If there’s one race that the Europeans would expect to win at Santa Anita this weekend, it’s the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Their record since winning the first in 1984, is one of dominance over their American hosts. Lashkari was an unfancied French trained winner on that occasion. The son of 1971 European Horse of the Year Mill Reef, had won only modest races in his two starts before the Breeders’ Cup. Nevertheless, ridden by French champion jockey Yves Saint-Martin, he battled his way to a thrilling victory.
A race over 1m 4f on turf certainly appears to favour horses from this side of the Atlantic. And the list of previous winners is an exceptional one.
Clive Brittain’s sensational filly Pebbles, followed up Lashkari’s win in 1985. She was held-up for a daring run up the rail by the ice-cool Pat Eddery. Bursting through a narrow gap she held off the fast finishing Australian Champion Strawberry Road by a neck. Regarded as one the greatest fillies, it was a fitting end to her racing career.
In the 90’s, In The Wings and Miss Alleged won the race for France, before in 1996 Sir Michael Stoute captured the race with his globetrotting star Pilsudski. Walter Swinburn rode this late developer to victory, getting the better of Singspiel and Swain in a sensational finish.
At the turn of the century, horses sired by the Aga Khan’s Doyoun, brought further European success. First the wonderful grey Daylami, having switched to Godolphin, thrashed a quality field before being retired to stud. The win completed a stunning year which brought success in the Coronation Cup, the King George and the Irish Champion Stakes.
A year later another son of Doyoun completed a famous family double in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, when Kalanisi, carrying the Aga Khan’s silks and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, stormed down the outer to victory.
Europe continued to dominate with wins in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Fantastic Light finished his amazing career in style with victory in ’01. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, he held off the St Leger winner Milan, with the rest of the field out of sight. The horse finished with earnings of an incredible $8.5 million.
High Chaparral won in both ’02 and ’03, though the latter was a thrilling dead-heat with Johar, and only a head back to Falbrav in third. The Aidan O’Brien trained son of Sadlers Wells had won Epsom and Irish Derby’s in 2002.
Shirocco for France in 2005 and Red Rocks for Brian Meehan in 2006 continued this glorious period for the European trained horses. And then it was again the turn of Sir Michael Stoute, when his Conduit won back to back Turfs in 2008 and 2009. The son of Arc winner Dalakhani, was ridden to victory on both occasions by Ryan Moore.
Aidan O’Brien victories in 2011 and 2013 bring us right up to date. The wonderful St Nicholas Abbey won the race in 2011. Trainer’s son Joseph became the youngest jockey to capture a Breeders’ Cup race. The horse stormed clear down the centre of the track to win in sensational style. His subsequent death in 2014 was a tragic loss.
Magician brings the story to a conclusion. The beautifully bred son of Galileo was brought with a wonderfully timed run by Ryan Moore. Sadly the horse will not be defending his title on Saturday, but a strong European presence is again assured.
Telescope is well fancied for trainer Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore, whilst France is represented by Arc runner-up Flintshire. With Magician absent, Ballydoyle’s hopes rest with their filly Chicquita. The American challenge looks to come from ex-Brit Main Sequence, ridden by top jockey John Velazquez.
History tells us that the race is likely to go against the hosts. The bookies clearly fancy another ‘smash and grab’. The question is, will the spoils be heading to Ireland, Britain or France?