The Breeders’ Cup Turf has been won by European raiders 11 times in the last 15 years, but at this stage of the campaign it is impossible to say which horses will travel to Del Mar for the 2021 renewal. The picture will only become clear after the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp (October 3); not only is the race a win-and-in for the Turf, but its great value and prestige make it the primary target for European horsemen, with the Turf a relative afterthought. The Arc comes first, factually and figuratively.
With that always in mind, the best place to start for the Breeders’ Cup Turf is last year’s race at Keeneland, won by the Irish mare Tarnawa. The five-year-old, trained by Irish legend Dermot Weld, is unbeaten in her last five races on all sorts of ground; it was firm going at Keeneland, as it no doubt will be at Del Mar, so there are no fears there.
Tarnawa (+500) has had a light campaign to keep her fresh for the big autumn targets. She will drop back in distance for the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday (September 11), another win-and-in for the Turf, before reverting to a mile and a half in the Arc, and then her suitability for the Turf will be considered. She will almost certainly not stay in training next year at six, making it a little more likely that Del Mar will be her destination.
Last year’s Turf fourth Lord North (+1300) is a much less likely participant. He is regarded as a ten-furlong horse – the Turf was his first and only start at a mile and a half – and has been off the track since winning at Meydan in March. His trainer John Gosden has a much better candidate in the globetrotting Mishriff, arguably the most versatile top-notch horse in the world, who has the Turf as just one of a number of potential targets.
Mishriff (+450) was at his brilliant best when scorching home by six lengths in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York last month; that was over an extended ten furlongs, but he is equally at home at a mile and a half, winning the Sheema Classic and finishing runner-up in the King George at Ascot.
The four-year-old looks an ideal candidate for the Turf – he would also not be out of place in the Classic given his victory on dirt in the Saudi Cup – but is ante-post favourite for the aforementioned Champion Stakes, and it would be tough to run in both. He is also in the Arc, but soft ground in France would probably put him out of contention.
Lucky seven for O’Brien?
Aidan O’Brien has won the Turf six times, more than any other trainer, and his leading candidate this year could be four-time Group 1 winner St Mark’s Basilica, who beat Mishriff with eye-catching ease in the Group 1 Eclipse at Sandown in July. He has never been tried over a mile and a half, though, and has never won without the word ‘soft’ in the going description, which would make the Turf unknown territory for the three-year-old. St Mark’s Basilica (+800) takes on Tarnawa in the Irish Champion Stakes, after which his schedule will be clarified.
O’Brien has plenty of alternatives, led by the filly Love, whose air of invulnerability vanished in recent defeats at Ascot and York. The four-year-old daughter of Galileo is a solid mile-and-a-half horse and doesn’t mind fast ground, and at this stage Love (+1500) is a more likely candidate for the Turf than St Mark’s Basilica, although inevitably she is also under consideration for the Arc.
In a match-up she would be easily preferred to stablemates such as Belmont Derby winner Bolshoi
Ballet (+2000), Sword Dancer runner-up Japan (+3500) and his brother Mogul (+2500), last year’s Turf fifth. If the outstanding three-year-old filly Snowfall (+2000) were a confirmed runner she would certainly be favourite on the futures book, but her main target is the Arc, for which she is also favourite.
The last of the major European contenders is 2021 Derby and King George winner Adayar, whose powerhouse performance at Ascot, when beating Mishriff and Love, stamped him the best mile-and-a-half colt in Europe. The issue here is again the Arc, the chief objective for the son of Frankel. Adayar (+700) will run at Longchamp before a decision is made on Del Mar, where the tight turns may not suit this big, burly galloper.
The home defence is led by Domestic Spending, winner this year of the Grade 1 Manhattan and the Grade 1 Turf Classic – in a dead-heat with Colonel Liam (+2000) – before being undone by a dawdling pace in the Mr D at Arlington last time out. The problem with Domestic Spending (+700) is his stamina, or rather the lack of proof thereof – he has never gone beyond ten furlongs, and against Europeans who are guaranteed stayers it could prove his downfall.
Gufo rates a much better hope of keeping the prize at home after his narrow defeat of Japan in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, over a mile and a half, at Saratoga last month. On that evidence Gufo (+1200), who has shown plenty of improvement since being fitted with blinkers, will be a real danger to all, although there will be classier Europeans in opposition than the in-and-out Japan.
Saratoga Derby winner State Of Rest (+1500) is bound for Australia instead, but the horse he beat at the Spa, Soldier Rising (+2000), is not out of it given his proven stamina in France and improved performance on his first start Stateside. If he continues that upward trend next time out then he may have potential for the big one at Del Mar.
Rounding out the top ten in the futures book is the three-year-old Alenquer (+1500), runner-up to Mishriff at York. He is better suited by a mile and a half, but prefers soft ground – which is unlikely at Del Mar – and his connections are thinking no further than the Arc at present.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Betting Prediction
Early prediction Love (if absent Mishriff), with Gufo to show
Breeders’ Cup Turf Future Book Odds courtesy of Jazzsports
|Horse||Odds to Win The Breeders’ Cup Turf||Field Facts|
|Tarnawa||+150||Huge effort when runner-up in G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe; reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf champion|
|Domestic Spending||+400||Three-time G1 winner before last-time-out defeat; never even tried a mile and a half|
|Love||+700||Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot among five G1 wins; lost last three but powerful stable’s best hope|
|Yibir||+1000||Dominant winner of Jockey Club Derby; has improved since being gelded and stays further than this|
|Gufo||+1300||Won G1 Sword Dancer but below that form latest; improved plenty for blinkers and may be best US hope|
|Waltron Street||+1300||Won G1 Canadian International in lifetime best, much improved this year; barnmate of Yibir|
|Hukum||+1500||Multiple G3 winner in Britain but never above that level; best form on soft ground and must improve|
|Astronaut||+2000||G2 Del Mar Handicap winner and certain to stay the distance; only two wins from nine starts|
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