The Emirates Breeders Cup Turf looks more like a Group 1 race from Europe than a race being held in the United States. I am impressed that some top Group 1 winners such as Await the Dawn, Sarafina and Midday made the trip. However, I was hoping horses such as Sarah Lynx (winner of the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine), Treasure Beach (Secretariat Stakes winner), Wigmore Hall, Workforce and So You Think (multiple Group 1 winners) would enter in this race too. Sarah Lynx, Treasure Beach and Wigmore Hall bypassed, Workforce stayed home and So You Think is in the BC Classic. It’s unfortunate that many top turf horses from the US are injured. It makes the field seem very lean. The five American horses in this field have a tough task ahead of them. On paper, they look to be in the bottom half of the results.
Churchill Downs – Emirates Breeders Cup Turf (G1) – 1 1/2 miles – Turf – $3,000,000
Date: November 5, 2011
Estimated Post Time: 4:45pm EST
1. St Nichoals Abbey (IRE) – Joseph O’Brien – 9/2
2. Sarafina (Fr) – Christophe Lemaire – 5/2
3. Dean’s Kitten – Ramon Dominguez – 10/1
4. Stately Victor – Mike Smith – 30/1
5. Teaks North – Javier Castellano – 20/1
6. Await the Dawn – Julien Leparoux – 7/2
7. Sea Moon (GB) – Ryan Moore – 4/1
8. Brilliant Speed – John Velazquez – 20/1
9. Midday (GB) – Tom Queally – 4/1
Midday (GB)- Trainer Sir Henry Cecil
This will be the second trip to the US for the five year old English bred mare. She was here last year and ran second to Shared Account in the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mare Turf. After that performance, she would miss 6 months of action due to injury. Upon her return, she would win the Group 2 ToteSport.com Middleton Stakes. She ran as if she didn’t miss a beat. Next up was a 2nd against the boys in the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom (St. Nicholas Abbey). Another 2nd place result in the Group 1 Stobart Ireland Pretty Polly Stakes at Curragh was followed up with a win in the Group 1 Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes British Champions’ Series. She defeated a talented filly in Snow Fairy by two lengths. Her last two races have been a 2nd against male stable mate Twice Over in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes (British Champions’ Series) and solid 4th in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes (British Champions Middle Distance). She lost to Cirrus Des Aigles, So You Think and Snow Fairy. She is a tough customer, who at 1 1/2 miles, will definitely be a force come race day. She has done very well at longer distances over her career.
2011 Record: 6 Starts 2-3-0 (She won the Group 2 ToteSport.com Middleton Stakes at York and Group 1 Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes British Champions’ Series at Goodwood ).
Sarafina (FR) – Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre
The French bred mare did not run well in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) earlier this month. Her 7th place finish was her worst career result. She had never been worse than third in 9 previous races. The loss also snapped a three race winning streak that included the Group 1 Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud at Saint Cloud on June 26. She defeated Cirrus de Aigles who just came off a big win against So You think on October 15 in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. She should be able to rebound from that race and be a force to reckon with come November 5.
2011 Record: 5 Starts 3-1-0 (She won the Group 2 Qatar Prix Foy at Longchamps and G2 Prix Corrida at Saint Cloud).
Await the Dawn (KY) – Trainer Aidan O’Brien
This four year old Kentucky bred colt has been racing in Europe his whole career. It is another solid horse from the O’Brien barn. He ran twice as a two year old. Easily won his maiden debut, but was injured in his follow up, a 7th and last in the Group 2 DFS Champagne Stakes. He would miss almost a year. He easily won a non Group stakes race in his return at Cork. It was a good tune-up for the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes at Leopardstown that he won by 9 lengths. He would sustain another injury, that kept him out of action for another 9 months. Once again, he returned in good form to easily win the Group 3 Betfair Huxley Stakes at Chester. He then easily won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes. His last race was on August 17at York in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes. It was his toughest task yet and did very well. He only lost to Twice Over and Midday. The minor layoff since that race should not affect him. He has shown twice in his career that he can run well off lengthy periods of inactivity.
2011 Record: 3 Starts 2-0-1 (Won the Group 3 Betfair Huxley Stakes at Chester and Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot).
