European shippers have dominated the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), so much so that 17 of the last 20 winners were trained overseas.
But once in a while a high-class U.S. runner comes along and successfully defends their home turf. Could we see an American winner in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf? The field remains very much in flux with more than four months remaining until the 1 1/2-mile showdown at Santa Anita, but at this point my top-ranked contender is an American.
Who do you view as the top contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Turf? Here’s how I rank them.
Bricks and Mortar
With five straight victories and five straight triple-digit Beyer speed figures since his return to action in December, Bricks and Mortar has emerged as clearly the best turf horse in North America. His triumphs in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) and Manhattan Stakes (G1) over “yielding,” “good” and “firm” ground demonstrated his talent and versatility.
Bricks and Mortar has never run 1 1/2 miles, and trainer Chad Brown has expressed concern about stretching Bricks and Mortar out in distance for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but the way Bricks and Mortar finished in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan—sprinting the final quarter-mile in :22 2/5 to prevail with authority—suggests 12 furlongs could be within his reach.
Trained by Michael Stoute, this seven-time group stakes winner broke through at the highest level in the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, using his abundant stamina to edge favored Magical over a soft course. Crystal Ocean is arguably even better going 1 1/2 miles, so the distance of the Breeders’ Cup Turf should be no issue if he makes the trip. The bigger question is whether he has the turn of foot to be competitive over a tight-turn U.S. track with a short homestretch.
The 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner has seen her 2019 debut delayed a couple times already, but she’s currently scheduled to return in the July 6 Eclipse Stakes (G1) at Sandown. Her main goal for the season is to achieve an unprecedented three-peat in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), but if she remains in top shape toward the end of the season (an increasing possibility due to her delayed 2019 debut), a second Breeders’ Cup Turf bid could be added to her agenda.
Hailing from the stable of the six-time Breeders’ Cup Turf-winning trainer Aidan O’Brien, Magical pushed Enable to her limit in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf and most recently finished a game second behind Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales’s. In between Magical defeated stablemate and group 1 winner Flag of Honour in three straight group races, including the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1). Maybe she’s not quite in the same league as Enable, but Magical has repeatedly shown she can hold her own against tough company, and her proven ability to run well in North America would make her dangerous if she ships in for another Breeders’ Cup Turf.
With grade 1 wins on both dirt and turf, Catholic Boy could target the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) or the Turf and have a legitimate chance to contend in either race. Like Bricks and Mortar, Catholic Boy has yet to run farther than 1 1/2 miles and is unproven over the distance of the Turf. But he has tactical speed and has demonstrated a resilient, grinding style over 1 1/4 miles that bodes well for stretching out. He just doesn’t give up.