Around two-dozen horses will make the trip from Europe to run at the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Keeneland on 6 and 7 November, when prize money across the event’s 14 races will be maintained at last year’s total of $28m (£21.2m). Previous Group One winners due to line up in Lexington, Kentucky include Magical, Tarnawa, Lord North, Mogul and Kameko, this year’s 2,000 Guineas winner, while both James Fanshawe and Nigel Tinkler will field their first runners at the meeting.
The grandstands at Keeneland will be empty when the meeting gets underway on Friday week, just as they are across much of Europe.
Yet while prize money for marquee events in Britain – including Royal Ascot, the Ebor meeting at York and Champions Day at Ascot – has been cut by as much as 55 per cent while racing continues behind closed doors, the Breeders’ Cup’s funding model has helped to ensure that its purses will be unchanged from 2019.
Breeders pay fees to ensure that their foals are eligible to run at the meeting if – and it is a big if – they are good enough, two, three or even more years down the line. As a result, the Breeders’ Cup Classic on 7 November will still be worth a total of $6m (£4.55m), while the five European-trained runners in the Turf will be aiming for a share of $4m (£3m).
Irish stables lead the way in terms of entries, with Aidan O’Brien sending seven runners to the two-day meeting and Jessica Harrington fielding three, while John Gosden, Britain’s champion trainer, has entered Lord North, a Royal Ascot winner in June, and Mehdaayih in the Turf, and Terebellum in the Filly & Mare Turf.
But smaller yards will also have representatives, among them Tinkler’s colt Ubettabelieveit, the 40-1 winner of the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, who runs in the Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday week. John Quinn will send Safe Voyage to the Mile the following day while a three-strong challenge from Yorkshire stables is completed by Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers, in the Turf Sprint.
“Everyone’s gone out of their way to make it feasible for us,” Gosden said on Wednesday. “It’s not easy, but my staff all had Covid-19 tests yesterday and they were all negative, so they will fly tomorrow [Thursday] as they’re not allowed on the horse plane, and then meet the horses when they get to Keeneland.
“I know that jockeys are not allowed into the barns so that will stop Mr Dettori trying to train them all, we’ll have to meet him outside. But we’re living in this strange world now and we’ll just have to get on with it.”
O’Brien had two winners at Keeneland when it made its debut as a Breeders’ Cup venue in 2015, including Found’s memorable defeat of Gosden’s colt Golden Horn, that year’s Derby and Arc winner, in the Turf.
Five years later, Found’s first foal, the War Front colt Battleground, will be in Kentucky as part of O’Brien’s team for the meeting, and he is the early favourite for the race at a top price of 4-1, despite having been absent from the track since winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in July.
“He was prepared to run in the National Stakes [in September] but he coughed getting off the box so we withdrew him,” O’Brien said on Wednesday, “then we prepared him for the Dewhurst [at Newmarket] but with the ground the way it was, we said we’d wait.
“He’s been prepared for two races that he didn’t run in, so we think that his fitness levels are high and he seems to be in good form. The experience will do him good and we’ll learn a lot about him for next year.”
O’Brien already holds the record for the most winners in the Turf with six since 2003 and five of the last nine, and will field Magical – already a winner of seven Group Ones – and Mogul, who took the Grand Prix de Paris in September before being denied a run in the Arc in bizarre circumstances – in search of a seventh success.
Irish-trained runners dominate the betting for the Turf, with Magical the narrow favourite at 11-4 and Mogul alongside Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa, a dual Group One winner already this season, on 7-2.
Kameko, who bypassed Champions Day at Ascot earlier this month in search of better ground, is 4-1 favourite for the Mile, while Ubettabelieveit is a 16-1 shot to give Nigel Tinkler a Breeders’ Cup winner at the first attempt.
Greg Wood’s Thursday tips
Stratford 12.35 A Perfect Gift 1.06 Harry Senior 1.36 Larch Hill 2.06 Aintree My Dream 2.36 Galice Macalo 3.06 When You’re Ready 3.36 Summit Like Herbie 4.06 Soyouthinksoagain
Lingfield 12.45 Fame N Fortune 1.15 She’s A Lion 1.45 Nikulina 2.15 Oh This Is Us 2.45 Cloak Of Spirits 3.15 Jacinth 3.45 Sorrel 4.15 Come On Girl
Newton Abbot 1.28 Memphis Bell 1.58 Sastruga 2.28 Metier 2.58 Breffniboy 3.28 Momella 3.58 Clondaw Rigger 4.28 Bucko’s Boy
Southwell 4.45 Gorgeous General 5.15 Native Silver (nap) 5.45 Barbaroma 6.15 Exalted Angel (nb) 6.45 Grand Pianola 7.15 Arzaak 7.45 Curtiz
Chelmsford 5.00 Indian Pursuit 5.30 Boy In The Bar 6.00 Beauty Choice 6.30 Zayriyan 7.00 Rockesbury 7.30 At Ease 8.00 Calvinist 8.30 Systemic