TThe 40th running of the main Saturday card at the Breeders’ Cup here this weekend, like most of the previous 39 races, will be marked by a simmering undercurrent of intercontinental rivalry throughout the nine races, as many of the world’s best racehorses compete for $22 million fight for prize money. Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, first and second in the Derby at Epsom in June, join Mawj, Mostahdaf, Inspiral and many others among the European stars set to face the Americans on home soil.
It’s a familiar dynamic for show jumping fans accustomed to the Anglo-Irish rivalry at Cheltenham every March. This time, however, there’s a twist as the latest installment of this annual meeting of the continents promises to be a three-way race. As a result, Santa Anita in 2023 could still be seen as the moment when the Breeders’ Cup finally lives up to its long-standing claim of being the “world championship” of horse racing.
Japan has sent a total of 15 runners to the Breeders’ Cup in the past, a number that will increase by more than 50% this year over the two days at Santa Anita, in which eight horses from Japanese stables are scheduled to compete, according to the post. And although Equinox, officially the world’s best horse, is not among them, Japan’s challenge is spread across both dirt and turf and includes runners with significant odds in the $6 million Classic, the meet’s showpiece event, the Mile, the Turf and the Turf Sprint.
For a racing-loving nation that now generates more wagering on the sport each year than the United States, it feels like it’s coming of age on the global stage, adding an extra layer of intrigue and complexity to many Saturday’s A-list events Santa Anita.
The problem for bettors, of course, is comparing and evaluating shape lines from all corners of the globe and finding the one that matters most on a sunny Southern California afternoon. Reviews – such as those provided by Timeform Operations – are an obvious first port of call, but having access to morning track work in advance of the meeting, either first-hand or via social media, is also a significant advantage.
When the Breeders’ Cup takes place on the West Coast, some of the horses embarked for this meeting simply thrive from the moment they step into the California sun for the first time. It also helps considerably to arrive here with a relatively fresh horse, which is another point to consider when assessing an exceptional renewal of the turf, which from a European perspective is probably the standout race on Saturday.
Auguste Rodin, the Derby winner, certainly seemed to be enjoying the sun this week, but like King Of Steel, the recent Champion Stakes winner at Ascot, he has had a long season and the latter stallion in particular appears to be in contention here something of an afterthought, just two weeks after a grueling trip to the proving grounds.
Neither is particularly attractive, therefore, and while Japan prospect Shahryar would be a major contender at his best – a narrow second place finish in the 2022 Japan Cup – he has failed to show that in two games this year.
Mostahdaf, the narrow favorite, appeared to be in fine form during track work this week, but was also trained for the Champion Stakes, only to be axed the day the ground turned against him and has the outing not yet won on grass.
That works Onesto (9:50 p.m., all times GMT), third behind Ace Impact in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in only his third start this year, a very interesting runner at around 7-1 with British bookmakers. Fabrice Chappet’s colt sits 1lb behind Mostahdaf in Timeform’s rating, has definitely turned heads in training this week and promises to be ideal for a mile and a half turnaround.
Songline (8:30 p.m.)who started in a Grade One in Tokyo last time out, could be a winner for Japan in the mile, while his compatriot Ushba Tesoro (10:40 p.m.), The winner of the Dubai World Cup on clay earlier this year is a live contender for what may be a slightly subpar repeat of the Classic.
Elsewhere on the Breeders’ Cup card: Live in a dream (11:25 p.m.) can make the most of an excellent draw in stall five in the Turf Sprint Warm Heart (7:10 p.m.) could beat Inspiral in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Wetherby’s valuable jump card on Saturday, including the Charlie Hall Chase, depends on a 7am inspection after the first day of the meeting was abandoned and bettors’ attention is likely to focus on Ascot’s first jump card of the winter instead.
Monbeg Genius (3.45 p.m.)Third behind Corach Rambler, the eventual National winner at Cheltenham last year, is a clear favorite for the featured Sodexho Gold Cup, while previously on the card was Cruz Control (1:30 p.m.) And Red Rookie (2:05 p.m.) will both post at every opportunity.