Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
By Peter Fornatale
The Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita will always provoke memories of one of the greatest finishes in Breeders' Cup history, as High Chaparral dead-heated with Johar in 2003.
History may not repeat itself when it comes to the closeness of the finish, but it could see an Aidan O'Brien-trained Derby victor in the winner's enclosure. Anthony Van Dyck looks like he has been trained specifically for the race, given a nice break in the summer to freshen up and performing really well in the Irish Champion Stakes on his return. The aforementioned High Chaparral and Found both landed the Turf for O'Brien after taking in the Irish Champion Stakes and that performance bodes well for AVD.
O'Brien has another contender in the shape of Mount Everest, a regally-bred son of Six Perfections, herself a Breeders' Cup winner in the Mile. He looked a likely Derby sort at the end of last year but has obviously had issues in the interim, but has shaped with promise on his three runs this season and got off the mark for the year when winning a Listed race at Leopardstown. He showed a good attitude there and it's encouraging that his trainer is pitching him in here, a clear indication that he is training well. Decent ground should suit him better than the soft/heavy he faced last time out and he could surprise.
Rounding out the European runners is Old Persian, who looks like he might also be peaking at the right time. He was dead impressive in Meydan in the spring and it's hard to imagine that his run in the Coronation Cup was a true reflection of his ability. He returned from a near three-month break with a solid effort at Hoppegarten in the Grosser Preis von Berlin – in which he beat the overmatched Alounak - looking a bit rusty but running on well into third.
That race has taken a lot of knocks, but Old Persian has come out since and won, taking the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes – a poor trial according to history - at short odds. That was a very weak Grade 1, and Old Persian, was entitled to win, but it was good to see that he retains a good chunk of his ability, as on his best form he has leading claims.
Those comments most certainly apply to Bricks And Mortar, whom I have spoken about in depth, the home champion who will provide a seriously stern test for the Euros. He is stretching out to twelve furlongs for the first time but is bred to go the distance and he certainly has the class and acceleration to be a leading player if his stamina holds out. He beat Magic Wand and Bandua – who shouldn't be able to reverse the form – on his last run in the Arlington Million and will be aiming to follow in the hoofprints of Little Mike, who did the Million/Turf double in 2012. It’s difficult to shake the idea that connections had previously declared 12-furlongs too far for him, however. The more I look, the more mixed the signals are, and that’s not something I like when it comes to backing a favorite.
A number of the rest of the home contingent all have form that ties in together, with Zulu Alpha, Channel Cat, Arklow and Channel Maker all having beaten each other at some point this season. This quarter are all solid performers but have more losses than wins this year and form lines with Bricks And Mortar suggest that a place might be the best they can hope for.
United and Acclimate finished second and third in the John Henry Turf Championship on their most recent start – a level of form that gives them plenty to find. That said, United has impressed in the mornings for Richard Mandella and will surely be a massive price.
VERDICT: MOUNT EVEREST looks the most interesting at the prices, with UNITED deserving of a flutter as well at a wild price. In terms of exotics bets, I wouldn’t mind covering those two on the bottom of a forecast with Anthony Van Dyck and Old Persian. I’ll take a stand against Bricks and Mortar, potentially at my own peril. But I do think that’s the right idea value-wise.