Breeders' Cup

Breeders’ Cup Skinny: Know Your Euros

Highland Reel winning 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park (Racing Dudes Photo)

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.

2017 Breeders' Cup Wagering Guide

BC Turf: Reel to Reel

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.

BC Turf: Ulysses the Great

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):

Ulysses was a major buzz horse in the BC Turf last year going off at 11/1 odds and will be one of the top choices this year, bringing his recent strong European form back to the U.S.

BC Turf: Knight Time

Decorated Knight, another of the top Europeans, has been focused on the BC for a while. The Roger Charlton trainee has an all-expenses-paid entry into the BC Turf by way of his W&YI victory in the Group 1 QIPCO Irish Champions at Leopardstown, but he’s also been pre-entered in the BC Mile as his second preference. Decorated Knight beat Churchill and a salty field that included The Grey Gatsby and the filly Zhukova, who both recently raced poorly at Belmont. Decorated Knight, with jockey Andrea Atzeni in dark green silks, sits in last throughout and explodes on the far outside to overtake the field at 25/1 odds in this replay below:

Atzeni celebrated almost prematurely before the wire but held on for the win.

Back in June, Decorated Knight ran second behind Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot, as you saw in the replay above. In deep stretch, he was in between Highland Reel and nosed out a very good Ulysses late. Decorated Knight definitely has the class to be a threat in this Turf field at a big price.

BC Mile: Ribchester Stands Tall

The biggest story surrounding the Mile field is if one of the best turf milers in the world, Ribchester, will ship in.  His trainer Richard Fahey said that he is looking for firm turf, but may opt to ship to Hong Kong instead. If Ribchester comes to the BC, he would lead the European contingent into the BC Mile. His strong second in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (QE2) at Royal Ascot during Champions Day on October 21 would only give him a 2-week turn-around to the BC, so that is the major reason Fahey may be reluctant to bring him to San Diego.  His second in the QE2 shows his talent and his heart. After striking the lead in the stretch with his jockey William Buick in the Godolphin blue silks, he is overtaken late by the eventual winner Persuasive, but keeps fighting back to close his margin of defeat to only one length. Once again, check out third-place finisher Churchill on the rail, as he is pre-entered in the BC Mile as his second preference.

If you want to see how dominant Ribchester can be, then take a look at his win back in June in the prestigious Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he romps down the middle of the course to win pulling away:

Since I’ll be attending the Breeders’ Cup, I really hope I get to see one of the best in the world with Ribchester on display.

BC Mile: Bombing Away

Lancaster Bomber is another miler looking to make some noise at the BC.

His last trip to North America resulted in a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile behind possible BC Mile favorite World Approval. Caught in a traffic jam for most of the race, Lancaster Bomber had a good late surge once he got clear in the stretch:

In his only other North American start, he ran second in last year’s BC Juvenile Turf behind Oscar Performance, so he’s shown a liking for North American racing.

He also ran second in St. James’s Palace at Royal Ascot after sitting second early, taking over the lead at the top of the stretch, then getting caught late by Barney Roy:

All of this sounds great, but in his most recent race, the Group 1 QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on October 21 (see replay above), he finished a disappointing 14th, beating only one runner – the infamous Kentucky Derby bucking bronco Thunder Snow. Lancaster Bomber will have to rebound for O’Brien off of only a 14-day rest and that poor performance to compete in the BC.

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BC Turf Sprint: Marsha March

Marsha will lead the European contingent into San Diego in the 5-furlong BC Turf Sprint. That event’s W&YI Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe at York was her breakout performance when she beat the possible BC Turf Sprint favorite Lady Aurelia by a very dirty nose at the wire:

Frankie Dettori, Lady Aurelia’s jockey, took a lot of heat on social media for celebrating so emphatically after the race. Marsha, meanwhile, followed up the win to run a decent second for trainer Sir Mark Prescott behind a romping Battaash in the Prix de L’abbaye:

Marsha has done her best runnig on soft or yielding turf courses, so she’ll need to prove herself over the firm Del Mar strip if she wants to take the BC Turf Sprint. She will also need to prove herself around a turn, since most of her sprint races have been on the straight.

BC Filly & Mare Turf: Flower Power

With multiple Group 1 winner Hydrangea skipping the BC for O’Brien, Rhododendra and Roly Poly will represent Europe’s top trainer in the BC Filly & Mare (F&M) Turf. A major story line is if O’Brien can take down trainer Chad Brown and his trio of Lady Eli, Grand Jete, and Dacita in this $2 million race.

Rhododendra nosed out her stablemate Hydrangea to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly over soft turf on the Arc undercard to begin October. Watch for her, with jockey Seamie Heffernan in the dark blue silks, stalking in the 3- to 4-path all race long. Also, watch for fourth-place finisher Wuheida, with jockey James Doyle in the blue Godolphin silks, and defending BC F&M Turf champ Queen’s Trust, who finishes eighth in this replay, as both are pre-entered to run in this year’s BC F&M Turf:

Before we leave this replay, it should be noted that Queen’s Trust has been off form ever since her win at Santa Anita last year. Her trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is top-notch, but she hasn’t won a race in five starts this year, with her best finish a third in August’s Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks.

Wuheida is another that will be tough to back in the BC. After shipping to the U.S. for the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in mid-October, trainer Charlie Appleby scratched her after discovering a corn on her right-front leg. Appleby said that the lameness was minor and shipped her straight to California, but a setback this close to the BC is very concerning.

One filly entering the BC F&M Turf in good form is the aforementioned Roly Poly. With three Group 1 wins at a mile this year, she has the class, but she’ll need to stretch out an extra furlong here to 1 1/8 miles.  Her most recent win in the Group 1 Sun Chariot at Newmarket on October 7 showed her front-end speed, but it was also on the straight:

Roly Poly finished a disappointing ninth last year in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, so her liking for both U.S. racing is questionable. Both Rhododendra and Roly Poly are fast enough to contest the pace early in U.S. racing, so these are the top two Euros to watch in this race.

2017 Breeders' Cup Wagering Guide

Breeders’ Cup Coverage

We are running out of time as the pre-entries are now out and the real handicapping begins! I most likely will not be able to post another article covering the Europeans coming over for the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Turf Fillies, but I’ll send out good YouTube links on my Twitter feed @SaratogaSlim.

I’m working on my race-by-race analysis for the Racing Dudes / Guaranteed Tip Sheet 2017 Breeders’ Cup Guide. Get your copy here!

I’m also lining up interviews for my on-site coverage of the Breeders’ Cup with trainers and jockeys, starting next Thursday. We’ll be posting those video interviews to the Racing Dudes YouTube channel. To top it off, we’ll be putting out YouTube videos analyzing each race, so I’m working on all of my handicapping for those videos. Look for them to come out a day or two before the Breeders’ Cup.

My original plan was to write a “Breeders’ Cup Skinny” after the pre-entries and another next week about wagering strategy, but that plan has changed to make way for all of the great coverage that I’ll be providing with Racing Dudes over the next week. We are SO CLOSE to the Breeders’ Cup!

Follow me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim. I’ll be tweeting out updates over the next week.

Good luck in the Breeders’ Cup!

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