Special to NBCSports.com courtesy of Michael Dempsey
More than two dozen runners for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are shipping in from overseas to try and grab part of the more than $25 million in purses that are up for grabs at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.
European shippers have fared well in the Breeders' Cup, particularly in turf races, and there are several this year that have a good chance of winning (who tops the Breeders Cup odds menus at most racebooks).
European shippers have dominated in the Turf, winning six of the last seven years, including last year's victory by St Nicholas Abbey, who is back to defend his title.
Longshot Court Vision ended a three year reign by European sensation Goldikova, who shipped to the U.S. to win the Mile three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.
Here is a look at several of the top overseas invaders for this year's Breeders' Cup, none of whom will factor in the high-profile Juvenile Classic:
Fame and Glory (5-1) is one of four in here making their U.S. debuts. The Aiden O'Brien runner is a multiple Group 1 winner that has not won a Group race since last fall. Last out the six year old checked in fifth over soft ground going two miles in the British Champions Long Distance (Grade 3). He took over the lead with two furlongs to go, was headed just inside the final furlong and bumped with the runner up, weakening to finish fifth. We know he can run all day, a Group 1 winner going 2 1/2 miles, but this will be his first start on dirt, and he has lost a step or two from his younger days. Perhaps blinkers and Lasix will give him a boost. Euro invaders won the first two runnings of the Marathon, which were on the fake stuff here including O'Brien's Man Of Iron in 2009. He is no longer Group 1 caliber, but may be good enough to win here if he takes to the new surface. O'Brien is 6 of 74 in his Breeders' Cup career, winning a pair of races last year.
Filly & Mare Turf
The Fugue (3-1) is one of five in here that are based overseas. Her chances look pretty good after we saw I'm a Dreamer come to the U.S. off a third and a fourth place finish to win the Beverly D. (Grade 1) and Nahrain came to the U.S. off an eighth and a third place finish and won the Flower Bowl (Grade 1). Our top pick is coming off a tough neck loss in the Yorkshire Oaks (Grade 1) to Shareta, who came back to win the Qatar Prix Vermille (Grade 1) in her next outing on Sept. 18 and then ran ninth in the Arc (Grade 1). She will go tomorrow against the boys in the Turf. She is trained by John Gosden, who is 4 for 28 in the BC, his last win coming in the Juvenile Turf with Pounced in 2009. The filly may have gotten to the lead too soon last out and she was caught by Shareta. She drifted out a bit late. She adds blinkers to the mix here and three year olds have done well in this race, with Midday (2009), Ouija Board (2004) and Banks Hill (2001) all beating their elders. U.S. based runners actually hold an 8-5 edge over the overseas invaders in this race, although 2 of the 3 winners at Santa Anita in this race where Euros.
Dundonnell (4-1) is one of the overseas shippers and not much separates them. The colt is coming off a game runner up finish in the Champagne Stakes (Grade 2) at Doncaster in a five horse field. He could not get to the front runner last out after making a good move two furlongs out. He looks like he should move forward with the extra ground here. His trainer Roger Charlton has only one BC starter, Quest for Fame running third in the 1991 Turf.
St. Nicholas Abbey (7-2) is back to defend his title in the Turf, and the Euros have dominated in this race in the past decade. I am going to excuse his 11th place finish in the Arc de Triomphe (Grade 1) last out at Longchamp as the turf was boggy and heavy. He was third in his previous three starts, all in Group 1 company behind such talented runners as Frankel, Snow Fairy, and Danedream. He looks more than capable of winning back here for the O'Brien barn. The trainer is 6 for 74 overall in BC races, two of those winners coming last year.
Excelebration (2-1) ships in from overseas for the Aiden O'Brien barn and has won back to back Group 1 races. He raced on Oct. 20, a much the best winner in the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot, and won the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in France. The colt has been running in the shadow of Frankel this year and in his career has won 8 of 14 starts. In five races were he did not win, Frankel beat him. His win last out earned him Timeform of 135+ and his Racing Post Rating was 131. We have seen overseas invaders with less ability come over and be competitive in Grade 1 company and I think this guy had a real good shot of beating Wise Dan.
The Breeders' Cup offers 15 championship races over two days, bringing together the best top horses, trainers, and jockeys from around the world - along with the best horse handicappers - this year to compete at Santa Anita Park.
Free horse handicapping contests on the Breeders Cup weekend, check out TrackChampion.com .