Declan Rix

Declan Rix recaps on a fantastic Breeders' Cup for "Team Europe", where they bagged four winners across the two-day World Championships.

  • Monday 09 November
  • Blog
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Brilliant Breeders’ Cup for “Team Europe”

Four winners across two days for European-based trainers at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup must go down as a resounding success. As to be expected, the quartet of victories came on the quick turf of Keeneland, with the Americans dominating the action on their favoured surface of dirt.

Given the unique test of American turf racing, I still feel it is tough for European horses to win at the Breeders’ Cup on grass; you need to be a good horse and possess certain weapons to do so. We saw a glimpse of that on Friday evening, where the foreign contingent failed to score in any of the three grass track races.

Horses like Ubettabelieveit, Battleground and Mother Earth ran really well in their respective contests to finish in the places, but in truth, never really looked like winning at any stage.

That’s not necessarily indicative of the above horses’ level of abilities, but more a case of the test – American quick ground on a speed-taxing sharp track – failing to allow some European horses show their very best, at least on a first go. All this on top of some American owners and trainers now taking turf racing a bit more seriously, along with them starting to acquire more European bloodstock.

If there was a Euro success on Future Stars Friday, it came in bloodstock world, with Aunt Pearl a hugely impressive winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. The Brad Cox-trained 2yo is by top-class Euro sire Lope De Vega, who stands at Ballylinch Stud in Ireland.

Aunt Pearl, out of Matauri Pearl, a Champion 3yo Filly in Sweden, who is by Hurricane Run, was a 270,000 Guineas purchase from last year’s Tattersalls October Book 1 Yearling sale and ended up in the care of Cox thanks to owners Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables LLC Et Al.

We saw at Royal Ascot this season, with the Wesley Ward-trained Campanelle (by Kodiac), that European bloodstock, combined with US training methods, can make for a lethal combination in the right hands in the juvenile division. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues going forward, and if these good horses can be as good at three.

Concerning Aunt Pearl’s future, it was great to hear that the 2021 Royal Ascot meeting is being considered next season.

The 2021 campaign may also be a success for Ubettabelieveit, Battleground and Mother Earth, with all three running superbly on Friday night. Ubettabelieveit has quite a precocious pedigree being by Kodiac, so whether he can improve next season remains to be seen.

I have similar sentiments about Battleground, although his size and dam, Found, suggest he can be even better in his Classic campaign, but he is by War Front, which would be a slight worry for me, in terms of him making progress next year.

More presently, Battleground’s run to be second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf was a fantastic effort, especially if you are of the opinion the test he faced wouldn’t bring out the best in him.

The best of Europe at this Breeders’ Cup would come on the Saturday, and it was Glass Slippers who got the ball rolling, in becoming the first ever European horse to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Trainer Kevin Ryan deserves a huge amount of credit – and maybe the owners too – for being brave enough to tackle such a 5f test on American firm ground, but his belief in his filly was rewarded in no uncertain terms; bagging £390,977.44 in the process.

The owner/breeders, Bearstone Stud Limited, must have been over the moon to win on such a stage, supplementing the filly’s two previous top level victories in the 2019 Prix de l'Abbaye and the 2020 Flying Five.

A special mention must also go to Tom Eaves, who gave Glass Slippers a fantastic ground-saving ride, and to the filly herself, who was brave and has just continued to get better and better with each run this season. I think it’s safe to say she is an autumn filly now and it’s great she stays in training next season.

While Eaves was good on Glass Slippers, what we witnessed from Pierre-Charles Boudot aboard Audarya in the Filly And Mares Turf was quite simply a ride for the ages. Boudot, who replaced Ioritz Mendizabal because of a positive Covid-19 test, was simply sensational in getting his mount to the rail by the first bend, having been drawn in 11, of 13 runners. The rest was history.

My words will never do the ride justice, so you can just watch, or re-watch, the race below. Winning trainer James Fanshawe, who was having his first ever Breeders’ Cup runner, notched his second Group 1 of the season with this daughter of Wootton Bassett, following on from her Prix Jean Romanet success back in August.

While the trainer and jockey deserve their plaudits, Audarya herself does so, too; she is a tremendously likable horse, and took Boudot everywhere he wanted before showing a fantastic attitude to run down race-favourite Rushing Falls.

In more good news, she also stays in training again next season.

It remains to seen if the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Tarnawa stays in training for 2021, but I really hope she does, because she has been one of the horses of the year in Europe in 2020 and who knows where she will plateau on the back of a highly progressive campaign.

In four runs this year, Tarawa has gone unbeaten, winning three Group 1s, but Saturday night’s success was her first in open company and her biggest yet. Dermot Weld’s inmate possesses a wicked turn of foot and she needed this weapon to be at its sharpest in running down Magical, having sat third last off a slow pace, while also running wide into the straight.

With Christophe Soumillon another rider to miss out on a Breeders’ Cup mount(s) due to a Covid-19 positive, Colin Keane deputised. It was Keane’s first major international success in what has been a coming-of-age year for the Irish Champion jockey, and while Tarnawa did most of the heavy lifting here, hopefully Keane takes huge confidence from what is a landmark success in his fledgling career.

The career of the great Dermot Weld sits at a different juncture to Keane, but even now, at 72, he is still winning major races. Somewhat surprisingly, given his formidable international CV, this was Weld’s maiden Breeders’ Cup success.

While Weld watched the action unfold on Sky Sports Racing, poor Christophe Soumillon must have watched on in disappointment. Not only was he booked to ride Tarnawa, but the Belgian was also booked for shock Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia.

Who knows if he would’ve won on both, but it was yet another opportunity grabbed by the brilliant Pierre-Charles Boudot in a race that will live long in the memory of those at Ballydoyle, given they saddled the first three home, an incredible achievement; with Circus Maximus running second and the desperately unlucky Lope Y Fernandez third.

Declan Rix
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