The Breeders' Cup welcoming top international horses is not news, but it's worth pausing to consider the lineup for this year's World Championships that arrived from overseas.
There is the current frontrunner for the Cartier Award as Europe's Horse of the Year, Roaring Lion, who already has won four group 1 races this year in England and Ireland. Roaring Lion, a Kentucky-bred son of Kitten's Joy, will try dirt for the first time in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
In fact, the Classic is a truly an international test this year with Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) winner Thunder Snow (IRE) and UAE Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) winner Mendelssohn, who enters the Classic off a third-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park.
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Then there is the two-time Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Enable (GB), who is favored in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T). Despite missing most of the season because of injury, Enable could make a run at Europe's top honor if she becomes the first horse to sweep the Arc and Turf in the same year.
Those four standouts represent some of the world's top owners in Coolmore (Mendelssohn), Juddmonte Farms (Enable), Godolphin (Thunder Snow), and Qatar Racing (Roaring Lion).
Breeders' Cup always goes a long way toward determining North American champions. But with those international equine stars in place, the World Championships also could prove crucial in determining Europe's champions.
With 222 points, Roaring Lion currently holds a clear lead in both the Cartier Horse of the Year and Cartier 3-year-old colt categories. Victory in the Classic would boost his leading position. Despite racing just twice this season, Enable could still challenge for Cartier Horse of the Year and Cartier Older Horse, especially if she triumphs Nov. 3.
"There is a strong European challenge for the 2018 Breeders' Cup, and the performances of Enable and Roaring Line at Churchill Downs will help determine the winner of the Cartier Horse Of The Year Award," said Harry Herbert, racing consultant to the Cartier Awards.
Those four standouts lead a contingent of 43 foreign-trained Breeders' Cup entries (44 if you count Quarteto de Cordas (BRZ), who will make his United States debut in the Turf for Ian Wilkes after racing in his native Brazil) that has the international barn bursting at the seams. That number nearly matches the record 46 entered last year.
"It's important for the 'World Championships' branding of Breeders' Cup that this be a truly international event," said Breeders' Cup vice president of racing and nominations Dora Delgado.
A number of changes contributed to the impressive number and quality of international runners at Breeders' Cup. Delgado credited an up to $40,000 travel allowance for overseas horses easing owner costs, an increase in overseas Challenge races keeping the event out front with horsemen, and old-fashioned recruiting led by Breeders' Cup director of racing and nominations Joshua Christian, who spends the racing season in Europe.
Delgado said Christian's on-site presence helps horsemen with any level of interest in Breeders' Cup, informing them on everything from eligibility to purses to what Breeders' Cup has to offer and what to expect in making the trip. With Dubai, Hong Kong, Australia, and others trying to land the world's top horses, Delgado said Breeders' Cup has to compete.
"It's such a small group of horses that everyone is after," Delgado noted.