Breeders’ Cup Contenders

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Now that full results are known for the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs across November 2 & 3, 2018, it’s interesting to look back at where the main contenders finished.

Some of the headline acts got the job done while others struggled, but all in all this goes down as one of the most successful Breeders’ Cups in recent memory.

Not everyone’s picks for the big races were among the favorites and it’s great to look back at what odds the contenders went off at on course – check out our Breeders’ Cup Odds page to find out more about that.

Here’s what happened to the main contenders in the big races in 2018:

Leading Breeders’ Cup Contenders

Breeders’ Cup Classic:

Run over 11/4 miles on dirt, the classic brought the curtain down on the championships and is the most coveted prize, taken this year by a horse we are sure to see again in the Pegasus World Cup.

  • Accelerate (John Sadler)

    We commented in the run-up to the race that this five-year-old had put in probably the performance of the season when winning by 12½ lengths at Del Mar in late August and that a repeat of that would see him win, and win he did.

    After leading at the eighth pole Accelerate was driven out by superstar jockey Joel Rosario to win by a length and take the prize for first place.

  • Catholic Boy (Jonathan Thomas)

    A winner of the Travers Stakes by a cool four lengths, it was commented here that the race was tactical and perhaps couldn’t be taken at face value. In the end that proved right as Catholic Boy wandered in 13th of 14 runners to the disappointment of his connections.

  • Mckinzie (Bob Baffert)

    A win in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx had put Mckinzie right in the Classic picture and he was heavily bet on the day at Churchill Downs. Bob Baffert’s horse almost went off favorite in fact but in the end ran poorly, coming home 12th under jockey Mike Smith.

  • Roaring Lion (John Gosden)

    Named after the event as the Cartier Horse of the Year in Britain after his awesome and versatile season, connections knew this was somewhat of a shot to nothing as he’d had a really tough season and was tackling dirt for the first time.

    Unfortunately John Gosden couldn’t grab his second Classic as the Lion came in last, a run that took nothing away from what he’d achieved during the year.

  • Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor)

    Despite going off at big odds, we commented here that the four-year-old had an outstanding chance after his Dubai World Cup win and his second in a prep in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

    He ran superbly in the end, was bumped along the way then challenged hard until the 1/16 marker before just being out-battled into third place. He may yet be back for more in the States.

  • West Coast (Bob Baffert)

    After being placed in the 2017 Classic, the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup West Coast was seen as a solid option for some bettors and again he ran well. After a brief challenge he weakened out of contention to finish 7th in the end, a run that probably spells the end for him at the top level.

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Breeders’ Cup Mile:

The mile is run on the turf and precisely because of that has often been dominated by the Europeans who once again sent a strong team.

  • Expert Eye (Sir Michael Stoute)

    Our feelings were that this horse was just reaching his peak and would love conditions at Churchill Downs and so it proved.

    As second choice of the bettors, many expected a good run from Sir Michael Stoute’s runner but in a competitive race he barely got a mention going into the final eighth of a mile. Suddenly however under a fantastic ride from Frankie Dettori, Expert Eye was produced just before the line to win cosily by a half-length.

  • I Can Fly (Aidan O’Brien)

    Second to Roaring Lion at Grade 1 level over a mile in England, much was expected of this filly who had shown real improvement over the course of the year. She broke slowly however and was never a factor in the race, eventually finishing 12th of 14 runners.

  • Oscar Performance (Brian Lynch)

    As the Woodbine Mile winner, Jose Ortiz’s mount was a strong favorite for this but broke slowly from the gates and never, ever looked happy. He was last of 14 which clearly isn’t his true running.

  • Polydream (Freddie Head)

    A major contender having run right to the top level on turf in Europe however this horse made for some controversial news in the run-up to the big day. Vets at Churchill Downs had deemed the horse lame; something labelled a “disgrace” by trainer Freddie Head.

    Head had told officials that Polydream had a strange stance and walk and that the horse was never lame, but the decision could not be reversed and this major contender was not allowed to run.


Breeders’ Cup Sprint:

A six furlong dash on the dirt, blink and you miss this one as the speed merchants take center-stage.

  • Imperial Hint (Luis Carvajal)

    Having only been beaten by a length in last year’s Sprint, this horse was an obvious contender and had won a Grade One during the summer at Saratoga. He went off favorite at the track but in the end had to travel five wide and ran out of steam, finishing 3rd.

  • Limousine Liberal (Ben Colebrook)

    This one had mixed form with a few other contenders in this race and always looked likely to run well, perhaps without winning. That’s what happened in the end as he drifted 6 horses wide before coming down the straight and finishing 5th.

  • Promises Fulfilled (Dale Romans)

    A Grade 2 win at Keeneland had put this three-year-old right into contention although he looked as though he’d need to pull out a little more. Jockey Luis Saez had to hard press this horse and in the end he ran well enough to finished fourth.

  • Roy H (Peter Miller)

    Last year’s champion was once again well backed after finishing third in Dubai and a good seasonal reappearance at Del Mar in July. Amazingly he wasn’t favorite at the off, but ran like he was as he hit the gate but got straight into a good position and flew home to take this race by more than 3 lengths under Paco Lopez.


