A full field of older turf stars will race the 1 1/2 miles over the Del Mar turf in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (GIT), including a sea of strong contenders from Across the Pond and the best based in North America, which makes for an interesting and compelling race, both from just a viewing standpoint and also from a wagering standpoint.
Defending Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel is back this year off a third in the Champion Stakes (GIT) a month ago at Ascot. The son of Galileo has been one of the better turf runners in Europe for the better part of three years, only venturing out to tackle some foreign countries with the most success coming in last year’s World Championships. He seems better and rate-able now in his maturity, he likes the distance (four wins from seven starts) and has shown firm turf is absolutely his preference. The Coolmore-owned horse is trained by Irish champion (and world record holder) Aiden O’Brien, who also happens to be the most successful trainer in this event with six winners, including the last two and three of the last four. A good break under regular jockey Ryan Moore and a clean trip on or near the lead is all this horse should need.
Juddmonte International (GIT) winner Ulysses is in town off a third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GIT) and while he looks like he prefers a little give in the turf, he has handled a good turf in Europe successfully a few times. He is a winner at the distance and has always proven to be up for battle, engaged in several stretch battles successfully against some good horses. He won’t have the likes of his nemesis Enable in here, which helps, and he has some tactical ability. He’s looked good since clearing quarantine earlier this week and a top run may be good enough for the mild upset of the favorite and fourth win in this race for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. Champion European jockey Frankie Dettori is looking for his fifth winner in here, too.
Beach Patrol can easily be considered the best American grass horse coming off two huge wins in the Turf Classic Invitational, the latter of which earned him a huge BRISnet speed figure of 111. He’s got a versatile style, but prefers to sit just off the early pace and he should get a nice clip in front of him to chase in the early going. He’s never run a bad race, is as consistent as anyone and carries some pretty solid connections in trainer Chad Brown and jockey Joel Rosario. He’ll be bet, but he’ll also be tough.
Oscar Performance is a three-time Grade 1 winner dating back to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GIT) at Santa Anita, having annexed the Belmont Derby (GIT) and Secretariat Stakes (GIT) before finishing third against older horses in the Turf Classic Invitational. He’s a super talented colt, but this distance may be a bit far for him against the toughest competition he’s ever faced. The Brian Lynch trainee drew the outside, which isn’t ideal considering his forward running style, but he’s in good hands under Jose Ortiz looking to get toward the front from the break. A board-hitting performance would not be a surprise.
Group 2 winner Talismanic has looked quite good in the morning since arriving mid-week and has made his presence known by his flashy look and big mouth, hollering as he made his way around the main track during training hours. He likes this distance with three wins and a few placings and though he has a win on heavy ground he has three firm ground victories. The rail isn’t an ideal draw, but has a bit of time thanks to the distance to get to his familiar spot just behind the pace under jockey Mickael Barzalona. Trainer Andre Fabre has won this race twice previously with In the Wings and Shirocco so he knows how to get one ready.
Bullards Alley absolutely freaked in the Canadian International (GIT) two weeks ago, beating a really solid bunch by 10 ¾ lengths, which in reality could have been more. It’s hard to say if the son of Flower Alley liked the soft going (which he won’t get here) or the European style course, of if trainer Tim Glyshaw just kind of figured it out but whatever the reason he proved to be a horse worth taking an extra long look at. His record at the distance is 10-2-2-2 and he’s made almost a million dollars the hard way, giving his all and showing up in some big races for larger checks. Is he as good as the best from here and across the pond? Probably not, but he’s got a lot of heart and is deserving of some exotic wagers regardless.
Irish Champion Stakes (GIT) hero Decorated Knight has had a pretty good year having also won the Tattersalls Gold Cup (GIT) at The Curragh, but he’s never gone this distance and may have his hands full at the stretchout. The Roger Charlton trainee is another talented son of leading European sire Galileo. He will get an honest pace to stalk, but he may be a little overmatched at a distance that may be too far.
Cliffs of Moher is yet another talented son of Galileo and while he hasn’t won since capturing a listed stakes at Leopardstown in May, he’s kept some tough company. He’s earned one second in one try at the distance and probably has a bright future being a member of Club Ballydoyle, just not in this field.
Itsinthepost is one of the better American distance turfers coming off a nice win in the John Henry Turf Championship (GIT) five weeks ago. The Jeff Mullins trainee isn’t particular about surface condition, so a firm turf isn’t a concern, and he’s capable of putting up numbers sufficient to get a larger share of the pot, especially if his Elkhorn Stakes (GIIT) performance from earlier this year.
United Nations Handicap (GIT) winner Bigger Picture owns a win from four tries at this distance is a consistent sort, regularly hitting the board and picking up larger checks. He’s been off for two months, but seems to run well fresh, and he certainly offers value at 15-1 on the morning line.
And another Galileo coming from the powerful Coolmore/Ballydoyle partnership id the filly Seventh Heaven, who was second to the boys over the yielding turf in Dubai in the Sheema Classic (GIT). Last year’s Yorkshire Oaks (GIT) heroine likes the distance and we hope likes the firm going. She will need to run back to old form as her last race in the Arc where she finished 14th was very disappointing.
The very handsome Fanciful Angel is coming off two straight seconds in the Arlington Million (GIT) and Turf Classic Invitiational (GIT) behind Peach Patrol. He’s solid runner who has the abilty to pick up a check, but this is the toughest field he’s ever faced.
Hunt represents the best of the distance horses from the West Coast winning the Eddie Read (GIT) and Del Mar Handicap (GIIT) over this course this summer. Once considered a turf sprinter he blossomed when stretched out and the Mike House colorbearer is coming into this race in the best form of his life considering his last, a seventh in the John Henry Turf Classic, can be tossed considering he didn’t get the trip he prefers. He’s in tough, but the tiny gray Irish bred deserves an extra look for exotics consideration.
Sadler’s Joy has had a pretty good year, winning a few graded stakes and a first career Grade 1 in the Sword Dancer Invitational (GI). He has good, strong speed figures, will get the pace he likes to close in on from the back of the pack and likes the distance, having won three of five starts at 1 ½ grassy miles. If he can avoid traffic down the lane, he is dangerous for a larger share of the pot.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf is the 11th race on the Saturday card with a post time of 4:37 p.m. PT.
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.