Teaks North (FL) – Trainer Justin Sallusto
This 4 year old Northern Afleet gelding has been one of the best Turf horses in the US this season by winning three graded stakes racing including two Grade 1′s. The only thing going against him is that he is either good or not so good. He has been on the board in 4 of 7 graded stakes races this year. Three were wins, the others were two 4th’s, a 5th and a 7th. He’s a horse who sits off the lead and needs a decent pace in front of him to be a major factor. That’s what happened when he won those three races. If the final layout of the race displays some speed, he would be one to watch come race day.
2011 Record: 7 Starts 3-0-0 (He won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park, Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park and the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 2).
Brilliant Speed (FL) – Trainer Thomas Albertrani
He could be the lone three year old in this year’s race. Earlier in the year, he was prepping for opportunities to win a triple crown race. He qualified with his win in the Grade 1 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes on April 16. He ran 7th in the Kentucky Derby. He ran well considering he was 8 wide at the top of the stretch. He bypassed the Preakness for the 1 1/2 miles Belmont Stakes and he finished a strong 3rd on a sloppy track. He ran in the 1 1/8 miles Jim Dandy Stakes and finished 5th. They decided to give him a try on the turf in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga and he thrived. Winning the race in come from behind fashion by 2 1/2 lengths. They ran him again on the turf in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park. He ran well, but the tough European horse Western Aristocrat wouldn’t relinquish the lead. He went gate to wire with Brilliant Speed finishing 2nd. I believe the additional distance in the BC Turf will help his cause, however, this will be the toughest field he will have faced in his career.
2011 Record: 8 Starts 2-3-1 (He won the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and Grade 3 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga).
St Nicholas Abbey (IRE) – Trainer Aidan O’Brien
Another horse from the O’Brien stables that could end up in this race. He comes off a decent 5th in the G1 Qatar Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe. Beaten only a 1/2 length for fourth by So You Think and neck more from third by Snow Fairy. So this four year old colt has some talent. Highlights of 2011 include a win against Midday in the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom and a complete destruction in which he won by 9 lengths over the field in the Group 3 Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester on May 6. With 3rd place finishes in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Foy (Sarafina) and Group 1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes British Champions’ Series (Nathaniel), he shows that he’s a competitor and will be in the mix at the end.
2011 Record: 5 Starts 2-2-0 (He won the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom and Group 3 Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester).
Dean’s Kitten (KY) – Trainer Michael Maker
This hard pressed but talented Mike Maker four year old colt has ran very well this season, but only has one win to show for it. He started the season finishing 5th in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Gulfstream Park. He then was shipped to Kentucky where he finished second in back to back stakes races; Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Turfway Park and Tejano Run Stakes at Keeneland. He would pick up his lone 2011 victory in the non-graded Dallas Turf Cup Stakes at Lone Star Park.That effort along with racing maturity seemed to turn things up a notch for him. He finished 3rd in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap and Grade 1 Arlington Million Stakes. Only losing to Cape Blanco (IRE) and Gio Ponti by 2 1/2 lengths. Not bad considering the talent level and resume of those two horses. His most recent race was a narrow loss to Cape Blanco in the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park. Despite the fact that Cape Blanco was injured at some point during the race, you can’t take away the fact that this colt came up big on the big stage and ran his hear out. Can he defeat a field with so many stars? Probably not, but he does get some merit on the fact that he progressing into a solid long distance turf horse.
2011 Record: 7 Starts 1-3-2 (He won the Dallas Turf Cup Stakes at Lone Star Park).
Sea Moon (GB) – Trainer Sir Michael Stoute
Lightly raced three year had his three race winning streak snapped last time out in the Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes at Doncaster. He finished 3rd beaten 3 1/2 lengths. It was his first attempt at the Group 1 level. He finish just ahead of Seville, who is a two-time Group 1 runner-up. He also demolished Seville in the Group 2 SportingBet.com Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.
2011 Record: 3 Starts 2-0-1 (He won the Group 2 SportingBet.com Great Voltigeur Stakes at York).
Stately Victor (KY) – Trainer Michael Maker
It’s been a rough year for this Michael Maker trained colt. He has yet to win in six starts. He hasn’t won since last September in the non-graded Ontario Derby at Woodbine. Throughout his career, he either hits the top three or he doesn’t even come close. His results in Grade 1 and 2 company over the last 14 months have not been stellar. With this field, he will need the race of his life in order to keep up. I don’t see it happening.
2011 Record: 6 Starts 0-0-4