Breeders' Cup: six best bets among the British challengers

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Fri 4 Nov 2022

Those of a certain age will remember when British and Irish-trained runners at the Breeders’ Cup were a novelty, with winners being a rarity.

But the boundaries have become smaller and a consequence the raiding party seems to get bigger every year, with multiple winners becoming the norm. The dirt races may remain a bridge too far but the turf contests all provide richly-endowed opportunities.

The greatest meeting in the American calendar takes place at Keeneland this time and no fewer than 32 British and Irish runners are set to be at the party. The sweeping bends and flat terrain make for a level playing field and, while a low draw is preferable, those berthed high in the maximum 14-runner fields should not despair.

There’s little doubt the travelling party will be encouraged by events at Keeneland two years ago when they enjoyed four Saturday winners. Who are the aces in the pack this time? Here, as I see it, are six of Britain’s best.


FRIDAY

7.00: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (Grade 2)

SELECTION: MISCHIEF MAGIC. ODDS: 9-1.

This is a race that has eluded the Europeans with Wesley Ward responsible for the past three winners. However, the five British runners this year make for a formidable squad and the odds look loaded in their favour.

MISCHIEF MAGIC may not have the best form among the Brits but the Charlie Appleby-trained youngster appeals as being best equipped to get the job done. His successive wins over 6f at Goodwood, Newmarket and Kempton were all building blocks before his fourth to Blackbeard in the Group One Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. The manner in which he loomed into contention that day was taking but, at that level, the trip seemed to stretch him. He’s got bundles of pace and I fancy has a bigger performance in him dropping back to this extended 5f on faster ground.

Persian Force, a rock-solid yardstick, finished just ahead of Mischief Magic that day but he’s been on the go all year and, in any case, this speedier test is unlikely to serve him so well. The Platinum Queen has gone from strength to strength, including against older opposition. She landed the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp at the start of this month, having previously beaten all bar Highfield Princess in the Nunthorpe, at York. Her form claims are obvious but my two niggles are that she’s had a tough schedule, and that Hollie Doyle is going to have to use up early petrol to get her in the game from stall 12.

Dramatised had Love Reigns, who is Ward’s big hope this time, and The Platinum Queen adrift when flying home in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. However, she subsequently fluffed her lines in the Lowther when edgy before the start and rather burning herself out. Dropping back in trip should suit but there must be a chance she will again be fizzy after an 11-week absence. Lady Hollywood is a big outsider diving into deeper waters but she’s speedy and has already won in three different countries this campaign. It will be a surprise if she is good enough to win but don’t discount her outrunning her odds.


9.40: Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade 1)

SELECTION: SILVER KNOTT. ODDS: 11-8.

Appleby scooped three winners at the Breeders’ Cup last year and his overall record with his runners in America is exceptional, with 19 out of 43 victorious. However Mischief Magic fares in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, it will be a surprise if he is not on the mark here with SILVER KNOTT, who looks a worthy short-priced favourite.

Fast going would normally be a niggle for a stoutly-bred colt with soft-ground winners in his pedigree but he’s looked well served by a sound surface with his one below-par effort coming when he got stuck in the mud behind Chaldean in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. He put that reverse behind him when showing a good attitude to master Epictetus and Holloway Boy in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket last time. His pursuers franked the form when subsequently filling the places behind Auguste Rodin in the Vertem Futurity.

Appleby has compared Silver Knott favourably to Modern Games and his official rating of 115 gives him 9lb in hand of Aidan O’Brien’s Victoria Road, who is second favourite in the British betting. There doesn’t seem to be any world-beaters among the home team and Silver Knott can gallop them into submission.


SATURDAY

4.29 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1)

SELECTION: HIGHFIELD PRINCESS. ODDS: 5-2.

The rise of HIGHFIELD PRINCESS from low-grade handicapper to top-class sprinter has been something to behold, and her clash here with the rapid Golden Pal promises to be a memorable minute or so for racing fans.

Highfield Princess lines up on the back of three successive Group One triumphs – each gained in impressive style with more seemingly in the locker. And her form also has a glow with two of her victims, Minzaal and The Platinum Queen, also going on to win at the highest level.

The question is whether the mare can be as effective around a bend on firm ground. But she is proven away from straight tracks and conditions were plenty quick enough when she coasted home in the Nunthorpe on her penultimate start.

Golden Pal is the best sprinter America has had for many years and was a dazzling winner of the race 12 months ago when blasting out and making all over 5f at Del Mar. However, he’s not beaten a horse of Highfield Princess’s calibre and we know that he is also prone to blowing out, such as on his past two trips to Britain when a hot favourite. He won in a course record over course and distance last time but four inferior rivals got to within two lengths of him.


5.50 Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Grade 1)

SELECTION: NASHWA. ODDS: 13-8

The American runners look vulnerable, as they often do in this race, and NASHWA has a golden opportunity to cap a fantastic campaign.

She’s got the best form, will be running over a trip made to measure plus is well served by quick draw. Her low draw is the icing on the cake and, with the rub of the green, she is going to take plenty of stopping under regular rider Hollie Doyle.

The one minor concern, like with so many horses at the meeting, is whether this will be one race too many at the end of a long year. But fatigue didn’t look an issue when she was edged out on unsuitably soft ground from an unfavourable draw in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp last time and she’s had five weeks to catch her breath.

Nashwa finished ahead of Above The Curve and Tuesday in France, and it will be a surprise if she does not confirm the form in a race that seems likely to play more to her strengths. Chad Brown is the only American trainer to have scooped this prize in the past decade and he relies on In Italian. However, she is going to need to raise her game to live with an on-song Nashwa.


7.10 FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile

SELECTION: MODERN GAMES. ODDS: 5-2.

Has 12 months really slipped by since MODERN GAMES overcame a chaotic start to land the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf?

The Dubawi colt made history that night as he was barred from the betting after momentarily being declared a non-runner. He was the innocent party after a melee at the gates before the race got under way and it reflects well on his calm nature that he was unaffected and won with authority.

Modern Games has continued to be the most trustworthy of conveyances around the world this year, landing the French 2000 Guineas and Woodbine Mile (in Canada) along the way, while chasing home Baaeed in the Sussex Stakes in between.

Some will be deterred by his apparent hard race on soft ground in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last month, when runner-up to Bayside Boy, but they dawdled for much of that contest and I fancy this robust colt will take it in his stride.

He will enjoy the stronger gallop and faster terrain, with a draw in stall 4 looking ideal. Kinross also arrives in fabulous form but he’s got a wide draw to contend with and his best efforts have come over shorter in the mud.


8.40 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (Grade 1)

SELECTION: NATIONS PRIDE. ODDS: 3-1

In Charlie Appleby, we trust. A golden weekend for the champion trainer might just finish with a one-two as he saddles a pair with outstanding credentials in Nations Pride and Rebel’s Romance. It’s an enviable/unenviable choice for William Buick, depending on your viewpoint, but I fancy he has got his sums right in choosing NATIONS PRIDE.

The Teofilio colt has not run in Britain since finishing eighth in the Derby but has since done little wrong campaigned in America, winning the Grade One Saratoga Derby in August before bolting up in the jockey Club Derby Invitational Stakes at Belmont last time.

Yibir won the last-named race before following up in the Turf for Appleby last year, so this has clearly been something of a long-term plan.

Rebel’s Roamnce is unbeaten in four starts on turf and we don’t really know where his ceiling might be. Nations Pride has achieved more, though, and looks like he might have more gears.

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