Euro fillies stronger than colts
By Steve Andersen
DEL MAR, Calif. – Two trends have emerged in the decade-long history of the Breeders’ Cup turf races for 2-year-olds: Dismiss the European fillies; fear the colts.
In the nine runnings of the one-mile BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, European-based runners have won only twice. In the Juvenile Turf, six of the 10 runnings have gone to runners from England or Ireland.
Last year at Santa Anita, the New York-based runners New Money Honey and Oscar Performance won the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Turf. U.s.-based 2-year-olds could sweep this year’s races again Friday.
The Europeans have a team of five runners in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and six in the Juvenile Turf. The fillies seem to be stronger, led by the two-time Group 1 winner Happily and the Group 1-placed September. They are trained by Aidan O’brien, who has yet to win the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Happily has beaten runners entered in both of Friday’s 2-year-old turf races. In her last start, Happily won the Group 1 Prix Jean-luc Lagardere at a mile against males at Chantilly Racecourse in France as the favorite. Masar, who finished third, is in the field for the Juvenile Turf.
Happily has won four of her last five starts. Two starts back, she won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes in Ireland, with Juvenile Fillies Turf opponent September in third.
September is unlucky not to have won the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile on Oct. 13 at Newmarket, England. She was beaten a nose by Laurens after racing in traffic a furlong from the wire.
In June, September beat males as the favorite in the Chesham Stakes at seven furlongs at Royal Ascot on good-to-firm turf. The turf course will be firm Friday at Del Mar.
Juliet Capulet, Madeline, and Now You’re Talking are the other European-based runners in the Juvenile Fillies Turf field.
Juliet Capulet won her first stakes in her sixth start in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at seven furlongs at Newmarket. That’s the good news. The bad news is Juliet Capulet drew post 13 in the 14-horse field. Frankie Dettori rode Juliet Capulet in the Rockfel Stakes and has the mount Friday.
Madeline has yet to win a graded stakes. Now You’re Talking has yet to win.
Madeline, trained by Roger Varian, was third in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at six furlongs on turf Sept. 30 at Newmarket. The Juvenile Fillies Turf will be her first start at as far as a mile.
“She seems like she’ll get a flat two-turn mile,” Varian said. “She’s got a lot of class.”
A win by Now You’re Talking would be a shock. Trained by Joseph O’brien, Aidan’s son, Now You’re Talking was fifth in the Cheveley Park Stakes, her only appearance in a Group 1 in five starts.
Another European maiden, Goodthingstaketime, is on the also-eligible list for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Trained by James Stack, Goodthingstaketime has been based in Southern California for more than a month, but has yet to start in this country.
None of the six European hopefuls for the Juvenile Turf is a Group 1 winner. It has not been for a lack of trying. Five of them have run at that level.
Masar looks to have the best chance. Trained by Charlie Appleby for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing, Masar won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at seven furlongs on turf at Sandown Park on Sept. 2 and was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Happily in the Jean-luc Lagardere. He can be factor in the Juvenile Turf as a stalker.
Appleby won the Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in 2013 with Outstrip.
The Juvenile Turf will be the first Grade 1 race for James Garfield, who will be ridden by Dettori. James Garfield, the first Breeders’ Cup starter for Newmarket-based trainer George Scott, won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at seven furlongs on turf Sept. 23 at Newbury Racecourse for his first stakes win.
The Juvenile Turf became part of the plan for James Garfield after a nose loss in the Group 2 Acomb Stakes at seven furlongs Aug. 23 at York, Scott said earlier this week.
The Aidan O’brien-trained Mendelssohn, bought for $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, was second to stablemate U S Navy Flag at 50-1 in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes on Oct. 14 at Newmarket. Mendelssohn was last of seven in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.
Beckford has been beaten in three consecutive Group 1 races in Ireland and England. He was second by a half-length in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at six furlongs in August, and fifth behind U S Navy Flag as the 7-2 favorite in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at six furlongs on turf Sept. 30 at Newmarket.
Beckford is the first Breeders’ Cup runner for Gordon Elliott, one of Ireland’s leading steeplechase trainers. Elliott, 39, has won such prominent jump races as the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup in England in the last decade.
The Juvenile Turf is familiar territory for trainer Richard Fahey, who starts the longshot Sands of Mali. Fahey was third in the 2015 Juvenile Turf at Keeneland with Birchwood.
Sands of Mali won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York in August, but was last of 12 in the Middle Park Stakes.
Rajasinghe, another longshot in the Juvenile Turf, won the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and was third in the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket in July. Rajasinghe was 11th in the Middle Park, beaten six lengths by U S Navy Flag. Rajasinghe is the first Breeders’ Cup starter for trainer Richard Spencer, who will fit the colt with blinkers for the first time.
Juliet Capulet, to be ridden by Frankie Dettori, will start from post 13 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.