Breeders’ Cup Turf 2021: Odds and analysis

Breeders’ Cup Turf 2021: Odds and analysis
Photo: Shamela Hanley/Eclipse Sportswire

The $4 million, Breeders’ Cup Turf drew a full field of 14 international turf starts that will go the 1 1/2-mile distance at Del Mar on Saturday.

The field is evenly divided between seven European-based and seven American-based runners, although 10 of the horses are listed as European-breds and have run in races around the world.

European runners won five of the last six runnings of the Turf, with Bricks and Mortar the winner in 2019 for Chad Brown. Since 2010, Bricks and Mortar and Enable were the only post-time favorites to win this race.

Here is a full-field analysis for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, with the official track morning-line odds. Slated as race 11 out of 12, the post time is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. EDT.

1. Rockemperor (IRE) (15-1 – Holy Roman Emperor (IRE) – Chad Brown / Javier Castellano – 20: 4-5-6 - $914,404) Rockemperor registered the first Grade 1 victory of his career in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont when he rallied to win by two lengths at odds of 15-1. Rockemperor was part of the onslaught of the Chad Brown barn in September and October when they were winning stakes across the country. He is the first of three for Brown in the Turf. It was also the first stakes win for Rockemperor since coming to race in America. He won a minor stake in France as a 3-year-old. Use underneath.

2. United (20-1 – Giant’s CausewayRichard Mandella / John Velazquez – 22: 10-4-1 - $1,813,548) United will make his third start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf after finishing eighth last year and second in 2019 behind Bricks and Mortar at Santa Anita. Since last year’s Turf, United has victories in a Grade 3 and a pair of Grade 2s. The late runner has a strong record at Del Mar – 6: 3-2-0. He won races as a deep closer in his most recent start and also stalking. United knows how to win races, and is hard to discount him down the stretch. Superfecta finish possible.

3. Domestic Spending (GB) (4-1 – Kingman (GB)Chad Brown / Flavien Prat – 8: 6-1-1 - $1,432,100) Domestic Spending leads the American contingent in the Turf as Chad Brown tries to win this race for the second time. Like Bricks and Mortar, who won this race in 2019 for Brown, he will have to go 1 1/2 miles for the first time. He won the Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar to end his 2020 campaign. Domestic Spending came back this year to win the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Manhattan (G1) before falling a neck short after a pace-compromised trip in the Mr. D (G1) at Arlington. Win contender.

4. Astronaut (20-1 – Quality RoadJohn Shirreffs / Victor Espinoza– 9: 2-5-0 - $285,860) Astronaut upset the field in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) to get his first stakes win at odds of 24-1. That was only the second win of his career, and it came in August. He has not run since that victory, and that makes him hard to recommend against this formidable field. Toss.

5. Tribhuvan (FR) (20-1 – Toronado (IRE)Chad Brown / Jose Ortiz – 9: 3-3-2 - $1,190,992) This French-bred began his career in France, where he had a pair of minor stakes wins before joining the barn of Chad Brown to begin racing in the spring of 2020. Since then, he won three times, with victories in the 2021 Fort Marcy (G2) and the United Nations (G1), which turned out to be a bit of a key race. Tribhuvan raced only once since then, finishing fifth in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga. The third of the Brown runners in this field, he prefers to race on the lead. Toss.

6. Acclimate (20-1 – AcclimationPhilip D’Amato / Ricardo Gonzalez – 27: 7-5-5 - $633,872) This 7-year-old does his best work while racing on the lead as he did to win the San Juan Capistrano (G3) at Santa Anita when he got loose on the lead against a field of six. He was ninth in the 2019 running of the Turf when he was the pace setter. That year he did win the Del Mar Handicap (G2). His good recent form does not seem to be enough, although his pace presence certainly will influence the running of this race. Toss.

7. Walton Street (GB) (8-1 – Cape Cross (IRE)Charlie Appleby / James Doyle – 19: 7-4-4 - $962,153) It does not seem to matter where Charlie Appleby ships his horses in North America for them to run big. He has two entered as he tries to win his fourth Breeders’ Cup race and the Turf for the first time. This 7-year-old crushed a field of eight in the Canadian International (G1) as the odds-on favorite. The win earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure for the 12 furlongs. In his prior start, Walton Street was third in a Group 1 in Germany. He had a prior three-race winning streak that included a Group 2 at Meydan in March. Win contender.

