Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The Euro stars including Kinross, Highfield Princess, Nashwa and Mishriff

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Ben Linfoot guides you through the European challenge for the Breeders’ Cup with profiles on 20 of the runners at Keeneland this weekend.

AESOP’S FABLES (Aidan O’Brien) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

One of Aesop’s Fables, The Swan and the Goose, spawned the saying ‘Every man thinks his own geese are swans’ which brings Aidan O’Brien and his juvenile Group One winners to mind. The latest to be ‘the most exciting ever’ is Auguste Rodin, winner of the Vertem Futurity, but this swan won’t be skidding across the Atlantic for the Breeders’ Cup.

Aesop’s Fables, the horse, might well be, but what is he – goose or swan?

He’s come up short in two cracks at Group 1 level this autumn but he too has been flattered by his maestro trainer, who described him as ‘a big strong colt and beautiful mover’ following his Group 2 Futurity Stakes win at the Curragh in August.

The premature retirement of Blackbeard means there’s a Coolmore-shaped slot in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, but five-and-a-half furlongs looks on the sharp side for this son of No Nay Never who is expected to thrive over a mile next year. Unless this one is more swan than goose, after all.

BAYSIDE BOY (Roger Varian) – Breeders’ Cup Mile

The more you watch Bayside Boy’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes win the more impressive it looks. Yes, it wasn’t the greatest renewal of the race and yes, hot favourite Inspiral was below her best, but to chase down Jadoomi and Modern Games from the position he found himself in suggests he has finally proven himself to be the smart horse he promised to be as a two-year-old.

The obvious catalyst is the blinkers, as he’s two from two since Varian applied the headgear in September, but there’s no doubt he looks a better horse in the autumn, too. A bit of cut in the ground looks vital to him.

Richard Ryan, racing manager for part-owners Teme Valley, has expressed concerns over the tightness of Keeneland’s turns for this horse, but with the QEII being a ‘win and you’re in’ race, Bayside Boy’s expenses are subsidised and he’d be an interesting runner if given the green light – particularly if he was in a position to unleash that turn of foot we saw on Champions Day in the short straight.

CREATIVE FORCE (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Five-and-a-half on a speed track is interesting for Creative Force isn’t it?

He’s never attempted such a trip or five furlongs in his life before, so let’s look at the evidence over a flat/speedy six; in lesser company, as he was making his way through the grades, he handled Newmarket’s Rowley Mile six furlongs well.

Up in grade on the July Course, though, he didn’t have the pace, finishing fifth in the 2021 July Cup. He wasn’t quick enough in the Haydock Sprint Cup that same season, either – finishing a three-length sixth behind Emaraaty Ana. In Meydan he ran no sort of race, but finished lame.

In this year’s July Cup he was outpaced again, when he kept on for fourth. He’s reserved his best form for the testing sprint track at Ascot and when you weigh it all up it has to be a concern that he’ll be done for speed, for all that he’s a talented – and relatively fresh – sprinter.

DRAMATISED (Karl Burke) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

Steve Parkin’s Clipper Logistics operation have a bit of previous at the Breeders’ Cup. Suedois, co-owned with George Turner, would be their best result so far after he was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in 2017, while Space Traveller and Living In The Past had a go at the meeting, too.

Soldier’s Call, third in the Prix de l’Abbaye as a two-year-old, ran sixth in the Juvenile Turf Sprint in its inaugural year of 2018 at Churchill Downs in the all-grey colours, as well, and he was a quick horse by Showcasing.

That brings us on nicely to Dramatised, a quick filly by Showcasing, who looked to have the world at her hooves when she tanked her way to Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes success at Royal Ascot in June. Disappointing in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes afterwards, it would be no surprise if she bounced back over five-and-a-half furlongs, especially if she got her faster ground.

DREAMLOPER (Ed Walker) – Breeders’ Cup Mile

“I’m amazed she’s a 12/1 shot with Kinross at 9/4,” says Ed Walker in his latest Weekender column.

On her first 16 starts of her career you’d be referencing geese and swans again, but on her 17th run, her latest, he’s got a point. That was a five-and-a-half length win in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, where the last Breeders’ Cup Mile winner from Keeneland, Order Of Australia, was in second and a former QEII winner, The Revenant, was in third.

