In a year that has been anything but normal, one thing we can count on is a strong international presence at this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course. Two hundred and one horses were pre-entered for this year’s event with 39 making the trip from outside North America.
While the Breeders’ Cup is closed to fans this year, NBC will be airing the races across its channels on both Friday and Saturday. To prepare you for this year’s international invasion, we’ll introduce you to a few of the 39 headed to Lexington, Ky. and a few from the U.S. who have run abroad below.
The first of a potential 10 runners for trainer Aidan O’Brien, Lipizzaner will be making his third start in four weeks after finishing second in the Group 3 Jebel Ali Anglesey Stakes and then winning the Vertem.co.uk Doncaster Stakes last out. In all, Lipizzaner enters the race with five top two finishes in seven starts this season, mostly on rain-affected ground. If he wins, he’ll be the 13th Breeders’ Cup winner for O’Brien and second for the stallion Uncle Mo, who himself was a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner.
For the third year running, trainer Archie Watson will have a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint contender with Mighty Gurkha. The colt earned his first stakes victory two starts ago in the Group 3 Unibet Sirenia Stakes and will be contesting his first 5 ½-furlong race here. Running over six furlongs in five of his six starts, the only time Mighty Gurkha raced shorter than that was when he finished fifth in the Windsor Castle Stakes going five furlongs at Royal Ascot.
A last out Group 2 winner in England, Ubettabelieveit is coming into this race with a record of three wins in five starts. Also a winner of the National Stakes, Ubettabelieveit has won at five furlongs multiple times, though in his only start over six furlongs (half a furlong longer than the Juvenile Sprint), he was ninth.
Battleground will likely be one of the race favorites, and his history with Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup goes all the way back to 2015. That was the year his dam, Found, won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf against males before ending her career with a third the following year at Santa Anita Park. Battleground has had a bit of an unscheduled preparation for this race, not running since late July after rain caused him to scratch in a few races after that start. The colt is two-for-three, last winning the Group 2 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes a little over a month after winning the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. If he wins, he’ll be the second Juvenile Turf winner for his sire War Front since Hit It A Bomb won at this track in 2015.
Trainer Jessica Harrington is making only her second trip to the Breeders’ Cup from Ireland after Albinga finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year, this time with Cadillac as one of her three runners. Cadillac started his career off with a nine length romp in a maiden race, and in his next start ran future Group 1 winner Mac Swiney to within half a length in a Group 2 stakes before beating another future Group 1 winner in Van Gogh in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes next out over a mile. If his last start turns you off, feel free to cross it out. He finished fifth in a Group 1 stakes on Oct. 10, but the ground that day was more like a bog and many horses didn’t handle it well.
By France’s leading freshman sire Goken, Go Athletico comes here after a close second in a Group 2 in France. The juvenile gelding has never finished worse than second and though he hasn’t raced over a mile, he has won at seven furlongs, beating fellow Juvenile Turf hopeful Sealiway while doing it.
New Mandate comes here off a Group 2 victory in late September, his third win in a row after finishing third in his first two starts. The gelding trained by Ralph Beckett proved in his last race that he can handle a mile with a three quarter length victory over the distance and looks to give Beckett his first Breeders’ Cup win since Muhannak’s win in the Marathon in 2008. New Mandate will also be that trainer’s first Breeders’ Cup runner in five years.
In the Oct. 4 “Win and You’re In” Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, Sealiway easily conquered his first try at a Group 1 with an eight-length victory. Racing exclusively at six and seven furlongs, the France-based colt has won four of his six starts, with one of his only two losses coming to fellow Juvenile Turf hopeful Go Athletico.
Campanelle is based at Keeneland with trainer Wesley Ward for Stonestreet Stables, but if you don’t follow international racing, you’d be forgiven for not being familiar with the filly. After breaking her maiden at Gulfstream Park, as is the tradition with most good Ward 2-year-olds Campanelle then headed to Europe. The filly was a three-quarter length winner of the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot in her second start before winning a French Group 1 when taking on males in the Prix Morny. The filly has followed the same stakes schedule as another Ward and Stonestreet star in Lady Aurelia, though she’ll be deviating from that one’s path by making a start in the Breeders’ Cup as a 2-year-old – Lady Aurelia made her only appearance at the Breeders’ Cup the following year. Campanelle also has second preference in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint earlier in the day.
After finishing second by just half a length in the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes in September, Miss Amulet will attempt to stretch out to one mile for the first time in this race. The filly is a Group 2 winner at six furlongs and was second in the Cheveley Park at the same distance. If she runs in this race, she’ll also be only the second Breeders’ Cup starter for her trainer Ken Condon after he started Trais Fluors in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year.
