BC Internationals: Turf contender Talismanic

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

October 29th, 2017

Sure to woo the cameras with his photogenic white face and flashy stockings, Talismanic brings more than good looks into the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Trained by the maestro Andre Fabre for Godolphin, the homebred advertises some notable formlines in his premiere on the international stage.

By Medaglia d’Oro and out of the Machiavellian mare Magic Mission, who won the 2003 Royal Heroine (G3) at Hollywood Park, Talismanic has the pedigree to handle firm turf. But connections previously thought he wanted a bit of ease in the ground. Perhaps that was just the fact that he plowed through heavy ground so well in the past. At this point, he’s three-for-four on a “good” course, his only loss in those conditions coming in an epically fast running of the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

Talismanic went to Compiegne to break his maiden third time out as a juvenile, hinting of his stamina requirements by romping at about nine furlongs. On the classic trail, he was favored in his stakes debut in the 2016 Prix Maurice Caillault, and rallied for second after being held up far off the pace at Saint-Cloud. Stretching out from about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 miles for the Prix de l’Avre at the same track, Talismanic took up a closer stalking position and powered clear in the stretch. The jockeys had a difference of opinion about exactly where the better ground was as the five-horse field completely fanned across the track. Talismanic stuck to the far side before ultimately tacking toward the stands, or else his winning margin might have been bigger.

Facing the first serious test of his fledgling career in the French Derby (G1), Talismanic was stacked out wide chasing the pace, but stayed on well enough to put his head in front in midstretch. He couldn’t live with the closing kick of Almanzor and Zarak, however, and checked in fourth. For a horse who’d already shaped as a 12-furlong type, he turned in a useful effort over 10 1/2.

Talismanic returned to the longer trip for the Grand Prix de Paris (G1), but could do no better than fifth. If the victorious Mont Ormel (now Helene Charisma in Hong Kong) and runner-up Red Verdon haven’t lived up to the race’s status, at least his Godolphin confrere Cloth of Stars (third) has turned out well (see below).

Class relief was in order, and Talismanic welcomed it in the Prix Turenne over the same circuit at Saint-Cloud. In his first opportunity over “good” turf, he displayed a stronger change of gear, albeit in a confidence-booster.

Fabre tried him in the Arc, explaining his reasoning on

He has progressed. He has a bit to find on ratings with some of his rivals, but he is a very honest individual, who always gives his best and I am satisfied that he comes into the race in good condition.

Any cut in the ground will help him, but he is a versatile horse, who has run well on all types of ground.

Talismanic never made his presence felt in 11th of 16 behind Found and Highland Reel, but has been a model of consistency in 2017. Although the Turf would rank as his first Grade/Group 1 of the season, he’s knocked heads with a few Group 1 horses (or aspirants).

In two of his three outings at the beginning of the season, Talismanic placed second to Melbourne Cup (G1) hopeful Tiberian. He went down by three lengths in his reappearance in the March 28 Prix de la Porte de Madrid, rebuffed by front-running Tiberian. When Talismanic adopted the pacesetting role two starts later in the May 8 Prix d’Hedouville (G3), all but Tiberian were in trouble, but he caught him by a comfortable length.

Those placings bookended a larceny in the April 18 Prix Lord Seymour at Maisons-Laffitte. Judging by his ear flicks in midrace, Talismanic was happy as a lark when carving out his own pace.

Attempting to lead in the June 4 Grand Prix de Chantilly (G2), Talismanic had to defer to the insistent Apilobar. He took command in the stretch but could not hold off odds-on Group 1 veteran Silverwave. The fourth-placer is Left Hand, off form since taking last fall’s Prix Vermeille (G1).

Fabre stretched him out to about 1 3/4 miles in the Prix Maurice de Nieuil (G2) on Bastille Day, and Talismanic earned his first Group victory. Reverting to off-the-pace tactics, he naturally had sharper acceleration as a 1 1/2-mile horse among marathoners and made it count. Runner-up Marmelo, who landed the Prix Kergorlay (G2) next time, is one of the leading antepost prices for the Melbourne Cup, while third Sirius was beaten a neck by top French stayer Vazirabad in his prior start.

Now it was time for Talismanic to return to a higher grade of opponent at 1 1/2 miles in the Prix Foy (G2), a course-and-distance prep for the Arc. He rated kindly at the tail of the field, threatened in the stretch, but couldn’t match the power of the high-class German Dschingis Secret. Stablemate Cloth of Stars kept on pleasingly between horses to take second, a textbook prep that set him up to finish second to Enable in the Arc. Dschingis Secret was himself sixth in the Arc after a tough passage. Japan’s Satono Diamond was a subpar fourth, so it’s not fair to read too much into that.

As a bare reading of form, Talismanic needs to improve to cope with such stellar Turf opponents as Highland Reel and Ulysses. And it’s not clear how he’ll respond to a pace set-up, if not overly fast, at least something more than the sedate strolls in France. A better tempo, theoretically at least, should cater to his stamina. His pedigree suggests he can reach another level in U.S. conditions, and the Godolphin brain trust has been talking for a while about mobilizing for an international campaign. Taken together, Talismanic adds up to a wild card. If Fabre pulls this off, we’ll all say we should’ve known.

Photo courtesy of Godolphin via Twitter