Well, I have my work cut out for me this year at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. For the first time, instead of just focusing on Breeders’ Cup news, I will be covering one of the 14 races—the Emirates Airline BC Turf (gr. I) Nov. 6.
There were 11 horses pre-entered in the race, and not surprisingly, six of those contenders were bred and/or have raced primarily outside of this country: Debussy, Behkabad, Red Desire, Dangerous Midge, Plumania, and Workforce.
While the number of foreign horses in the Turf seems a little daunting at first, I’m up for the challenge!
Among the most prominent owners of the horses in this race are Bertram and Diana Firestone (Winchester)--no relation to the tire manufacturer--who were some of the original shareholders in the Secretariat syndication (imagine that!); Princess Haya of Jordan (Debussy), the wife of Sheikh Mohammed; Islamic leader and economic developer The Aga Khan (Behkabad); French brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer (Plumania), owners of the House of Chanel; and Saudi Arabian prince Khalid Abdullah (Workforce), owner of Juddmonte Farms.
Quite an intimidating group, don’t you think? Out of the connections just named (or their families), the following have won previous editions of the Turf: The Aga Khan (1984, Lashkari; 2000, Kalanisi); and Sheikh Mohammed/Godolphin Stables (1985, Pebbles; 1990, In the Wings; 1999, Daylami; 2001, Fantastic Light).
Though it will be a tall task for Champ Pegasus to best the likes of European invaders and prominent group I winners Workforce and Behkabad, I am personally a fan of the Kentucky-bred bay colt, who is trained by one of my favorites, Richard Mandella (also the trainer of the beloved retired gelding The Tin Man).
Champ Pegasus, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, looks to be on top of his game, winning his last two straight starts—the Aug. 29 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Oct. 3 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes (gr. IT). One of the only things working against Champ Pegasus, who is raced by his breeders, Gerald Ford's Diamond A. Racing and Arturo Vargas, is the fact he has only campaigned on the West Coast, so the Breeders’ Cup will be his first time on Churchill’s turf.
Champ Pegasus winning the Clement L. Hirsch, photo by Benoit
Champ Pegasus in the Del Mar Handicap, photo by Benoit
On the plus side, however, he won’t be alone. The only two Turf pre-entered horses that have been somewhat previously successful at Churchill are Paddy O’ Prado (third in this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, gr. I) and Telling (third in the 2008 River City Handicap, gr. IIIT). I should also note that Paddy O’Prado is cross entered in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
I want to know who your early favorites are for this race and why. Is anyone out there an avid fan of turf racing? I will be at Churchill Downs throughout Breeders’ Cup week, walking the backstretch in the mornings and trying to find out some more information about these horses and their connections. I’ll be sure to document all the most interesting information and photos I can obtain along the way.