Jamie Lynch is Timeform’s UK-based Chief Correspondent.
It was built in 1984, and they’ve been coming ever since. The location of the field varies, but the dream of a Breeders’ Cup winner continues to magnetize the world’s best thoroughbreds.
That’s not strictly true, of course, but ‘magnetizing the world’s best thoroughbreds’ is likelier to get a retweet by @BreedersCup than ‘essentially a domestic competition with an international veil courtesy of the smattering of overseas horses who are either high on adventure or low on opportunity in their respective jurisdictions’.
The truth, as with most truths in racing, lies somewhere in between the acute perceptions. The Breeders’ Cup isn’t all things to all men, but it is a big thing to many men, including this man, yours truly, who last year went as a believer and came back a preacher.
You’ve either got or you haven’t got style, and the Breeders’ Cup has got it. Its style comes not from Bo Derek’s attendance, nor Kurt Russell’s endorsements, nor even from Nick Luck bringing some Downton charm to NBC; it comes from a feeling that, during business hours, you’re at the very epicenter of the universe, generated by the sort of hoopla that only America can do, coupled with the sort of memoirs that only the Breeders’ Cup has written, any number from One (Dreamer) – perhaps the greatest commentary of all time – to Six (Perfections), any letter from A(razi) to Z(enyatta).
‘Anybody got anything?’
‘Fine, let’s just go with it again this year.’
‘The best is yet to come’ is the lingering catchline once more, but the Breeders’ Cup is more about the past than the future. Just as its history defines a nation, its history defines an event, and the ghosts of Breeders’ Cups past are the lifeblood for the present, whether those ghosts are monumental races, awesome performances or 137-rated zappers.
The Breeders’ Cup is a memory-maker and history-shaker, standing out in that regard against the rival championships around the world at that time of the year, most of which followed the trend reset by America. Imitation is the best form of flattery, and Britain is currently getting its giant Bridget Jones knickers in a twist by trying to work towards the Breeders’ Cup end-of-season model, while the French did it far more stealthily, and far more immediately, in its copy-cat reformatting of Arc weekend in the late 80s.
True, less maybe more where the Breeders’ Cup is concerned, two days not necessarily better than one, more so this year with only five Breeders’ Cup races on the Friday and the Filly & Mare Turf – or the Dank Money In The Bank Invitational as it’s now known – pushed back to the Saturday, but, when dining in the finest restaurants, a main course is savoured all the more after a starter, especially when it’s $5.5m worth of starter.
The nearest thing racing has got to an Olympics, the Breeders’ Cup is probably just a renewal or two away from having a more-singing, all-dancing opening ceremony, complete with an introductory lap of honour/honor by each representative nation. The British team, trotting out to the tune of We Will Rock You, with Matt Chapman leading the tribal clapping [thud, thud, snare; thud, thud, snare], would have The Fugue as its flagbearer. Vanquished last year, The Fugue has a score to settle, and the word on the Newmarket street is that her revenge is a dish best served in the Turf itself rather than the Filly & Mare version. Less is definitely more for her; less runners, more distance.
The Irish squad, who wouldn’t but really should be accompanied onto the track by My Lovely Horse, Father Ted’s Eurosong entry, is all about Aidan O’Brien again, and by far the most intriguing of his contenders is Giovanni Boldini, on target for the Juvenile Turf.
It’s a race O’Brien has won the last two years, and neither Wrote nor George Vancouver were as good as Giovanni Boldini coming into the Breeders’ Cup. Subsequent UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle was seventh and scuppered by a wide draw behind George Vancouver, but prior to that he prepped in the same Dundalk race that Giovanni Boldoni won with ease on the back of his third to Europe’s top-rated two-year-old, Toormore, in the National Stakes at the Curragh.
That Group 1 assignment came only a week after his debut, telling of his regard, and Giovanni Boldoni, a $675,000 son of War Front, looks tailor-made for the Juvenile Turf, being a strong-traveller stepping up to a trip he’ll relish. My clout doesn’t quite match my puffed-up title of Chief Correspondent, but Giovanni is the one I’ll be pushing for, threatening a walk-out, when Timeform UK meets TimeformUS to thrash out the Timeform unified line for the Breeders’ Cup.
On that subject, stay close to all Timeform communiqués over the next week, as we’re in the unique position of straddling two continents with our handicapping expertise, and we intend to make the most of it. To celebrate the partnership and what it may bring, we’ve devised a catchy, exclusive slogan to describe the Timeform approach to Breeders’ Cup analysis: The best is yet to come.