One of the great things about the Breeders’ Cup is its attraction to international connections looking to take home a piece of the $26.5 million in purses on offer this year. Fifty-seven European based horses have won the Breeders’ Cup since its first race was run in 1984 and 25 from that continent will enter the gates over the weekend looking to add to the winning total.
While I haven’t talked about all 25 European entrants, I’ve highlighted a few from each of the six races who I think will stand out or deserve a little extra attention going into this event. Read on to learn more about some of the horses who took international flights to get to California, including two of last year’s Breeders’ Cup winners and two Breeders’ Cup runner-ups.
$1 million Juvenile Turf
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won three editions of the Juvenile Turf since 2010, including last year’s race, and has two chances this year. One of those is the War Front colt Lancaster Bomber, who doesn’t come into the race with a flashy record but off of a second to probable European 2-year-old champion Churchill in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes. Lancaster Bomber looked like he would have to settle for a midpack finish near the end of that race when passed by multiple horses but he made a really nice comeback to finish second in the closing strides. He hasn’t gone farther than seven furlongs but hasn’t shown that a mile on a flatter U.S. track will be a problem and is a half-brother to multiple Group 1 winner Excelebration, who excelled at a mile.
Rodaini is a bit of a question mark in the Juvenile Turf. The Exchange Rate colt was perfect in his first four starts, all at six or seven furlongs, but when he stepped up to group company in the Group 3 Dubai 100 Autumn Stakes at a mile he finished second to last. Even though Exchange Rate was known more for speed, Rodaini’s dam is by Pulpit so he should be able to get the mile distance. But in what looks like a tough field, Rodaini’s bad finish when running at a mile in his first group stakes start is something to keep in mind.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf
The winner of two of her four starts, Cavale Doree is another with the issue of not showing her best at a mile. Owned by Martin Schwartz, who is known for his excellent turf fillies in North America, Cavale Doree has spent this year in France and broke her maiden by seven lengths at six furlongs in late July. She also has a Group 3 win at the distance but when stepping up to a mile in a Group 1 in early October, she finished fifth. It should be noted however, that the fifth was just 3 ¾ lengths behind the winner so it definitely wasn’t a big loss. Schwartz is savvy when it comes to purchasing international horses who excel in the U.S. and he bought Cavale Doree after her Group 3 win so he definitely sees something in her. She’s one to watch here.
All eyes will be on Roly Poly this week going into the Juvenile Fillies Turf but her stablemate Hydrangea deserves attention as well. Hydrangea has only won one race this season, a maiden at the Curragh in Ireland but she has been painfully close to getting a group stakes win in two other starts. Hydrangea lost a Group 2 by a head to stablemate Rhododendron in August then was only a nose behind Intricately a few weeks later. Hydrangea is coming into this race off another loss to Rhododendron, this time at 2 ¼ lengths going a mile but don’t let the second place finishes fool you – this is a serious filly. While Roly Poly will probably get the most attention, a good thing about Hydrangea is that she has run well at a mile while Roly Poly has never run farther than six furlongs so she still has a bit of a question mark about her. Trainer Aidan O’Brien is looking for his first victory in this race after losing by less than a length to Catch a Glimpse last year.
$2 million Filly and Mare Turf
With one of the most powerful strings in the world behind him, it should be no surprise that Aidan O’Brien has another top gun in this race with Seventh Heaven. The winner of four of her eight races, Seventh Heaven won the Irish Oaks in July before beating last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Found in August. She is coming into this race off of a fifth-place finish in the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes last month behind two other runners in this race but when Seventh Heaven is good, she’s really good. Seventh Heaven has never raced at 1 ¼ miles but she’s won at both a mile and a mile and a half so this should be no challenge for her distance-wise, especially on the firm ground she seems to love. Interestingly, O’Brien has had eight entries in this race since 2003 but has never won it.
$1.5 million Turf Sprint
Another horse who can’t quite get a Grade 1 win but is always there is Suedois, who has finished second or third in Group 1s three times this year in addition to fourth by less than two lengths and fifth by less than a length in two other starts in 2016. Six and a half furlongs seems to be a good distance for Suedois as he’s won three times over it and finished in the top three at the distance in six of his seven runs. Even with the tougher tracks in Europe, it’s doubtful Suedois has had to deal with one as unique as the downhill course at Santa Anita, so that could be a weakness for him.
Always sitting on the edge of stardom, Home of the Brave has run at the group stakes level in eight of his 12 starts but only has one win at the level. Home of the Brave did cross the line first in a Group 3 as a 3-year-old but was disqualified in what was extra painful because it would have been his first group stakes win. This year, Home of the Brave has only raced four times with his last race coming on Aug. 13, but he hasn’t finished worse than second with his worst finish being 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner. Home of the Brave is the first Breeders’ Cup starter for trainer Hugo Palmer and has spent most of his career racing at seven furlongs, although he has won at six furlongs, showing he can cut back in distance. If he were to win, Home of the Brave would be the first foreign-trained horse to win the Turf Sprint, which was first run in 2008.
$4 million Longines Turf
For the second year in a row, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner will be running in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with Found in this race. Somewhat ironically, Found was one of just two horses to serve up losses to last year’s Arc winner when beating Golden Horn in that edition of the Breeder’s Cup Turf. Found has suffered a bad case of seconditis this year, finishing second in six of her nine starts in 2016 with all of those seconds coming in Group 1 company. Found is coming into this year’s Breeders’ Cup off a similar schedule to last year with four runs between Aug. 18 and Oct. 15, and the filly seems to get better the more she runs so that is nothing to worry about. If Found wins this year, she’ll be the third horse to win the race twice and the second to achieve that feat for trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore partnership.
Mondialiste has bounced back and forth from mile to route races this year but has never gone as far as the 1 ½ miles of the Breeders’ Cup Turf so he’ll be trying something new here. A frequent visitor to North America, Mondialiste won the Grade 1 Arlington Million in August and the Woodbine Mile in September 2015 while also finishing second to Tepin in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. Mondialiste always looks like he might want more ground with his running style but that late kick seemed a little dulled by the 1 ¼ miles of the Million, which is worrisome when another quarter-mile is added in.
$2 million Mile
Another race gives us another big Aidan O’Brien contender. Alice Springs is a familiar sight at the Breeders’ Cup with a second-place finish last year in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year to Catch a Glimpse. While Catch a Glimpse is taking on Alice Springs’ stablemates in the Filly and Mare Turf, Alice Springs is facing a new test by taking on males for the first time. Alice Springs has only run at a mile since April and includes three Group 1 wins and a third in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas among her accomplishments this year. Fillies are well known for winning this race with Tepin the latest to do so, and in even better news for Alice Springs, four of the females to win the race were 3 when they won at least one edition. O’Brien has had 14 entries in the Mile but the closest he’s come to a victory is three second-place finishes.
Leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, the question of where Limato would go hung in the air as both the Turf Sprint and Mile were options for the horse even though his connections said that the Mile was his destination. Any hopes supporters had of seeing him in the Turf Sprint ended the day pre-entries came out when Limato was only entered in the Mile. A top sprinter in Europe, Limato has never gone farther than seven furlongs but trainer Henry Candy is hoping to celebrate his first time racing a horse in the United States with a victory. With many European races being run on tougher, undulating tracks, the added furlong shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Limato, who has two group stakes wins at seven furlongs. Limato is the shortest-priced European on the Mile morning line with odds of 7-to-2.