International Horses You Need to Know For the 2021 Breeders' Cup

Horses race down the stretch in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

A return to California for the Breeders’ Cup means a return to seeing international raiders who are hoping to take advantage of the firm Del Mar turf Nov. 5-6. This year, a record 56 international horses were pre-entered in 11 of the Breeders’ Cup races and should have a strong presence even after a few have been confirmed as staying home – including the recently retired 2020 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF winner Order of Australia. 

For those who aren’t traveling to Del Mar, you can watch all the races on NBC’s channels this year with the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic airing on NBC between 8 and 9 p.m. ET on Saturday. 

As we get set for a thrilling Breeders’ Cup week, we’ll introduce you to a few of internationals based on four different continents flying to Southern California for the championship event.

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

The Al Shaqab Racing owned Armor has been a consistent presence on the European stakes scene all year. A son of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up No Nay Never, he’s been improving all year with a win in the Group 3 Markel Molecomb Stakes at five furlongs in July. He was recently second by only a neck in the Group 2 Wainwright Flying Childers Stakes in September and only three-quarters of a length from coming into this race as a Group 1 winner when third in the G1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes. Both his wins have come at the same distance as this race, so the distance should be ideal.

Highly regarded in Europe, Go Bears Go threw in the first bad performance of his career last time out, but that race should be tossed out when it comes to betting here. The Kodi Bear colt was racing at seven furlongs for the first time and has proved much more effective at the five furlongs of this race and six furlongs. He won his career debut by 1 ½ lengths at this distance and was only a head away from winning the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet, also at five furlongs. He’s been a consistent in the top European stakes of the year with his three stakes losses at six furlongs all coming by one or less lengths. 

Fillies have a good top-four record in the first three editions of the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Quick Suzy is looking to become the first of her sex to win it. The filly has two wins to her name, with one coming when she was on the lead all the way in a six-furlong maiden race in May. But her biggest win came at the five-furlong distance of this race when beating fellow Juvenile Turf Sprint pre-entry Twilight Gleaming in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot. She did run an uncharacteristically bad race last out in France, but Quick Suzy was given plenty of time off after that race and is again cutting back to five-eighths of a mile from the three-quarters of a mile she ran there.

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Hello You has never gone the one-mile distance of the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf but she is a Group 2 winner at seven furlongs and has a pedigree that indicates she should do well going a little farther. The filly did put in two off-the-board finishes before her Group 2 Unibet Rockfel Stakes win but one of those was just 1 ¾ lengths behind fellow Juvenile Fillies Turf pre-entry Mise En Scene and was a better run than the results show. 

Mise En Scene is lightly raced with just three starts but two of those are victories going seven furlongs. The filly won her debut by four lengths before winning a Group 3 by a neck at the same distance. Her final start before this race was a fourth-place finish at one mile, but the ground was listed as good to soft (she had won over good previously) so you can probably cross that out for this race. There is very little chance she’ll even sniff soft ground at Del Mar, let alone run on it in the race.

$2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance

A record number of Japanese entries see their first representative run in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance this year in Jasper Great. The colt is coming into this race with just one start, but that one race was a 10-length domination in early October. Jasper Great is no stranger to the United States — he was bred in Kentucky and is by the late 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate. Jasper Great is a half-brother to California Grade 1 winner Power Broker as well, so we can expect California should suit the family. Jasper Great has already run at 1 1/8 miles so the 1 1/16 miles of the Juvenile should be no issue. The big question is if he’s ready to take on a field of this caliber after just one, albeit impressive, start.

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

Trainer Charlie Appleby and Godolphin look for their third win in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with Albahr and Modern Games. If you watched the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine in September, you’re already familiar with Albahr. The 2-year-old gelding won that race for his fourth straight victory and second stakes win at a mile. 

Modern Games is more of an unknown in more ways than one. Also by Dubawi, just like Albahr, Modern Games has never raced farther than seven-eighths of a mile – though he has a Group 3 win at that distance – and has never raced any shorter either. He also doesn’t have the experience of traveling like Albahr does, so he’s a bit more of a wildcard. While you never know until they try, Modern Games’ pedigree indicates a mile should be within his scope.  

Albahr won the Summer Stakes in his last start. (Michael Burns/Woodbine Photo)

Aidan O’Brien has only Glounthaune pre-entered into this race but you can never count the Irishman out. O’Brien has 13 Breeders’ Cup winners to his name and four of those are in the Juvenile Turf. Glounthaune isn’t your typical Sadler’s Wells-lined racehorse O’Brien usually brings, however, as he is by the speedy sprint influence Kodiac. O’Brien doesn’t ship unless he thinks he can win and Glounthaune does have a Group 3 win at seven furlongs coming into this. Similar to several others coming into the race, it isn’t known if that extra eighth of a mile will pose a challenge he can’t conquer. 

