It was very sporty of Americans to organize a one-and-a-half mile run on grass when they founded the Breeders ‘Cup meeting in 1984 and Europeans have responded to this show of transatlantic generosity by dominating the Breeders’ Cup Prato ever since.
Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Lashkari won the inaugural race and since then the horses bred in Europe have won another 22 editions.
Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa added her name to the roll of honor with her spectacular stretch wave at Keeneland 12 months ago and lines up as the heavy favorite to get double.
1 – Rockemperor (Jockey: Javier Castellano; Coach: Chad Brown)
Rockemperor is doing well after winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont last month. The strongest canter that day certainly seemed to suit him more than the tactically handled Sword Dancer in Saratoga the time before. Does it have the starting speed to take full advantage of the rail post position, though?
2 – Channel creator (J Velazquez; R Mandella)
He finished third in the race last year, but got a pretty easy lead, which is by no means assured here with the likes of Acclimate on the pitch.
His usual style of frontrunning hasn’t been as effective in races like the Sword Dancer and the Joe Hirsch Classic lately and he has a lot of speed under him on Saturday. A big shock if he’s good enough to win.
3 – Bolshoi Ballet (R Moore; A O’Brien)
He looked like the best three-year-old in European middle distance when he beat his rivals in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown in May, however he flopped when he sent off the 11/8 favorite in the Epsom Derby.
Although his transatlantic revitalization spawned a victory in the Belmont Derby Invitational, the level of his later form was a little underwhelming. One of Aidan O’Brien’s three riders in the race.
4 – astronaut (V Espinoza; J Shirreffs)
The contest probably went well when he won the Grade Two Del Mar Handicap over 11 stadiums last time around. He had previously been second in a Grade Three over one mile and six stages at Saratoga. He will probably adapt to the race and will definitely stay, but will he be good enough in this company?
5 – Tribhuvan (J Ortiz; C Brown)
An important rider because he will be one of the few who will almost certainly keep things honest from a pace point of view. He is a Grade One winner, having scored at that level at Monmouth two starts ago, but was dragged along by domestic spending in the Manhattan Stakes.
6 – Acclimatized (R Gonzalez; P D’Amato)
A confirmed leader who finished fourth in the Hollywood Turf Cup at this track and distance nearly 12 months ago.
He’d be a dangerous stranger if not beaten up, but it looks like he can have a lot of competition to the beat of the likes of Tribhuvan and Broome. So I suspect he will find some too good.
7 – Walton Street (J Doyle; C Appleby)
A fascinating competitor who will run a great race. His form of Torquator Tasso from Germany has aged like fine wine and cleared the field at Woodbine in Canadian International.
This is obviously a deeper race, but there are no tripping issues and from gate seven I expect it to take a rather prominent position not too far off the track.
William Buick’s decision to ride Yibir gives you an idea of Godolphin’s pecking order, but James Doyle is a more than capable deputy and I’m very excited about his possibilities.
8 – Broome (F Dettori; A O’Brien)
Another likely first place with solid European group race form early in the season. Most of his best efforts have been with some subsidence in the ground, however, and the solid surface at the time of writing seems unlikely to be ideal.
His run in the Arc was also pretty disappointing to say the least. You make an interesting reservation, but not for me.
9 – Sisfahan (Do Demuro; H Grewe)
Torquator Tasso’s win at ParisLongchamp has led everyone to belatedly leaf through their German forms and there are one or two such efforts that suit the Arc winner perfectly.
As we saw in Paris, these are forms that must be taken seriously, but Sisfahan often comes back to racing and I’m not sure that the running style, combined with the fast terrain, will be an ideal mix.
10 – Yibir (W Buick; C Appleby)
Pushed and flattered ahead of time, Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old never felt like winning the Jockey Club Derby until he did so with a devastating wave on the line under a persistent Jamie Spencer at Belmont. In all fairness, it wasn’t much different from his performance in York when he came back a long time to win the Great Voltigeur.
He’s clearly a high-quality performer, but I think Knavesmire and “Big Sandy” suited him much better than Del Mar’s tight curves and I’m not desperately thrilled with his pricing option.
11 – Owl (J Rosario; C Clemente)
A staunch supporter of mid-distance grass racing in America, he triumphed in a somewhat complicated Sword Dancer Stakes in Saratoga. He will have a good race, but others would have to be underperformed to win.
12 – Teona (D Egan; R Varian)
A filly that has made excellent progress this season from the Listed August Stakes in Windsor straight to Group One Prix Vermeille. Sure, it was a bit of an unsatisfactory race, but it still took a good performance to win it. His tendency to run freely may not be ideal, as indeed is the large draw.
13 – Tarnawa (C Keane; D Welding)
He won this race last year in the manner of a very good horse. In the rear in a race that took place at a very pedestrian canter, he did incredibly well to overtake the vast majority of his fast rivals in the two-stage run to the finish.
Dermot Weld wanted to preserve it for a fall campaign and his efforts in the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe, while not leading to victory, are still the best pieces of form on display here.
There have been some rumors from the stable about the potential state of the terrain in Del Mar, but she’s versatile enough to make it and a wide barrier doesn’t bother me much if she can slip in and find some cover. The one everyone has to beat.
14 – Japan (R Moore; A O’Brien)
He still occasionally climbs the kind of height he achieved in the early parts of his career, but after a decent effort in Sword Dancer in Saratoga, which was very disappointing later in Belmont. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him revitalized over the weekend, but it’s hard to be confident about his chances.
The latest defections from Domestic Spending and United – both in great shape and Del Mar specialists – served to weaken the game and smooth the path for TARNAWA to get his second consecutive renewal of this breed.
Sure, his draw is bad and some of Weld’s stable vibes on the ground haven’t been desperately encouraging, but his win here 12 months ago was extraordinarily good and his form from Leopardstown and ParisLongchamp is very strong. It will come out, it will plug in and it will rush in late.
WALTON STREET he wouldn’t be a particularly sexy winner, but he has raced a great number in Toronto and if he can reach a prominent position and attack outside the home corner, it will be difficult to recover.