The Melbourne Cup truly stops a nation but the Breeder’s Cup Turf Mile does not live up to its billing as the World Championships of thoroughbred racing and the Charlie Hall Chase is not a race that stops a county. The last named two contests are linked by the fact that the favourites are trained by the current British Flat and jumps champion trainers.
Tornado is in the hands of Richard Hannon junior while Silviniaco Conti is handled by Paul Nicholls. Santa Anita and Wetherby are different types of race track, one in the shadow of spectacular mountains and the other located next to the A1. Favourite backers will not be concerned with the geography and the double pays more than 6/1.
The Melbourne Cup is the most famous horse race run in Australia and the occasion at Flemington is a mixture of Royal Ascot and the Grand National. The race is the richest two mile handicap in the world and one of the most lucrative. It always takes place on the first Tuesday in November and is open to three-year-olds and older.
Due to it’s prestige and prize fund the race is oversubscribed which means horses lower down the handicap are eliminated. As a handicap each horse has theoretically the same chance of winning but in recent years the weights have been framed to the benefit of the better horses and older horses carry more weight than young ones.
There has been a trend in recent years for European bred stayer’s to dominate the race and such is the breeding industry in Australia that it could take ten years for the race to be won by a home bred. Dermot Weld was the first European trainer to win the race but now imports from Europe or horses trained in that continent are at the head of the betting. Cavalryman has finished third in a Dubai World Cup and seems overpriced on best form while Red Cadeaux has finished second twice in the Melbourne Cup in the past.
The two day Breeder’s Cup meeting is grandly titled the World Championships of racing in much the same way baseball teams in the States play for the World Series even though only teams from America and Canada are allowed to compete. At least in the racing version other nations can get involved and in entries for this year’s renewal there were 18 horses from Britain, nine from Ireland and five from France.
The Breeder’s Cup is one of four end-of-season-championships but none quite justifies the description as a global championship. Meetings in Ireland, France and England are too close in the calendar to identify the world’s best horses over a variety of distances. Connections of the best horses in Europe no longer regard the Breeder’s Cup as the ultimate in racing achievement.
Numerically Europe has a strong entry this year but of the 25 European trained runners declared only three have won Group 1 races this season. With such a proliferation of autumn lucrative prizes The Breeder’s Cup has been weakened by a lack of quality from Europe. However, all the best US horses are running but the races cannot be described as championship deciders.
Europe now has three festival Flat meetings in five weeks but none of them define the championship horses of the year in Europe. The United States is not handicapped by a well established Pattern system and created the concept of a championship meeting from scratch. The Breeder’s Cup has succeeded in identifying the best horses in North America though not necceasrily in the world as that task is beyond even the best race planners.
Toronado is one of the European Group 1 winners of this season racing at Santa Anita over the weekend. The horse won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and was one of the leading two-year-old of 2012. However, Kingman was a better horse but that animal has been retired after a brilliant three-year-old campaign with only one defeat in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. The subsequent Derby and St Leger winners were beaten in that race. Australia and Kingston Hill were running over inadequate trips but the Classic was one of the hottest races of the season.
Toroando is relatively light raced this season and arrives at the track quite fresh. His form is solid especially collaterally with Charm Spirit who won the Queen Elizabeth 11 on Champions Day at Ascot. On ratings alone Toronado is a leading contender but race conditions will be alien and that could be a key factor.
Alex Ferguson won many Cups as manager of Manchester United but as part of a syndicate that owns Telescope can add a Breeder’s Cup to his honours list. Telescope is owned by the Highclere group of racing enthusiasts and Sir Alex is said to be planning on joining the party in Santa Anita. Telescope was trading at 4-1 second favourite for the $3 million Turf at the time of writing, behind Flintshire.
Even with advances in transatlantic air travel its impossible to attend the Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby in Yorkshire and the Breeder’s Cup in California. I’m not sure if Paul Nicholls has been to the Breeder’s Cup and he may not be at Wetherby to see Silviniaco Conti run in his first of the season. The race at Wetherby could be an early pointer to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and on ratings Silviniaco Conti should win the race for the second time.
The horse fell when going strongly three fences out in the 2013 renewal and looked the likely winner of the race earlier this year but was outstayed by Lord Windermere running on the opposite side of the track. The Giant Bolster was third in this year’s Gold Cup and again looks wrongly priced on the basis of past performances, having beaten Silviniaco Conti of level weights at Cheltenham. However, two contrasting races could bring significant wins for horses trained by the champions in the two codes of British racing in Toronado and Silviniaco Conti.