The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is always a difficult weekend of racing to figure out, especially if you don’t follow European racing. With the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner making an appearance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and three European-based horses running the Classic, there’s even more intrigue and possible confusion than other years.
Let me help you clear it up by looking at a few of the entries in each of the eight races with Europeans – including a horse who will continue to write his own Disney movie if he can win the Juvenile Turf after a tough start to life.
The first Breeders’ Cup starter for longtime trainer William Haggas, Queen of Bermuda comes into the Breeders’ Cup with 10 starts already this year. The Exceed And Excel filly is a two-time stakes winner and has won at both five and six furlongs but has never tried the 5 ½-furlong distance of this race. The only time she stepped up to Group 1 company she finished off the board, which will be a worry in a Breeders’ Cup field but she definitely won’t lack for experience here.
An Aidan O’Brien trainee, So Perfect is by Scat Daddy, who sires horses who can run at all distances and on all surfaces. So Perfect herself is a Group 3 winner and Group 1-placed in Ireland, where she has trained and has done the majority of her racing, but she also ran at Royal Ascot this year and finished a close fourth to Signora Cabello. So Perfect is actually an American-bred with a connection to the Breeders’ Cup already, growing up at the same farm as 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tepin.
Of all the entries in this race, Soldier’s Call may be the most interesting. The colt has won four of his seven starts including a Royal Ascot race, but the most interesting results he has isn’t a win. Last out, he finished a close third in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines a neck behind the winning Mabs Cross. Granted he was carrying 119 pounds while the rest of the field carried at least 133 pounds but the third place against some of the best sprinters in Europe shows he has class. He will be stepping up an extra half-furlong here but there’s no indication that should be a problem.
The highly regarded Frankel filly East comes to the Breeders’ Cup off an impressive Group 3 win in France at seven furlongs nearly a month ago. Undefeated in her two starts, she seems to be getting better with distance, which seems to be typical of her sire’s runners. The filly is also effective on multiple track conditions, winning on both soft and firm, which is a major perk with rain forecasted to hit the track midweek, though it looks to move out before Friday’s races.
Taking advantage of earning a Win and You’re In berth to this race in the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes, Just Wonderful represents the powerful stable of Aidan O’Brien here. The filly has won three of her six starts, including a Group 3 race at a mile. Just Wonderful is by Dansili, who has sired two Breeders’ Cup winners, and from the family of Galileo, who not only ran in the Breeders’ Cup but has sired four winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf with three coming from 2013 to 2016. Aidan O’Brien has had 11 starters in this race but his best finish is a second – coming with Alice Springs in 2015 and Heart Shaped in 2008.
A Group 1 winner in her last start by a neck, Lily’s Candle should easily be able to handle the mile distance of this race. She’s run twice at a mile and won both times with one of those victories coming in the aforementioned Group 1. Her trainer, Fabrice Vermeulen, will be making his first start in North America with the filly though owner Martin Schwartz has had 11 Breeders’ Cup starters and a winner with Zagora in the 2012 Filly and Mare Turf.
Winning his maiden at a mile by eight lengths in July, Anthony Van Dyck has cut back to seven furlongs for every start since then with a Group 2 victory and two Group 1 placings. While the quality of his maiden competition versus the stakes competition could account for the placings instead of wins at the seven furlongs, he should easily be able to handle the mile of this race. Trainer Aidan O’Brien knows how to prepare horses for this race with four wins from 11 editions of the race.
If Arthur Kitt can win this race, it will be the fairytale victory of the Breeders’ Cup. Arthur Kitt had a tough start when he had to be resuscitated at birth and was raised by a nurse mare but he’s made a quick start to his career as a racehorse. He won his debut in May, continued his roll at Royal Ascot in the Chesham Stakes and was second in a Group 2 after a short summer break. He was fifth last out when going a mile in a Group 2 race but his breeding suggests he should be able to go farther than the sprint distances he ran prior to that so distance shouldn’t be a concern here. If he does win the race, it will be vindication for both his parents. His sire Camelot was aiming for the race in 2013 but was injured the month before the Breeders’ Cup while his dam Ceiling Kitty ran in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint but was fifth.
Line of Duty is a lighter-raced horse in this race with just four starts but he shows a lot of upside with two wins at a mile or more. His last race as a victory over 1 1/8 miles, showing this distance should be no problem and he broke his maiden at a mile as well so he shouldn’t be a horse who finds this too short. Trained by Charlie Appleby, who has had two Breeders’ Cup winners from three starters, Line of Duty looks to continue a great season for Godolphin with the operation winning nearly 30 Group/Grade 1 races around the world this year.
A Group 1 winner two starts ago, Havana Grey will be trying to become the first European to win the Turf Sprint. This will be Havana Grey’s first trip outside Europe and trainer Karl Burke’s first Breeders’ Cup runner in addition to the colt’s first time going 5 ½ furlongs. While this will be a new experience for both horse and trainer, the good news for Havana Grey is that he has won on both soft and good to firm ground so even if rain hits, he should feel right at home.
A half-brother to Juvenile Fillies Turf runner Just Wonderful, Lost Treasure has only run in stakes races three times in his eight race career and at first glance it looks like he is outclassed here. While he will indeed have to take a big step up to win this race, it should be noted that he was fifth by just one length in a Group 1 last month. He did run twice in one week two weeks ago, which is a worry for his freshness but he did the same in August and won both starts so if you like him, don’t let that dissuade you from using him in your bets.
