Better get used to a major international influence at the Breeders' Cup, which is trying to give real meaning to the term “world championships” with its new global nomination program unveiled on Monday. With horses from around the world getting an easier path to eligibility, we may soon start seeing the best of Europe, Asia, South America and Oceania competing against America's top runners in the two-day championships.
Since the inception of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, it has, at most, been a two-continent show: North America vs. Europe, with the occasional South American, Australian or Asian runner participating. This new nomination program, which makes all foals of Breeders' Cup nominated stallions outside of North America eligible, could be the game changer that makes this a true global championship.
The autumn racing landscape is much more competitive than it was a quarter-century ago. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Japan Racing Association, and France Galop all have major racing festivals from October through December, and there were veiled threats that the New York Racing Association might stockpile some of its anticipated VLT money to build a day of racing in North America that could rival the Breeders' Cup. Let's hope hope those latter reports were false. The well-thought-out plan by the Breeders' Cup board and management team announced Monday should fortify the event's international base of support from horsemen, make all of the races more competitive and compelling from a horseplayer's standpoint, and continue to expand global wagering, a critical element for future success.
That's the big story this week as we count down to Destination Louisville and the 27th running of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs Nov. 5-6. The other major stories took place on the racetrack as the lists of contenders begin to take shape for several of the 14 Breeders' Cup events.
JUDDMONTE'S FILLY & MARE TURF JUGGERNAUT
No owner has supported the Breeders' Cup more than Prince Khalid Abdullah, whose pink and green Juddmonte Farms silks have been represented 58 times since 1984, the most of any racing stable. The amazing thing about this operation is that all of these runners are home-grown products, the result of meticulous planning and selection of bloodlines and consistency of care and training. Prince Khalid's pride shines through in his fillies, and he will be represented at Churchill Downs in 2010 by one of the best he's had, the 2009 Filly & Mare Turf winner Midday.
This daughter of Oasis Dreams is at the top of her game right now, coming off a victory last Sunday in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in France, her seventh win in 15 starts and fifth Group/Grade I.
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How important is the Breeders' Cup to Prince Khalid? Despite the pleas of writer Steve Dennis in the Racing Post, Midday now takes aim on a repeat in the U.S., foregoing a chance at France's premier event, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Here's what her trainer, Henry Cecil, said after the filly's most recent win: “I really needed to get another run into her to get ready for the Breeders' Cup. I love the Arc, but the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf is her race.”
Three of Juddmonte's four victories in Breeders' Cup races have come in the Filly & Mare Turf, a race that wasn't added to the championship line-up until 1999. If Midday can repeat this year—and she figures to be favored to do so–Prince Khalid will have owned the Filly & Mare Turf champion in four of its 12 runnings. That is quite an accomplishment.
PATHFORK GIVES DISTORTED HUMOR A EUROPEAN FIRST
Elsewhere, Pathfork gained an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf with his victory in the Group I Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland on Saturday, defeating Casamento and Zoffany in a “Win and You're In” contest that is part of the Challenge Series. A $230,000 graduate of last year's Keeneland September yearling sale bred by the Niarchos Family's Flaxman Holdings (which has bred three Breeders' Cup winners), Pathfork is the first European Group 1 winner for leading American sire Distorted Humor, who got off to a banner start at this year's Keeneland September sale when one of his sons brought a bid of $2,050,000 to top the Monday night session. Pathfork is trained by Jessica Harrington for the Silverton Hill Partnership. Harrington, winning her first Group 1, was non-committal about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
DON'T DISCOUNT THE CAT MAN
With two of the last four winners in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, you can never count out Wayne “Cat Man” Catalano, who trained Dreaming of Anna and She Be Wild to victories in 2006 and 2009, respectively. He's only had a total of seven starters in the championships, so that's an enviable strike rate. Though he's done best with fillies, his strongest hand in the Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-olds in 2010 may come in the Juvenile, with Major Gain, a More Than Ready colt who was impressive in taking the Arlington-Washington Futurity while still a maiden. But Catalano finished second to Wonderlandbynight with a filly named Jordy Y in the Arlington-Washington Lassie. He's been the dominant trainer at Arlington Park over the last decade, but Catalano has shown that he can play with the big boys.
ELDAAFER BECOMES A MARATHON MAN
A.P. Indy has long been an important source of stamina in the breed, so it's no surprise to see that one of his sons, the 5-year-old gelding Eldaafer, get an automatic berth for the Breeders' Cup Marathon with his win last weekend in the Turfway Park Fall Championship. He is rounding into form at just the right time for Delaware Park-based trainer Diane Alvarado. And in racing, just as in life, timing is everything.
Read about the Turfway Park Fall Championship
WOODBINE: THE WEEK AHEAD
Attention in North America shifts to Woodbine near Toronto, Canada, this weekend, where three important prep races that are part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series are scheduled to be run.
Most important is the $1-million Woodbine Mile, where a deep field of American middle-distance turf runners will be trying to gain an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Mile. A strong contingent is expected from California, led by The Usual Q.T., winner of the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar in July. From the East comes Court Vision, who will be making his first start since a disappointing effort in the Manhattan Stakes at Belmont in June. Juddmonte Farms, showing it has more than fillies, will be shipping Famous Name from Europe for the Grade I Woodbine Mile.
The Summer Stakes, for 2-year-old colts in the Juvenile Turf division, and the Natalma, for 2-year-old fillies in the Juvenile Fillies Turf division, complete the big stakes day at Woodbine on Sunday.
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