First run in 1999, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf has proved to be a fruitful event for European raiders.
Run over a trip of 10 furlongs, it appears to be a race that suits the European challengers. It was Andre Fabre who struck the first blow for Europe when sending Banks Hill to victory in 2001. The outstanding filly had won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot earlier in the summer, and proved simply sensational when slamming her opponents by half a dozen lengths at Belmont Park. She finished runner-up a year later to her stable companion Starine, when under the guidance of American trainer Robert Frankel.
Sir Michael Stoute has twice found success in the race with Islington and Dank. The former had finished third behind Starine and Banks Hill in 2002, but was to prove unstoppable a year later when getting up late to win by a neck. Dank also ran twice in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare, winning the race in 2013 before finishing fourth in last year’s renewal.
One of the great globetrotters was Ed Dunlop’s wonderful mare Ouija Board. She won the event in 2004 and 2006, and ran a close second in between. The Oaks winner was a truly exceptional racehorse, winning events at the highest level until her retirement through injury soon after the Breeders’ Cup success at Churchill Downs.
With a very similar profile and outstanding level of ability, Sir Henry Cecil’s Midday carried the famous Khalid Abdullah silks to victory in the Filly & Mare Turf of 2009. She finished runner-up in the same race the following year before disappointing slightly when taking on the colts in the Breeders’ Cup Turf of 2011.
Of this year’s entrants Legatissimo certainly has the profile of an ideal candidate for success. A Guineas winner and Epsom Derby runner-up, this trip should prove ideal. Devastating in the Nassau Stakes, a race won by both Ouija Board and Midday, she was then just as impressive when stepped back in trip for the Matron Stakes. She’s rightly been installed as a strong favourite and has to have an outstanding chance.
Andre Fabre sends Miss France to post and she is certainly capable of a huge run. A delayed return to action due to a slight injury will see her arrive in Keeneland a fresh horse. Last year’s Guineas winner ran well in a Group 2 at Longchamp last time, and any horse trained by Fabre warrants the utmost respect.
Of the remaining Europeans, expect Secret Gesture to finish in the shake-up. You’ll find no bigger fan of trainer Ralph Beckett than yours truly. His talented mare was demoted to third by the stewards on her last visit to the States, and finished back in fifth in this race last year. She’s more than capable of going close again this time round.
Of the home team, last year’s runner-up Stephanie’s Kitten is a consistent performer at the highest level. Awarded second place at Arlington after Secret Gesture’s demotion, she has since won a Grade 1 at Belmont Park in testing conditions. She may well meet similar ground conditions this weekend, and looks sure to be in the mix.
It’s another intriguing renewal, with just the chance that we may witness an exceptional Irish trained filly winning in stunning fashion.