Tipsheet: Breeders' Cup Turf

November 3rd, 2020

Elite turf horses from the North America and Europe will square off in Saturday’s $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland. The 1 1/2-mile fixture has attracted 10 runners to the fray, setting the stage for an exciting intercontinental showdown.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Picks

  • #10 Mogul
  • #2 Magical
  • #3 Tarnawa
  • #6 Lord North
  • #7 United
  • #9 Channel Maker
  • $1.50 trifecta: 10 with 2,3,6 with 2,3,6,7,9 ($18)
  • $1 trifecta: 10 with 2,3,6,7,9 with 2,3,6 ($12)

Breeders’ Cup Turf contenders

#1 Arklow has tackled the Breeders’ Cup Turf twice before, finishing fourth in 2018 and eighth in 2019. The veteran 6-year-old initially struggled this season, but bounced back when adding blinkers for the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), finishing strongly to defeat next-out Sycamore (G3) winner Red Knight by 1 1/4 lengths. Trainer Brad Cox has been ultra-hot at Keeneland, and Arklow will retain the headgear for his third appearance in the Turf. But Arklow’s peak form seems pretty well established at this point, and a minor award might be the ceiling of his potential.

#2 Magical ran a huge race in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf, finishing second by less than a length against superstar Enable. The daughter of Galileo remains in fine form with three Group 1 wins to her credit this season, including a triumph over European middle distance star Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion (G1). Magical doesn’t have much experience racing 1 1/2 miles—1 1/4 miles is her best trip—but she does bring stellar form lines to the equation for six-time Breeders’ Cup Turf-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. The bigger question is whether she can bring her A-game just three weeks after finishing third in the Champion Stakes (G1) over extremely soft ground at Ascot.

#3 Tarnawa is undefeated in three starts this season for trainer Dermot Weld, most notably posting back-to-back wins in the Prix Vermeille (G1) and Prix de l’Opera (G1). This 4-year-old filly has been effective racing 1 1/2 miles and handles a wide variety of course conditions, but stepping up against males is a new obstacle she’ll have to overcome.

#4 Mehdaayih hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since nabbing the Prix de Mallert (G2) over soft ground at Saint-Cloud during the summer of 2019. The daughter of Frankel is 0-for-2 in 2020 and was no match for Lord North in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, finishing sixth in a compact field. She’ll add Lasix for her stateside debut, but needs improvement to vie for victory against this caliber of competition.

#5 Donjah is the fourth and final female entered in the Turf. The 4-year-old filly has displayed a high level of form against males in Germany and Italy, most notably prevailing in the Preis von Europa (G1) racing 1 1/2 miles over soft ground at Koln. But close third-place finisher Dame Malliot was subsequently no match for Tarnawa in the Prix Vermeille, and Donjah herself was beaten to fourth place when next seen in the Grosser Preis von Baden (G1). The competition in Germany is generally a cut below that in England, France, and Ireland, suggesting Donjah has some form to find against her fellow European shippers in the Turf.

#6 Lord North delivered a visually spectacular victory during the summer at Royal Ascot, romping by 3 3/4 lengths in the Prince of Wales’s (G1). But Lord North has never run farther than 1 5/16 miles, so stretching out for the Turf is a big question mark. He’s also finished behind Magical on two occasions since the Prince of Wales’s, coming home third in the Juddmonte International (G1) and last of ten in the Champion Stakes (G1). The presence of five-time Turf-winning jockey Frankie Dettori is a positive, but Lord North may need everything to go his way to prevail at Keeneland.

#7 United ran too good to lose in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf and is worth a betting look, taking command in the stretch before settling for second by a head against Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. The son of Giant’s Causeway has since gone on a tear, winning four of his five runs over shorter trips in 2020. A confident front-running victory in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) hints he’s ready for another big effort while stretching back out over 1 1/2 miles in the Turf. With high-percentage jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle, United deserves respect as a key contender for the home team.

#8 Red King handed United his only defeat of 2020, edging the established star by a head in the Aug. 22 Del Mar H. (G2). Red King hasn’t run since and will enter the Turf off a layoff, but he’s been breezing steadily over the Keeneland turf and retains the services of high-percentage jockey Umberto Rispoli. The distance won’t be an issue, considering he previously cruised by 4 1/4 lengths in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (G3). It’s the jump to Grade 1 company that could potentially trip up Red King.

#9 Channel Maker has thrived since adopting front-running tactics under jockey Manny Franco, posting gate-to-wire victories in the Sword Dancer (G1) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) racing 1 1/2 miles. A gelded son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel, Channel Maker failed to challenge in two previous editions of the Turf, but enters the 2020 renewal in career-best form for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. If Channel Maker shakes loose on an uncontested lead, he might prove difficult to run down.

#10 Mogul has shown steady improvement under Aidan O’Brien’s care, most recently powering to a 2 1/2-length triumph in the 1 1/2-mile Grand Prix de Paris (G1) at Longchamp. The form of the race was flattered when runner-up In Swoop returned to finish second in the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), a race Mogul missed due to an issue with contaminated feed. As a result, the 3-year-old son of Galileo avoided competing over testing ground during the fall season in Europe, leaving him fresh for a big effort in the Turf. He arguably ranks as the runner to beat, watch his odds.