Intense competition for the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Classic at Santa Anita

Mostahdaf has already delivered two of the best performances seen in Europe this year and could now end his racing career in a blaze of glory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) at Santa Anita early on Sunday morning (5 November) at 5.50am (HKT).

Co-trainer John Gosden observed trackside this week that the Turf looks the strongest race of America's great two-day meeting, a comment that suggests he respects the depth of opposition to his five-year-old who gained two standout victories in Royal Ascot's G1 Prince of Wales's Stakes (1993m) and York's G1 International Stakes (2051m) this year.

That fearsome opposition include fellow Europeans in the shape of four-time Group 1-winning three-year-old Auguste Rodin and the giant King Of Steel , who just two weeks before this weekend's showcase meeting surged from last-to-first to win Ascot's G1 Champion Stakes (2000m).

This pair will be ridden by Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori, respectively, both past celebrants of Breeders' Cup Turf glory.

Irad Ortiz Jr has also won the Turf before and he partners Up To The Mark, probably the strongest American contender following a succession of Group 1 victories over shorter, latterly when galvanised from the back by Jose Ortiz to land last month's G1 Coolmore Turf Mile (1600m) at Keeneland.

Gosden says of Mostahdaf , who had a hit and miss profile in his younger days: "A lot of horses are at their peak at five and he's just got better and better. He's been full of it out on the track this week and has always been a great character, enormous fun to train."

Whilst Mostahdaf's two huge Great Britain performances this summer came over shorter trips, Gosden reminds us that he has won over the Turf distance (a Group 3 race at Kempton in 2022), and that the quick ground at this sun-soaked track is right in favour of Jim Crowley's mount.

Gosden, who has enjoyed huge world-wide success since starting out in California back in 1979, finally puts in a good word for another of Mostahdaf's Turf rivals: "I respect Onesto as much as any of the others," he says of the French-trained colt who was a fast finishing third to unbeaten superstar Ace Impact in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp last month.

Just as the Europeans threaten the Americans in the Turf, so do Japanese contenders for the meeting's biggest prize, the US$6 million (approx. HK$48.984 million) Breeders' Cup Classic over 1 1⁄4 m on dirt.

Their two contestants, Derma Sotogake and Ushba Tesoro, have both already demonstrated why Japanese dirt horses have become so respected on the international stage.

And Ushba Tesoro – a revelation since switching from turf – is now hunting for his seventh straight win including a memorable stretch surge to capture Meydan's signature race – the G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt) – at Meydan in March.

But American-trained horses have traditionally dominated this and seven of their contenders won graded stakes races on their last start, four of them at Group 1 level.

One of those is the Flavien Prat-ridden three-year-old Arabian Knight trained by Bob Baffert, especially interesting as the last four three-year-olds to win the Classic were all trained by Santa Anita-based Baffert.

The 2023 Triple Crown races were deliberately avoided and Arabian Knight was only having his fourth career start when leading throughout to capture the G1 Pacific Classic (2000m) at Del Mar in September.

"They came at him at Del Mar but he wouldn't let them He's a one-dimensional speed horse but he's a real athlete with a great mind," Baffert said.  

Sign up for our free newsletter.

© 2023 Sky Racing World. All rights reserved.