Mother Earth has been a consistent in the European stakes scene this year. She broke her maiden in a Group 3 stakes back in July and ran perhaps the best race of her career when stretching to a mile in early October, finishing third by just two lengths in the Group 1 Bet365 Fillies Mile. Other than an 11th in the race before that, Mother Earth has hit the board in each of her seven starts at distances from five furlongs to a mile and if she was to win here, she’d be the first Juvenile Fillies Turf winner for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
The first Breeders’ Cup race of Saturday’s card has attracted two international runners, including Glass Slippers.
That filly was a close second last out in a Group 1 on ground labeled heavy (basically extremely soft in American terms) on a huge weekend in France. In the race before that, Glass Slippers won the Group 1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, and two starts back she finished second to Battaash, one of the world’s top sprinters, in a Group 2 stakes. While her record looks good any time of year, something to keep in mind with Glass Slippers is that she always comes into form in the fall. The last two autumns, she has won Group 1 races, and overall she’s four-for-six during the season.
Equilateral is second on the also eligible list for the Turf Sprint, with one of those in the main body has first preference in another race. The 5-year-old gelding is a racing veteran with 22 starts under his belt, including 10 on the board finishes though he has had a bit of an up and down season this year with a win and a second in Dubai over the winter and then two on-the-board finishes in England from five starts. This race is at a distance Equilateral hasn’t faced before, but he’s won at both five furlongs and six furlongs so 5 ½ should be no problem. If he gets in the race, it’s not hard to imagine him finishing in the top three.
Pingxiang is on the also eligible list, but if he gets in, keep in mind that the Japanese-based colt made easy work of his Breeders’ Cup prep in his home country. By Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Speightstown, Pingxiang was a 17 ½ length winner in an allowance in late September. That race was his first going further than six furlongs, so that’s something to keep in mind though he may be getting thrown to the wolves a bit here. If he were to run and finish in the top three, it will be the second consecutive year an international horse accomplished the feat, with South Korea-trained Blue Chipper finishing third in the race last year. Pingxiang also has an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint so it’s possible we could see him there.
The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf has been kind to the Europeans, with their horses winning three of the last four editions and the other winner during this span, Sistercharlie, starting her career in Europe. European-based horses have a strong presence in this year’s renewal, with five guaranteed a spot in the main body of the field (though one of them, Tarnawa, has already committed to going to the Breeders’ Cup Turf) and three of the four in the also-eligible list.
Audarya was only a length from winning a second straight Group 1 last out when third in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines, which came after she won the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet in August. Those races were the first two times she’s stepped up to group stakes level and both were on rain-affected ground, so that may be something to keep in mind with her if she races on firm turf at Keeneland, although she’s handled that condition before.
One of three runners in the World Championships for trainer Jessica Harrington, Cayenne Pepper is a four-time winner. In her most recent start, she won the Group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes on Sept. 13 by four lengths. This filly has kept good company this year. She was second in back-to-back Group 1s over the summer, one to Breeders’ Cup Turf hopeful Magical and also in the Irish Oaks. She also finished second to Breeders’ Cup Turf contender Tarnawa in a Group 3 in August. Cayenne Pepper hasn’t run at this 1 3/16-mile distance before but she has wins at seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles so it shouldn’t be an issue.
This year’s Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful is looking to get a first win at further than a mile after losing the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines by only a neck in a three-way photo finish over 1 5/16 miles (a furlong longer than the distance of this race). The filly is coming into this race off a 12th place finish in early October, though trainer Aidan O'Brien blamed that on the ground and said that her connections always thought the Filly and Mare Turf was a good race for her.
Terebellum is set to make her final start in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf as she searches for her first Group 1 victory. The filly has been close in three of her four Group 1 starts, losing by a head to Breeders’ Cup Mile hopeful Circus Maximus at Royal Ascot this year and then finishing third by only a half a length in another top-level race. Last year, the filly made her Group 1 debut in the 2019 Longines Prix de l’Opera where she finished fifth, but by only 1 ½ lengths.
Japan has sent Jasper Prince for this race, though he also holds an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (his second preference). He is in the main body of this field, however, and is an interesting horse with five wins from 19 starts. He didn’t run well last out on a muddy track though he did win his prior start in September by 1 ¾ lengths and has only made three starts in 2020. A U.S.-bred horse, he will be the third Breeders’ Cup runner in the last two years and fourth overall for trainer Hideyuki Mori, whose Full Flat gave him his best career Breeders’ Cup finish with a fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
One of the best milers in Europe based on accomplishment, Circus Maximus is one of seven internationals pre-entered for this race. He finished fourth to Uni last year in the Mile, and he looks to better that finish here after finishing second or third in three of his last four starts. Circus Maximus has raced five times so far this year, posting a head victory over Terebellum in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes to start his season. That was his third career Group 1 win. He’s only been campaigned at a mile this year, and Circus Maximus has been primed for this race – one of only a select few top-level turf races trainer Aidan O’Brien has not yet won.
