Editors note: This is a special guest blog post by George Jeffery, a sports trader in the UK with a specialisation in flat horse analysis and seeking out bet and lay opportunities. George's analysis below is here to help us fill in the gaps with the European runners.
7.30 - Juvenile Turf (Grade 1) (2yo Colts & Geldings)
Irish Champion trainer A.P O'Brien, responsible for heading the European contingent this year with 5 entries across the two days at Keeneland, kicks off proceedings with Hit It A Bomb, an oxymoron named bay colt out of top American dirt sire War Front. 2 wins out of 2 races in the latter part of this year, Hit It A Bomb easily dispatched of some useful rivals in a 7fl Listed race at the Dundalk polytrack over 2 weeks ago, stepping up on his only turf performance a week previous. Often commented upon by various individuals in the UK racing media as the ‘Master trainer', O'Brien is not one for turning out horses quickly; the fact Hit It A Bomb will have raced 3 times in just over a month for a 2 year old must indicate that the horse has come on again from his previous run, with the yard confident of more success here. Must respect.
Mention must also be given to Birchwood. Trained by Yorkshire based Richard Fahey and owned by racing powerhouse Godolphin, Birchwood arrives off the back of a record year for his trainer who saddled 186 winners on the turf in 2015. Birchwood is more exposed than Hit It A Bomb, having raced 6 times this year, winning 3. In his most recent race he ran a more than creditable 4 lengths 3rd to the O'Brien trained Air Force Blue, the best 2 year old in Europe this year. From a punters perspective it is encouraging to note that Birchwood is durable with regards to the ground; with the forecast set for rain this week and the ground due to ease, it could pay to side with those with experience of handling variable conditions, particularly where 2 year olds are concerned. Whilst vulnerable to a whole host of unexposed improvers, with Fahey you know you will likely get a run for your money wherever he enters a horse. Show place credentials.
8.50 – Juvenile Fillies Turf (Grade 1)
Europe are potentially triple handed in the 8.50 Juvenile Fillies Turf race, should Nemoralia (also engaged in the Dirt opener on Saturday) take her place here. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, Nemoralia has already had experience of racing in the US when beaten 3 lengths by Nickname in a Group 1 at Belmont Park on the 3rd of October, a race in which the winner got first run with Nemoralia staying on nicely into 2nd having been held up for most of the race. The trainer has gone 3 years without a Group victory but does well with his limited string. Expect a bold show.
Richard Hannon Jnr's Illuminate has run in four strong contests this year over 5/6 fl, winning 3 and beaten ½ a length last time out in a race in which the horse shaped as if a step up in trip would suit. Low and behold, Illuminate takes a crack at a mile for the first time. Out of Zoffany, a very successful first season sire that won twice in good style over 7fl, breeding suggests Illuminate could stay. His trainer's father has saddled some excellent milers in recent times (Sky Lantern, Paco Boy, Canford Cliffs), so there must be some confidence in Illuminate's ability to run a big race at the level. Interesting.
6.10 – Fillies & Mares Turf (Grade 1)
By far the best horse David Wachman has ever trained, Legatissimo is undoubtedly a serious horse (won 3 Group 1s & beat a nose in two others in 2015) who should take all the beating. Legatissimo, initially allotted a mark of 100 by the handicapper in April, has gone up 17lb since then and still looks to be improving. Legatissimo has been campaigned over 8-12fl with success across all distances and varying degrees of ground. Like her real-life definition, Legatissimo does everything within a race smoothly yet possesses an exceptional turn of foot when asked to go and win races. As a 3 year old Legatissimo gets 4lb from a number of her rivals and will be racing off her lowest racing weight in history – an added bonus. The form of her latest success has worked out well, with the 2nd, Cladocera, beaten 3 lengths at Longchamp over Arc Weekend. The horse has had a hard campaign (including a nose defeat in the prestigious Epsom Oaks in June) but will not have seen a racetrack for 7 weeks come Saturday so will be fresh and ready to rock. The exceptional Ryan Moore takes the ride. Great chance.
