Tracking Breeders’ Cup storylines

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 13th, 2016

With most of the prep races in the books, let’s take an early look at some storylines for the 33rd running of the Breeders’ Cup in three weeks.


As the centerpiece of a 13-race event, the $6 million Classic tends to define the Breeders’ Cup and more than half of the previous 32 runnings have featured uninspiring winners. The most successful Breeders’ Cups featured Classic performances from American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Tiznow and a select group of others, and this year’s race has a tremendous presence in California Chrome.

California Chrome brings premium star appeal to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup.

Already North America’s leading money earner, the bright chestnut will push his bankroll past the $16-million mark with a Classic victory. The 2014 Horse of the Year has really come on at age 5, dominating the competition in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1) and most recently the Awesome Again (G1), and it will be a moment to remember if California Chrome continues to romp on November 5.

Only one rival has a legitimate chance, Arrogate, but he’s tough to figure: 3-year-olds don’t win the 1 ¼-mile Travers (G1) by 13 ½ lengths in their stakes debut, registering an incredible 124 BRIS Speed rating while breaking the track record. A bounce candidate off the impossible-to-predict runaway effort, the gray colt is in good hands with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and has been freshened 10 weeks for his second stakes attempt, the same layoff utilized by American Pharoah last year. We’ll find out whether Arrogate is the real deal or if the Travers was more of an outlier.


The young star versus elder standouts. Songbird is the one to beat with a perfect record, crushing divisional rivals in all 11 career starts, but the mighty 3-year-old filly will step outside her comfort zone for the first time to face distinguished older rivals Beholder, Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled.

The dynamic speedster will try to lead all the way with Mike Smith and it promises to be a terrific $2 million Distaff.


Tepin will be a popular winner if she defends her title in the $2 million Mile but the stellar mare does exit her first setback in nearly 14 months, snapping an eight-race win streak with a runner-up finish in the First Lady (G1). The loss raised concerns she could be over the top but 5-year-old had a viable excuse behind a loose-on-the-lead winner who ran the race of her life. Tepin remains highly capable.

Ironicus is another serious U.S.-based challenger following a rallying second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) in which he left himself too much to do and traveled too wide. And Europe figure to be well-represented in all Breeders’ Cup turf races at Santa Anita, with Alice Springs, Mondialiste and Ribchester serving as prominent foreign-based runners pointing toward the Mile.


Transferred to Chad Brown this season, Flintshire is basically a man among boys in the U.S. turf male division and his main competition in the $4 million Turf will come from overseas. Soft conditions did him in last time in the Joe Hirsch Turf Invitational (G1) but the 6-year-old will get the firm turf he relishes at Santa Anita. Flintshire finished a commendable second in the 2014 Turf over the same course and looks extremely tough this year.

Found upset Golden Horn at Keeneland and will look to go back-to-back in the Turf following Saturday’s Champion (G1) at Ascot. Trainer Aidan O’Brien also has Arc (G1) runner-up Highland Reel readying for the assignment.

Filly & Mare Turf

The Breeders’ Cup is made for stories like Lady Eli. The ferocious closer is the likely favorite in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf after an outstanding victory in the recent Flower Bowl (G1), her second start back from a life-threatening battle with laminitis, and Lady Eli is eligible to keep progressing for Brown at Santa Anita.

Brown also has the well-regarded Sea Calisi and the Euro brigade appears capable of a stiff challenge with Seventh Heaven and So Mi Dar.


A deep field makes for an exciting dash. Probable favorite Lord Nelson showed his affinity for Santa Anita with three convincing tallies this season and is a top contender from the Baffert barn along with Drefong, an impressive winner of the King’s Bishop (G1). Baffert will be attempting to extend his record with a fifth victory in the $1.5 million Sprint.

Masochistic is another serious win candidate based in California and A.P. Indian has established himself as the East Coast’s leading sprinter by virtue of six straight triumphs.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Sophomore filly Carina Mia is a key player after being redirected from the Distaff to the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) due to Songbird. Curalina would add even more quality; 4-year-old filly finished third in last year’s Distaff and exits a commendable second in the Personal Ensign (G1), but the Distaff competition is so deep connections may opt for the Filly & Mare Sprint instead.

Turf Sprint

Mongolian Saturday highlights a race with a wide-open feel.

The 6-year-old will make a title defense in the $1 million Turf Sprint and Mongolian Saturday is in good form presently after getting drubbed overseas. The 6-year-old was well-beaten in a pair of Hong Kong starts before faltering at Ascot and Newmarket, but the hard-hitting gelding bounced back after returning stateside, capturing the October 8 Woodford (G3) at Keeneland.

Dirt Mile

Two big names – Dortmund and Runhappy – are already signed on for the $1 million Dirt Mile and Frosted would add plenty to the mix if connections opt to bypass the Classic for a more realistic spot.

We figure to see more quality than ever before in a Dirt Mile field with probable starters Bradester, Gun Runner, Point Piper, Tamarkuz, Texas Chrome and Tom’s Ready all rating as potential outsiders.


One of the most compelling match-ups we’ve seen in this race for a long time. The $2 million Juvenile will feature a pair of quality challengers from each region, with East Coast invaders Practical Joke and Syndergaard; Midwest-based titans Classic Empire and Not This Time; and California Grade 1 winners Gormley and Klimt.

All six appear highly capable.

Juvenile Fillies

The Juvenile is a hot topic but little buzz surrounds this year’s $2 million Juvenile Fillies.

Juvenile Turf & Juvenile Fillies Turf

We’ve witnessed some notable performers in North America, with Big Score, Good Samaritan, Oscar Performance and Ticonderoga all rating a good chance for $1 million Juvenile Turf and La Coronel, Miss Southern Miss and Victory to Victory filling the same role in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf, but it’s important to note the European domination in these races.

Horses making their last start overseas have won the last five runnings of the Juvenile Turf and every edition at Santa Anita (2008-09, 2012-14).

Americans have fared better of late in the Juvenile Fillies, with Catch a Glimpse and Lady Eli capturing the last two for the home team, but the 2012 and 2013 runnings at Santa Anita went to international-based raiders.