Breeders’ Cup Photo ©
Of all the Breeders’ Cup races to be held at Keeneland on October 30-31st, few are expected to draw as strong a European contingent as the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Looking at the list of potential starters from the other side of the pond, it quickly becomes clear that the key to handicapping the race will be identifying which of the European shippers are best, as they are so talented they could have a legitimate chance to sweep the trifecta.
Therefore, to help get you started in handicapping the race, here’s a list of Europe’s top Breeders’ Cup Mile contenders, along with a quick profile of each horse:
Throughout its history, the Breeders’ Cup Mile has been won by many talented fillies and mares, and Esoterique will seek to join that group when she headlines a talented field in the 2015 edition of the race. Trained by Andre Fabre, Esoterique has run five times this year, starting off the season with a third-place finish in the Prix du Muguet (Fr-II) before stepping up sharply to finish second behind the top European miler Solow in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. With that sharp effort behind her, she dropped back to 6 1/2 furlongs and gave the talented sprinter Muhaarar all he could handle when finishing second in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) at Deauville. Having thoroughly proven herself against top male horses at two different distances, she returned to a mile and beat a solid field in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard-Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville, edging runner-up Territories (see below) by 1 1/2 lengths with 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie back in sixth. On October 3rd, she was back in the winner’s circle once again, beating the multiple group I-winning mare Integral by a half-length in the Sun Chariot Stakes (gr. I) at Newmarket. All told, Esoterique has proven herself over a variety of ground conditions and track configurations while competing against some of Europe’s best horses, and if she can handle the tight turns at Keeneland–always a bit of a question mark for European shippers–she might be the horse to beat.
He demonstrated a spectacular turn-of-foot to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year, and while he did get a good pace setup that day–and clearly relished the fast turf at Santa Anita–I think there’s a strong chance that he could defend his title this year. He got started later than expected this year, with the Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville marking his seasonal debut (he finished sixth behind Esoterique), but he took a nice step forward in the Qatar Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Fr-I) on September 13th, finishing third by two lengths behind Coronation Cup (Eng-I) winner Ervedya. It wasn’t his best effort, but remember, he entered last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile off an 11th-place finish in the Qatar Prix de La Foret (Fr-I), and he should show improvement while making his third start off a layoff in this year’s Mile.
This up-and-coming 3yo star won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) at Longchamp in May, scoring by three lengths over a talented field that included New Bay, Mr. Owen, Highland Reel, and Muhaarar. He didn’t fire when last of five in the St James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot behind Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) contender Gleneagles, but he rebounded off a layoff in the October 4th Qatar Prix de La Foret (Fr-I) at Longchamp, defeating group I winner Limato by 1 1/4 lengths over a course labeled “good,” which suggests he might relish the expected firm turf at Keeneland.
Like Karakontie, he’s already won a major race in North America, upsetting the Woodbine Mile (gr. I) on September 13th with a bold rally in between horses. That win marked his third straight victory, following triumphs in the July 26th Pomfret Stakes at Pontefract and the August 22nd Strensall Stakes (Eng-III) at York. Time will tell if he can transfer his good form to a the firmer turf and tighter turn at Keeneland, but the fact that he’s already shipped to North America and won is a positive.
This talented Godolphin-owned three-year-old colt–who, like Esoterique, is trained by Andre Fabre–has taken on some of the best milers in Europe this year with strong success. He opened the season with a decisive win in the Prix de Fountainebleau (Fr-III) at Longchamp, then ran second behind Gleneagles in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I). Two months later, he picked up his first group I win when he beat the talented Dutch Connection in the Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) at Chantilly, then ran second behind Esoterique in the Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville. However, it’s worth noting that the Marois was run over a very soft turf course that might not have suited Territories as well as a faster course, so there’s a chance that he could rebound with a sharper effort over the firm turf at Keeneland.
Juddmonte’s three-year-old colt Time Test started out running in longer distances this year, winning the Tercentenary Stakes (Eng-III) at Royal Ascot before finishing a respectable fourth behind Arabian Queen, Golden Horn, and The Grey Gatsby in the 10.4-furlong Juddmonte International (Eng-I) at York. However, when Time Test cut back to a mile for the Shadwell Joel Stakes (Eng-II) at Newmarket, Time Test beat the capable multiple group stakes winner Custom Cut in the fast time of 1:35.84 seconds. He’ll be among the longer-priced Europeans in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but his impressive run in the Joel over quick turf suggests that he could be an overlooked contender in the Mile.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board!