2018/11/02 12:25

World of Talent Expected at Santa Anita for Breeders' Cup

Highland Reel

By Kellie Reilly, courtesy of TwinSpires

Brace yourselves — the internationals are coming.

A perennial feature of the Breeders’ Cup, international shippers transform the two-day championships into a truly global event. Santa Anita, historically a happy hunting ground for the internationals, promises to showcase a world of talent at Breeders’ Cup XXXIII.

While most will be dispatched from Europe, contenders are also set to represent Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa, Argentina, Peru, and Chile.

Top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, whose 10 Breeders’ Cup wins put him third on the all-time list behind American Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas (20) and Bob Baffert (12), is marshaling a robust team. Reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Found would headline that list, especially after adding the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) to her resume, but she may not return to defend her title.

O’Brien has another prime Turf player in Highland Reel, who wired the “Win and You’re In” King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) and just finished second in the Arc. The “Arc loser” angle has been mightily productive in Breeders’ Cup history, and Highland Reel also boasts a victory over the leading U.S. contender, Flintshire, in last December’s Hong Kong Vase (G1).

At this writing, O’Brien is closing in on Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 Grade 1 wins in a calendar year. Although the master of Ballydoyle has several chances to reach that mark in the interim, it would be fitting for the record-tying or -breaking win to come at the Breeders’ Cup.

Among those hoping to put him over the top are multiple Group 1 winners Alice Springs in the Mile (G1) and Seventh Heaven in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Seven-time Group 1 star Minding would be a force in either, but like Found, her participation is questionable (if not doubtful) at this writing.

The David O’Meara-trained Mondialiste, runner-up to Tepin in last year’s Mile, could take her on again, but the Turf is also in the mix thanks to his score in the “Win and You’re In” Arlington Million (G1). Kitcat earned her Mile ticket in a “Win and You’re In” in her native Chile.

The brilliant English sprinter Limato would rate a major threat in the Mile, unless connections opt for the Turf Sprint (G1). Godolphin’s speedy Home of the Brave has the same choice. Other notables in line for the Turf Sprint include Nemoralia, third to Catch a Glimpse and Alice Springs in last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

The Filly & Mare Turf is shaping up as a veritable United Nations. Japanese classic winner Nuovo Record and South African standout Smart Call aim to make history as the first horses based in their respective countries to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Godolphin’s Irish classic winner Pleascach brings high-class European form, while Kentucky-bred Peruvian champion Ryans Charm is here courtesy of her repeat in a “Win and You’re In” at Monterrico.

One of the Breeders’ Cup’s most successful owners, the Niarchos Family’s Flaxman Holdings, will try to add to their haul with recent Canadian International (G1) winner Erupt in the Turf. Fellow homebred Ulysses remains possible for six-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute.

Although the international contingent is most associated with turf, a few are considering Breeders’ Cup events on the main track. The most interesting is Hong Kong’s Gun Pit, an Australian-bred son of Dubawi bound for the Dirt Mile (G1). Corona del Inca, hailing from the same connections as 2012 Marathon hero Calidoscopio, surprised an Argentinean “Win and You’re In” for the Distaff (G1).

Then there are the internationals purchased by American interests now pointing for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Spain Burg, victorious in the “Win and You’re In” Rockfel (G2), sold to Reeves Thoroughbreds (of Mucho Macho Man fame) for €1.5 million, and Cavale Doree has been acquired by Martin Schwartz.

Plans for the O’Brien two-year-olds are pending, but the Juvenile Fillies Turf is likely to produce a father-and-son contest between Aidan and Joseph. The younger O’Brien, a jockey-turned-trainer this season, upset his dad’s horses in the “Win and You’re In” Moyglare Stud (G1) with Intricately.

The next generation of international horsemen is already on the Breeders’ Cup scene.

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