$1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

A Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race winner last out, A Case of You is now looking to win on the biggest American stage at Del Mar a little over a month after his last victory. The first ever Group 1 winner for trainer Adrian McGuiness, he’s now looking to become the trainer’s first Breeders’ Cup starter. The five-furlong Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines victory was no fluke for the 3-year-old colt. He has hit the board in all but two starts this year – those both coming at longer distances than the Turf Sprint. Among his wins are the Group 3 Goffs Lacken by a neck going six furlongs and he was only a half-length away from winning the five-furlong Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes two starts back as well.

Emaraaty Ana won the Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup in September as his final preparation before this start. The 5-year-old gelding has put in his best racing season in 2021 with a close second in the Group 1 Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes and two thirds in Group 3s as well. His connections have always had high expectations of him, the winner of the 2018 Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes, he raced in two mile-long classics in 2019 until his connections decided to keep him at the sprint distances, where he has excelled. 

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Glass Slippers is back to try and become the third two-time winner of this race in its 14 years of running. Now 5, Glass Slippers has raced three times this year with third-place finishes in all three starts. That includes the same Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines that she finished second in last year on her way to winning this race by a half-length at Keeneland. Her best Timeform rating this year is four points lower than her best last year but are similar to the ratings she was given in a few of her races during that campaign.

$1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

The Japanese pair of Jasper Prince and Pingxiang are the two internationals pre-entered for this year’s Dirt Mile.

A winner of more than $1 million, Jasper Prince ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint and didn’t fair well, but he will be stretching out a quarter-mile this year. The 6-year-old by Violence won his last start by 1 ½ lengths going seven furlongs, a distance he’s run well at in the past, but he hasn’t competed in a one-mile race since 2018, so the distance is a question mark here.

Pingxiang will be making his first start out of Japan in the Breeders’ Cup but he’s familiar with traveling – he was born in Kentucky and sent to Japan. The 4-year-old colt comes into the Dirt Mile after two stakes victories at seven furlongs and has won three of his five 2021 races, all at that distance. He nearly secured a fourth win when second by a head in January. Just like his fellow Japanese runner, Pingxiang also hasn’t tried a mile, but his consistent record at seven furlongs is strong enough to think it shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

$2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Audarya is back to seek a repeat victory in what will be her fifth start of 2021. The 5-year-old is still looking for her first win this year but nearly earned one two starts ago when just nosed out by Grand Glory in the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet. In Audaraya’s last start, she finished fourth to fellow Filly and Mare Turf entrant Rougir, but that came on extremely heavy ground so can very likely be excused.

Also pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Turf as her second choice, Loves Only You has been a world traveler this year and is set to run in her fourth country when she starts in the Filly and Mare Turf. Consistent with 11 top three finishes in 14 career starts, the Japanese classic winner won a Hong Kong Group 1 race two starts back and hasn’t finished worse than top three in any of her 2021 starts – with none coming in a lower level than a Group 2. 

Audarya is looking for her second consecutive win in the Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf. (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Reina de Mollendo is in the care of trainer Kenny McPeek now but the Peruvian runner has yet to make a start in the United States. She came to the U.S. after winning a Group 1 in her former country at 1 ¼ miles and has proved a versatile racehorse with wins at distances ranging from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 ¼ miles from March to June. The filly is the winner of four of her six career starts with her combined winning margin sitting at 16 1/4 lengths. She is stretching an eighth of a mile farther than her last start for this race, but it doesn’t look like that should be much of an issue for her.

$2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint

A familiar international face is returning to the Breeders’ Cup this year in Japanese runner Matera Sky. The 7-year-old by Speightstown ran eighth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Sprint before opting out of last year’s race, but he has logged some frequent flier mile since then. This year he finished runner-up by just a neck in Saudi Arabia in his first 2021 start before going to Dubai, where he didn’t find much luck. The horse’s last start was in August, when he was fifth in Japan but he does have a solid career record behind him – he has finished in the top two 16 times in 35 career races. 

$2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF

Three-year-old Master of the Seas was seventh most recently on good-to-soft ground but should appreciate the firm turf he figures to get going a mile at Del Mar. The colt has been lightly raced this year but that campaign includes a win in the Group 3 Bet365 Craven Stakes and missing out on the Group 1 QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas by only a nose to nearly become a British classic winner. A Group 2 winner last year at seven furlongs, he’s been campaigned strictly at a mile as a 3-year-old and does have class behind him in addition to his love for firm turf.

