Moment of 2020: European Success at the Breeders' Cup

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Tarnawa | Coady Photography

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In Moment of 2020, the staff of TDN Europe reflect on their favourite moments in racing for the year.

The Breeders' Cup is always a meeting that I particularly enjoy; it is a time when my keen interests in both European and American racing come together. The Breeders' Cup always involves some incredible clashes of the continents, and it is the most international meeting when you consider participation and the gravity that both sides place on it.

The 2020 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland included a remarkably strong European presence, with seven of the 13 trainers that sent horses across the Atlantic having their first runners at the meeting. After eight months of relative isolation in Lexington, where I am based, it was fantastic to get out to Keeneland in the mornings ahead the Breeders' Cup and catch up with some of these connections, all of whom were excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity.

There were a few promising performances on the Friday-I'm thinking of Ubettabelieveit (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) blowing the break in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and then riding the rail under a sterling ride from young jockey Rowan Scott to get up for third; a remarkable effort from both horse and rider. But things really came together on the Saturday, when Team Europe took each of the four races in which it had runners, with three of them going to those aforementioned rookie trainers as well as riders having their first wins at the meeting.

First up was the likeable sprinting mare Glass Slippers (GB) (Dream Ahead), who made it a perfect start at the Breeders' Cup for trainer Kevin Ryan, jockey Tom Eaves and her small owner/breeders Terry and Margaret Holdcroft of Bearstone Stud when splitting rivals late to get up for a mild upset in the GI Turf Sprint.

Next up was the French mare Audarya (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who struck at big odds in the GI Filly & Mare Turf to provide a popular victory for veteran Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe, who was sending out his first Breeders' Cup starter. It was also a first win at the meeting for young French star Pierre-Charles Boudot, who remarkably won the GI Mile two races later aboard the Aidan O'Brien-trained Order Of Australia (Ire) (Australia {GB}), both of which were pick-up mounts from riders that had been ruled out of the meeting by COVID-19. O'Brien, of course, is no stranger to Breeders' Cup success, but it was somewhat surprising that this was his first win in the Mile. Even more remarkable was the fact that Order Of Australia-the longest shot on the board at 73-1–led home a trifecta for his great trainer, but none of the three runners was below 10-1.

Boudot wasn't the only rider at the meeting to benefit from the COVID-induced absence of another. The Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) was, like Order Of Australia, slated to be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, but when he returned a positive test to the virus it was Colin Keane who stepped into his boots to provide the globetrotting trainer Weld with a popular first Breeders' Cup score in the Aga Khan's colours. There was a sobering undertone to the result, though; it was lost on few that under different circumstances that would have been the mount of Pat Smullen, who was tragically lost to pancreatic cancer in September at just 43 years of age.

The Breeders' Cup rarely disappoints, but I particularly enjoyed the 2020 edition as a welcome distraction for a few days from the hardships of the year and as an occasion to celebrate some deserved debut victories at the meeting.

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