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Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) (3yo+)
- Del Mar
There is a commonly held misconception that the Europeans dominate when it comes to all the turf races at the Breeders Cup, with the Americans better equipped for the dirt but this race throws that out with the washing. Added to the race line up in 2008, Europeans are yet to take first place despite numerous attempts, but if the line-up of possible runners turns in to reality, then that statistic could all change by the time they flash over the finish line.
Interestingly, the American trained but European loved Lady Aurelia heads the betting for trainer Wesley Ward and with the race over five furlongs this season she looks to have a very lively chance. An American bred daughter of Scat Daddy, she opened her account first time out at Keeneland over four and a half furlongs when scoring by seven and a half lengths but has raced in Europe on five of her other six starts with a win back at Keeneland her only other exploit on home soil. A visually impressive win at Royal Ascot when seeing off Profitable by three lengths in the King’s Stand Stakes was followed by the narrowest defeat at York in the Nunthorpe Stakes when caught on the line by Sir Mark Prescott’s Marsha but this is a fast five furlongs and if she lines up here and employs her usual front-running style it will take something special to catch her before the finishing line.
Naturally, with the sort of dollars on offer to the winner Lady Aurelia won’t have things all her own way and there is every chance that Aidan O’Brien will allow Caravaggio to run here as he looks to boost his future stallion value worldwide as well as in Europe. Still only a three-year-old (and thus open to any amount of further improvement), his father is also Scat Daddy (like Lady Aurelia), and he also has plenty of speed, but also a good deal more stamina to call on if needed. After a juvenile career of four winning starts headed by a four-length romp in the Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh big things were expected this season and he didn’t let his supporters down with wins at Naas and then in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot but he went off the rails a little after that with a fourth to Harry Angel at Newmarket and a sixth to Brando at Deauville when it looked like the bubble had burst. Perhaps surprisingly dropped to the minimum trio for the first time this season at The Curragh he had a confidence-boosting length win in the Group Two Flying Five Stakes when getting on top close home, and if he can keep tabs on Lady Aurelia early on here he may well be produced late on by Ryan Moore and could well give the likely favourite some serious problems close home.
Om heads the home contenders if the betting is accurate and Dan Hendricks’ five-year-old has form in the book that suggest he may be able to challenge the main protagonists. His claim to fame is that he inflicted the only defeat on American Pharoah here at Del Mar, albeit as a two-year-old, but more importantly the flashy chestnut likes to front run and could be the undoing of Lady Aurelia if the pair go off too fast when the stalls open. His form since has all been over much further with a third to Blackjackcat here over a mile in August his only run in 2017 at the time of writing, and it would be a surprise were he to prove fast enough over this trip in this company, though he may well do his very best to burn off his rivals finishing speed well before the furlong pole.
Those who follow the springing scene will have been impressed with the Charlie Hills trained Battaash who won his first three races at Sandown (twice) and Goodwood, though the son of Dark Angel was found out when stepped up to Group One company in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, eventually finishing a one-paced fourth behind winner Marsha and runner-up Lady Aurelia and he has over five lengths to try and make up here. He looked a little jaded that day and may well have already had enough for the season, but he does look a top-notch sprinter in the making and if his homework encourages Charlie Hills to let him race again this season then he could land each way bets if back to his earlier form and over his favourite trip.
Brad Cox trains the six-year-old Green Mask who also sits prominently in the early betting but in our view the son of Mizzen Mast has plenty to find if the expected field line up come race day. Admittedly he did win the Grade Two Highlander Stakes at Woodbine by a couple of lengths in early July and followed that with a length and three-quarter win at Saratoga in August when carrying joint top weight in a Listed handicap but this looks a different ball game and unless the market leaders all fall away for some reason his chances look far slimmer than his price at present.
Disco Partner ends our early ante-post preview here for Christophe Clement but he also needs a career best by some margin to get involved against the top Europeans here. Although aged five he has relatively few miles on the clock with just the ten career starts for four victories, three at Belmont Park in New York and the other at Saratoga, but none of them in this class. His best run was probably his half-length victory over Green Mask in June but he has been moved up to a mile in recent starts and may well find everything happens too quickly for him reverting to sprinting now