International runners have traditionally fared well in the Breeders' Cup's marquee turf races, hence why there are so many pictures of Frankie Dettori vaulting off horses in North American winner's circles.
The influence foreign runners have on the outcomes of the Breeders' Cup Turf, and Filly and Mare Turf, is so strong that the top winning BRIS Speed Ratings for the two races are shared by four horses, all born outside of North America.
Heading into this year's Breeders' Cup, we look back at previous cards to determine the most powerful efforts in each division based on the highest BRIS Speed Ratings since 1990, the first year the numbers were implemented.
To put the BRIS Speed Ratings in perspective, the typical winner of a Grade 1 race for 3-year-old males and up would earn a number around 106. The typical winner of a $10,000 open claimer in that age bracket might earn an 88, while a typical $10,000 maiden claiming winner might earn a 75.
Breeders' Cup Turf
Top Performers: Shirocco, 2005, Belmont Park / Talismanic, 2017, Del Mar
BRIS Speed Rating: 121
The highest winning BRIS Speed Figure ever earned in a Breeders' Cup race was a 121, achieved three times. It has occurred twice in the Turf, and both horses were trained by Andre Fabre. The only other instance came in the 2007 Classic, won by Curlin.
The longest-tenured member of that exclusive club is German-bred Shirocco, who made his lone North American start in the 2005 Turf at Belmont Park. Prior to the race, the son of Monsun had racked up Group 1 victories in Germany and Italy, but his attempts in France leading up to the Breeders' Cup were less successful.
Racing as a homebred for Baron Georg von Ullmann, Shirocco sat in second in the Turf as Shake the Bank ran off to a seven-length lead in the opening quarter, trying to act as a rabbit for stablemate Better Talk Now. He reeled in the pacesetter to within two lengths after a mile, and then came off the rail to take control after Shake the Bank threw the anchor.
Shirocco and jockey Christophe Soumillon faced steady pressure from English Channel and the Irish-bred Ace once he took over the lead, but Shirocco built up a cushion in the stretch and prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths. Ace finished second, a neck ahead of Azamour.
Shirocco clocked in at 2:29.30 for a mile and a half over a Belmont turf surface labeled as good.
Twelve years later, the flashy British-bred Talismanic rang the bell in his own North American debut, coming out on top in a close finish in the 2017 Turf at Del Mar.
The Medaglia d'Oro horse broke from the inside post and stayed tucked in the rail with jockey Mickael Barzalona while Oscar Performance led through the first mile. That runner relented heading into the top of the stretch, and Beach Patrol took over on the outside, while Talismanic appeared stuck in traffic, still on the inside. Barzalona found an opening to swing his mount three-wide, and within a few strides, he went from hopelessly boxed in to nearly even with Beach Patrol.
Under heavy urging, Talismanic staved off Beach Patrol by a half-length, and third-place Highland Reel a neck behind him.
At odds of 14-1, the Godolphin homebred completed the 1 1/2-mile race in 2:26.19 over a firm turf course, setting a track record over the Del Mar turf.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Turf BRIS Speed Ratings:
1 – tie) Shirocco, 2005, BEL, Speed Rating: 121
1 – tie) Talismanic, 2017, DMR, Speed Rating: 121
3) Miss Alleged, 1991, CD, Speed Rating: 118
4) Fantastic Light, 2001, BEL, Speed Rating: 117
5) English Channel, 2007, MTH, Speed Rating: 115
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Top Performers: Starine, 2002, Arlington Park / Queen's Trust, 2016, Santa Anita
BRIS Speed Rating: 109
The biggest blanket finish in a Breeders' Cup division's leading BRIS Speed Rating race ended with a dead heat on top and a four-way tie behind them, with both positions separated by a single point.
The 2002 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf was Starine's second try at the race after finishing 10th the previous year. Her resume had improved dramatically in the year since her first attempt, but she was still sent off at odds of 13-1.
The French-bred Mendocino sprung from the 11 post in a field of 12 and settled a few paths off the rail in the middle of the pack as German-bred Kazzia opened up a lead and held it through a mile. Starine and jockey John Velazquez started to move up heading into the final turn, but Kazzia continued to hold the advantage, closely pursued by Chopinina.
The field, as a group, swallowed Kazzia in the home stretch, but the gray Starine was at the head of the pack and had more momentum than any of her nearby rivals. She crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead of defending Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill, who was a neck in front of Islington. The top seven finishers were all within 2 3/4 lengths of the winner.
Starine clocked her winning effort in 2:03.57 for a mile and a quarter over Arlington Park's yielding turf. Bobby Frankel owned and trained the horse.
That figure stood alone until 2016, when Queen's Trust equaled it at Santa Anita Park.
The Dansili filly came into the race with her non-winner of two condition still intact, even though she had shown a knack for hitting the board in G1 races in her native England. Like Starine, Queen's Trust broke from the 11th gate, but she was taken back by Dettori and placed on the outside hip of favorite Lady Eli. The filly was unrushed through the first turn as Avenge and Catch a Glimpse slugged out the early fractions.
Lady Eli weaved her way through the crowd and into a spot to contend, and Queen's Trust followed directly behind her through each hole. Avenge was still ahead by multiple lengths as Lady Eli staged her rally, and Queen's Trust came from even wider and farther back. The final few strides of the race saw the two closing horses put away the pacesetter and lunge toward the line together. After the photo, Queen's Trust unsaddled in the winner's circle, finishing a nose ahead of Lady Eli. Defeated pace horse Avenge was another length back.
Queen's Trust, who was trained by Sir Michael Stoute and ran as a homebred for Cheveley Park Stud, won the 1 1/4-mile race in 1:57.75 over a firm course.
The Filly and Mare Turf has changed distances frequently, often bouncing between 1 3/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles. Four of the six winning efforts in the race that tied for first or third by BRIS Speed Ratings took place over a mile and a quarter.
Top Five Winning Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf BRIS Speed Ratings:
1 – tie) Starine, 2002, AP, Speed Rating: 109
1 – tie) Queen's Trust, 2016, SA, Speed Rating: 109
3 – tie) Banks Hill, 2001, BEL, Speed Rating: 108
3 – tie) Perfect Sting, 2000, CD, Speed Rating: 108
3 – tie) Wuheida, 2017, DMR, Speed Rating: 108
3 – tie) Intercontinental, 2005, BEL, Speed Rating: 108
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