The European runners to watch at the Breeders' Cup

Breeders' Cup Mile contender Toronado. Photo:

The Mile and the Turf - and maybe some other races - look destined for export

“Shippers Ahoy!” The success of quality shippers from Europe into North America shows no sign of ending, with 2014 already another good year for cross-Atlantic raids, on prizes big and small.

Adelaide and Euro Charline won G1s at Arlington in August, while Hillstar was the fifth consecutive European-trained winner of the Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 19, with fellow Brits Caspar Netscher and Just The Judge winning graded races on the same card.

Not a month goes by without horses with significant form in Europe, and elsewhere, pitching up in the U.S. and Canada, either temporarily or permanently, and plenty of them have done notably well. The message is clear: If you take your racing seriously in the modern era, you need to get a handle on horses being shipped between continents. Nowhere is this more important than at the Breeders’ Cup.

From 1984 – the year of the first Breeders’ Cup – onward, European-trained horses have drawn a blank at the event on just four occasions. The most recent was in 2007, since when the raiders have gone home with five or six prizes on three separate occasions. An average of about one win per year in the last century has become an average of more than two and a half wins in this one.   

That has been related to the expansion in the number of races at the self-styled World Championships, but only partly. The absence of the Marathon this year (it will be run in another guise on the undercard) deprives Europe of one of its best opportunities, but there are still plenty of races to go for, and the 2014 raiding team is again strong in numbers.

So, how is the European challenge likely to fare at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday? The long and short of it is that European-trained horses look to have a good chance in three or four races but to have their work cut out in others.

Let’s look at the older horses first. The best opportunities are in the Breeders’ Cup Turf – a race that Europe has won far more often than not this century – and the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Europe has failed to land the latter race since Goldikova completed her hat-trick in 2010, but has several worthy contenders in a race lacking all-American equine hero Wise Dan, winner in 2012 and 2013.

Toronado is not quite so good on Timeform ratings as when European Champion Miler in 2013, but his win this year at Royal Ascot, and seconds since at Goodwood and Longchamp, still make him the form pick for the Mile. While blown away by Kingman’s turn of foot at Goodwood, Toronado is by no means devoid of speed himself, as many of his sectional times show.

Next best looks to be Anodin, Goldikova’s brother, who has mixed it with the best repeatedly this year (third to Toronado at Royal Ascot, second to Kingman at Deauville) and who can be forgiven a somewhat troubled fifth at Longchamp last time.

Just behind them, Mustajeeb (another Royal Ascot winner), Veda (runner-up in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches - French 1,000 Guineas - at Longchamp), and even recent Canadian winner Trade Storm, are capable of stepping up to the plate if others fail.

Timeform has the U.S.-based pair of Obviously and Seek Again on the same 123-rating level on form as Anodin, and either could win if everything goes right, but the Mile looks a race more likely than not to go abroad.

Flintshire (second to Treve in the Arc at Longchamp) and Telescope (beat Hillstar by seven lengths at Royal Ascot) are high-class contenders in the Turf. Marginal preference is for the latter, managed by Harry Herbert, who is associated with another British export in the TV series Downton Abbey. Both horses look a length or two ahead of last year’s winner Magician and the Irish St Leger winner (and Canadian International non-starter) Brown Panther.

Their biggest headache could easily be provided by Main Sequence, ultimately a disappointing type in Britain but reformed and unbeaten stateside in the care of Graham Motion. Main Sequence had a Timeform “squiggle,” denoting unreliability, at one point in his career. One who has one now is the Irish-trained filly Chicquita, who is, at least, running in the same direction (left-handed) as she usually hangs these days. The Turf could well be another one for the Europeans.

Outside that, things get more problematical for the raiding party. Dank would be very difficult to beat in the Filly & Mare Turf if in the same form as when winning 12 months ago, but she has underperformed in two runs this year and was last seen in June.

Caspar Netscher may manage to hit the board in the Turf Sprint if everything goes right, but he is a length or two shy of the standard usually required to win this race.

Toast of New York looks to have an even bigger task on his plate against Shared Belief (at 130, Timeform’s highest-rated horse on form on show at the event) and others in the Classic.

American racing fans arguably know Toast of New York’s strengths – he’s game and smart, but just below the very top international level to date – better than any, given it will be a year to the day since the colt last ran in Britain.     

They should also be wise to the chances of another international raider in Rich Tapestry, who shipped (from Hong Kong, not Europe, in his case) to win the Santa Anita Sprint Championship recently. The gelding is rightly among the market leaders for what looks a slightly substandard Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Rich Tapestry started in Ireland, has raced in the United Arab Emirates as well as Hong Kong, and will be ridden by French jockey Olivier Doleuze: international, indeed! Those taken unawares last month by this classy shipper will have no such excuse this time.


Simon Rowlands is head of international research and development at Timeform

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus

More Racing Articles

By the same author