8. Broome (IRE) (20-1 – Australia (GB)Aidan O’Brien / Frankie Dettori – 20: 7-5-0 - $1,012,605) Trainer Aidan O’Brien won at the Breeders’ Cup 13 times, and six of them were in the Turf. It must be noted that O’Brien had 156 starters in the World Championships, which translates to an 8.3 percent win percentage. Broome was last seen finishing 11th in the Arc (G1) but he did win the Prix Foy (G2) and the Grand Prix at Saint-Cloud (G1) in the summer. As is usually the case, O’Brien is never shy about taking on the best horses in the biggest races, and he should never be ignored. Use underneath.

Sisfahan (FR) (12-1 – Isfahan (GER)Henk Grewe / Cristian DeMuro – 6: 2-3-1 - $535,929) Sisfahan will be the second Breeders’ Cup starter for the German trainer Henk Grewe. This lightly raced 3-year-old won the Deutsches Derby (G1) in July and followed that with a second and a third in Group 1 races in September against relatively small fields. Toss.

10. Yibir (GB) (12-1 – Dubawi (IRE)Charlie Appleby / William Buick – 11: 5-1-2 - $815,850) This 3-year-old gelding is another one from the barn of Charlie Appleby and Godolphin that has shipped across the Atlantic to win a big race. Yibir won a Group 2 at York in August and then the Jockey Club Derby at Belmont in September with a strong closing move. This is the time of year when the sophomore runners can catch up to the older horses. Use underneath.

11. Gufo (8-1 – Declaration of WarChristophe Clement / Joel Rosario – 13: 7-2-4 - $1,198,510) Gufo hit the board in all 13 career starts, including a win in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga this summer. In the recent Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park, regular rider Joel Rosario moved Gufo earlier than usual, fearing that the pace setter might be hard to catch if he was left alone. Gufo hit the lead with a half-mile left and got run down by Rockemperor. It must be noted that trainer Christophe Clement has yet to win a race in the Breeders’ Cup after 40 starters. Use underneath.

Teona (IRE) (6-1 – Sea The Stars (IRE)Roger Varian / David Egan – 6: 3-1-1 - $453,320) This lightly raced 3-year-old filly won her last two starts with a minor stakes victory against the boys in Great Britain followed by a Group 1 at Longchamp in September against fillies and mares. That win came at odds of 17-1 against a small field. This looks like a significant challenge, considering her limited race record and the overall strength of this large group of turf stars. Toss.

13. Tarnawa (IRE) (9-5 – ShamardalDermot Weld / Colin Keane – 17: 9-4-2 - $4,453,302) The winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland proved then that she likes the tight turns and firm going of American turf courses. This will be her fourth start of the year against the boys, with a win in a Group 3 and a pair of seconds, by less than a length each time, in the Arc and the Champion Stakes. Also in 2020, she did not lose while racing against fillies and mares. Class is of no concern against this field, and she is the horse to beat. Top choice.

14. Japan (GB) (20-1 – Galileo (IRE)Aidan O’Brien / Ryan Moore – 20: 7-1-4 - $2,337,828) Japan is the second O’Brien runner in the main body of the field, although he does have two on the also-eligible list. Japan’s last two starts were in America when he finished sixth in the Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont and missed winning the Sword Dancer by a neck behind Gufo. Japan was a Group 1 winner in 2019 and at the time was at the top of the European runners. As a 5-year-old he might have lost a step, and breaking from the far outside doesn’t help. Toss.


15. Bolshoi Ballet (IRE) (15-1 – Galileo (IRE)Aidan O’Brien / TBD – 9: 4-0-1 - $768,454)
16. Channel Maker (20-1 – English ChannelBill Mott / TBD – 42: 7-6-5 - $3,296,551)
17. Mogul (GB) (30-1 – Galileo (IRE)Aidan O’Brien / TBD – 15: 5-1-2 - $2,140,837)
18. Friar’s Road (30-1 – Quality RoadMichael McCarthy / TBD – 10: 2-3-1 - $141,500)

Summary: The 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf has perfect mix of outstanding European and American grass stars. Even more interesting is that this race figures to be contentious from the start, with several horses that want to race on the lead. The strong early pace should set the table for the many late runners in the field.

Handicappers looking to beat the Europeans in the Turf point to the firm going and the tighter turns of the short-distanced grass course at Del Mar. The recent record in the Turf says that the Europeans who come to the Breeders’ Cup can handle the American setup.

Domestic Spending is the U.S.-based runner with a chance to win the Turf, but he will have to beat the Euros of choice – Tarnawa, Walton Street, and Yibir.

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