Racing & Wagering

Breeders' Cup: International Contender Analysis

| Churchill Downs Communications | 10/31/2013 #

Arlington International Racecourse's Michael Adolphson gives an in-depth analysis of the global contenders competing in this weekend's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park.  



This is an intriguing entrant from across the pond.  He is bred to not only love a marathon distance, but also to take to the dirt in the process.  By Arch, the sire of Blame and other good dirt horses, he also has Easy Goer two generations back and has an overall pedigree that should improve with age.  The major question is whether he will adapt to American racing (and kickback) and if he is actually good/fast enough.  My gut says that he will not run terribly, especially with Mike Smith on his back keeping him in the clear, but he will not be good enough to win.  I can see him picking up the pieces and possibly hitting the board.  
My Odds: 20/1


This 5-year-old previously Argentina-based grandson of Candy Stripes will have something to say about this race.  Granted, a lot of such reasoning is based on Calidoscopio’s tour-de-force in last year's Marathon event.  This horse also has some serious pluses on his side, even if he is not as talented as last year’s victor.  He picks up Gary Stevens, will be on or near the lead (and we know how good Stevens is on the pace), will be fresh and has put in many works over the Santa Anita surface.  Chief among those works was a solid half in :46.60 on Oct. 7.  His overall class is in question, especially since his Group II win last out in Argentina’s Clasico General Begrano came at odds of 28/1, but he is not going up against an impressive field here.  He will be tough to catch.  
My Odds: 5/1


This son of War Front has only raced three times, but was heralded enough to be entered in the Group I National Stakes in September.  His Racing Post Rating of 111 while finishing third in that race was equaled next out in an impressive victory in the all-weather Star Appeal Stakes at Dundalk - a track very similar to American tracks in design, but with a long stretch (about three furlongs).  Worthy of note is that Ryan Moore, who has won the last two runnings of this race, chooses to ride this one instead of Wilshire Boulevard (whom he had ridden in his last couple starts). Personally, I was not impressed by his lack of acceleration in the National, but I feel like he is a real threat here.  I prefer other Euros more, but he will have something to say about this race.  
My Odds: 8/1                                                                                                    

This is the horse to beat, in my opinion.  He ran a big race last time in Europe's most prestigious race for juveniles, the Group I Dewhurst Stakes  (the same race George Vancouver placed in before winning this race last year).  He does have an issue with slower starts, per his last two races, but he switches to an American jockey (Smith) and has a significant kick that should help him overcome such.  Additionally, based on his action over the soft courses in his last two (and being by Australian sprint star and quality sire Exceed and Excel), he will improve even more on firmer ground.  My only issue is that the Dewhurst may have taken something out of him and he comes back on three weeks of rest.  Still, this gorgeous gray is the one to beat.  
My Odds:  5/2

Coolmore's other entrant here picks up William Buick, one of the best jockeys in Europe, and comes in off a nice fourth-place finish in the Group I Grand Criterium on Arc Day.  His win in the six-furlong Group III Anglesey Stakes was solid and his subsequent performance - losing by only a neck to Group I winner Astaire - validated his class.  The feeling here is that he is the second stringer of the two, but is still very talented.  This scenario is eerily similar to 2011 when O'Brien second-stringer Wrote got the trip and the victory.  I expect him to run his race and be tough.  
My Odds: 4/1  

He has won twice in three tries and ran well against Group II company.  He steps up from six furlongs and seems a step below the other European entrants.  He's not bred to run much beyond what he has and it seems that, though he may be useful, his owner Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al Thani simply wants to have a large presence here, even if most have little chance.  Pass.  
My Odds: 30/1


Two-for-two, an impressive Group II winner at Newmarket last out going seven panels and a daughter of emerging supersire Dubawi, Al Thakhira could be solid international trainer Marco Botti's first 'Cup win.  Of the Euros in here, you may get the best value on this filly and she may also have the most upside.  She gets an advantageous inside post and Moore is one of the best at being patient for a hole to open.  It is also worth noting that the Newmarket-based Botti consistently has fruitfully shipped over to the US.  
My Odds: 7/2

