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While the speakers on my smart TV blare out a race-caller screaming a bunch of French words that I don’t understand, my wife yells out from the other room, “What the hell are you watching?!”
When I reply, “I’m watching replays from Europe to get ready for the Breeders’ Cup,” her reply is usually, “Wow, that’s really annoying. You are crazy!”
Well, they say each person needs to have separate interests for a healthy relationship!
This is my annual ritual. To help share with you that annual ritual, I present to you the top Euros (and the top replays on YouTube to save you time searching) to help you get ready for the BC Turf, Mile, Turf Sprint and Filly & Mare Turf.
We’ll start off our Euro coverage with a name that should be very familiar to BC fans. Highland Reel shipped into Santa Anita last year to win the BC Turf over favorite Flintshire in gate-to-wire fashion, which not only demonstrated his talent, but was also an indictment of the passive nature of U.S. riders in long-distance turf racing.
Check out the replay of his run-away front-end 2016 BC Turf win at 1 1/2 miles here (also, keep an eye on Ulysses finishing fourth in this race, as we’ll discuss him later):
Highland Reel should get more pace pressure this year, as top 3-year-old turfer Oscar Performance can hoof it on the front-end and keep him company early. Multiple Grade 1 winner Beach Patrol has also been known to press an early pace.
After last year’s BC, the globe-trotting Highland Reel ran second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase to end 2016, then seventh in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. He reeled off (pun intended) two Group 1 wins in England after returning home, including the prestigious Prince of Wales in mid-June at Royal Ascot in our next replay below. Watch for jockey Ryan Moore in the purple silks on Highland Reel in this replay, and also keep an eye on the second- and third-place finishers, Decorated Knight and Ulysses, who will both be coming over for the BC:
Highland Reel returned to run fourth in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes over a soft turf to end July, as Moore kept him out wide most of the race looking for firmer turf. Once again, watch for a strong run from Ulysses to get second behind the world’s top-rated turfer, Enable:
Trainer Aidan O’Brien then pointed Highland Reel to the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Arc) to start October, but then decided to pass on the race with soft going expected over the Chantilly grass. To get a race into Highland Reel before the BC, O’Brien ran him last Saturday, October 21, in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he finished third over soft going.
Highland Reel took the lead in the middle stages of the 1 1/4 mile race, but was way over on the far-side rail again as Ryan Moore tried to find some firmer turf to run on. Cracksman pulled away from the crowd to win, but Highland Reel did show some life to finish third. Once again, the full race Royal Ascot action isn’t readily available on YouTube, so please fast forward to the 1:50 point on this French replay and look for Moore in the purple silks (I promise, most of the replays in this article will be in English):
After the race O’Brien said, “We were delighted with his run. He has been off a long time and he is not a soft-ground horse, but we were over the moon with his run.”
Last year, Highland Reel ran second in the Arc 35 days before winning the BC Turf, so we’ll see if he’s as successful off of only a 14 day layoff this year.
The other big Euro that has been focused on a return run in the BC Turf is Ulysses for the always-dangerous trainer Sir Michael Stoute. He nosed out a couple of rivals to finish fourth last year in the BC Turf after sitting mid-pack and making a mild move in the stretch.
Ulysses’ most recent race was a third-place finish in the Arc de Triomphe behind the all-world Enable, which can be found here:
Before that, Ulysses wore down the top two 3-year-old European turfers, Churchill and Barney Roy, to win the Group 1 Juddmonte International, a “Win & You’re In” (W&YI) that paid his way into the BC Turf (keep your eye on Churchill here too, since he is pre-entered in the BC Classic as his first preference):