February 23, 2024

Breeders’ Cup International Scouting Report: Friday

Victoria Road, with Ryan Moore aboard, wins the 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) for trainer Aidan O'Brien (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

International participation during Breeders’ Cup Friday has come up strong. Horses representing England, Ireland, France, and Japan are among the entries.

Only the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) is lacking international representation; Friday’s other four Breeders’ Cup races have all drawn multiple foreign raiders.

Let’s meet the international contenders:

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1)

A large European contingent has been entered in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Half a dozen runners have made the trip to Santa Anita.

#5 Givemethebeatboys (15-1), third in the Phoenix (G1) and fourth in the Middle Park (G1), boasts arguably the best form lines among the Europeans. But he’s never run shorter than six furlongs and may find a fast five furlongs around a bend at Santa Anita too sharp. The same can be said of Middle Park fifth-place finisher #6 Starlust (20-1), and the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly #8 Cherry Blossom (12-1)—exiting a fourth-place run in the Cheveley Park (G1)—has also done her best work over six furlongs.

This stands in contrast to #3 Big Evs (3-1), a five-furlong specialist with wins in the Flying Childers (G2) and Molecomb (G3) on his record. The only time he’s finished out of the exacta in five starts came when facing older horses in the Nunthorpe (G1).

Prix d’Arenberg (G3) heroine #3 Tiger Belle (15-1) and Royal Ascot’s Norfolk (G2) winner #10 Valiant Force (12-1) have likewise secured their signature wins sprinting five furlongs, and both offer some intrigue in the Breeders’ Cup.

#14 Asean (20-1) is second on the also-eligible list; if she draws in, she’ll be a longshot off a 10th-place finish in the Cornwallis (G3).

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1)

Five European raiders are entered in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Hands-down the most accomplished is #6 Porta Fortuna (5-1), winner of the Cheveley Park (G1) and placed in the Phoenix (G1) and Moyglare Stud (G1). But she’s been racing over straight courses and has done her best work in six-furlong sprints; there’s no guarantee she’ll relish racing one mile around two tight turns at Santa Anita.

At least Staffordstown Stud (G3) winner #5 Content (15-1), from the barn of Aidan O’Brien, handled a mild left-hand turn when breaking her maiden at Leopardstown. Rockfel (G2) heroine #9 Carla’s Way (6-1) negotiated a very mild right-hand turn when finishing second in the Fillies (G3) at Goodwood, but a previous eighth-place finish against Porta Fortuna in the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot leaves Carla’s Way with form to find against the Cheveley Park winner.

French raiders #14 Les Pavots (8-1) and #4 Laulne (15-1) complete the international group. Les Pavots looks like the better of the pair after beating Laulne by three lengths in the seven-furlong Prix du Calvados (G2) at Deauville, after which she ran third in the one-mile Prix Marcel-Boussac (G1) at ParisLongchamp. Les Pavots is accustomed to racing over soft and even heavy ground, but as a daughter of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up No Nay Never, she could potentially enjoy firm turf at Santa Anita. It helps that she’s won around a turn at Vichy.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)

International participation in this Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier is slim, with only two horses slated to face the starter.

From Ireland comes #7 Cuban Thunder (30-1), a maiden winner sprinting six furlongs at York during the spring. But he was subsequently beaten by double-digit margins in the Coventry (G2), Superlative (G2), and Vincent O’Brien (G1) before finishing third in the easier Star Appeal S. on synthetic, so Cuban Thunder has yet to show he can compete against this caliber of competition.

The same goes for #5 Ecoro Neo (30-1), the lone Japanese representative on Breeders’ Cup Friday. He’s a maiden after finishing 12th in his debut racing 1 1/4 miles on turf and second in a six-furlong dirt sprint. Ecoro Neo closed strongly in the latter race and has upside for improvement, but he’ll need a meaningful step forward to beat the strong North American home team in the Juvenile.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1)

Somewhat surprisingly, only three international raiders have entered the Juvenile Turf. They are #2 River Tiber (3-1), #8 Unquestionable (4-1), and #12 Mountain Bear (12-1), and all are conditioned by five-time Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien.

They might be strongly outnumbered by the North American home team, but the O’Brien runners comprise a formidable trio. Two have already run well against top-tier competition: Unquestionable exits a sharp runner-up finish in the seven-furlong Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at ParisLongchamp, while River Tiber boasts thirds in the Prix Morny (G1) and Middle Park (G1) sprinting six furlongs. Both have shown tactical speed and have every chance to work out winning trips at Santa Anita.

But the less heralded Mountain Bear can’t be counted out of the mix. He won the seven-furlong Star Appeal S. racing around a left-handed turn on synthetic at Dundalk, and it’s worth noting O’Brien’s Hit It a Bomb won the 2015 Star Appeal as a precursor to nabbing the Juvenile Turf.