Looking Forward to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup of Horse Racing

Image credit: missing8519
Image credit: missing8519

The Breeders’ Cup makes its first visit to Keeneland this weekend. The meeting is also on America’s east coast for the first time in four years, having set up camp in Santa Anita for the past three seasons. That Californian track has actually hosted five of the last seven Breeders’ Cups.

Since the first Breeders’ Cup in 1984, Europe has not failed to be represented and only twice has it gone home empty-handed: 1989 and 2007. 2008, 2009 and 2013 have been some of Europe’s most successful years. They netted five winners on two occasions and six winners in 2009. Their success there in 2009 was especially impressive given the additional travel time and climate differences between Santa Anita and other US tracks.


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It is highly unlikely Europe will go home empty-handed this time around given that it fields a number of favourites. However, I also see it as unlikely that the European group will surpass more than four victories across the entire Breeders’ Cup meet.

To date, the UK has had 268 runners at the Breeders’ Cup which have yielded 25 winners and 37 placed horses. Ireland, primarily trainer Aidan O’Brien, has had 125 runners producing 10 winners and 21 placed horses.

But the French (with a few German-trained horses thrown in) have doubled that winning score with 20 winners and 25 placed horses from 158 representatives.  Germany has not contributed a single winner to that winning tally.

The Contenders

The 2015 Breeders’ Cup opens on Friday with The Juvenile Turf scheduled as the first race of the day. Here’s a look at the European challengers and where you can get the best odds on each:

Hit It A Bomb was trading as a 3/1 clear favourite among online racebooks before the draw was made but following an allocation of stall 14 in the 14-runner race, the unbeaten Irish-trained American-bred two-year-old now looks to have a mountain to climb.

Cymric, another American-bred who finished second in a French Group 1 race last time has fared no better. He now finds himself in stall 13.

As is generally the case, Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien seems to have travelled to Keeneland with some deadwood. Amongst those is War Envoy (20/1) in the Dirt Mile who has a lifetime record of two wins from 14 starts.

Alice Springs does head the betting in the Juvenile Fillies Turf although opinions differ wildly. While Ladbrokes and Betfred offer just 3/1, Betfair asses her chances at 9/2.

The daughter of Galileo (Alice Springs that is) is the most experienced horse in the field with six previous starts and two wins, but she has repeatedly come up short at the highest level of competition in her native Ireland. At least she is well berthed and will be starting from gate 3.

Preference is for Richard Hannon’s Illuminate (6/1 at Betway) however. The English training duo of Richard Hannon Jr & Sr has a real knack with their two-year-olds and never mistake their geese for swans. Their filly, with a three from four records, steps up two furlongs in a trip which is imponderable but they do have the services of veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori who also has some plum rides for Wesley Ward at the meeting.

Saturday is where the headline races reside, namely the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Turf and Classic.

Beforehand there is the Filly & Mare Turf and one of the strongest chances of European success courtesy of the Irish-trained Legatissimo (11/10 at William Hill).

Three wins and two short-head defeats in Group 1 company have come her way this season in distances ranging from a mile to 12 furlongs. Given a sweet starting gate at 3 and the booking of genial jockey Ryan Moore, only the effects of a long season (which did start with defeat in April) can surely get Legatissimo beaten.

The only European challenger in the Classic is Gleneagles (16/1 at William Hill). The champion two-year-old and dual 2000 Guineas winner has to be considered a doubtful runner given a spate of withdrawals due to ground described as anything other than good or firm during the summer.

While there has been plenty of rainfall on Keeneland’s racecourse in recent days, it was already questioning if the Aidan O’Brien horse would perform on a surface other than turf (which he has only ever run on) or enjoy the step-up to 10 furlongs having never raced beyond a mile.

All in all, there is a great chance the Europeans will claim the Breeders’ Cup Mile. They should do so considering they field the top seven in the betting.

The French-trained Karakontie (14/1 at Coral) was a surprise winner of this race last year and while the four-year-old has been a bitter disappointment in two starts this season, it is worth considering this race does throw-up repeat winners aplenty as Goldikova (2008, 2009 & 2010) and Wise Dan (2012 & 2013) testify.

Given his gate 11 starting position, Karakontie is not as promising. The same goes for the English runner Time Test (11/2 at Paddy Power), who is drawn further out yet with stall 12 of the 12-runner field.

French-trained five-year-old mare Esoterique heads the betting at 7/2 according to Coral. And while she landed the Group 1 Sun Chariot at Newmarket three weeks ago, that was her first win in seven starts. Doing so took her lifetime record to six wins from 16 starts.

Stable-mate Make Believe (both representing Andre Fabre) has an “improvers” profile having landed four races from six starts including a brace of Group 1s this season. Forgiving the three-year-old his trouncing at this season’s Royal Ascot (behind Gleneagles), and the son of Makfi would surely warrant outright favouritism.  As it stands, Boylesports at 4/1 is an outstanding proposition.

The best story would be success for little-known trainer David O’Meara’s Mondialiste (16/1 Paddy Power). He may be Irish bred and started his career in France, but with starting gate 4, he could represent England’s best chance of victory in this contest.

The outstanding trainer, who has repeatedly shown his knack at improving seemingly exposed horses, took charge of this contender at the start of the year and immediately produced him to finish runner-up in a major early-season handicap at odds of 25/1. Subsequently, the five-year-old has built up a sequence of three wins culminating with Grade 1 success at Canada’s Woodbine racecourse.

Of all this weekend’s events, it is The Turf that is most likely to produce a UK Winner. That particular race has been a hunting ground for European runners when you consider the prize has stayed in America just four times since 1999.

Derby, Eclipse and Arc winner Golden Horn (8/13 at Betfred) is a brilliant three-year-old that looks the proverbial conversion-kick. This is highlighted by the fact that his only rival trading at single digits is the Aidan O’Brien trained Found (4/1 at Boylesports). Found has managed to collect just a single race from her seven outings in 2015: a three-runner Group 3 on the Curragh in August.

The only real negative is the distant memory of Dancing Brave’s seemingly straightforward task in this race in 1986. It too followed an impressive victory in that year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but it ended with a massively disappointing and inexplicable fourth-placed finish.

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