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Rating the chances of the European runners at Del Mar

Highland Reel on his way to glory in the Breeders' Cup Turf
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Keith Melrose assesses the chances of European runners for each race in which they hold at least one of the golden tickets.

Juvenile Fillies' Turf (9.25 GMT Friday)
Runners (not including reserves): Happily, Now You're Talking, Madeline, September, Juliet Capulet

The potted version of any Breeders' Cup preview would be the rule of thumb that states if a race is on turf, then the Europeans have a good chance.

The slight counterbalance is that tight, left-handed US turf tracks (of which Del Mar is among the tightest) are a relative rarity over here and that is worth noting in particular in this race, where most of the key European form comes from places like Newmarket, the Curragh and Newbury. Those races, mostly run in the autumn, have also been on softer ground.

Happily is a dual Group 1 winner and the likeliest to take this if handling conditions. Even if she doesn't, Rockfel winner Juliet Capulet and a handful of other Group 1-placed fillies give Europe one of its deepest line-ups of the meeting.

Rating: 8/10

Juvenile Turf (10.50)
Runners: Mendelssohn, Sands Of Mali, Beckford, Masar, James Garfield, Rajasinghe

A maiden Grade 1 success is guaranteed here as none of the 14 have previously won at the highest level. Beckford has been in the queue longest and has gone closest, beaten just half a length in the Phoenix Stakes in August.

A flick through the form of the runners would suggest that Europe's six have much more good form to call upon. Strictly that is true, but bear in mind that the only two turf Grade 1s for two-year-olds in the US take place at this fixture so it is to be expected that the European runners look stronger on paper.

Dutched on Wednesday, Europe would be shorter than 1-2. The reality is probably less rosy, but still shorter than even money.

Rating: 7/10

Beckford: has come close to Group 1 success in Europe

Turf Sprint (7.37 Saturday)
Runners: Washington DC, Marsha, Cotai Glory

There is plenty of European ink in Lady Aurelia's passport, but here she is part of the home team and her style is theoretically at least as well suited to rattling quick, tight-turning courses like this.

Marsha is the main European hope, having mowed down Lady Aurelia at York and some of the locals will tell you that the sprint track is a closer's track – which may just be relative.

Washington DC and Cotai Glory are close enough in sprinting terms to have a puncher's chance, but their prospects, and those of most of the others, appear to rest on John Velasquez getting over-excited on the favourite.

Rating: 5/10

Filly & Mare Turf (9.00)
Runners: Senga, Wuheida, Queen's Trust, Nezwaah, Rhododendron

A wide draw and a trip that is potentially on the sharp side works against Rhododendron, who would otherwise have been a warm order after her success in the Prix de l'Opera.

Queen's Trust won the race last year for Sir Michael Stoute, who has an especially good record in this contest. Her season up to now has not been quite as bad as the form figures imply and you can guarantee this has been the date circled on the calendar all along.

Allied to that, the three-strong back-up squad can all claim individual Group 1 success in Europe, a French Classic in the case of Senga.

Rating: 7/10

Rhododendron (far side) landing the Prix de l'Opera last month

Mile (10.19)
Runners: Lancaster Bomber, Zelzal, Suedois, Home Of The Brave, Ribchester, Roly Poly, Karar

Exactly half of the field in the mile are European and, even besides champion older miler Ribchester, most would be in the first half of the betting.

'Home' hopes rest with Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse, best known to European fans for saddling last year's Queen Anne Stakes winner Tepin. World Approval is North America's top turf miler and was last seen giving Lancaster Bomber a sound beating in the Woodbine Mile. The weight of numbers still lie in Europe's favour.

Rating: 8/10

Juvenile (10.58)
Runner: US Navy Flag

With the likes of Bolt D'Oro and Free Drop Billy against him it will not be easy, but US Navy Flag is a genuinely interesting contender for Aidan O'Brien, who won this race with Johannesburg 16 years ago.

Not only is US Navy Flag progressing fast and the winner of perhaps Europe's best juvenile race, the manner in which he won the Dewhurst and a plum draw in stall one here provide the ingredients for a bold bid from Ryan Moore. Furthermore, his pedigree has an encouraging number of US performers in there. He could be his yard's and his continent's surprise package.

Rating: 6/10

US Navy Flag: a genuine Juvenile contender

Turf (11.37)
Runners: Talismanic, Highland Reel, Decorated Knight, Ulysses, Cliffs Of Moher, Seventh Heaven

This is a corner of America that is forever Europe. An overwhelming majority of winners have shipped in and, while eight of the runners this year are trained in North America, only one of them (Beach Patrol) is a single-figure price.

Highland Reel heads the betting ahead of Ulysses, with Decorated Knight another really interesting runner stepped up to 1m4f for the first time. When the six runners from Europe would make a decent Group 1 on their own, it is hard to see the Americans getting a look in.

Rating: 10/10

Classic (12.35)

Runners: War Decree, Churchill
Ballydoyle have a history of finding the Classic too good to resist and the chances are their two runners this time are rather tilting at windmills once more.

Churchill has the class to compete with a seemingly diminished Arrogate and maybe even Gun Runner on the form he showed in the spring. Also, he has something more of a dirt racer's way of doing things than Gleneagles, the last O'Brien horse to try to win the Classic.

However, it is difficult to argue against the idea that his form chance, plus the uncertainty over taking to the surface, are both sufficiently factored into a price of 16-1.

Rating: 3/10

The presence of dual Guineas winner Churchill poses a number of questions

If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Tom Kerr's Del Mar diary

Europeans in luck with draw favouring majority of raiders 


His pedigree has an encouraging number of US performers in there. He could be his yard's and his continent's surprise package
E.W. Terms
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