Modern Games and William Buick win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Del Mar Racecourse, Del Mar, California 11-5-21, Photo Mathea Kelley /

Monday Musings: Breeders’ Cup Digest

It has taken 362 runs from 126 individual horses and many thousands of motorway miles in their distinctive royal blue vans to earn the Charlie Appleby stable £4,827,062 in win and place money this year, writes Tony Stafford. Thus he enters the last seven weeks of 2021 with an unchallenged situation, guaranteeing his first trainers’ championship in the UK.

It took six horses on a single day <if you count UK time, which for the purposes of the starkness of the comparison, I am> walking the few hundred yards from the Del Mar international barn in the backstretch to the saddling area and back, to add £2,690,000 (55.7% of his entire UK endeavours) on November 6 alone.

Purists will point to the last on Friday at 7.30p.m. (daylight saving kicked in a week later in the US than the UK) and the two on Saturday, but in any event they were all comfortably within a 24-hour time-frame. The clocks went back in California at 2 a.m. yesterday earning the team from Moulton Paddocks a theoretical extra hour in bed. I doubt if any of them even bothered to turn in at all!

Six runners made the walk to potential equine immortality, two adorned with the pre-race red hood which denotes a trainer worries sufficiently about his horse’s temperament to defuse the potential problem of walking through the boisterous crowds that line the route to the saddling boxes.

The red-hooded pair were in Friday’s Juvenile Turf, Albahr, drawn two and next to stable-mate Modern Games in one, and on Saturday in the Mile, again on the Turf track, 2,000 Guineas runner-up Master Of The Seas, drawn one with his better-fancied elder stable-companion Space Blues in three.

Connections of many of the other European contenders would have enjoyed the chance of running from those plum draws around the tightest of tight circuits. Conversely, in the aftermath, the ever-measured Appleby said: “When they do get drawn there on the inside, they potentially can have a much longer wait and therefore more time to get upset if that’s their character.

“We had no inkling that the horses would behave in this way and it is something we’ll have to address when we get home. Happily both horses, and riders Frankie Dettori and James Doyle, are fine. Frankie especially was lucky to be dragged from Albahr and it’s unfortunate that the stalls man who helped him, got an injury from the horse.”

From a dual assault on three races, only their runners in the Turf produced the full complement from the stalls, with seven-year-old Walton Street (Doyle) actually a shorter price at the departure than Buick’s mount, Yibir.

Both horses had been sent to North American on September 18 for their previous races. Walton Street was off first in Canada (10.35 p.m. UK time) for the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine which he won in a canter by almost six lengths.

Ten minutes later (10.45 p.m.) it was Yibir’s turn at Belmont Park and he comfortably put away six fellow three-year-olds in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational. This race as yet carries no official Grade category – it was merely a very valuable Conditions race – and Yabir beat a field including Bolshoi Ballet, who finished sixth on Saturday.

That made it more than £500k for the two September 18 races in ten minutes. Yibir’s strong finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf to peg back Broome, who had raced into what looked like an invincible lead in the straight, alone earned a second-best prize of the weekend of £1.5 million and change.

All three Godolphin winners won convincingly. Modern Games and Yibir both came wide under Buick from some way back and finished very strongly. Contrastingly, Space Blues was always close to the lead and held off a late challenge to win by half a length. He had been singled out by Appleby as the likeliest winner and in fulfilling that prophecy has earned a deserved place at stud after 11 career wins from 19 starts. As a son of Dubawi he will have every chance of making a success as a stallion.

The best Coolmore Ireland position was Broome’s second to Yibir on a day when Japan, the country, not the horse who was fourth to Yibir, posted (like London buses) its first two wins at the Breeders’ Cup. Broome all this year has worn the silks of M Matsushima, a partner in the five-year-old along with the Magnier, Tabor and Smith triumvirate. [Coolmore did record a score, via Wesley Ward, more of which anon]

A son of Australia, you would imagine Mr Matsushima might want to stand the horse in Japan one day. The racing fraternity will be euphoric after trainer Yashito Yahagi’s double that almost matched the exploits of Appleby and Buick. Japan is spectacularly the best-endowed racing authority in the world. While its industry traditionally has been inward-looking, these so-visible wins will provide more of their top owners and trainers with the confidence to target the biggest prizes all around the world.

Easily the more authoritative of the Japanese triumphs was the fast finish provided by Loves Only You in the Filly and Mare Turf race, extended this year to 1m3f to take account of the configuration of the Del Mar Turf course.

It hadn’t helped Audarya’s attempt at a second successive win after her victory over 9.5 furlongs at Keeneland last year. William Buick – guessing wrong for the only time over the two days – dropped her in from her widest draw, got across nicely and in good position on the rail only to run into an equine brick wall turning for home. In the circumstances, fifth and 40-odd grand would have been consolation for the Swinburn and Fanshawe families.

Love’s route could hardly have been worse, three wide all the way. She had the class to strike for the lead in the straight but was soon challenged and in the end could manage only fourth as Loves Only You brought her earnings within a UK Group 1 success of £5million. A five-year-old daughter of Deep Impact, she has a wonderful turn of foot.

No UK-based jockey has as strong an association with Japanese racing as Oisin Murphy, who spends as much of his winters – and collects as many billions of Yen – as he can riding over there. His association with Deirdre, now a seven-year-old on whom he won the 2019 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, was a comparable breakthrough to Saturday’s at the time.

Oisin was seen congratulating the Japanese rider Yuga Kawada straight after the Filly and Mare Turf and two hours later he joined the party in his own right, partnering Marche Lorraine, also a five-year-old, in the Distaff on the dirt track.

This race was supposed to be a private affair between some fast locals, but they went much too quickly, cancelling each other out and all giving in before the straight. Oisin could be seen halfway down the back going best, his red cap moving forward while his mare, a 50-1 shot, was still under restraint. That collapse up front meant he got the lead too soon and in the end it took a triple champion’s ability to keep her going for a short-head verdict.

I loved the day’s final race, the Classic, where Knicks Go beat Medina Spirit, and I also very much enjoyed Life Is Good, runaway winner of the Dirt Mile and Golden Pal, flying winner of the Turf Sprint, the last named for Coolmore America and Wesley Ward.

Also, I’ve never seen a horse running in a million plus dollar race but not for betting purposes. The former favourite too, Modern Games bolting up to a chorus of boos from the crowd who had been obliged to give back their tickets for refund as the horses waited to go. [Worse still, our esteemed editor had ‘singled’ Modern Games in the last leg of a Pick 4: his sole option re-routing to the non-winning favourite in the race!]

No boos from the Doncaster crowd on the final day of the 2021 turf season at Doncaster. John Butler’s Farhan, the 9-2 favourite for the season’s final big event, the November Handicap, ridden by Hollie Doyle, bolted up. The only piece of luck was that the three-year-old son of Zoffany squeezed in exactly as number 23 at the foot of the weights. The triumph (and landed gamble) was delivered with military precision by trainer and rider on probably Hollie’s last year not to be asked to ride at the Breeders’ Cup.

Butler has another important assignment this week. On Friday Poetic Music, an easy bumper winner on debut at Market Rasen, is lot number 1 at Tattersalls Cheltenham post-racing sale. A big filly, she looks the type to figure in black type juvenile fillies’ races for the rest of the season. So bid away – you will be making someone very happy!

One happy camper – and he always has winners when in the US for the Breeders’ Cup – was my already mentioned editor Matt Bisogno, who runs the Geegeez syndicates. Their mare Coquelicot was an easy winner at Chepstow last week, adding a first jumps success to three including a Listed in bumpers. The only way is up, Matt!

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