International Horses to Know for Breeders’ Cup Saturday

Japan-based Matera Sky (left) is among the international invaders to keep an eye on in the Saturday Breeders' Cup races.
Japan-based Matera Sky (left) is among the international invaders to keep an eye on in the Saturday Breeders' Cup races. (Eclipse Sportswire)

A busy day on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Santa Anita sees horses coming from all over the world to compete in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. In a meet where nearly 190 horses pre-entered, it can be hard to remember who comes from where. Here are just a few international horses that are worth watching.

Blue Chipper trains at Santa Anita.
Blue Chipper (Eclipse Sportswire)

Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

It’s a rare European sighting in the Dirt Mile this year with Ambassadorial taking his chance in the race two starts after finishing third in the Korea Cup during an international outing. He does come into the Dirt Mile off a last-place finish earlier this month on the all-weather surface but running only a month after traveling to South Korea could be a good excuse for him. The gelding has a dirt pedigree and has performed admirably on the dirt surface in a race that included U.S. graded stakes winners so he isn’t out of place here.

History will be made on Saturday when Blue Chipper loads into the Dirt Mile gate as the first South Korea-trained horse to ever run in the Breeders’ Cup. By Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, Blue Chipper has won seven of his eight starts with his only blip coming two years ago. He brings a six-race winning streak into the Dirt Mile with a combined winning margin of 45 ¼ lengths and has won two Korean stakes in his last two outings so he could prove to be an interesting addition here.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

The winner of last year’s 1,000 Guineas in England, Billesdon Brook has proved that first Group 1 level win was no fluke, consistently running well at that level ever since. This year, the 4-year-old has won three of her six starts including the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes last out. The one big strike against the filly is that most of her runs come at around a mile and she’ll be stepping up to 1 ¼ miles for only the second time in her career with that first time seeing her finish fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes three weeks ago, Castle Lady was making her first start after a 113-day summer break. The filly obviously has talent, something she proved extremely quickly during her time in France this spring with a three-race win streak culminating with a victory in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches – kind of like the French version of the Kentucky Oaks. This is the first time she’ll race against older females, which is always a big step up but she’s shown she’d like more distance so the extra furlong past the distance she ran in the Queen Elizabeth II could prove to be exactly what she needs.

Joseph O’Brien became the youngest jockey to ever ride a Breeders’ Cup winner in 2011 and he’s back this year with Iridessa. O’Brien has run two others in the Breeders’ Cup since taking out his training license in 2016 but Iridessa is the best he’s brought over, winning three Group 1 races in her career. The filly has proved to be extremely versatile with her Group 1 victories coming from one mile to 1 ¼ miles and comes into the race off a third-place finish behind fellow Breeders’ Cup entrant Billesdon Brook in the Group 1 Sun Chariot a month after winning her latest Group 1.

Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Japan is taking two shots at the Breeders’ Cup this year with Matera Sky running in the Sprint a day after Full Flat contests the Juvenile. The 5-year-old proved to be an adept sprinter in Dubai this year when he finished second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen behind X Y Jet but he’s been off the board in his two starts since. He’ll be the second Japanese-trained horse to contest the Sprint after Agnes World finished eighth in the race in 2000 for the same trainer as Matera Sky.

TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile

Sixth in the Epsom Derby in May after a listed victory, Circus Maximus has proved to be a star since cutting back to a mile. He won a Group 1 at Royal Ascot and was second to last year’s European champion 2-year-old Too Darn Hot in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes in July. His team tried to stretch him back out to longer distances in August and it didn’t work with the colt finishing seventh. He bounced back when cut back to a mile in a controversial running of the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in September to win by a nose and keep the victory even after protest. This is one of the few Breeders’ Cup turf races Aidan O’Brien has never won but that may end with Circus Maximus this year.

The Royal Ascot meet proved to be a key meet for the Breeders’ Cup this year with Lord Glitters another runner in this race. He kicked off Royal Ascot with a victory in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes in June but has admittedly struggled since. He was fifth in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes and his connections stretched him out in the Group 1 Juddmonte International where he didn’t appreciate the added distance and finished sixth. He is coming into this race off an eighth-place finish two weeks ago so needs to find his form again to be competitive here but trainer David O’Meara is an expert at getting his horses to run well in North America with two top-four finishes in Breeders’ Cup races from three starters.

Old Persian
Old Persian (Eclipse Sportswire)

Only a week after Justify won the Triple Crown for breeder John Gunther, Without Parole added a second major victory to his resume when winning the Group 1 St. James’s Palace with Gunther as his breeder and co-owner. That was the final in a four-race win streak for the colt, who was transferred to trainer Chad Brown this summer in an effort to get him back to his winning ways after a few bad runs in Europe. He’ll be making his first start since May in the Breeders’ Cup but 12-time Breeders’ Cup winner Brown is a master at having horses at their best off of a layoff, though he has never won the Mile.

Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf

Ninth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Anthony Van Dyck has matured well as a 3-year-old with a listed victory to start off his season before proving to be among the best of his class with a victory in the Group 1 Epsom Derby. He finished second behind stablemate Sovereign in the Irish Derby before throwing in a bit of a clunker to finish 10th behind Enable in the King George in July. This has been his target for quite a while and trainer Aidan O’Brien set him up for the Breeders’ Cup run with a third behind Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes in September and has rested the colt since then. This is a hard task for the 3-year-old but O’Brien knows what it takes to win this race with six winners overall – including four in the last eight years.

A promising horse since winning his second start as a 2-year-old, Old Persian has been a consistent runner throughout his career with 12 placings in 16 starts. His finest moment came earlier this year in Dubai when he won the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic for his first top level success and he followed that up in September with a win in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine. The 4-year-old looks to be a top contender in this race and could give trainer Charlie Appleby his third Breeders’ Cup winner in three years (and fourth overall).

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