Three horses will try to defend their Breeders' Cup titles, and a pair of horses who won juvenile races at the event will look for more success in this year's World Championships.
The three horses looking to repeat their 2017 success in the same race are Roy H in the TwinSpires Sprint (G1), Stormy Liberal in the Turf Sprint (G1T), and Talismanic in the Longines Turf (G1T). Also looking to add to their Breeders' Cup success are last year's Juvenile Turf (G1T) winner Mendelssohn, who will try this year's Classic (G1), and 2016 Juvenile Turf victor Oscar Performance, who will run in the Mile (G1T).
Here is a quick look at the recent form of each of these Breeders' Cup winners.
Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen's Roy H delivered another strong season in 2018, and, like last year, will enter the Sprint off a clear victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1)--a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race. From four 2018 starts, all in graded stakes, he has two wins and two placings.
The year included the first international start for the 6-year-old More Than Ready gelding, when he finished third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (G1). In his only other start outside of California, Roy H won last year's True North Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. This year's Sprint would mark the first start at Churchill Downs for Roy H.
With their typically large fields and little margin for error, turf sprints can be chaotic, but Stormy Liberal has tamed the beast as he enters this year's Turf Sprint off three consecutive wins, the most recent being the Eddie D Stakes (G3T) down the hill at Santa Anita Park.
While Stormy Liberal has enjoyed success racing down the hill at 6 1/2 furlongs, the 6-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding also has excelled at the type of course offered at Churchill, a 5 1/2-furlong course. While the seven-time stakes winner will be starting at Churchill for the first time and trying the distance for the first time on turf, he has three wins in as many starts sprinting five furlongs on the grass--all at Del Mar--including last year's narrow victory over stablemate Richard's Boy in the Turf Sprint.
With the pre-entry of two-time Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Enable in this year's Turf, the return of last year's winner, Talismanic, has been a bit overshadowed.
The 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro also raced in the 2018 Arc, finishing off the board. But perhaps a return to the tight turns of American turf racing is what Godolphin's Talismanic needs--his lone top-level win came in last year's Turf.
While Talismanic was more consistent ahead of his win in last year's Turf, he has been respectable this year, adding a group 3 win and group 2 placing in France.
Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith's Mendelssohn has the advantage of a previous start over the Churchill surface, although it's one his connections and supporters would prefer to forget. On a sloppy track, Mendelssohn finished last in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
That race marked the second start on dirt for Mendelssohn, who won last year's Juvenile Turf by one length. The son of Scat Daddy and half brother to three-time Breeders' Cup winner Beholder rolled to an easy win in this year's UAE Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Maboodah Group (G2) on the dirt at Meydan.
Since those two extremes in his first two dirt starts, Mendelssohn has put together three straight solid runs over the surface, earning placings in the Dwyer (G3), Runhappy Travers (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) stakes. He'll look to put it all together in the 1 1/4-mile Classic.
Like Mendelssohn, Oscar Performance's previous Breeders' Cup win came in the Juvenile Turf two years ago. Last year, he gave the Turf a try, finishing ninth after leading early in that 1 1/2-mile test.
This year, Amerman Racing's Oscar Performance will try the Mile, where he figures to be one of the top contenders off his clear victory in the Sept. 15 Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes (G1T)--a Challenge race for entry into the Mile.
A 4-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, Oscar Performance will be starting on the Churchill turf for the second time after finishing off the board in the 2017 American Turf Stakes Presented by Ram Trucks (G2T).