The Breeders’ Cup increasingly is becoming as anticipated an event as the Kentucky Derby.
This edition had the added benefit of taking place at Churchill Downs, and that site’s historic Derby legacy contributed to making this Breeders’ Cup among the most memorable.
There were any number of great storylines to take away from the two-day event.
With so little time and so much “track” to cover, let’s review each of the races and share our Top Five Takeaways from #1 to #5, four on “Championship Saturday” and one from “Future Stars Friday.” We’ll also list the top five finishers of those five races, adding any appropriate race notes and quotes.
Complete coverage of the winners and the top five finishers, as well as the official replay of all 14 races can be found at breederscup.com along with complete statistics for every race.
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018
BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC (G1)
$6 million total – 3-year-olds & Up – 1 mile and 1/4 – Dirt
Maybe he is that good.
How the race played out:
Mendelssohn and jockey Ryan Moore got the break trainer Aidan O’Brien hoped for and went right to the lead in the expected repeat of the speed tactic that won a runaway UAE Derby (UAE-1) and put away Diversify in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. It almost worked.
McKinzie and West Coast tracked close by on the outside as did Thunder Snow on the rail and favorite Accelerate moved inside from far outside post 14 to save ground as the quartet blazed through a :22.68 seconds first quarter. Yoshida and Gunnevera were in the back of the pack, helped later in the race by the fast pace.
Mendelssohn settled in with a slower pace, still in the lead at the half and 3/4 mile markers. Gunnevera, Yoshida and Lone Sailor trail as Discreet Lover makes a move but gains little ground. Mendelssohn has softened as they come around the second turn into the stretch as he, McKinzie, West Coast and now Accelerate are head-to-head across the track.
Accelerate, well…accelerates at the quarter pole to take the lead and Thunder Snow has roared in from fifth to draw alongside Mendelssohn, now in second and tiring. He begins to fall back as Gunnevera and Yoshida, waiting for this moment, make their moves. Both overtake Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow. Gunnevera is still closing at the finish, but runs out of track as Accelerate gets the win. Thunder Snow rallies for third.
Top five finishers: 1. Accelerate 2. Gunnevera 3. Thunder Snow (IRE) 4. Yoshida (JPN) 5. Mendelssohn
Notes & Quotes:
Accelerate trainer, John Sadler, finally shook the “0-for-Breeders’ Cup” monkey from his back, but he wanted to stick to business—while making a not-so-veiled plea to Eclipse Award Horse of the Year voters.
“You know the ‘John Sadler human-interest story’ is a good line, but this needs to be about the horse,” Sadler said. “I hope people (RRG note: read “Eclipse Award voters”) will zero in on his campaign—five Grade 1 victories with four at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter and usually carrying high weight. He showed [in the Classic] with horses from around the world, that he was the best horse. He’s really a champion.”
Accelerate will return to Southern California to train for what is likely his final race, the $9 million Pegasus Handicap at Florida’s Gulfstream Park Jan. 26, before being retired to stud.
Sadler also beamed at the mention of Catapult and his runner-up finish in the Mile.
“We’re really proud of him. It was a very good second…and he got beat by trainer Sir Michael Stoute’s Expert Eye, so that puts him in good company. Catapult will run next in the Jan 26. $7 million Pegasus Turf, the grass companion to the Handicap.
Thunder Snow returns to Dubai to train for a defense of his Dubai World Cup. There was no firm word from Aidan O’Brien on future plans for Mendelssohn, though he may contend in next month’s Longines Hong Kong International Races, nor from Bob Baffert about West Coast and McKinzie.
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP TURF (G1)
$4 million total – 3-year-olds & Up – 1 mile and 1/2
It takes the right horse and the right rider to win a horserace.