Mother Earth was second in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and looks to go one better this year in the Mile. The filly was a useful juvenile but has come alive this year with all but her last start resulting in a top-three finish. Among her seven top-three finishes was a win in the Group 1 QIPCO One Thousand Guineas to start her year and a win against elders in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild in August. She has been campaigned exclusively in Group 1 races this year and even when running fifth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last out, she was just 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Mother Earth galloping prior to last year's Breeders' Cup. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Breeders’ Cup Mile is the first preference for Queen Supreme, who also holds a pre-entry in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Queen Supreme is an interesting candidate for both races because she was seventh last out. That said, that seventh came in her first start after nine months away while making the move from South Africa to England just to be able to compete in the Breeders’ Cup. That move is a complicated journey so you can very likely throw out her last race. The 5-year-old mare won the Group 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes for the second time two starts back and has proved a very accomplished racehorse in South Africa. A fair question to ask though is how the competition she faced there matches up to the Mile runners, because we don’t often get to see South African runners face Northern Hemisphere runners. 

This is most likely the last start for Space Blues, who has already earned a spot on the Darley stallion roster when he retires. The 5-year-old has been one of the top European sprinters in the past 15 months and hasn’t tried a mile since April 2019, but when he did, he ran well. In fact, his maiden victory came at a mile when he was 2 years old and he had a head loss in his other start at the distance, so it’s definitely in his wheelhouse. He is a horse jockey William Buick has often said is one of his favorites, and Space Blues is coming into this race off of two group stakes wins at seven furlongs so he’s worth putting on your tickets in this spot. 

$2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff

If you were a fan of 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Blue Prize, you should root for Blue Stripe – she is Blue Prize’s half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]). Blue Stripe comes from Argentina for this race after winning three straight starts in her home country. Those victories include a Group 1 win by a head and a Group 2 win by an impressive eight lengths. The 4-year-old is lightly raced with just six career starts but her only two losses were Group 1 third-place finishes on turf, so she definitely isn’t struggling for talent. All but one of her starts has come at 1 ¼ miles so she can handle the Distaff distance, it’s just a question of how she stacks up against top North American dirt horses.

Blue Stripe, the half-sister of 2019 Distaff winner Blue Prize (pictured) will compete in this year's Distaff. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Japan sent a large group of horses over for the Breeders’ Cup and Marche Lorraine represents them in the Distaff. The 5-year-old mare comes into the race off of a win in August and has a good record before that with just one off-the-board finish in nine starts since August 2020. Marche Lorraine has raced from 1 1/16 miles to 1 ¼ miles in that time frame with wins at four different distances. 

$4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf

A familiar name in U.S. 3-year-old turf races makes his fourth journey over to this country as Bolshoi Ballet debuts against elders in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The 3-year-old trained by Aidan O’Brien earned his first Grade 1 this summer when he made easy work of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes before traveling back twice more for a pair of fourth-place finishes. Outside of North America, he’s a two-time Group 3 winner in Ireland with those wins coming by a combined margin of 8 ¼ lengths.

Bolshoi Ballet’s stablemate Love was an eye-catching 3-year-old for trainer Aidan O’Brien last year and is looking to regain some of that form this year. Love won her three 2020 races by a combined margin of 18 ¼ lengths but has only found a win in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes in four starts this year. Don’t be fooled though, Love’s “off” form is level to many horses’ “on” form. Her three losses this year saw her finish second or third, so even if she has lost a step, she’s still one to watch. Love also has a pre-entry to the Filly and Mare Turf as her second preference.

Tarnawa was last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner returns seeking a repeat victory. According to Timeform ratings, Tarnawa is even better this year than she was a year ago. Her lowest figure of 122 in a win this year is only one point lower than her highest 2020 figure. The 5-year-old mare won by 6 ½ lengths that day in Ireland and has posted two Group 1 seconds since then with both getting higher figures. She was only three-quarters of a length away from winning both races, including in the Group 1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, one of the most prestigious turf races in the world.

Walton Street looms large in the Longines Turf. (Michael Burns/Woodbine Photo)

Another international racehorse who has proven he can handle North American racing is Walton Street. The 7-year-old Darley homebred ran his final prep race in Canada, winning the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International by 5 ¾ lengths a month after finishing third in a German Group 1. Walton Street has stepped up to consistently running in stakes this year and has not embarrassed himself, also winning two races in Dubai by a combined margin of 8 ½ lengths before finishing just 3 ½ lengths back in the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.

Jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes winner Yibir returns to the United States to take on elders for the first time in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. The 3-year-old gelding has won three of his last four starts with his only loss coming on good-to-soft ground, something he almost certainly won’t encounter at Del Mar. He’s proven he can go the distance with multiple 1 ½-mile victories and, in addition to the Derby victory, he also has two group stakes wins to make him a potential dark horse in the race.

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