8.40 Keeneland (USA): Grade 1; 1m 4f
This renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Turf doesn’t appear to have the same quality as in previous years. As a consequence it’s wide open. A full field, a tight track and likely fast ground will make for an exciting race, though.
Two horses trained by Charlie Appleby head the betting market. Nations Pride is currently favoured – one can see why. The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a highly successful season, winning four races, and lately went back-to-back in Grade 1 company in the US.
Nations Pride only got beaten this year in the Epsom Derby and in the Belmont Derby when an unlucky runner-up . At the same time he clearly proved versatility, a preference for fast ground and the ability to sit handy and quicken nicely when asked to change gear.
Those are all characteristics that do enhance his chances. He’s a fair favourite in my view. But also beatable. Nations Pride is no superstar.
Otherwise he wouldn’t have been running in the US so often this season. This US form isn’t always easy to quantify, but almost never on par with European top-level competition.
Nations Pride’s European form is solid but hard to be too excited about. Also: in six starts outside the US his career-best speed rating is a modest 89 figure, dating back to his sole run at Meydan.
A #7 gate isn’t ideal here. He may have to spend quite a bit of energy if the aim is a prominent racing position. Otherwise he may be too far back in the field. He’s not always a sharp starter, either. It’s a tricky situation for William Buick in the saddle. At 11/4 I give Nations pride a miss.
Stable mate Rebel’s Romance comes here in red hot form. He landed the two most important Group 1 races in Germany lately, doing so in fine style, as he got the better of German Derby winner Samarko along the way – personally I really rate the German colt.
Unbeaten in his last four starts, he stays the trip and is fine on fast ground. However, his career-best on the rating front dates back to last year, at Meydan; how the recent soft ground form from Germany truly translates to Keeneland is a bit of a question mark. I have some doubts.
A year ago Mishriff would likely have been a red hot favourite in this race. This time he’s a 6/1 shot. Unlucky in the Coral Eclipse at the start of his season, he never looked the same horse again.
Drawn in #11, blinkers on for the first time in his career; this me strike as a somewhat desperate move. I struggle to find him attractive in these circumstances.
Broome has a good draw, in comparison. The six-year-old continues to run well at the highest level. He was an impressive winner of the Hardwick Stakes at Royal Ascot, and wasn’t disgraced in the Arc when last seen on unsuitable ground.
He’ll be a solid place chance if he doesn’t miss the break, which he’s now done a couple of times.
It’s difficult for me to properly assess the form of the home squad. The mare War Like Goddess looked pretty good – although, not brilliant – when landing the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic four weeks ago. She’s likely to be up with the pace from the #2 gate. Hence must rate a competitive chance.
Nonetheless, for betting purposes I’ll stick with the horses I know well enough to make a proper assessment.
With that in mind, the one that I was thinking about all week for this race was the other Aiden O’Brien runner, Stone Age. In truth: generally I am not a massive fan of him, opposed him at every opportunity this year.
However, I have come to the conclusion that he’s going to be a huge runner against this opposition in these circumstances, and certainly appears to be significantly overpriced.
Stone Age has a lovely draw to attack the race from. He’s Ryan Moore’s choice, who knows him well. The 3-year-old colt likes to race bang up with the pace, and can also make it all, as often seen this season. From the #3 gate he’ll be right there towards the front of the race.
I’m pretty sure if you sit more than four lengths off the pace with three furlongs to go your chances are doomed in this race. Stone Age will be right in the mix. He’s not the best horse in the race. But he may well be the one most favoured by circumstances.
He’s been to the US twice this year. On both occasions he ran with plenty of credit, as he had to overcome wide draws. Both Saratoga- and Belmont Derby runs can be upgraded. So can be his last two performances at the highest level against top-class opposition in the Irish- and British Champions Stakes.
He led the field in those races, possibly did too much too soon, but wasn’t all that far beaten in the end, in either instance. I believe he will enjoy the better ground at Keeneland – in combination with the track and his draw, it’s a real positive. And this is a much easier race than the rivals he countered the last two times.
Let’s not forget Stone Age was once a highly fancied Derby shot. Obviously, he’s not that good. Certainly I never thought he was. His speed ratings are consistently not good enough to be considered a proper Group 1 horse in Europe, too.
Yet, here I am: strongly fancying Stone Age. He’s got a proper chance for Group 1 glory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This race will suit him more than most in the field. He has the stamina, the finishing kick, the draw and won’t mind the ground.
10pts win – Stone Age @ 9/1