July 16, 2024

Breeders’ Cup International Scouting Report: Saturday

Inspiral holds off Light Infantry in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Photo by Valentin Desbriel/Scoopdyga)

Although the representation is surprisingly light in the Mile (G1), one of the deepest European contingents in some time will be involved in both the Turf (G1) and Filly and Mare Turf (G1) on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup program at Santa Anita.

Here is a rundown of the European candidates in those races, as well as others on the card.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1)

For those bettors looking to take a stand against last year’s winner and likely favorite Cody’s Wish, #7 Algiers (6-1) is an intriguing alternative.

After spending the early part of his career running on turf in France, the Irish-bred has turned into a completely different animal since joining the yard of Simon and Ed Crisford, for whom he has won three times in six attempts on dirt. These include dominating scores in the first two rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge (both G2) at Meydan last winter. He followed that with an excellent second behind Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) prospect Ushba Tesoro in the Dubai World Cup (G1).

After a wet track nixed an intended start in the Woodward (G2) at Aqueduct, Algiers was rerouted to Canada for his sole Breeders’ Cup prep in the Durham Cup (G3) at Woodbine. He was only beaten a half-length there and figures to improve for the run in the Dirt Mile, where his positional speed could be an asset in a race that seemingly lacks a lot of pace.

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)

Although North America fields a strong home team (e.g. In Italian, Didia, Fev Rover), the handful of European contenders includes the probable top two betting choices.

The invading group is headed by #6 Inspiral (5-2), one of Europe’s top milers over the last two seasons. Among her four Group 1 wins were back-to-back renewals of the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville. The latter of those two, on Aug. 13, came at the expense of Big Rock, who recently thrashed a stellar field in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Ascot. Inspiral didn’t have to be anywhere near as good to win last month’s Sun Chariot (G1) at Newmarket against fellow fillies and mares, but dominated regardless.

Why is she here, rather than in the Mile later in the card? Co-trainer John Gosden, whose familiarity with the Southern California circuit dates to when he was based there in the 1980s, is more than familiar with what it takes to win at 1 1/4 miles over the course. He is seemingly confident an additional two furlongs would suit this daughter of Frankel to a tee, much more than the mile over this tighter configuration. He might very well be right, though contrarians are unlikely to be happy with the price, given her lack of distance experience.

A logical alternative is the dual Group 1 winner #2 Warm Heart (3-1), who beat older rivals, albeit narrowly, in both the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) and Prix Vermeille (G1) in her last two starts. They were characteristic wins for the daughter of Galileo, who enjoys a closely-fought scrap and whose only real comfortable stakes win this term occurred in the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot.

All three of Warm Heart’s Group wins have come over 1 1/2 miles, but her win in a classic trial at Newbury over the capable Bluestocking back in May showed she can be effective over 1 1/4 miles. She has run her best on firmer surfaces.

#11 Lumiere Rock (12-1) has more notable placings than wins this term, but is an honest and dependable sort over 1 1/4 miles. She has some form to find on Warm Heart, who beat her 2 1/2 lengths in the Ribblesdale, but has improved of late by taking the Blandford (G2) over older rivals by three lengths and finishing third in the Prix de l’Opera (G1). Although she has more speed than the top pair, expect Lumiere Rock to assume a pressing or stalking role with In Italian and others leading the charge.

Although beaten only two lengths in the Prix de l’Opera, #12 State Occasion (20-1) has never won a group stakes. #3 With the Moonlight (20-1) has never finished worse than second in five previous jaunts to North America, but has fallen short against American contenders In Italian, Fev Rover, and McKulick in the past.

Although the three-year-old French filly #7 Lindy (12-1) has been based in the U.S. with Brendan Walsh for several months now, she’s worth mentioning in this discussion. Lindy has started twice since being imported, winning a one-mile allowance at Kentucky Downs and then closing fast to finish a half-length behind the classic-winning Mawj in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland over 1 1/8 miles. The extra furlong on Saturday should suit.

How classy is she compared to Inspiral and Warm Heart? Arguably a cut or two below on bare form. She vainly chased France’s top filly, Blue Rose Cen, three times during the spring, with two of those being good efforts and the other a dud when she uncharacteristically set the pace in the Prix de Diane (G1). That was perhaps the quickest ground Lindy has run over, so there’s a chance the firmer going at Santa Anita might not entirely suit. Nonetheless, she remains with upside.

Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)

Following last week’s withdrawal of likely favorite Paddington, it’s Team Godolphin that will provide the major European contenders for the Mile.

North American fans are already familiar with #14 Master of The Seas (7-2). Scratched at the gate from the 2021 Mile at Del Mar, Master of The Seas reappears in career-best form. After an authoritative victory in the Summer Mile (G2) at Ascot in mid-July, the son of Dubawi shipped to Canada and convincingly won the Woodbine Mile (G1) over 2022 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Shirl’s Speight. Last time, Master of The Seas beat all save Up to the Mark, who turned in a tremendous performance following a four-month layoff to win by a nose in the Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland.

The primary knocks against Master of The Seas are two-fold. First, he’s never been considered among the elite milers in Europe. Second, his winning margin in the Woodbine Mile was perhaps flattered by the lack of depth in the field. This will prove a sterner test, and as the Keeneland race shows he’s potentially vulnerable to the right horse.

Whether fellow Godolphin colorbearer #6 Mawj (4-1) is that one remains to be seen. A three-year-old filly, she earned a signature win in May with an upset score over the highly-rated Tahiyra in the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket. Sidelined until last month, Mawj reappeared in the aforementioned Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. She showed her class, and plenty of guts, to make all over a distance she had never tried to win by a diminishing margin over Lindy.