It was a career-best run by a good margin and when you whittle down her C.V to mile races on ground with a bit of cut in it she’s got a very persuasive profile indeed. She’ll probably need a good draw to suit her prominent running style and she’ll almost certainly need some Kentucky rain to aid her cause, but if she gets both her trainer’s bullish market assessment might not be too far off.

EMARAATY ANA (Kevin Ryan) – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Team Europe have a disappointing record in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with a one from 14 hit-rate since its inception in 2008.

You would think the Euro sprinters might’ve emerged with one or two more wins than that but only Kevin Ryan has found the key to success in this race thanks to his Glass Slippers in 2020. He went for back-to-back wins with that filly last year, but she wasn’t even the first home from her stable with Emaraaty Ana doing the best of the Hambleton crew in fourth. He was outpaced in the final furlong over the bare five at Del Mar, but, after running on to be placed in a couple of Nunthorpes, combined with his prowess over a flat six, you would think this five-and-a-half furlong trip will be right in his wheelhouse.

If it turns out to be fast ground, that would very much be in his favour too, but significant rain would put a spanner in the works.

HIGHFIELD PRINCESS (John Quinn) – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

The Breeders’ Cup has been on John Quinn’s radar for Highfield Princess way before she turned into a Group 1-winning machine.

“I said to Sean in January, if this filly improves seven, eight, ten pounds, I’d love to see her going round Keeneland over five and a half,” he says in the video below. Bearing in mind she was then beaten three times in all-weather conditions races just after that, in the early months of the year, she has come a long way in a short space of time. The Group 2 Duke Of York (not that one) Stakes really kick-started her campaign in May and after running well at Royal Ascot she had a 50-day break before her G1 blitz.

The Prix Maurice de Gheest, Nunthorpe and Flying Five took in trips ranging from five furlongs to six-and-a-half, on speed tracks and stiff tracks, on fast ground and soft ground, in three different countries.

“Our mare has taken on the best horses in Europe all summer and has beaten the best of them,” Quinn also says. And now for Golden Pal.

KINROSS (Ralph Beckett) – Breeders’ Cup Mile

You can trace Kinross’ improvement back to the start of 2021. Prior to that he’d shown hints of ability, but he was two from nine and had flopped out in Meydan, until being gelded and dropping in trip brought out the very best in him.

He’s six from 12 post-gelding operation and, like Highfield Princess, he seems to be getting better and getting quicker. His last four runs have yielded four wins, two Group 2s and two Group 1s; the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs and the British Champions Sprint over six. Around Keeneland’s tight turns you can see why the BC Mile is on his agenda – he’s essentially a seven-furlong horse and seven-furlong horses can thrive in this environment – just look at Space Blues last year.

He came straight from the Foret to win this race at Del Mar on his first go over a mile in an age. Ralph Beckett and Frankie Dettori will be hoping Kinross can do the same.

MEDITATE (Aidan O’Brien) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf

Meditate has just come up short in two runs in Group 1 company but the step up in trip to a mile could well help her get that first top-level win in the bag in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf.

She looked a Group 1-winner in-waiting when landing the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at the Curragh in good style, before she was beaten for the first time in the Moyglare. The Moyglare winner, Tahiyra, looks special and the form is beginning to work out well; fourth home Never Ending Story ran well in the Prix Marcel Boussac where she was third, and the seventh home, Gan Teorainn, was second in the Longchamp race before finishing fourth in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Meditate herself ran second in the Cheveley Park over six, but she’s a big, mature, juvenile who is bred for the extra distance, being a half-sister to a 1m4f winner, and this looks the ideal slot for her.

MIDNIGHT MILE (Richard Fahey) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf

“I feel like Aidan O’Brien here, but she’s a quality filly and I’m just delighted to have her,” so says Richard Fahey, trainer of Midnight Mile, in the video below.

By No Nay Never out of the O’Brien-trained Ruby Tuesday, herself closely-related to Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Yesterday, and owned by Richard Henry, part of the Coolmore team, you can see why Fahey is feeling a little bit O’Brien. He was referring to Midnight Mile’s likely best trip – ‘she’s not slow, she could be a mile and a half filly [next year], but she’s got enough speed for a mile’ – but there’s no doubt his eyes light up when talking of the unbeaten two-year-old.

It’s interesting he’s deciding to have a go at the Breeders’ Cup on what will be just her third start and she was still green when winning the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes over seven furlongs last time out, so she has enormous potential.

