Don't oppose The Fugue
Jack Nicol brings us a horse-by-horse guide to the runners in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
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Consistent sort who has raced in six different countries but has only won one of his seven starts in America since joining trainer John Sadler earlier this year. Sadler believes the Beat Hollow gelding will stay the mile and a half trip having posted a career best effort when taking the mile and three furlong Del Mar Handicap two runs ago, a race that was part of the 'Win and You're in' initiative. While the six-year-old deserves his place in the field, this is probably a step too far.
A dual Grade One winner but has only won once in the last two years and he'd need to reverse the form with a couple of these, having finished behind Indy Point and Big Blue Kitten on his last few starts. To have any chance of winning the six-year-old would have to return to his 2011 form which saw him take the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. Tthat is unlikely to happen however and he is one to rule out here.
Talented four-year-old who has held his own since being stepped up into Grade One company this year. The Purim gelding has a little bit to prove having finished a disappointing fifth on his last start behind Little Mike but had previously gone close having finished second in his previous two races. The more recent of those second place finishes came at Saratoga in August having travelled strongly to lead a furlong out but was just collared late on by Big Blue Kitten. On 3lb worse terms with that rival here, it is hard to see Twilight Eclipse being good enough to win.
Last year's winner and a likely pacesetter this time around. The six-year-old seemed to go off the boil following that success and had finished unplaced on his four subsequent starts before bouncing back to form last time out when taking the Grade One Joe Hirsch Stakes in a head-bobber at Belmont Park. Big Blue Kitten was the horse to be denied that day and I feel there will be a different outcome as the two meet again here. Little Mike will break from stall four and it looks to be a favourable draw given that he likes to get on with things. It was encouraging to see him return to form last time out but there have to be questions regarding his consistency now and he is likely to relinquish his crown this year in a hot renewal of the race.
Four-year-old who has been thrown in at the deep end this season, he posted a shock victory when winning the Grade Two Dixie Stakes at 24/1 back in May but has been beaten comprehensively on his three subsequent starts. Likely to be prominent with his jockey making the most of stall five but this English Channel colt looks out of his depth here and is one to put a line through.
Tale Of A Champion
Five-year-old who has mixed and matched between handicaps and stakes races this year. He is another who looks to be thrown in having finished way down the field in a Grade Two at this course last time out, a number of rivals who are re-opposing here finishing ahead of him that day. A winner of a Grade Two before that defeat leaves something to cling on to, but with a step up to a mile and a half posing questions about his stamina, he is another to dismiss.
Top-class filly who is probably Europe's best chance of adding to their three first-day successes. Her wins in the Group One Yorkshire Oaks and Irish Champion Stakes have proved she can match it with the best and she must have an excellent chance of setting the record straight at this course having finished a desperately unlucky third in the Filly & Mare Turf last season. Quick ground is important to the four-year-old and she is likely to have her optimum conditions at the California track on Saturday. Berthed in stall seven, jockey William Buick will be hopeful of manoeuvring the filly into a nice position before unleashing her devastating turn of foot in the home turn. Surely the one they all have to beat.
Point Of Entry
Arguably an unlucky second in this race last year, Point Of Entry met trouble in running before going down half a length to Little Mike at the winning line. He has returned to winning ways in 2013, having took his two subsequent races fairly comfortably and must rate a big danger to the rest of the field if he has recovered from an injury to his near-hind cannon bone suffered when winning on his last run in June. Trainer Shug McGaughey has reported that his recovery has gone "perfectly" and that he wouldn't run the five-year-old unless he thought he'd have a huge chance of winning. Respected.
Indy Point was an Impressive winner of the Grade Two John Henry Turf Championship in a really quick time last time out, a race which also saw Vagabond Shoes, Teaks North and Tale Of A Champion who all re-oppose well beaten by the chestnut colt. Having contested the top races in Argentina last year, the four-year-old has raced exclusively in America in 2013 and has won two of his three starts this season. The defeat came back in August when he trailed in a distant last in a Grade One event at Arlington, he never really travelled that day but a reproduction of his impressive victory in the aforementioned John Henry Stakes last time out should definitely see him in the mix.
Big Blue Kitten
One of Chad Brown's two runners in the race and Big Blue Kitten has emerged as one of the leading contenders having recorded back-to-back Grade One victories at Monmouth and Saratoga respectively. Beaten a nose by Little Mike in the aforementioned Joe Hirsch Stakes last time out, the Kitten's Joy horse met trouble in running that day and was quite unlucky having allowed Little Mike to get first run on the field. Big Blue Kitten arrives at Santa Anita in the form of his life and looks to be the each-way value in the race.
Aidan O'Brien has won this race three times in the past and Magician is an intriguing runner for the champion Irish trainer, the three-year-old was last seen trailing in last in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
The three-year-old receives a weight-for-age allowance and if he bounces back to the form that saw him take the Irish 2,000 Guineas earlier this year then he could have decent each-way claims. The step up to a mile and a half is new test for the Galileo colt but on breeding you'd expect him to see the trip out well. Ryan Moore takes the ride and he is likely to relish the fast ground.
Chad Brown's other runner is the likable Real Solution who has followed a similar path to Little Mike in respect of his preparations when winning this last year.
The Kitten's Joy colt was awarded the Arlington Million Stakes in August before contesting the Joe Hirsch Stakes at Belmont where he finished third behind Little Mike and Big Blue Kitten last time out. There isn't much to suggest that he'll be able to reverse the form with either of those but does still look open to improvement and could have each-way claims.
European trained horses have won 11 of the last 15 renewals of this race and I expect that record to be further enhanced here as THE FUGUE looks to hold a massive chance of winning. She is likely to encounter her optimum conditions at Santa Anita and if avoiding the kind of traffic problems which prevented her from winning here last year it's hard to see anything being good enough to beat the four-year-old. She has confirmed herself as one of the best fillies in the world this season, gaining Group One victories at York and Leopardstown and William Buick seems increasingly happy to take the initiative in her races and let The Fugue's stamina do the rest. Of the rest, Point Of Entry rates the biggest danger but there have to be questions marks around his fitness. Little Mike, Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution are closely matched on form and of the trio I feel Big Blue Kitten has the best claims.
1 The Fugue
2 Point Of Entry
3 Big Blue Kitten