5 Breeders’ Cup Contenders You May Not Have Heard Of

5 Breeders’ Cup Contenders You May Not Have Heard Of

Alice Springs (black silks) finishing second in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf – Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

When the summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga come to an end, attention always turns to the Breeders’ Cup, which is coming up in less that two months. And while even casual racing fans are familiar with horses like California Chrome, Beholder, Songbird, and Exaggerator–horses that will be among the star attractions at the Breeders’ Cup–there are many other Breeders’ Cup contenders out there that even dedicated racing fans might not have heard of.

Since it’s never too early to start handicapping the Breeders’ Cup races and going over the contenders in each race, let’s take a look at five lesser-known horses that could make an impact on the Breeders’ Cup…

Alice Springs (IRE) (Breeders’ Cup Mile)

Galileo (IRE)–Aleagueoftheirown (IRE), by Danehill Dancer (IRE)
Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith
Bred by Lynch Bages and Longfield Stud
Trained by Aidan O’Brien

Some might recall that Alice Springs finished second in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I), but unless you’re a follower of European racing, you might not know that she has enjoyed a very successful campaign in Europe this year, winning the Falmouth Stakes (Eng-I) and the Matron Stakes (Ire-I) while defeating quality fields. After the latter race, trainer Aidan O’Brien was quoted on the Racing Post website as saying that “she looks made for the Breeders’ Cup on fast ground,” with the Mile being her probable target. She is also under consideration for the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot on October 15th, with O’Brien indicating that Alice Springs could potentially run in both races.

In addition to her proven ability on firm turf, Alice Springs has also been successful on wet ground, with her Matron victory coming over a yielding course. She can unleash an impressive turn-of-foot over seemingly any course, and O’Brien’s strong record at the Breeders’ Cup makes her an intriguing candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Conquest Enforcer (Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint)

Into Mischief–Keen Victory, by Victory Gallop
Owned by Conquest Stables, LLC
Bred by Tall Oaks Farm
Trained by Mark Casse

This three-year-old colt has a ton of raw talent, as is suggested by the fact that he has competed exclusively in stakes company during his six-race career. He began 2016 with an easy win in the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes over the Woodbine Tapeta track, then switched to turf and won the one-mile Charlie Barley Stakes in the fast time of 1:33.73. He couldn’t quite get the job done when facing accomplished older horses in the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes (gr. II), but was beaten just a length in the end after leading through six furlongs in 1:08.87. Back in his own age group for the six-furlong Allied Forces Stakes at Belmont, Conquest Enforcer returned to the winner’s circle in tremendous fashion, winning by an easy 1 3/4 lengths while blazing the fifth furlong in about :10.66 and the final furlong in :10.87!

Conquest Enforcer’s terrific sprinting speed, coupled with his proven ability to stay a mile, should make him a perfect for the 6 1/2-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I) over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, a course that often favors horses with a bit more stamina than the distance implies.

Gun Pit (AUS) (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile)

Dubawi (IRE)–Magic Tori (AUS), by Ali-Royal (IRE)
Owned by Chung Wah Cheng
Bred by Mr. A. Smeaton
Trained by Caspar Fownes

This Hong Kong-based six-year-old has been a sensation on the dirt track at Sha Tin, where’s he’s 7-for-7, and he also ran well at Meydan this winter, coming home second in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (UAE-I). Although he could only finish twelfth behind California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), the ten-furlong distance of that race may have been too far for him. After missing the Keeneland Korea Cup in South Korea after a sub-par trial at Sha Tin, Gun Pit is targeting the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, a race in which he could be an intriguing contender thanks to his affinity for dirt, preference for distances around a mile, and proven ability to carry high weights–he’s run well carrying more than 130 pounds and could benefit from a lighter assignment in the Breeders’ Cup.

Oscar Performance (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf)

Kitten’s Joy–Devine Actress, by Theatrical (IRE)
Owned by Amerman Racing LLC
Bred by Mrs. Jerry Amerman
Trained by Brian Lynch

Not to be confused with his older full-brother Oscar Nominated, Oscar Performance delivered a sensational performance in his second start at Saratoga this summer, crushing an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight on turf by a stunning 10 1/4 lengths. Granted, he got a great trip setting slow fractions of :48.87 and 1:14.04, but the son of Kitten’s Joy responded by accelerating the fourth quarter-mile in :23.01 and the final sixteenth in a strong :05.84. That’s a seriously impressive turn-of-foot, especially for a lightly-raced two-year-old, and Oscar Performance looks like a future stakes winner in the making. The October 1st Pilgrim Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park could serve as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Sweeping Paddy (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf)

Paddy O’Prado–C. S. Royce, by Unbridled’s Song
Owned by Frank L. Jones, Jr. and William Pacella
Bred by Pacella Racing, Frank L. Jones, Jr. and Frank Shoop
Trained by Dale Romans

After finishing a solid third in her debut sprinting on dirt at Ellis Park, this daughter of Paddy O’Prado stretched out to a mile on turf at Kentucky Downs and showed tremendous improvement, drawing off through a final quarter in :24.11 to defeat her ten rivals by 12 1/4 lengths while under a hand ride. Visually, Sweeping Paddy couldn’t have been much more impressive, and off this effort, she’s being pointed toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. The October 2nd Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park could mark her next start.

Which up-and-coming Breeders’ Cup contenders do you have your eye on?

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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