How the race played out:
Glorious Empire goes right to the lead with Channel Maker second on the inside. Enable is third. Robert Bruce, Hi Happy and Hunting Horn stay close by. Magical is 5 lengths off the lead at this stage. They complete the first quarter in :24.65 seconds, a moderate pace. Hi Happy moves into third and Talismanic into fourth as they pass the finish line the first time in the 1 1/2 mile contest. Enable has dropped to fifth 5 1/2 lengths back and Magical has lost another length as they complete the half mile in :49.11 seconds. Hunting Horn moves into fifth position, Magical moves up a notch ahead of Enable into sixth.
At the mile marker, Enable is only 3 lengths off the lead, but in seventh place with four horses side-by-side-by-side in front blocking her path.
At this point, jockey Frankie Dettori makes a fateful decision. He moves Enable to the outside, losing some ground and could lose the race if any one of the quartet in the lead has any speed left.
They do not. But Magical, the other filly, does and jockey Ryan Moore also moves out of the crowd with Enable as the pair move an eventual 14 lengths wide to the center of the track in what becomes a match-race 3/4-mile sprint. The rest of the field is now so far behind, they are out of camera view, “racing royalty!” the race announcer screams as the grandstand cheering becomes deafening. They cross the finish line, and…
…racing history is made as the consecutive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor with barely over a month’s rest and a transatlantic flight for a race over a course she has never seen or set hoof on, becomes the first Breeders’ Cup race winner by 3/4 length in 2:32.65 and the first horse to win both the Arc and the Turf in the same year.
Top five finishers: 1. Enable (GB) 2. Magical (IRE) 3. Sadler’s Joy 4. Arklow 5. Waldgeist (GB)
Notes & Quotes:
In one of those moments that make any sport as sporting as it is competitive, jockeys Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore shared a brief handshake as they rode side-by-side while cooling down their horses after the race.
Trainer John Gosden visited Enable early Sunday and was pleased with the daughter of Nathaniel.
“She is absolutely fine this morning,” reported Gosden. He indicated a decision will be made later whether to keep her in training and on the track. Gosden’s Classic entry, Roaring Lion, was reported fine as well, but has run his last race. The son of Kitten’s Joy will now go to stud at Tweenhills.
Talismanic holds invitations to the Hong Kong Cup and the Hong Kong Vase, but trainer Andre Fabre is withholding a decision until a conversation with owners after his return to Chantilly.
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF (G1)
$2 million total – F & M 3-year-olds & Up – 1 mile and 1/8 – Dirt
Justify isn’t Eclipse Award Horse of the Year just yet.
How the race played out:
This was supposed to be between Kentucky Oaks winners, favorite Monomoy Girl and second choice Abel Tasman. It was not.
Abel Tasman breaks poorly as Canadian filly Wonder Gadot goes to the early lead and closes ground going to the rail. Monomoy Girl moves up beside her as Abel Tasman moves into third. Mopotism moves into fourth around the first turn.
Wonder Gadot holds the lead into the backstretch as Argentina’s Blue Prize moves into fourth. Midnight Bisou moves up into the mix. Abel Tasman is still in third and Monomoy Girl in sixth, 6 lengths off the lead. Champagne Problems wrests fifth from Mopotism as they complete the 1/2 mile.
Wonder Gadot goes into the far turn still the leader, but Monomoy Girl moves beside her on the near outside. Blue Prize moves up to third as Abel Tasman begins to fall back, unresponsive to jockey Mike Smith’s urging.
Monomoy Girl easily takes the lead as the horses come out of the turn and into the stretch. Blue Prize tries to stay with her as Abel Tasman continues to lose ground, now sixth and fading. Midnight Bisou moves up on the outside gaining on Blue Prize as Monomoy Girl extends her lead with 1/16 mile left to go. Wow Cat sneaks up on the inside as Midnight Bisou overtakes Blue Prize.
But Monomoy Girl, under a hand ride by Florent Geroux, cruises across the finish line as Wow Cat claws her way to second with Midnight Bisou third. Abel Tasman never gets going and finishes last.
Top five finishers: 1. Monomoy Girl 2. Wow Cat (CHI) 3. Midnight Bisou 4. Blue Prize (ARG) 5. Mopotism
Notes & Quotes:
Monomoy Girl is now 9-2-0 and would be a sterling 10-1 save for her DQ for interference in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx in September.