MISCHIEF MAGIC (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

Mischief Magic has got Breeders’ Cup history coursing through his veins, as he’s a full-brother to Appleby’s Sound And Silence – who was a head second to Declarationofpeace in the Juvenile Turf Sprint at Del Mar in 2017.

M and M is an obvious one for the plane, then, and he’s got some excellent British form in his back pocket. His superb Group 3 Sirenia Stakes win from a wide draw at Kempton has been boosted and he wasn’t disgraced when a four-length fourth to Blackbeard in the Middle Park. He’ll have to improve from that to win at the Breeders’, but, bearing that pedigree in mind, he could well do.

SKY BET are Non Runner No Bet on the Breeders’ Cup – click here for latest odds

MISHRIFF (John & Thady Gosden) – Breeders’ Cup Turf

I’m finding it hard to get too excited about the Breeders’ Cup Turf at this stage. There isn’t a Euro A-lister in there really and when I say that I mean a Derby winner or a King George winner or an Arc winner.

Perhaps that’s unfair on the globetrotting Mishriff who has won a Prix du Jockey Club, a Saudi Cup, a Sheema Classic and a Juddmonte International. But the problem with the current Mishriff is that that York success, in August 2021, was his last, and he’s on a losing streak of seven. An 18-length 13th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last time out, the very soft ground won’t have played to his strengths that day and it’s no surprise connections are prepared to roll the international dice one last time at the Breeders’ Cup.

A seven-time winner, a money-spinner, Mishriff has had a fantastic career and, while he might not be A-list on the back of his losing run, he would obviously be a huge player at his best. It’s just a case of whether he can bring his A-game to the table one final time.

MODERN GAMES (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Mile

When Modern Games crosses the Atlantic it goes well. This time last year he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar by a length-and-a-half from Tiz The Bomb and in September he won the Woodbine Mile by over five lengths in great style.

A somewhat surprising contender for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day on softer ground than ideal, he ran well in second, overhauling Jadoomi for the runner-up spot on the line. That went some way to proving his versatility conditions-wise, and with winning Breeders’ Cup experience in his locker he’s shown he can handle a tight US track, too.

An out-and-out miler, he’ll be trying to outmuscle the speed horses like Kinross in what promises to be one of the more fascinating turf races at the meeting.

NASHWA (John & Thady Gosden) – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

If I had to pick one Euro runner that looks to be the perfect fit for the Breeders’ Cup it’s John & Thady Gosden’s Nashwa. This daughter of Frankel has got pace and the nine-and-a-half furlongs in the Filly & Mare Turf looks absolutely ideal for her.

Wins in the Prix de Diane and Nassau Stakes show her 10-furlong form is superb, with both victories having a bit of fire about them. She travelled really well, nearly too well, in the French Oaks, while she relaxed and came home strongly at Goodwood. Her defeat in the Prix de l’Opera was a bit of a shock, but she wasn’t beaten far, had had two months off and she had a wide draw to overcome, as well.

Her turn of foot could be vital in the short straight and she won’t mind whatever the conditions are, while she’s had a light second half to her campaign with a tilt at this race in mind.

NATIONS PRIDE (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Turf

What happened to that Charlie Appleby horse that was 15/2 for the Derby on the back of bolting up in the Newmarket Stakes? He’s second favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. What? I know, exactly.

Eighth at Epsom, over 13 lengths adrift of Desert Crown, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was that for the highly-touted son of Teofilo, but he has been tearing it up in the States, winning at Saratoga and at Belmont At The Big A with the form looking good.

Certainly, his Saratoga Derby win looks even better now after the runner-up, Annapolis, franked the form with two wins since including in the Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile at Keeneland on October 8. He looks to have outstanding claims, but, rightly or wrongly (wrongly), his stable have a slightly better-fancied one for the same race…

REBEL’S ROMANCE (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Turf

The slightly better fancied horse is Rebel’s Romance, but I wonder if these two will flip-flop in the market as the days count down to the Turf? Rebel’s Romance wouldn’t quite have the level of form of Nation’s Pride, nor the Stateside credentials, but he does look vastly improved since returning from a break at Newmarket at the end of June.

