10 things to know for the Breeders' Cup Turf

October 11th, 2022

The Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) has produced some of the greatest moments in the history of the championships. As we gear up for the 39th edition on Nov. 5 at Keeneland, here are 10 things to know about the annual clash between U.S. and international stars.

1. Traditional distance test

One of the original Breeders’ Cup fixtures dating back to the 1984 genesis, the Turf has retained its character as a 1 1/2-mile test. Experience at the distance is most often a prerequisite, but five have prevailed in their first try over the trip.

2. Fast times at Santa Anita

Winning times are dependent upon course conditions, and the five fastest runnings have all occurred at Santa Anita. The stakes record of 2:22.83 was set by Little Mike in 2012. Next on the list are Highland Reel (2:23.00 in 2016), Magician (2:23.23 in 2013), and Conduit’s two wins (2:23.42 and 2:23.75 in 2008-09). The only other sub-2:24 time was also posted in Southern California, when Chief Bearhart (1997) clocked 2:23.92 at old Hollywood Park.

3. European dominance

European shippers have had a field day, racking up 24 wins. Of those, horses trained in Great Britain have the most (11), followed by Ireland (seven) and France (six, but weighted toward the early years). Since the turn of the millennium, just six stateside horses have managed to turn back the invasion. That includes Johar, who forced a dead-heat on the wire with Ireland’s defending champ High Chaparral (2003). The number of U.S. winners is cut in half if you look at the past decade; only three have won in the last 10 years. In 2021, European dominance extended to the entire superfecta.

4. Age matters

Older horses have won the substantial majority, but none above the age of five. Of the 10 sophomores who defeated their elders in the Turf, eight were internationals. You have to go back decades to find the two stateside colts to accomplish the feat, Hall of Famer Manila (1986) and Prized (1989), who was incredibly making his turf debut.

5. Cherchez la femme

Females have performed very well versus males. Three of the last seven runnings have gone to distaffers, including both held at Keeneland, for an overall tally of five heroines in the Turf. Nearly all were four-year-olds; Found (2015) stands alone in the record book as a sophomore filly. A dozen distaffers have placed in the Turf, most notably Magical, who twice completed an all-female exacta with Enable (2018) and Tarnawa (2020).

6. Vulnerable favorites

The trend is going against favorites. While 11 top betting choices have won the Turf, most scored in the first two decades. In the past 20 years, just four favorites have justified their status.

7. Prices galore

Twelve longshot winners have gone off in excess of 10-1. The biggest upsets came early on, with Lashkari ($108.80) in the 1984 inaugural and Miss Alleged ($86.20) in 1991. Nine winners’ odds lay between 5-1 and 10-1, most recently Yibir (2021) at 8.50-1.

8. Rebounding from the Arc

The most prolific source of winners is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1); 12 had competed in Europe’s fall championship en route to the Turf. Note that stat is almost universally in favor of horses who lost the Arc, then won at the Breeders’ Cup. The lone exception is Enable, who defied the weight of history to turn the Arc/Turf double in 2018. The next most productive stepping stone is the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1), a port of call for eight winners, but only three since the turn of the millennium.

9. Ballydoyle hits for six

Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien holds the record with six Turf wins as a trainer. Sir Michael Stoute has won four for Great Britain, and France’s Andre Fabre owns three. No U.S.-based trainer has more than two; Richard Mandella, Graham Motion, and Bill Mott have all achieved that figure.

10. Five for Frankie

Jockey Frankie Dettori has won a record five runnings, but Ryan Moore is close by with four. No American rider has won more than twice, and John Velazquez is the only active member of that club.