Several prominent three-year-old fillies have won this event, including superstars Miesque, Ridgewood Pearl, Six Perfections, and Goldikova. One thing they all had in common was a Group 1 win against older males ahead of their Mile triumphs. However, Mawj doesn’t have that going for her, thus a career-best effort is likely needed.

The French filly #11 Kelina (6-1), on the other hand, recently toppled Kinross (last year’s Mile third) in the Prix de la Foret (G1) as a 27-1 longshot. Her previous form obviously didn’t indicate such an effort was forthcoming, though a combination of faster ground and a rough trip for Kinross aided in her victory. However, her relative class doesn’t seem to stack up with either Master of The Seas or Mawj.

Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)

Dual classic winner #5 Auguste Rodin (3-1) has been pointed toward this race for some time, and when he’s on his game he’s very good. We saw his very best in the Epsom Derby (G1) and Irish Champion (G1), and to a lesser extent in the Irish Derby (G1). However, he’s also run some inscrutably bad races this season in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1). The theory he was undone by soft conditions in both doesn’t quite hold water, given his efforts on testing ground as a two-year-old.

Ground conditions are unlikely to be a factor in the Turf, but the fact he is prone to running below par on occasion gives some cause for pause at the price, especially with such capable opposition.

The physically massive #11 King of Steel (4-1) has been outfinished by Auguste Rodin in two of their three meetings, but was conceding relative experience and recency when falling short by only a half-length in the Epsom Derby in his season debut. He subsequently defeated eventual St Leger (G1) winner Continuous in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot, and then finished a good third in the King George behind the older Hukum and Westover on a day when Auguste Rodin simply failed to show.

Over a Leopardstown course Auguste Rodin had prior winning experience over, King of Steel fell a length short of his rival in the Irish Champion. But distance might have also come into play. Although connections felt King of Steel would be effective over 1 1/4 miles in the latter half of the season, his form at Epsom and Ascot last spring perhaps suggested 1 1/2 miles would actually be more suitable. Even his win in the 1 1/4-mile Champion (G1) last out could be seen as a more demanding test of stamina than the distance would imply, given the soft ground.

The main concern is that King of Steel is wheeling back on two weeks of rest following the Champion, and the presence of the worldly-popular Frankie Dettori is sure to depress his price some as well. Regardless, this is one talented colt and quite the eyeful.

#9 Mostahdaf (5-2) is like fellow Gosden trainee Inspiral in one respect. He’s a specialist at a shorter distance (in his case 1 1/4 miles) who might find getting an extra two furlongs easier to do over this course than elsewhere. He’s run three outstanding races over the shorter trip this term, including a four-length romp in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) and a one-length score over Paddington in the Juddmonte International (G1), in which he seized early control in a paceless affair.

Mostahdaf has won over 1 1/2 miles before, albeit against lesser on synthetic. In his last attempt at the trip, in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), he ran into Japanese superstar Equinox, who won comfortably over eventual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) runner-up Westover. Mostahdaf languished seven lengths behind. Nonetheless, his top-level successes at Ascot and York were highly rated and he was installed the 5-2 morning line favorite for this.

After two modest runs to kick off his four-year-old campaign, #2 Onesto (8-1) ran a surprisingly good third in the Arc behind Ace Impact and Westover, missing second to the latter by a nose. It was a clear forward progression from his three-year-old form, which was highlighted by a win in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) and a second in the Irish Champion. Although not the most consistent performer, Onesto might offer overlaid odds and is a fresher horse than his two younger rivals.

#4 Bolshoi Ballet (15-1) is a two-time Grade 1 winner in the U.S., most recently taking the Aug. 26 Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga by more than four lengths. However, the veteran might prefer more cut in the ground than he will get here, and has been campaigned far below Group/Grade 1 level back home with limited success.

The enigmatic seven-year-old #7 Broome (30-1) was beaten a mere half-length by Yibir in this race two years ago, but would be a major surprise judged on his overall form over the past couple of seasons.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1)

#5 Live In The Dream (9-2) is one of those rare European sprinters who is as fast out of the gate as his American counterparts. A surprise winner of the Nunthorpe (G1) over the highly-regarded Highfield Princess in August, he showed his speed in his U.S. debut in the Oct. 7 Woodford (G2) at Keeneland, where he battled for the lead through a sub-:21 first quarter and a half-mile in :43 and change. The early exertion, as well as the 5 1/2-furlong distance, left Live In The Dream wanting late, but his fourth-place finish was still an effort that reportedly pleased his connections.

The shorter five furlongs of the Turf Sprint will work to his advantage, though bettors should remember that only one foreign-based runner has ever won this race (Glass Slippers in 2020).

The three-year-old #2 Bradsell (5-1) also owns a win against Highfield Princess this year, in the five-furlong King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot. He couldn’t catch Live In The Dream or Highfield Princess in the Nunthorpe, settling for third, and ran below par when last seen in the Flying Five (G1) at The Curragh. He is capable of better and might appreciate the more level Santa Anita surface, though he lacks experience racing around a bend.

#8 Aesop’s Fables (12-1) finished up the track in both the Nunthorpe and Flying Five, but was a surprise third, beaten a length by Highfield Princess, in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) at Longchamp. The addition of blinkers for that race might have played a role in the unexpected turnabout, but he will have to improve even more to surprise this crew.