International Intrigue: An Early Look at the Breeders' Cup Mile and Turf

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 22nd, 2018

With ten weeks remaining until the Breeders’ Cup, the prospective fields for the championship races are starting to take shape, including the always-competitive lineups for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I).

These two prestigious turf events tend to draw top-class fields filled with foreign challengers, creating international intrigue and challenging handicapping puzzles for bettors to decipher. Let’s take an early look at some of the top contenders for each race….

Breeders’ Cup Mile

On the home front, you can argue that there’s plenty of talent, but not necessarily consistency. Yoshida and Hunt were among the first to throw their names in the ring with Grade 1 wins in the Old Forrester Turf Classic and Shoemaker Mile, respectively, but they disappointed in their most recent starts. The same goes for Oscar Performance, who was eased in the Arlington Million (gr. I) one start after equaling the North American record for a mile while winning the Poker Stakes (gr. III).

That has left Voodoo Song as perhaps a slight leader of the North American division by virtue of his back-to-back wins in the Forbidden Apple Stakes at Belmont and the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, but take note, he could only finish third behind Oscar Performance in the Poker and seems to have a special affinity for Saratoga, where he’s gone 5-for-5. Catapult, winner of the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. II) and Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. II) this summer, can’t be underestimated either.

But on the European front, the picture is much clearer. The three-year-old filly Alpha Centauri has been nothing short of sensational while rattling off four straight Group 1 wins, including an easy triumph in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) that has earned her a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Mile. If she does come to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup, she could be the heavy favorite to win. Lightning Spear has also earned his spot in the race thanks to clear-cut score in the Qatar Sussex Stakes (Eng-I), and his connections have mentioned that a trip to the Breeders’ Cup could indeed be in the cards.

Breeders’ Cup Turf

The clear-cut leader among the North American contingent has to be Robert Bruce, the once-beaten Chilean sensation who unleashed a terrific turn-of-foot to win the Arlington Million (gr. I) earlier this month. His Chad Brown-trained stablemate Almanaar, runner-up in the Arlington Million, is also a proven Grade 1 winner who could be a logical contender for either the Turf or the Mile, while Fashion Business earned a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Turf with his dominating triumph in the Del Mar Handicap (gr. II) last Saturday.

Across the pond, Roaring Lion and Poet’s Word have already earned spots in the starting gate thanks to their respective victories in the Juddmonte International (Eng-I) and Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I). Of the pair, Poet’s Word seems more likely to make the trip (and more likely to handle the 1 ½-mile distance of the race), but Roaring Lion was tons the best against Poet’s Word in the shorter Juddmonte International. Considering that Roaring Lion is a son of the top U.S. turf sire Kitten’s Joy, he would be a very intriguing contender if he does ship for the Breeders’ Cup.

At this early juncture, who do you like in the Mile and the Turf?