“I was confident going in just by the way she was training,” said trainer Brad Cox. “For the most part the race was uneventful. She can sometimes make the ending interesting with her antics, but she was doing it the right way. She was sitting off another filly, which I liked and when they slowed it down the backside, I thought, ‘she can handle this.’ She was just cruising around the turn. At the three-eighths pole, I was mainly watching her, but I could see Abel Tasman was backing out of it. I had never seen my filly turn for home that loaded and I was like ‘Wow.’”
(RRG note:) Several readers have mentioned their distaste for the crop (called “whip” in American racing, which seems more descriptive). It is worth noting that rider Florent Geroux rode Monomoy Girl with a hand ride throughout, never pulling out his whip, on instructions from trainer Cox who says his filly (also) dislikes the whip.
Said Cox: “Florent never hit her. It was a big effort. I can’t say enough about the filly and what she’s accomplished this year.”
Cox enjoyed a stellar weekend. In addition to his win with Monomoy Girl, Arklow finished fourth in the Longines Turf, Will Call fifth in the Turf Sprint and Golden Mischief fifth in Filly & Mare Sprint.
Friday, Nov. 2, 2018
SENTIENT JET BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE (G1)
$2 million total – 2-year-olds – one mile & 1/16 – Dirt
There’s an early Kentucky Derby favorite.
How the race played out:
Tight Ten, 35-1 (at post time, odds change from the early line), breaks well from post 4 and goes out to the early lead. Knicks Go engages early. Complexity stays outside away from the tight pack of five, two horses wide near the rail going quickly into the first turn in this shorter race for younger legs. Favorite Game Winner is in the middle of the pack, 6 lengths off the leader coming out of the first turn.
Into the backstretch, Complexity has moved into the lead with now 40-1 longshot Knicks Go second, Well Defined third, 52-1 Topper T in fourth, 41-1 Mr. Money fifth. Favorite Game Winner is not yet engaging the leaders.
Into the back stretch, jockey Joel Rosario begins to urge Game Winner, moving into fifth, but losing it back to Mr. Money with a half mile left in the race, the pace a moderate :46.87 seconds.
Around the second turn, Complexity remains the leader, Knicks Go is still second, Mr. Money holds third and Game Winner has moved up into fourth. Game Winner comes under pressure and Complexity loses the lead to Knicks Go as they come out of the far turn and enter the stretch.
Knicks Go drifts outside as Game Winner moves alongside him and the two horses bump slightly twice. The pair are now firmly in command of the race with under one furlong to go. Despite the bumping, which the stewards will examine on the replay, Game Winner still takes the lead.
As they approach the finish, Game Winner begins to extend his lead. Knicks Go is now in pursuit while trying to fend off a fast-closing Signalman.
Game Winner will open a two-length lead, going away at the finish. Knicks Go holds second (for a nice payout at 40-1 to place) and Signalman snares third.
Top five finishers: 1. Game Winner 2. Go Knicks 3. Signalman 4. Mr. Money 5. Gunmetal Gray
Notes & Quotes:
Game Winner overcame a so-so start and better-than-expected competition to go 4-4-0. Three of his four wins are G1s. He also won the Del Mar Futurity and the American Pharoah Stakes.
“The only thing (going into the race), I didn’t like our post,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who now has at least one Kentucky Derby horse. “I would have liked to have been running (from post) 6.
“The 10 horse (Knicks Go), he was pretty fast. (My horse) was pretty wide, and I was a little worried about the half mile pole because it looked like Complexity was running on a really easy lead, his ears pricked, just cruising along. You don’t know how far these horses want to go.
“But apparently (jockey Joel) Rosario wasn’t concerned. He told me he kept him in there behind horses a little bit because he knew he had a lot of horse left.”