At Arlington in August Secret Gesture fell foul of the peculiarity of US rules regarding interference within a race and the on-course stewards strict interpretation of them, in being demoted of her victory despite winning her Group 1 with something in hand. Ralph Beckett's mare lines up for another crack at a big payday here, and looks to have solid show place claims. Secret Gesture has lined up against well-fancied Legatissimo before, only beaten 2 lengths when in receipt of 12lb at Irish flat racing mecca the Curragh. Theoretically speaking Secret Gesture should be able to reverse the form with Legatissimo on Saturday, but other factors – namely improvement and scope for further improvement of the aforementioned – look to cancel out any ‘weight gains' made. In any case, Secret Gesture is very lightly raced this year (made 3 starts) and looks to have been targeted at this race (ran in it at Santa Anita in 2014, finishing a creditable 5th of 11). Stable have had an excellent year. May provide value at the prices.
7.30 – Breeders Cup Mile Turf (Grade 1)
In a race that looks to be dominated by the French, Andre Fabre lines up 2 horses– Esoterique & Make Believe – for this prestigious race. On paper Esoterique looks the more likely of the two. Based on the formbook she has run some fantastic races in defeat this season against two of the best horses in training worldwide - Solow & Muhaarer - and beat a horse last time out, Integral, which has since run a close 2nd to Solow, giving the form a strong feel. Make Believe won last time out at Longchamp but the result masked the fact that the favourite, Limato, was given way too much to do by his jockey, and would likely have won had been played earlier. The calibre of races that Impassable, the third French raider has won, look a degree weaker in comparison with the above two runners, and for this reason can be opposed for win purposes.
Time Test for Roger Charlton and Mondialiste for David O'Meara make up the 5 European chances here. Both are very likeable types; great attitudes, versatile as regards ground, have lost then improved to win races, and hail from yards that are no strangers to winning races abroad. From Mondialiste's perspective this may prove to be one race too many (campaigned 7 times this season) against the best in this division. Time Test, donning the famous silks worn by the great Frankel, should fare better but will have to improve again to trouble the Fabre pairing (beat Custom Cut by 2 lengths last time out conceding 5lb – Custom Cut since beaten 8 lengths by Make Believe off 2lb lower).
8.10 – Juvenile Dirt (Colts & Geldings) (Grade 1)
Waterloo Bridge is entered in the Juvenile Dirt for A.P.O'Brien but looks opposable here. Untested on dirt, the horses' action appears to suit a sounder surface, yet when it has had conditions in its favour has failed to make a real mark (well beaten last time out in a fairly ordinary Class 2 event). The trainer has also meddled with his trip (been seen this year over 5, 6 & 7fl), indicating he has not quite found his optimum distance yet. One for the layers.
8.50 – Breeders Cup Turf (Grade 1)
Golden Horn goes into this race a -200 shot and his profile reflects his price – taking 2 of the biggest races in the World home this year with aplomb and spoken of in glowing terms by his trainer John Gosden as the best he's ever trained. Golden Horn will be retired to stud after this race, and his owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer will be looking for the horse to bow out in increasing his record to 8 wins from 9 races. The owner has been extremely generous to the racing public and the game at large in entering Golden Horn here, and it would be foolish to oppose him.
An exacta wager that doesn't involve Found, the A.P O'Brien trained second favourite, looks to be the best way to play the race out for a reasonable profit. However, it doesn't seem like we have seen the best of Found, who encountered all sorts of problems in-running against Golden Horn at Longchamp before staying on very eyecatchingly under hands and heels riding by her jockey. It was obvious on that showing that 1m 4fl is the trip she would be seen to best effect at in the future, with her finishing all previous runs over 1m 2fl with much more to give. Could give Golden Horn something to think about if put in the race much earlier.
9.35 – Classic Dirt (Grade 1)
Excuses were made for Gleneagles by A.P O'Brien last time out on account of the softer going at Ascot on British Champions Day. Prior to this, Gleneagles had won 5 Group 1s in the UK & Ireland this year, establishing himself as one of if not the best 3 year old milers in training. Given Gleneagles was undone by a going change at Ascot, all eyes will be on whether he can transfer his quick ground form onto the Dirt. Whilst his trainer has an excellent record at the meeting, he has never won a race on this type of surface at the Cup. Furthermore, Gleneagles will have his work cut out against proven Group 1 dirt winners, including the excellent American Pharaoh who heads the betting. For this reason it may be wise to watch for any positive move in the market, as any support may indicate that Gleneagles has worked well in his practice sessions and could be worth chancing to get in the money.