The 2015 Breeders’ Cup is just over a week away. A staggering $26 million in prize money is up for grabs during two thrilling days of high-class international horse racing.
This year’s event moves to the prestigious Keeneland Racecourse, in Lexington, Kentucky. With 13 Grade 1 races to be won we will again be treated to a Europe versus America confrontation that always adds intrigue to the whole experience.
Wonderful racehorses have crossed the Atlantic over the years, hoping to defeat the best American thoroughbreds in their own back yard. And the list of those finding a pot of gold at the end of that Breeders’ Cup rainbow is a truly dazzling one.
Ouija Board and Goldikova were two of Europe’s great fillies, and they conquered America five times in total. Freddy Head’s wonderful French mare was spectacular when winning her third Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2010. Ridden by Peslier, she had to be brought wide to challenge, but showed her trademark burst of speed to sweep through for a stunning success. She became a huge favourite of the American public.
Aidan O’Brien’s High Chaparral and Sir Michael Stoute’s Conduit both managed to complete a Breeders’ Cup Turf double during their illustrious careers. John Gosden is another that loves to plunder prizes from ‘across the pond’, and had the audacity to win ‘The Classic’ in 2008 with Raven’s Pass, defeating Henrythenavigator in the process.
The Filly and Mare Turf has proved a happy hunting ground for European horses in the past. Alongside Ouija Board’s achievements Sir Michael Stoute has twice captured the race with Dank and Islington. The great Sir Henry Cecil also saddled the winner when his brilliant Midday took the prize. And it will come as no surprise to see Aidan O’Brien’s name on numerous winners lists, as along with High Chaparral he’s saddled the likes of Magician and St Nicholas Abbey to name just a few.
Not to be out-done the French trained challengers have been no-less successful. Andre Fabre’s Flintshire may have just missed out in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, but Fabre has tasted success in ‘The Classic’, the Filly and Mare Turf, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. In 2005 it was the globe-trotting Shirocco who took the latter. During his career the colt won six major group races in five countries.
Other great French trainers to find America to their liking include Freddy Head and the legendary Francois Boutin.
As the entries came out today it became clear that another sizeable European raiding party will once again launch a challenge on America’s most prestigious racing weekend. The assault will be led by the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn. Anthony Oppenheimer's sensational three-year-old colt will look to end his racing career in style, and is a short-priced favourite to do so in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
The Filly and Mare Turf again looks likely to go the way of Europe with Legatissimo and Secret Gesture both fancied to run huge races. The Guineas winner looks set to go off favourite, and will take all the beating, especially if she turns up in the same form as when cruising to victory in the Matron Stakes in September.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile appears another that is destined to head Europe’s way, in particular to France. Last year it was French based Northumbrian Jonathan Pease who trained the winner, when his Karakontie added to a French 2,000 Guineas success. Pease is due to retire after 37 years of training in France, and would love to add another Breeders’ Cup success to his CV. He faces stiff opposition from fellow French trained horses if he is to repeat the win. Esoterique and Make Believe are two in particular that look sure to go close.
The Juvenile Fillies Turf is another with a strong European contingent. Ballydoyle youngsters are always competitive, and it appears that Alice Springs is likely to take her chance. She looks set to be joined by Richard Hannon’s classy filly Illuminate. The latter lost her unbeaten tag when both chased home Lumiere in the Cheveley Park Stakes in September.
I’ve merely scratched the surface with this particular piece, but during the build-up will look at the main events in far more detail. I’ll also cast a glance at some of the stars of previous Breeders’ Cups, both equine and human.