December 3, 2020

Ranking 2020 Breeders’ Cup performances

Authentic
Authentic wins the Breeders' Cup Classic (Coady Photography)

Another Breeders’ Cup is in the books, and Keeneland 2020 has proven to be an outstanding site for the two-day event.

After heading to Del Mar in 2021, the Breeders’ Cup will return to the Lexington, Kentucky venue for the third time in 2022.

I (James Scully) have ranked the 2020 Breeders’ Cup performances in the following order:

Fire At Will

Fire At Will engineered the biggest upset in the 13-year history of the Juvenile Turf, parlaying a stalk-and-pounce trip into a 30-1 shocker. Ricardo Santana Jr. was up for Three Diamonds Farm and Mike Maker on the Declaration of War colt, who was exiting a 13-1 upset in the Pilgrim (G2) at Belmont Park, and Fire at Will netted a 95 Brisnet Speed rating for the three-length decision.

Golden Pal

Golden Pal put his speed on display in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, blitzing three lengths clear a few jumps out of the starting gate. There was an anxious moment when Irad Ortiz Jr. tried to settle his mount on the backstretch — the Uncle Mo colt tossed his head in disgust — but the Wesley Ward trainee quickly regained momentum and comfortably led wire-to-wire for owner Randall Lowe. Out of the fantastic turf sprinter Lady Shipman, Golden Pal earned a 94 Speed rating.

Golden Slippers

Glass Slippers sliced her way through traffic to give Europe with its first victory in the 13th running of the Turf Sprint. An English homebred for Bearstone Stud, the 4-year-old Dream Ahead filly closed from 10th in a tightly-bunched field to score by a half-length for trainer Kevin Ryan and jockey Tom Eaves. The Irish Group 1 winner was overlooked at 10-1, and Glass Slippers received a 101 Speed rating after completing 5 1/2 furlongs in a course record 1:01.53.

Vequist

Vequist thrived on the stretch out to two turns, rallying to win the Juvenile Fillies going away by two lengths. Based at Parx with Butch Reid, the Nyquist filly earned her first victory when taking the Spinaway (G1) by nearly 10 lengths in her second start. The dark bay was exiting a second in Belmont Park’s Frizette (G1), which has produced three of the last four winners of the Juvenile Fillies. Owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, and Swilcamn Stable, Vequist garnered a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed figure.

Order of Australia

Order of Australia provided Aidan O’Brien with his first win in the Mile, springing a 73-1 upset from post 14. Owned by Coolmore and Ann Marie O’Brien, the Irish-bred sophomore led a 1-2-3 finish for O’Brien. A half-brother to 2019 Filly & Mare Turf winner Iridessa, Order of Australia cut back in trip after competing at longer distances this season, notching his first stakes win in the process. The Australia colt showed good tactical speed tracking the pace in fourth, and Pierre-Charles Boudot picked up the mount from Christophe Soumillon. Order of Australia earned a 100 Speed rating after edging the late-running Circus Maximus by a neck.

Aunt Pearl

Aunt Pearl still has much to prove, but she had the look of a superstar crushing foes in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. It was the most dominant performance on the Future Stars Friday program. An Irish-bred daughter of Lope De Vega, the Brad Cox trainee has now won all three starts stylishly in wire-to-wire fashion, and Florent Geroux was up on the exciting filly for Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Peter Deutsch, Michael Kisber, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables. Aunt Pearl got a 94 Speed number.

Knicks Go

Knicks Go completed a massive turnaround with a smashing 3 1/2-length triumph in the Dirt Mile. And he looks poised for a big 5-year-old season. An upset winner of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at age 2, the Maryland-bred son of Paynter dropped his next nine stakes attempts before being transferred to Brad Cox over the winter. Knicks Go has now won three straight convincingly, taking an Oaklawn allowance in late February and a Keeneland allowance in early October before returning to stakes competition in the Breeders’ Cup, and the Korea Racing Authority colorbearer received a 109 Brisnet Speed rating after completing the two-turn mile in a track record 1:33.85. Joel Rosario was up for the easy wire-to-wire tally aboard the 9-5 favorite.

