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Breeders’ Cup 2018 Recap: Fillies Take Center Stage

by Dustin Fabian

November 5, 2018

Another Breeders’ Cup is in the books and – once again – the week after is a little bittersweet.  News updates transition from “So and so is doing great in advance of the Breeders’ Cup” and “Trainer B is excited to start his/her horse in the Classic” to “This horse is retired” and “This filly just went through the sales ring as a broodmare prospect.” 

Reports have already surfaced that top performers like Abel Tasman, Vale Dori, A Raving Beauty, Fourstar Crook, Finley’sluckycharm, and Selcourt are either headed, or probably headed, to the breeding shed.  Plus, the pessimist in me keeps waiting for an official report that Enable is retired, but the optimist in me hopes I’m wrong.

On the boy’s side, Accelerate, Mind Your Biscuits, Mendelssohn, West Coast, Collected, City of Light, Bucchero and Oscar Performance have all been announced as horses who will go to stud in 2019.  Whether they make a start in the Pegasus World Cup in the meantime remains to be seen. 

But enough about that. It was a pretty solid Breeders’ Cup and, if anything, it was too formful.  My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, wrote in his weekly blog that bettors who were banking on a bomb never really found one. 

As I pointed out in my blog last week, 5-of-13 races at last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar produced winners that paid $30 or more.  Same for the last time it was at Churchill.  This time around, just one horse – Shamrock Rose ($53.80) in the Filly & Mare Sprint – paid $30-plus. 

Prizes aside, here are a few things I will remember – and some things I assuredly wont – regarding this year’s Breeders’ Cup. 

 

Things I'll Remember

 

Enable and Magical

Juddmonte and Coolmore. Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore. John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien. Arc winner and British Champions winner. The stage was set at the top of the lane in the Breeders’ Cup Turf as 4YO filly Enable and 3YO filly Magical turned a 13-horse edition of the race into a two-horse showcase. Midway down the lane, I was amazed to realize that talented horses like Talismanic, Waldgeist, Sadler’s Joy, Robert Bruce and Channel Maker weren’t just out of contention…they were out of the picture entirely.  To win a Breeders’ Cup race is one thing, but to have the winning Exacta finish 9-lengths clear of anyone else is incredible. Especially when the top two are fillies racing against the boys. I think it safe to say this is a race everyone will remember. 

Monomoy Girl Bounces Back

Whether you agree or disagree with the DQ of Monomoy Girl in the Cotillion (I stand on the side ‘against’ such a change in a G1), I think a lot of people were fair to question if Monomoy Girl’s tough year (11 races since September 2017 with just a brief winter break) had caught up with her.  Especially since she runs so hard every time.  Turns out, she’s fine.  And more than fine, she’s brilliant.  With Abel Tasman throwing in the towel and Midnight Bisou spinning her tires, it was great to see Florent Geroux confidently hand ride Monomoy Girl across the wire in the Distaff. 

Sistercharlie’s Underrated Performance

On a Saturday with nine Championship races, it’s very easy to lose sight of singular performances, especially when they didn’t come from the likes of Enable, Accelerate, etc.  But I can’t get over how well Sistercharlie ran in the Filly & Mare Turf.  The race went sideways at the start when expected pacesetter (aka rabbit) Thais broke slowly.  That put Sistercharlie’s more than capable stablemate, A Raving Beauty, alone on a pedestrian lead.  Even worse for Sistercharlie, between her and the lead sat Godolphin’s Wild Illusion, the race’s 5/2 favorite and Coolmore’s Magic Wand, who had flanked A Raving Beauty at 5/1. The fact that Sistercharlie could close from eighth and pass those three horses is remarkable enough. The fact that she did it without a prep race (she missed the Flower Bowl due to foot bruise) makes it a nearly impossible feat. 

Newspaperofrecord’s Dominance

Universally acclaimed the ‘likeliest winner of the Breeders’ Cup’ (at least done so by Jon White and Johnny D, which makes it universal in my book), Newspaperofrecord left absolutely no doubt as to who is the top 2YO turf filly in the States by way of her 6 3/4-length romp in the Filly & Mare Turf, her third straight win of 6-lengths or more.  There’s no saying how good this filly is but I’d love to hear they were considering an international campaign with her.  She has the ability to make all of Brown’s other freshman turf star fillies – Rushing Fall, Maram, New Money Honey (Lady Eli’s name intentionally not included) – look ordinary. 

Peter Miller’s Double Double

Alright, it’s not all about fillies here.  Peter Miller’s ‘Double Double’ can’t be ignored.  To win two Breeders’ Cup races in back-to-back years with the same horses, despite the two tracks being 2,000 miles apart and one of the races not even being run at the same distance, is incredible.  And while this training accomplishment doesn’t quite rival Woody Stephens’ five straight Belmont wins, it should be celebrated.  Also consider that, between Breeders’ Cup wins, both horses made international trips – Stormy Liberal to Hong Kong and Dubai, Roy H to Dubai – and both got new jockeys.  Plus, each proved that their ‘home’ wins at Del Mar were not a product of a ‘horse for course’ angle, despite much different circumstances (turf condition, track) at Churchill. 

 

Things I'll Forget

 

The Classic

Going in, I was incredibly optimistic about this year’s Classic.  I loved the dichotomy in the field – ‘classic’ Classic horses like Accelerate, McKinzie, West Coast and Pavel against international horses (Mendelssohn, Roaring Lion and Thunder Snow), a sprinter (Mind Your Biscuits) and two recent turf horses turned dirt horses (Yoshida and Catholic Boy).  And yet, as Accelerate slogged down the lane, I couldn’t help find myself bored with the result.  Yes, it was a great way to cap Accelerate’s impressive campaign and snap John Sadler’s Breeders’ Cup 0-fer, but it just looked so…blah.  Those horses were gassed.  The final time, over a quick track, was abysmal (2:02.93) and the winning Beyer came back laughably low (105).  I guess horses like Gun Runner, Arrogate and American Pharoah had spoiled us.  This performance will go down as one of the least impressive Classic wins of all time. 

Catalina Cruiser

This was supposed to be the horse to give John Sadler his first Breeders’ Cup win.  Instead, he just continued the stat.  At one point, some bettors/pundits were even claiming that this horse was superior to Accelerate.  Crickets on that now.  Breaking from an advantageous outside post in the Dirt Mile, Catalina Cruiser never seemed involved in the race and tired finish a dismal sixth at sub-even money.  He’s got a lot of work to do to rebuild his reputation. 

Future Stars Friday

With the exception of Newspaperofrecord, there just wasn’t much on Friday that really got me excited.  The Juvenile Turf Sprint was a fun race, but it’s tough to look at a horse like Bulletin in the same esteem of ‘Breeders’ Cup winner’ that we’ll look at other horses.  I thought the Juvenile Fillies exploited that division for being relatively weak and the Juvenile was a one-horse race as soon as Complexity threw in the towel.  I don’t hate the concept of the freshman races on Friday…this year just wasn’t that memorable.

The Mile

Nothing about this year’s Mile interested me going in and I think the race itself showed me why.  Polydream’s controversial scratch was the only thing that caught my attention with this race.  Otherwise, it was a miserable US group (Oscar Performance, Next Shares, Catapult and Analyze It all at sub 10/1) taking on Europe’s B or C team.  And it showed.  Frankie Dettori got the money aboard Expert Eye, a 3YO that had never won beyond the Group 3 level, with Chad Brown’s castoff Catapult (making his G1 debut) and Brown’s Analyze It (off four straight losses and no wins above the G3 level) rounding out the Trifecta.  Just four of the 14 runners had won a G1 race this year.