The Candy Ride (ARG) colt out of Indyan Giving (by A.P. Indy out of Fleet Indian) was bred in Kentucky by Jane Lyon at Summer Wind Equine of Georgetown, Kentucky and foaled March 06, 2016. He was consigned to the Sept. 2017 Keeneland sale and purchased for $110k by Gary and Mary West. Game Winner already is a $1.5 million Money Winner and on a Triple Crown trajectory. Now, that’s a sweet purchase.
TWINSPIRES BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT (G1)
$2 million total – 3-year-olds & Up – 6 furlongs – Dirt
Takeaway #5: The $2 million TwinSpires Sprint
“You’re good, kid, but as long as I’m around, you’re only second best.”*
How the race played out:
You could hear the echo of Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson/Roy H) after this race as the old pro lays down the winning poker card against his upstart young opponent (Steve McQueen/Imperial Hint) in The Cincinnati Kid*.
Promises Fulfilled broke well and took the early lead. Distinctive B, Warrior’s Club and Always Sunshine are engaged early for this short race. Last year’s winner, Roy H is on the outside. Favorite Imperial Hint is in the middle of the pack early four lengths off the leader. Limousine Liberal and Squared are close by him.
At the half mile pole, the pace is a fierce :21.35 seconds. Promises Fulfilled holds the lead, followed by Distinctive B and Always Sunshine. Roy H is in fourth and Imperial Hint has claimed fourth.
Roy H moves up into third on the outside ahead of Always Sunshine while Imperial Hint drops back to fifth. Limousine Liberal comes wide to challenge. Whitmore tries to find room on the inside and is 8 lengths from the lead as they enter the stretch.
Roy H vaults into the lead at the top of the stretch, easily passing Promises Fulfilled. Imperial Hint is trying to close on the outside, but Roy H and jockey Paco Lopez give up no ground. He’s 4 lengths in front at the 1/16 pole and maintains that lead to a 1:08.24 victory.
Whitmore closed on the inside to snare second and Imperial Hint third as the leader through much of the race, Promises Fulfilled, couldn’t and fades to fifth.
Top five finishers: 1. Roy H 2. Whitmore 3. Imperial Hint 4. Promises Fulfilled 5. Limousine Liberal
Notes & Quotes:
Roy H, winner by a length last year at Del Mar, joins Midnight Lute (2007-08) as the only repeat winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“Words don’t express how special this is—to win the same race with the same horse back to back. It’s just fantastic,” said trainer Peter Miller.
Miller is the first trainer in Breeders’ Cup history to saddle the consecutive winner of the same race in consecutive years. It was Miller’s fourth Breeders’ Cup victory and his second of the day, also winning the BC Turf Sprint with Stormy Liberal. It was the first Breeders’ Cup win for jockey Paco Lopez.
Miller added Roy H continues to train well though no future plans were announced for the 6-year-old son of More Than Ready though a representative of owner Rockingham Ranch indicated he, along with Stormy Liberal, may both return to Dubai on World Cup Day for the $2.5 million Golden Shaheen and the $2 million Al Quoz Sprint respectively. Roy H finished third in this year’s Golden Shaheen, and Stormy Liberal was runner-up in the Al Quoz Sprint.
Saturday’s attendance was 70,423. The two-day attendance total was 112,672, the third highest in Breeders’ Cup history.
Wagering exceeded $157.4 million, the fifth highest total since the Breeders’ Cup adopted the two-day format. Wagering on Saturday alone fell 4% for the nine races from last year’s Saturday total.
This was the ninth Breeders’ Cup run at Churchill Downs, equaling the record for the number of showings at the same track. Next year’s Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA and comes back to Kentucky at Keeneland in 2020.
The current plan is to continue to alternate between tracks in California and Kentucky for the foreseeable future.
With that, we conclude our coverage of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, as exciting as any in recent memory.
Special thanks also to The Breeders’ Cup staff for a cascade of useful information, stats and photos throughout the two-day event. A very special “thank you” goes to Jim Gluckson, who coordinates the Breeders’ Cup for all the media throughout the year, not just for the week-long Breeders’ Cup events, and to his notes staff for their diligent work during the two-day racing event.
See you next year from Santa Anta!