Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Trends
Another newish race, with five previous runnings to consider. If ever a race at the Breeders Cup looked like a European benefit, this one mile turf race for juvenile fillies is it. Strange then that it took until the fifth iteration for Europe to record a win, and perhaps even stranger that the British and Irish axis is still awaiting its turn in the victors' circle.
It's not for want of trying. In 2008, two Irish fillies boarded a plane and one of them, the 14/1 shot Heart Shaped (trained by Aidan O'Brien), just failed by a nose to get up. The following year, there were again two Euros, one more O'Brien horse and a German challenger. Despite the Irish filly being 6/4 favourite, she could do no better than eighth with the Deutsche, Junia Tepzia, trailing home last of the twelve.
Over the Churchill we went in 2010, and for this third renewal there were four Euro raiders. The best finish was from AOB's Together, in a disappointing fifth. Messrs Hannon, Gosden and Meehan were out with the washing.
Three years in, and eight runners in, and Europe had yet to register. Worse, their last two sets of entries didn't even trouble the superfecta judge.
To 2011, and a triple whammy attack on the race from Europe, with one each from Ireland, UK and France. Elusive Kate was the UK representative but she left her race in Paris, and it was AOB's Up which enjoyed the best finish of the three, in fourth place. At least that pesky superfecta judge had to call some 'away team' in his 1-2-3-4.
2012 saw two things happen: one, the Breeders Cup roadshow returned to Santa Anita; and, two, a new rule banned the use of Lasix in the juvenile races. That latter rule, which remains in place for 2013 but will then be rescinded, seems to favour the Euros who never use raceday medication.
With hindsight then, it probably offered the best chance of a European winner, and so it proved as the east side of the pond registered its maiden win, courtesy of Mikael Delzangles' French filly, Flotilla. She was far from the most fancied of the Euro quintet, however.
Indeed, Sky Lantern, subsequently to prove herself top class, was sent off 5/2 favourite before disappointing under a misjudged inside ride.
One of the key challenges to a European win does seem to be lack of track craft from the foreign jockeys, who simply don't know how to ride the tight inner oval. If you have a very good horse - as in the case of Sky Lantern - the key is to go wide, and use the camber to slingshot into the stretch. Guaranteed a run out wide, no momentum is lost, and tiring foes ahead come back to their field. Hopefully this year we'll see less hard luck stories.
If you're not sure what I mean, watch this rerun of last year's race, and then replay the home stretch. You just have to come wide into the straight if you're coming from off the pace.
Key Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Trends
With just five years data to look at, these trends are not definitive, but there are some interesting angles. Firstly, no matter how much we feel that Europe should be doing better, and irrespective of last year's fillip, the fact is that from seventeen attempts so far, Europe has just one winner to America's four.
Moreover, that winner was not the strongest fancy in the raiding party. This is a race in which hard luck stories abound, with a big field of inexperienced horses hurtling around tight turns and down a short run-in. The average payoff is just over 10/1, so try not to get drawn into a European sucker bet. Even if a short-priced Euro does win in 2013, it's not a value play according to the brief history available.
Although only two horses had won their previous start going into this, four of the five winners had either won the last day or been within two lengths of the winner.
All four US winners had won over at least a mile on turf.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Key Prep Races
There are five 'Win And You're In' (WAYI) races for this contest, two in Europe and three in North America. Lucky Kristale won the Lowther Stakes, but won't be risked on the fast Santa Anita course; Rizeena won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, and has since run second in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.
Across the pond, Llanarmon won the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, perhaps the key prep for the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. She gets an automatic pass as a consequence, but she wasn't far ahead of Spanish Flower, Appreciating and Madly Truly, all of which were within a length of the winner.
In the Ms Grillo Stakes, Testa Rossi just nosed out Sky Painter for the WAYI berth, but again there's nothing between them on this evidence. And finally, in the Jessamine Stakes, Kitten Kaboodle rolled away from favourite, Zinzay, and the rest, winning by almost five lengths.