Audarya

Audarya closed with a rush to overhaul favored Rushing Fall by a neck in the Filly and Mare Turf, posting a 17-1 upset. The 4-year-old Irish-bred filly was exiting a third in Oct. 4 Prix de l’Opera (G1), which was captured by Breeders’ Cup Turf heroine Tarnawa, and the 1 3/16-mile race on the Arc undercard produced its third Filly and Mare Turf winner in the last decade. The James Fanshawe-trained Wooten Bassett filly took advantage of an unexpected hot pace, and replacement jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot delivered a clever ride from off the pace. Audarya got a 102 Speed figure.

Essential Quality

Essential Quality continues to impress. He wasn’t flashy scoring by about a length from off the pace in the Juvenile, but the unbeaten colt has a vibe that generates excitement for the Kentucky Derby. A Godolphin homebred son of Tapit, Essential Quality has won all three starts on raw ability in my estimation. The Brad Cox-trained colt has run reasonably fast, generating a 101 Brisnet Speed rating in the Juvenile, and he should keep moving forward at age 3. Luis Saez rides the early Kentucky Derby favorite.

Gamine

Gamine opened Breeders’ Cup Saturday with an eye-opening romp in the Filly and Sprint, tracking wicked early splits before breathlessly drawing away in the stretch to a 6 1/4-length decision. The 3-year-old lass is spectacular, an absolute beast at one-turn distances for owner Michael Lund Petersen and trainer Bob Baffert, and Gamine finished 7-furlongs in a track record 1:20.20. She was favored at 11-10 with John Velazquez, and the Into Mischief filly registered a 110 Speed figure.

Whitmore

Whitmore represented a feel-good story in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, finally breaking through in his fourth Sprint attempt. The 7-year-old gelding is a warrior for trainer Ron Moquett! By Pleasantly Perfect, the chestnut also helped dispel the notion of an extreme speed bias at Keeneland. The front end may have been favorable, but Whitmore was far back in 10th during the early stages of the Sprint before launching his rally on the far turn. He won going away by 3 1/4 lengths, overlooked at 18-1 in his 38th career start, and has now earned more than $4.2 million. Irad Ortiz Jr., who captured his third consecutive Bill Shoemaker Award for leading Breeders’ Cup rider, was up for owners Moquett, Robert LaPenta, and Head of Plains Partners.

Tarnawa

Tarnawa completed a perfect 4-for-4 season, including three Grade/Group 1 wins, when rallying to take the Turf by a length. The Aga Khan homebred 4-year-old filly gave Dermot Weld a much-deserved first Breeders’ Cup victory. The legendary Irish trainer had to replace regular jockey Christophe Soumillon, who surrendered a pair of Breeders’ Cup winning mounts after testing positive for COVID, and Colin Keane did a superb job filling in as Tarnawa was perfectly placed turning for home. An Irsh-bred daughter Shamardal, Tarnawa was off as the 9-2 third choice, and she earned a 106 Speed number.

Monomoy Girl

Monomoy Girl did not disappoint as the even-money favorite, launching a wide bid off the far turn to seize control, and the 5-year-old mare rolled through the stretch unopposed to notch her second Distaff win. What an amazing comeback! Named champion 3-year-old filly after winning the 2018 Distaff, Monomoy Girl missed her entire 4-year-old season. I had my doubts she could return at the same level, much less elevate her game, but the Tapizar mare did just that in 2020. Monomoy Girl capped a 4-for-4 campaign, and Brad Cox became the second trainer to win four Breeders’ Cup races in the same year. Florent Geroux was up for Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables, and Monomoy Girl received a 107 Speed figure for the 1 3/4-length decision.

Authentic

Authentic carried his speed to Classic glory, leading wire-to-wire in a 2 1/4-length victory. The $6 million event serves as the defining race of the Breeders’ Cup, and Authentic locked up Horse of the Year honors with the convincing win. It was a facsimile of the Kentucky Derby, with Authentic proving to be lone speed as he sprinted clear by a couple of lengths for the run down the backside, and the Bob Baffert-trained colt is too good to be left alone on the lead. By Into Mischief, Authentic recorded his fifth stakes win this year for owners Spendthrift Farm, My RaceHorseStable.com, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing. The Classic marked his final start, and the 3-year-old never finished worse than second from eight career appearances (6-2-0), earning more than $6.3 million. Authentic established a new track record when completing the 1 1/4-mile distance in 1:59.60.

Share with us what your order would be!