Four from four since then, he’s ‘done an Alpinista’ by picking off a couple of Group 1s in Germany – and look how Sir Mark Prescott’s project turned out. Indeed, Rebel’s Romance came from off the pace to win the Grosser Preis von Berlin and the Preis von Europa – two races this year’s Arc heroine won last year – and Ardakan, a two-length third in the former race, was over seven lengths off Nations Pride at Belmont At The Big A, giving us a bit of Moulton Paddocks collateral form comparison from two races 4000 miles part.

SAFFRON BEACH (Jane Chapple-Hyam) – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Saffron Beach has been a triumph for Jane Chapple-Hyam. The daughter of New Bay has won two Group 1s, finished second on two other occasions at the top level and has run just two poor races in a 13-start career.

She ran a stormer in fourth in the Dubai Turf over nine furlongs at Meydan in March, too, giving hope this extended nine after extensive travelling will be no problem. It would be terrific if she could bow out on a high and, while the Breeders’ Cup is a bit of an afterthought, you can understand connections not wanting to end on a sour note in the Sun Chariot where she was eighth.

There were excuses – she scoped dirty afterwards with mucus on her lungs – but a racecourse gallop at Chelmsford enabled her trainer to give her the green light for one final assignment.

*Saffron Beach has been subsequently ruled out of a trip to Keeneland.

SILVER KNOTT (Charlie Appleby) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

How can you be impartial when you’ve backed one 10 months in advance for the Derby? You can’t. Sorry. Go on Silver Knott you good thing! So yes, cards on the table – he’s my long-term Derby project.

I’ve backed him at 33/1 and *checks Oddschecker* he’s 33/1 for the Derby so things are going just splendidly so far. He burst onto the scene in the Solario Stakes with a decisive win, just like Masar, and now he’s going for the Juvenile Turf, just like Masar.

He’s got a lovely middle-distance pedigree, too, by Lope De Vega out of the G1-winner God Given, so it would be equally lovely if he went and won at the Breeders’ Cup please. And if he doesn’t, well, it would be just like Masar.

THE PLATINUM QUEEN (Richard Fahey) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

“If I was to pick one out that would be suited to America she’d be very high on the agenda,” says Richard Fahey in that video I was banging on about earlier.

Indeed, The Platinum Queen has all the credentials you’d look for in a Juvenile Turf Sprint runner; she’s quick out of the blocks, she goes ‘fast easily’ as her trainer puts it and the bonus is she’s expected to cope just fine with the left-handed turns. Ground-wise she’s versatile having won the Prix de l’Abbaye on very soft ground, while we know she loves it rattling quick, so the question marks are few and far between given her high level of form.

One would be the extra half furlong, which should be neither here nor there, and then there’s the ‘could she be over the top’ question which nobody, including her trainer, can answer until the day itself. Fingers crossed she runs a stormer under Hollie Doyle.

TUESDAY (Aidan O’Brien) – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Last but not least, certainly if you’re in agreement with Matt Brocklebank in his Value Bet preview, is Tuesday. It’s been a largely frustrating season for the daughter of Galileo, Oaks heroics aside, but that Epsom win does give her a verdict over race favourite Nashwa and I fully get the argument for Aidan O’Brien’s filly.

She has shaped like this sort of trip would suit for a good while and I sympathise with her French defeats on account of the draw/how the races were run. A bit better ground will suit her, too, and she could easily finish her three-year-old career just like her full-sister, Minding, who won on Champions Day on her final start at three.

How she deals with adversity would be the main concern in a race like this, as she hasn’t defied awkward draws in the past, so she could be reliant on a nice berth and a dream trip if she is to win her second G1 of the year.

Click here for our Breeders’ Cup 2022 index

Other possible European runners:

Lady Hollywood (Alice Haynes), Persian Force (Richard Hannon) – Juvenile Turf Sprint, Basil Martini (Joseph O’Brien), Never Ending Story (Aidan O’Brien) – Juvenile Fillies’ Turf, Cairo, Victoria Road (Aidan O’Brien) – Juvenile Turf, Flotus (Simon & Ed Crisford), Go Bears Go (David Loughnane), Naval Crown (Charlie Appleby) – Turf Sprint, Above The Curve, Toy (Aidan O’Brien) – Filly & Mare Turf, Order Of Australia (Aidan O’Brien), Pogo (Charles Hills) – Mile, Broome, Stone Age (Aidan O’Brien) – Turf.

SKY BET are Non Runner No Bet on the Breeders’ Cup – click here for latest odds

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