If all else fails, the Turf can usually be relied upon to provide Europe with a Breeders' Cup winner. The longest race on the card, European runners are generally bred to handle the twelve-furlong distance better than their American counterparts and also invariably have the best form, a potent combination that has seen them win nine of the last twelve renewals.
Standing in their way this year is Beach Patrol. Chad Brown is renowned for his fillies, but he doesn't do too badly with colts either and this horse hasn't been out first four in six Grade 1 runs this season. He has taken in a number of the key North American trials and has struck up a good partnership with Joel Rosario, who has ridden him to victory on his last two starts. He landed the Arlington Million on his penultimate start, but took his form to the next level in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, registering a five length win and a career-best 109 Beyer. That race has proved key for the North American winners of this race, with eight U.S. turf runners participating in it and six of them winning. The bare form gives Beach Patrol a bit to find with the best European runners, but he looks to be peaking at the right time.
Looking at the also rans from the Hirsch, Fanciful Angel, an ex-Brit, has improved his form significantly since being transferred to Brown. But he seems green and clearly inferior to Beach Patrol. Oscar Perfomance is a three-year-old, who has run very well on firm ground and poorly with cut in the ground. While the ground in the Hirsch was listed as firm, it had rained that day and jockey Jose Ortiz had said it was too soft for him. The tight 12 furlongs will suit him but he offers no appeal at current odds. Sadler’s Joy was fourth. He looks like a one-paced late runner who needs help from the pace to win in Grade 1 company. Here he’ll find much better closers even if he gets his preferred pace scenario.
The race should once again go to a raider. The Arc holds sway as the best European trial for the Turf and a third place in the race would suggest Ulysses has every chance. He ran sneaky well in last year’s race at Santa Anita and has clearly developed a lot since then. He has plenty of pace, ideal for this sharp circuit, and has amongst the best form on show. It remains to be seen if 12 furlongs is his best distance but he has to be considered a major contender.
He holds a verdict from Chantilly over Seventh Heaven. The latter could outrun her odds, shaping better than the result in the Arc and sure to relish the better going. She looked as good as ever in the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Jockey Club Stakes and could be a value play at the odds. She is one who could stand to benefit if they go too quick early on.
If you want a run for your money, Highland Reel is absolutely the way to go. He has a win on the book over Ulysses and Decorated Knight and placed in the Champion Stakes as Found had on her way to Turf glory in 2015; a fine run considering the ground was against him. Of course, Highland Reel also won the race last year, and both Conduit and High Chaparral have shown that a repeat in the Turf is entirely possible. Highland Reel loves the American way of racing and looks absolutely certain to run his race, although it's doubtful if he will be given as much rope as he was twelve months ago.
Decorated Knight comes here after a longshot score in the Irish Champion Stakes last time. It’s been a long time since he ran at a mile and might well find the two-turns at Del Mar too sharp. On the plus side, he’s shown a good turn of foot and ran well at Ascot behind Highland Reel on USA-type ground. Still, a win against this company would be a surprise once again.
Talismanic deserves a mention after three solid runs in Group 2 company in France. He’s showed good stamina and has enough speed to make him a threat under USA conditions for master conditioner Andre Fabre. His odds are all over the map right now but the 16s and 20s about are appealing.
Verdict: This race has been won by a repeater twice before and Highland Reel has a good chance to add his name to the list of two-time victors. Talismanic deserves a long look as a longshot alternative.