One of the classiest fillies to ever ship over for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Vorda should go off as the favorite accordingly.  Her phenomenal second to fireball colt No Nay Never in the Group I Prix Morny was trumped last out by a big victory in the six-furlong Group I Cheveley Park Stakes on Sept. 28.  That race was the first time Olivier Peslier rode the daughter of Orpen and the journeyman stays on at Santa Anita.  Interestingly, it was the fourth win in four starts over firm going and we know she will get the same in Arcadia.  I definitely worry about her going two turns for the first time and making a two-furlong increase in distance after five consecutive straightaway sprints, but that did not hurt Johannesburg a decade ago when he shipped in after winning the Cheveley Park’s brother event, the Middle Park Stakes.  If her odds are too low, she is a bet-against, but her late kick, brilliant jockey and overall handiness all but guarantee late involvement in the race.  
My Odds: 4/1

Of the three classy Euros, Chriselliam enters off the highest Racing Post Rating (114) and is also proven over a mile on firm ground.  That win came in the Group I Fillies Mile at Newmarket on Sept. 27 and at 28/1 odds.  It is worth noting that Richard Hughes was the fifth different jockey in five outings for the daughter of the speedy Godolphin horse Iffraaj and Hughes stays on at Santa Anita.  This may be just be a classic example of the right rider fitting the right horse at the right time. Additionally, I do like that Chriselliam broke her maiden around a left turn going seven furlongs.  All in all, I believe she will have something to say about this race. A repeat of her race last, when beating the highly regarded Rizeena (fair and square), all but guarantees a finish in the exacta.  
My Odds: 5/2



Though she is the morning line favorite, Dank may lose favoritism because of her rail post.  She is a solid filly and this event has been her aim since the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes.  A repeat of that romp wins this, no question, but she must get clear sailing and disallow mares like Tiz Flirtatious, Marketing Mix and Romantica to get the jump. Moore will have his work cut out for him, but I think this long-term Sir Michael Stoute project could be rounding into something special. 
My Odds: 9/5

She may be overlooked despite the facts that her dam won the same race (Banks Hill – the most dominating winner in its history), she loves the distance and appreciates firm going.  Fabre is dangerous, Guyon is one of the best young riders in Europe and a repeat of her form when winning Deauville's Group I Prix Jean Romanet in August will put her in the exacta here.  Also, throw out her last race in the Group I Prix Vermeille (and her dud in the same race a year prior) behind eventual Arc winner Treve, as 12 furlongs is beyond her scope.  Her dam was best between eight and 10 furlongs, and she seems to be of the same type.  The word is that despite her blue blood, Fabre has never had golden expectations for this filly, but she has slowly worked her way into being one of the best mares in his barn.  If she moves forward, she will be right there.  
My Odds: 7/2



The most reliable Euro bet of the day.  I will be surprised if she is not in the exacta and I believe the only horse who can beat her is a good-as-new Point of Entry – and even that is not for certain considering how good her last two races were.  Comes off two left-handed races on firmer going and will love the quick 12-furlongs of Santa Anita's lawn, here.  Buick has a keen pace eye and will put her where she needs to be, but he must watch Point of Entry and Indy Point (main threats), who have slightly more speed than she and will most likely enter the short stretch before she does.  Like Point of Entry last year, she was easily the best horse in her respective race and has every chance for retribution Saturday when taking on the boys. 
My Odds:  8/5

This colt ran lights-out in the Irish 2000 Guineas, devouring subsequent Irish Derby victor and one of the best sophomores in the world Trading Leather, and then spit the bit at Royal Ascot and has not been seen since.  To his credit, his win at 10.5 furlongs (Group III Dee Stakes) on a left-handed soft course (Chester) speaks to his stamina.  Still,  the field he defeated that day was barely useful, so it cannot be seen as a true measurement.  Ryan Moore who rode that day, back in May, returns here because the younger O'Brien cannot make the 122lb weight assignment.  Like so many longshots Coolmore has brought over, he may just be training out of his skin and had issues earlier in the year that have him in the form he should have been in a few months ago.  All in all, he has little to no chance of winning, but he will be fit if Aidan is starting him and may be worth throwing into your superfectas.  
My odds: 25/1


