Racing journalist Jon Lees’ tips for tonight’s Breeders’ Cup action
A massive well done to Breeders’ Cup organisers who have managed to put on an event as close as possible to past editions to ensure punters in Europe get their once-a-year fix of top class American racing, writes Jon Lees.
The pandemic has denied Keeneland a crowd, but who needs atmosphere when you can watch the action from the comfort of your sofa.
The 14-race championships, which we in Europe loosely liken to the Ryder Cup (on turf at least), promises no holds barred encounters between the cream of the US and a bevvy of the best horses from Britain, Ireland, France and Germany.
So I am going to try and take you through some of the key aspects of each race and (hopefully) point you in the direction of a few winners.
An explosive start to the evening with this 5½f, one of the newest races on the card, in which Wesley Ward bids for back-to-back wins. His challenger will be known to Euro punters as Golden Pal ran at Royal Ascot in the Summer, finishing a neck second in the Norfolk Stakes.
He was meant to stay in the UK to tackle the Nunthorpe Stakes but in the end Golden Pal went home before York.
He has the worst possible draw to overcome from stall 14 but it could be worth making an exception for Golden Pal, rated so highly that his ‘minder’ during his UK stay, Kieren Fallon, predicted he would beat Battaash at York. Fallon has followed the colt to Keeneland to assist with his preparation.
There are three Euros in the field, but we’ve seen in the past their lack of early gate speed often costs them here. Keep an eye on Hollie Doyle, making her Breeders’ Cup debut on Mighty Gurkha, but if you bet patriotically Ubettabelieveit could be the better option.
Selections: Golden Pal, Ubettabelieveit
The Hamdan Al Maktoum silks were ubiquitous in Britain this year and they will be prominent again here, just not on a European horse.
Mutasaabeq is the colt, trained in the US by Todd Pletcher, who could start favourite, but this prize could go to export for the ninth time in 14 runnings with a talented bunch of Euros making up half the field.
Next year’s 2,000 Guineas first and second favourite Battleground, aiming to give Aidan O’Brien his fifth win in the race, and Cadillac are both here.
France’s top juvenile Sealiway, runaway winner of the Gruop 1 Lagardere, starts for Cup rookie Frederic Rossi, plus a horse who has a win over him Go Athletico. But the French have only run on soft ground and so it could pay to follow New Mandate, a gelding who is ineligible for a Classic campaign, who seems to revel in this kind of encounter.
He earned a start by winning the Royal Lodge and represents one of Frankie Dettori’s best hopes of getting to the winners’ circle.
Selections: New Mandate, Cadillac
Bob Baffert’s 2020 Breeders’ Cup campaign starts here. The Breeders’ Cup’s leading trainer by money won has captured this race twice, but has won none in the last ten years. Princess Noor is this year’s challenger, a $1.3 million buy whose dam is a daughter of a Jeremy Noseda’s shock Juvenile winner Wilko.
Saudi-owned, she comes here off a runaway victory in a Santa Anita G2, Kenny McPeek, who hopes to win the Distaff with Swiss Skydiver, thinks he has found another future star in Simply Ravishing, winner of the G1 Alcibiades over course and distance, but at this event Baffert is king and Princess Noor can be queen.
Selection: Princess Noor
The Euros like to claim superiority on the turf but, in this event at least, that claim holds very little water. Chrisellium, an exceptional filly, is the only filly to oblige for the visitors in the last ten runnings. Time and again they have been chinned or even hammered, often at the expense of Chad Brown.
Europe has fielded better challengers than this year’s crop and the best advocate of European form is trained in the US. Yes, it’s that man Wesley Ward again who has high hopes for the unbeaten Campanelle, the Royal Ascot winner who went on to capture the Group 1 Prix Morny, and gets the services of Dettori again.
Ward wants to bring her back for next year’s 1,000 Guineas but will first aim to establish if she will get a mile here. She could be a better choice than likely favourite Aunt Pearl of the Americans with Cheveley Park second Miss Amulet, the only Euro filly to have won a Group race, worth a punt at double figure odds.
Selections: Campanelle, Miss Amulet
Star-in-the-making Jackie’s Warrior is one of the hottest favourites of the night to extend his unbeaten run and take a significant step down the road to the Kentucky Derby.
Undefeated in four starts he has already won two Group 1s and the significance of his victory in the Champagne Stakes is that its alumni includes Tiz The Law and Breeders’ Cup winners War Pass, Uncle Mo and Birdstone.
Godolphin’s Essential Quality, trained by Brad Cox, could be his main threat but I won’t be looking beyond Steve Asmussen’s challenger, who could be an exciting talent.
Selection: Jackie’s Warrior