Breeders’ Cup Juvenile:

11/16 miles is the distance for this race and it is quite a test for these young horses, the race being won last year by Good Magic and it was hoped we’d see another Kentucky Derby contender win this.

  • Game Winner (Bob Baffert)

    This colt gave Bob Baffert a record 14th Del Mar Futurity win in September before following up easily in the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita to make it a perfect prep for this race.

    He went off a very strong favorite and didn’t give bettors many worries either, powering home to win this by 2¼ lengths under Joel Rosario to immediately earn many people’s vote for the Kentucky Derby in 2019.

  • Gunmetal Gray (Jerry Hollendorfer)

    Having been beaten by Game Winner in the American Pharoah, he had some good form and looked like an improver but although he ran well enough, he had to settle for 5th place in the end.

  • Mind Control (Gregory Sacco)

    We thought that, as a Grade One winner after his Hopeful Stakes victory at Saratoga, this was an improving horse but one that’ll need to handle the step up in distance having shown roar speed so far and so it proved. A good run in 7th, but not quite good enough.


Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf:

The one mile distance and the fact that is it on the grass brought some powerful overseas contenders, many of whom are being aimed at English, Irish and French classics next year.

  • Anthony Van Dyck (Aidan O’Brien)

    A leading light for the Irish champion who trained the winner of this race in 2017, Mendelssohn. He’d been running over seven furlongs but was an early favorite for next year’s 1 1/2 mile Derby at Epsom. He went off as market leader for this race too but was never at it, running 9th of 14 under Ryan Moore.

  • Current (Todd Pletcher)

    A nice win in a very valuable race at Keeneland put this horse on track for a go at this race and he held every chance on the book. From his wide gate position he didn’t really get into contention though and ran 7th for Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.

  • Forty Under (Jeremiah Englehart)

    A rare turf contender for the ‘home’ team, this son of Uncle Mo had the breeding to take a close hand in this but as a Grade 3 winner the form wasn’t really in the bag. He made a bid for the win at the 3/8 pole but faded out of it to run 6th.

  • Line Of Duty (Charlie Appleby)

    The superstar trainer is no stranger to American Grade 1 wins nor to handling improving horses so we commented that it would be no surprise to see this one streak home.

    William Buick had this improver midfield before having to ride him 2 furlongs from home. He drifted left but straightened up when hitting the front to score the win by a half length. He may be back at next year’s championships too.


Breeders’ Cup Distaff:

The females ran over 1 1/8 miles on the dirt track this time with an anticipated battle between two in-form fillies, though only one did the business.

  • Abel Tasman (Bob Baffert)

    Now with Baffert, she was beaten at odds of 1-10 before this race but remained a filly of tremendous value. Mike Smith was fighting this one from the off though and the strongly fancied second-favorite never hit the heights, trailing home last of 11 runners.

  • Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen)

    Goes down as a winner against Monomoy Girl after Brad Cox’s filly was disqualified in their last run before this race and, despite a decent late challenge, she could do no better than third place this time under John Velazquez.

  • Monomoy Girl (Brad Cox)

    Straightforward and consistent, we commented that this three-year-old filly had all the right attributes to be a leading fancy in this race and she didn’t let bettors down. She went off favorite for the race, was ridden very confidently by Florent Geroux and prevailed by one length to take the prize.


Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf:

Another race the European horses tend to do well in but this time there was a very strong home challenger.

  • Magic Wand (Aidan O’Brien)

    She had both won and lost battles against Wild Illusion in 2018 but her trainer was hoping these faster conditions can show her off in a better light against her old rival. On this occasion she was looking good in the early stages under Ryan Moore but faded a little, running fourth of 14 runners.

  • Sistercharlie (Chad Brown)

    We thought that on breeding she should relish this challenge, the former French trained filly having improved nicely since coming to the States. She didn’t quite beat Wild Illusion to favouritism but just got the better of the battle on the turf under a great ride from John Velazquez who produced the filly on the wide outside to win by a neck.

  • Wild Illusion (Charlie Appleby)

    Having gone down to 1 1/4 miles to great effect, going back up in distance could have been a worry but round these bends and in warmer conditions we thought this race could still be to her liking for last year’s winning combination of Appleby and Godolphin (Wuheida).

    She ran great in the end and looked like her challenge was timed to perfection under Will Buick, though right at the death Sistercharlie flashed past to consign her to second place.


Breeders’ Cup Turf:

Once more it was thought visiting horses could dominate here, their proven stamina on turf surfaces being an advantage over this 1 1/2 mile trip.

  • Enable (John Gosden)

    Simply the best filly in Europe over the past two years, maybe even in the world. She created history in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when she became only the 8th horse in history to win the race twice and the first ever to do it at two different tracks and there was to be more history for her.

    In winning this race, which she battled hard to do under Frankie Dettori as a strong favorite, she became the first horse win the Arc / Turf double and her owner has since announced that she will stay in training as a five-year-old, great news for us all!

  • Magical (Aidan O’Brien)

    A winner on Champions Day in England on October 20, this was a quick turnaround but we commented that she was capable of at least a top 4 finish in this race and so it proved. She in fact gave Enable most to think about, battling hard to run second to the great filly.

  • Waldeist (Andre Fabre)

    A contender for the great French trainer Andre Fabre and one that fared OK in the Arc behind Enable. He ran well in this but faded late on to finished 5th.


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