$2 million Maker's Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
A winner of two of her three starts this year, Eziyra has yet to win a Group 1 but she has hit the board in her two attempts at the level against two of the best fillies in Europe. She probably faces a bit weaker field that she faced in those two starts so this could be a breakthrough race for her. She’s trained by the legendary Dermot Weld, who has sent 15 runners to the Breeders’ Cup since 1985 but surprisingly his best finish is a third in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Mile with Brief Truce. Her dam is a half-sister to the Queen’s Estimate, who won the Ascot Gold Cup, and Eziyra has also won going longer than this race so distance definitely shouldn’t be an issue.
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride is the perfect way to describe Magic Wand’s fall campaign. The Group 2 winner was beaten by only about a length in her two starts after her summer campaign, including a head in September. Aidan O’Brien has sent numerous good mares to this race including Misty For Me but it’s a race that continues to elude him with his best finish being a pair of seconds coming 14 years apart.
Possibly Europe’s best chance of winning this race is Wild Illusion, who comes in after a pair of Group 1 wins. The 3-year-old was also runner up in this year’s Epsom Oaks and seems to have come on from the race, though she seems to have a bit of a rivalry going on with Magic Wand. The pair have finished 1-2 in two races this year with Magic Wand beating her by fourth lengths in June before she beat Magic Wand by a length last out. This is another horse from the Godolphin stable, with that operation firing on all cylinders this year.
$2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile
Bouncing between seven furlongs and a mile for eight of his nine career starts, Expert Eye shouldn’t have any problem with the distance here. He may prove to be outclassed however, with all attempts at a Group 1 seeing him finishing at least a length behind the winner. The 3-year-old has Sir Michael Stoute in his corner and there aren’t many better to guide a horse to a winning Breeders’ Cup campaign with seven winners and six other top three finishers from 39 starters, including back-to-back wins by Conduit in the Turf in 2008 and 2009.
Aidan O’Brien’s Happily looks to redeem her performance in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf here. The 3-year-old finished last at Del Mar in an uncharacteristic run after winning two straight Group 1 races. She hasn’t had as good of a season this year but has been in the top three in three Group 1 races, including just a head loss to the highly regarded Laurens last out. Happily has a pedigree familiar to the Breeders’ Cup with her dam’s full brother Giant’s Causeway running second to Tiznow in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic and her sire Galileo running sixth in the race the next year.
A fan favorite, Lightning Spear will be ending his career in the Breeders’ Cup before taking up stud duties in England. The 7-year-old had always been close to an elusive Group 1 win – finishing less than two lengths behind the winner in six Group 1 races – before finally breaking through in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes this summer with Expert Eye in second. The only time Lightning Spear traveled outside of Europe, he finished 10th in Hong Kong last December but he seems to be a better horse in 2018 and will be coming here fresh so that finish should be taken with a grain of salt.
$4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf
Following in the recent footsteps of fellow Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners Golden Horn and Found, Enable will become the third consecutive Arc winner to contest this race. Enable comes into the Turf fresh and looks like she’ll improve on her Arc performance last month with only two starts so far this year. History doesn’t work for the filly as no Arc winner has won the Breeders’ Cup the same year they won the Arc but the Breeders’ Cup is often at the end of a long season, which isn’t the case here.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Talismanic returns this year in an attempt to become the third horse to win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Turf races. This year he comes into the race with less starts than in 2017 and off a 13th in the Arc, though he didn’t come into the race last year with a victory either. He has lost to both the other Europeans featured in this piece for the race but his three starts on turf other than the Arc have been first- or second-place finishes, so the horse does seem to be in good form and the Arc is much like the Kentucky Derby in that you can draw a line through it if your horse doesn’t perform well.
A horse who has looked like a different horse this year is Waldgeist. The son of Galileo was a useful stakes horse in his previous two seasons, even winning a Group 1 as a 2-year-old but he’s reached new heights in 2018 with four wins from his six starts. His finest moment of the season results-wise came with a victory in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud but it’s well worth noting even though he finished fourth in the Arc he was less than two lengths behind Enable. The 4-year-old also beat Talismanic two starts ago and may be a good bet if he’s overlooked in this race around post time.
$6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn gets a second chance at Churchill Downs in this race. The colt had a horrendous trip in a sloppy Kentucky Derby that saw him eased earlier this year but he has showed that his romp in the UAE Derby wasn’t a fluke when finishing second in the Travers and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after taking part in a suicidal pace duel up front. In a wide-open Breeders’ Cup Classic outside of Accelerate, don’t be surprised if the gutsy 3-year-old ends up on the board or even wins his second Breeders’ Cup.
While it may seem weird to send a horse with as much success at the Group 1 level on turf as Roaring Lion has had this year, it makes sense from a breeding standpoint. His turf value is assured with four straight Group 1 victories on the surface and he could add to that value with a good showing on dirt in the Classic. The colt is by super turf sire Kitten’s Joy and from a female family that has had major turf success – including Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag – but his dam’s sire Street Sense won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby on this track. Churchill Downs’ dirt track has also had a reputation as being friendlier to turf horses than others, but Roaring Lion has a lot of odds to overcome to win this race.
Thunder Snow most infamous moment came at this track in 2017 when he turned the Kentucky Derby into a rodeo a few strides out of the gate. However, that’s the only time he’s ever shown that behavior and should be forgotten when you are figuring out if you should use him in your bets. The 4-year-old is a Group 1 winner on both surfaces and easily won the Dubai World Cup earlier this year before finishing a close second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last out. This is definitely a horse to include on all your bets for the race as he should run a blinder third start up after his summer break if the Jockey Club Gold Cup was any indication.