Unlike Excelebration who came over last year after an equally as impressive (if not more) win in the Group I QE II Stakes, Olympic Glory has not been exhausting himself chasing Frankel around all year.  Still, it is a lot to ask a horse to return 14 days later after a career-best win 6,000 miles away over exhausting soft turf and an undulating Ascot course to repeat that form on the speed-crazy Arcadia turf.  That is why I bet against Excelebration last year and why the deck is stacked against Olympic Glory.  What is going for him is a proven affinity for firm going (in a nose-loss to super mare Moonlight Cloud in August's Group I Jacques Le Marois), has recently successfully added blinkers and was a pit bull crashing through horses to get the job done last out.  If said race was 2 months ago and not 2 weeks ago, I think he would be unbeatable here and win by at least 2 lengths, but it was not.  
My Odds: 8/1

A son of super sprint filly La Traviata, the beaten favorite in a sloppy running of the inaugural (2007) BC F&M Sprint, this colt was a promising juvenile until he clipped heels and took a tumble in the Group I Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last year.  A decent, yet non-threatening fifth in the 2000 Guineas kicked off his sophomore campaign, but he has only has one win in three subsequent starts, and that was on synthetic going six panels.  It is worth noting that he went them in a wicked 1:10.80 on October 4 at Dundalk in Ireland.  The son of Henrythenavigator has tactical speed, switches to Moore (a slight upgrade from O'Brien), sheds eight pounds from his last race and will be a good price on a horse you know is fit and primed. Perhaps he is the reason Magician is in the Turf – he is simply sitting on a good race and needs American conditions.  One thing I do know is that Ballydoyle has been trying to get him to relax and finish more and they believe he is a 6-8 furlong horse with great potential.  A live longshot to hit the board and I will definitely be cheering for him, considering how far this once Coolmore-cream-of-the-crop has come since his crazy tumble.  
My Odds:  9/1


Marco Botti shipped to Santa Anita in 2009 with a horse no one thought could win and Gitano Hernando went on to hand the Grade I Goodwood Handicap field its collective backside.  Granted, that race was on a much more Euro-friendly synthetic, but it should be noted that Botti is a shipping force with which to be reckoned – just ask the also-rans in the first two runnings of the American St. Leger.  Planteur is a warrior who has faced the toughest of foes in his last 12 races, including Frankel, Goldikova, Immortal Verse, Cirrus des Aigles, Animal Kingdom, So You Think, Farhh and St. Nicholas Abbey.  Accordingly, there is little doubt in his class lines – especially since he has finished in the top four in seven of those races.  What one should doubt is his ability to fit in this race as far as a pace scenario. Additionally, I would have liked to see an American jockey.  I love Moore, but the Classic is a different ballgame.  He can try to drop back and come flying like in the last two Dubai World Cups (in which he has finished third), but he will only do so much damage.  
My Odds: 35/1

The most intriguing European entrant of the Breeders’ Cup is easily Declaration of War.  He is a tough, tall, sturdy son of multi-surface sire War Front with a dirt-friendly female pedigree who loves 10 furlongs and has multiple Group I wins for owner Coolmore and trainer O'Brien.  Sound familiar?  This is not to say he is on the same level as Giant's Causeway  as he is about 3 lengths slower by my calculations – he is simply of a very high quality and not your run-of-the-mill European grass runner trying America's richest dirt race on a glory/prize-seeking whim.  I like that he has won on soft and heavy ground, where he may have received a little kickback, was victorious in his last five left-handed course attempts (including three on all-weather) and has had a break since a lifetime best in the Group I Juddmonte International Stakes at York (from which he sheds five pounds).  This horse is entering a tough renewal of the Classic, but is a superb athlete who has answered all the questions so far.  I think he'll have something to say about this race.
My Odds: 5/1

Analyses by Michael Adolphson