The Mile will be a bit of a homecoming for Kameko. The colt was born next door to Keeneland at Calumet Farm before selling as a yearling in the pavilion just a few hundred feet from the turf course he’ll race on in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He’s been on quite the journey since selling at Keeneland in 2018 for $80,000, winning the first synthetic Group 1 as a 2-year-old last November before adding to his Group 1 haul in the Group 1 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas back in June – England’s first classic of the year. After running fourth in three consecutive races, Kameko returned to the winner’s enclosure in the Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes in late September. Expect the son of Kitten’s Joy to be primed for this start, he’s set to retire after this race to Tweenhills Stud in England.
One of those horses who has spent most of the season coming agonizingly close to a win without getting it, Lope Y Fernandez has run with some of the best throughout the year and has three Group 1 placings. He’ll need defections to get in, but if he runs in the Mile, we’ll see both the first- and third-place finishers of this year’s Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas in the race, as Lope Y Fernandez finished third to Siskin back in June. That’s the only time this colt has raced at a mile distance; he’s preferred shorter races throughout his career.
Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables is known for racing in North America, but the operation also races in Europe. The Jacksons are bringing back One Master, who was fifth in the 2018 Mile, for another try. One Master is an incredibly accomplished runner as she’s a three-time winner of the Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret – one of the most prestigious sprint races in Europe. While most of her starts have come in sprints, One Master has also held her own over a mile with four top-four finishes at the distance in five starts. Those include a close neck loss in a Group 1 stakes and a third-place finish by a neck in the Queen Anne Stakes against males, both occurring in 2019.
Having trained for over 25 years, John Quinn is marking plenty of milestones in 2020. In July in registered his 1,000th career winner with Safe Voyage, who now becomes his first Breeders’ Cup starter. Safe Voyage was third by only a neck to One Master last out in the Prix de la Foret, but beat her two starts back in a Group 2 stakes at York Racecourse in August. He then won another Group 2 in September before his very good third in the Prix de la Foret. An extremely consistent horse, Safe Voyage has won 12 of 29 starts with six other top three finishes and is bringing perhaps the best form of his racing career into this race, as he’s hit the board in five of six 2020 starts. Mainly a seven-furlong horse, Safe Voyage has stepped up to a mile with success throughout his career. His Group 2 win over One Master came at that distance, and he also finished third in a Group 1 to close out 2019 .
Siskin is looking to get back on a winning track in the Mile, as he’s Heading to Japan for stud duty afterward. He won the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas to start his season and then was third against older horses in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes next out with just a half-length separating him and runner-up Circus Maximus. He struggled in September’s Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, finishing fourth, but trainer Ger Lyons expects Siskin to put that behind him in Kentucky on a course many think will suit him well.
The final race with international representation this year, the Breeders’ Cup Turf sees five of the 11 horses in the race managed by European-based trainers. This race has proven to be a successful one for the Europeans over the past 10 years with only three American-based horses winning in that time.
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last 10 runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Turf and sends one of the best turf horses in the world to Keeneland in Magical. If you’ve heard her name before when it comes to American racing, it’s because Magical was second in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf to Enable. In an extremely memorable duel, she finished second by just three-quarters of a length, one of the smallest margins of victory for Enable in a storied career. This time, Magical doesn’t have an Enable to contend with and is coming into this race with three Group 1 victories in 2020. She did finish third last out on soft turf but seems to be coming into this race in the form of her life, a scary proposition for the other runners.
It isn’t often you see a German-trained horse in a Breeders’ Cup race, with only 12 Germans running in the Breeders’ Cup through the years, and only one German-bred winner – Shirocco in the 2005 Turf. That changes this year with Henk Grewe sending Donjah to Keeneland after winning a Group 1 stakes two starts ago. She’s raced exclusively in Germany outside of one win in Italy, and Donjah was fourth by 1 ¾ lengths in the Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Baden last out. Overall, the filly has four wins in 10 starts with two of those victories coming at the mile-and-a-half distance she’ll race in the Turf.
John Gosden, trainer of Enable, looks for his second Turf victory in three years with two horses this year, led by Lord North. A six-time winner who has only been off the board twice in his career, Lord North easily won the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes earlier this year. He then finished a good third behind Magical in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes before finishing 10th in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes, his most recent start. You can easily draw a line through the race with the bog at Ascot not suiting many of the horses who ran that day.
Always a good filly, Tarnawa has stepped up to another level this year with three victories in three starts for Dermot Weld. The Shamardal filly won a Group 3 stakes by 1 ¾ lengths in August and then won by three lengths in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille in September, both at 1 ½ miles. Most recently, she won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines by a neck going 1 ¼ miles in October. If Tarnawa can run to her 2020 form, she has a good chance to hit the board in the Longines Turf.