colts also produced three high-quality winners: Desert Crown, a very easy winner of the Derby (G1) at Epsom; Westover, a slightly unlucky third at Epsom who then won the Irish Derby (G1) easily; and Vadeni, who followed his Prix du Jockey Club (G1) victory by beating older horses in the Eclipse (G1). The latter’s victories were around 1 1/4 miles, so his stamina isn’t proven.
In North America, the most notable prep race for the Turf in June was the Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park, won by Tribhuvan under a great front-running ride by Manny Franco. Among those he left behind were Man o’ War (G1) winner Highland Chief and runner-up Gufo, along with Santin and Adhamo, both of whom finished ahead of him in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
At the last update, the leading turf milers in the world were Baaeed in Europe, Regal Glory in North America, Golden Sixty in Hong Kong, and Songline in Japan. Nothing has happened to change that.
Two Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifiers for the $2 million Mile were run in June. In the first, Songline reproduced the form that earned her the 1351 Sprint (G3) at Riyadh in February in the Yasuda Kinen (G1), holding off old rival Schnell Meister. Given that she’s travelled outside Japan before, she has some prospect of leaving home for Keeneland in November, though she has a more valuable race at home in the $3 million Mile Championship (G1) in Japan in November.
The second qualifier was the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, in which Baaeed stretched his unbeaten record to eight. On current form he would be a prohibitive favorite for the Mile, but it is by no means certain he would make the trip.
Even less likely to be at Keeneland is Golden Sixty, who has the $3.8 million Hong Kong Mile on his doorstep a month after the Breeders’ Cup. His connections have shown no inclination to travel, and as a gelding he doesn’t have any stud value that a Breeders’ Cup victory could enhance.
In the U.S., Regal Glory continued her winning ways by taking out the Just a Game (G1). She looks the best turf miler in North America; to date trainer Chad Brown hasn’t asked her to take on the males, but it’s looking like this season she will do so, with the Mile as her ultimate aim.
Other leading older turf milers in North America include Count Again, Smooth Like Strait, Santin, and Colonel Liam.
The most impressive effort by three-year-olds over a mile in Europe this season have come from two fillies: Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1) winner Homeless Songs and John Gosden’s Inspiral, who easily repelled American raider Spenderella in the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot. Colts to impress have been Coroebus, Native Trail, Modern Games, and Maljoom.
The 2021 Turf Sprint winner Golden Pal last month tried to break his straight track hoodoo in the 5-furlong King’s Stand (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event. Unfortunately he missed the start and was out of the race thereafter. But he would have needed the best effort of his career by some distance to beat Australian flyer Nature Strip, who scored a stunning 4 1/2-length victory.
Nature Strip’s form in his homeland is just as good around a bend as on a straight track, meaning he’d be a handful if he contests the $1 million Turf Sprint. However, U.S. racegoers are unlikely to see Nature Strip as his end-of-year target will be a repeat victory in the world’s richest turf race, the $10.7 million Everest. Golden Pal could also target the Everest, but a repeat Turf Sprint could be on the cards instead, and with his blazing gate speed he’d be a big chance to win that again.
Golden Pal’s stablemate Campanelle ran well at Royal Ascot, dead-heating for third in a strong Platinum Jubilee (G1). She would be well fancied if she targets the Turf Sprint.
The sole Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Turf Sprint in North America in June was the 6-furlong Jaipur (G1) at Belmont Park. It was won for the second year by Casa Creed with a late run. However, in the past two seasons he’s contested the Mile rather than the Turf Sprint.
Others that would help this contest would include Europeans Twilight Calls, Naval Crown, Creative Force, A Case of You, Perfect Power, the Australian Artorius (should he stay in the north), and Jaipur runner-up Arrest Me Red.
FILLY AND MARE TURF
With Regal Glory a longshot to target this race, the North American pecking order for this race looks a little unclear. However, a strong contender emerged in the New York (G1) in the form of Bleecker Street, who extended her unbeaten record to seven after coming from last on the bend to win.
Among those behind her was Rougir, who started favorite after winning the Beaugay (G2) in May. The other leading North American contender for this race looks to be last year’s third War Like Goddess, who won her only 2022 start, the Bewitch (G3) at Keeneland.
The only Breeders’ Cup Challenge event in this division in the past month has been the Gran Premio Pamplona (G1) at Monterrico in Peru, won by Ola Perfecta. Whether she heads to Keeneland remains to be seen.
In Europe, the best female gallopers at a mile or further include Coronation (G1) winner Inspiral, Epsom Oaks (G1) placegetters Tuesday and Emily Upjohn, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Alpinista, and Pretty Polly (G1) victress La Petite Coco.
The world’s highest rated mare in 2021, Australian champ Verry Elleegant, is now in France and set to have her first run there August 4. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is seen as her main target, but the Filly and Mare Turf as either an alternative or an add-on is not beyond possibility.
Whether any Japanese fillies or mares look to emulate last year’s winner Loves Only You is unclear. The white filly Sodashi, who earned a place in this race by winning the Victoria Mile (G1), is an unlikely runner, but a more interesting Japanese prospect if she headed to the US might be Daring Tact, winner of the 2020 Fillies’ Triple Crown; after injury kept her out for nearly 12 months, she was fifth when resuming in the Victoria Mile and then third in the Takarazuka Kinen.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT
This is the one two-year-old race for which there has been a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race – the Norfolk (G2) at Royal Ascot, won by The Ridler. Whether he makes the trip across the Atlantic will depend on his subsequent form and whether his connections are inclined to make the journey, but his owners have shown some inclination to do so.
Other two-year-old winners over five furlongs at Royal Ascot included Little Big Bear in the Windsor Castle S. and Dramatised in the Queen Mary (G2). But it is a bit too early to speculate on potential starters for this race as many horses that will contest the race have yet to face the starter.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
There’s even less chance that a potential contestant for this race has begun its career as yet. However, there are two interesting runners in Ireland to watch for, both from the Aidan O’Brien stable.
One is Albany (G3) winner Meditate, who has looked extremely good in winning her three starts; the other is Statuette, who became the first graded stakes winner for 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify when winning the Airlie Stud Stakes (G2) at The Curragh June 26.
Coolmore often keep their very best juvenile fillies in Europe for races like the Middle Park (G1) or Fillies Mile (G1), but they would no doubt be tempted to bring a daughter of Justify across the Atlantic to advertise her first-season sire in a race like the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Interestingly, this is a race that European-trained fillies have fared very poorly in, having won just two of the 14 editions and none since 2013. It’s probably best to keep an eye on the U.S. trainers for a potential winner here, especially Chad Brown, who has won the race five times.
European trainers have a much better record in this race, winning nine of the 15 stagings, so it would pay to look across the ditch for a potential winner here.
To date the most impressive male two-year-olds in Europe have probably been Coventry (G2) winner Bradsell, Chesham S. winner Holloway Boy, July S. (G2) winner Persian Force, and Ireland’s Railway (G2) winner Shartash. But which of them, if any, make it to this race is impossible to predict.
Again, however, there’s a strong chance the best prospects have yet to run; the last winner of the Juvenile Turf to debut before July of its two-year-old season was 2014 winner Hootenanny.