BC Turf Looks to Break the Three-Year-Old Domination

BC Turf – Grade I
DMR Race #16 1 1/2m Turf Graded Stake
Purse $4,000.000 For Three Year Olds And Upward.

Well the single biggest stat that has stood up loud and proud in this race and most of the BC races in recent history is the three year olds winning record. The last seven running’s of this race have been won by three year olds, a remarkable statistic and one that seemed to have been born from the change in development around 2012/2013. They had won two from the previous eleven leading up to 2014 so the change was obvious and clear.
Earlier this year we had a change to the race engine, we can only speculate but with that race engine change came a change to the top graded stakes racing and that change saw less three year olds taking the big races. Now there is speculation around the development being changed, the race engine not having the same weight carrying characteristics or that this years crop of three’s just aren’t as good. We will probably never know the real reason but what we have this year is a much more open race where a three year old may win but it is no longer a nailed on certainty.

The Turf is one of the big ones of the Breeders Cup series. In real life we see horses coming from all over the world where racing on the grass is far more popular but here at HRP we only have the home grown stars to talk about but picking a winner is no easier. The first Turf was won by the infamous Cincinnati Racing with a three year old autogen that had only raced three times before the race and was to disappear along with the trainer before it could run again. 2009 and 2010 saw the great Bronze Sabre become the only horse to win the race twice and he set the race record of 2.22.58 over a second faster than any winner since. Australia Wide and Mb Stables are the only owners to have won twice which is fitting considering their stature in the game.

In an effort to fully understand this great race in more detail lets look at all the winners since 2010 and try and find some common ground to help us in our quest to find the winner.

2010 Bronze Sabre
Last two runs before the BC: first in Arlington Million at grade one, first in the Pattison Canadian International at grade one.

2010 form figures before the BC: 1121111

Positional splits in running: 2,2,2,1

2011 Loookin Good
Last two runs before the BC: Second in The Saranac at grade 3, third in the Pattison Canadian International at grade one

2011 form figures before the BC: 13120140223

Positional splits in running: 1,1,1,1

2012 Square Box
Last two runs before the BC: Third in the Arlington Million at grade one, second in the Pattison Canadian International at grade one.

2012 before the BC form figures: 1113032

Positional splits before the BC 2,3,2,1

2013 Premier Khana
Last two runs before the BC: First in the Man O War at grade one, first in the Hirsch Turf Classic at grade one.

2013 form figures before the BC: 32111

Positional splits in running: 3,2,1,1

2014 Ashkalani
Last two runs before the BC: first in the Saranac at grade three, fourth in the Hill Prince at grade three

2014 form figures before the BC: 00131110

Positional splits in running; 3,2,1,1

2015 Tundra Kenny
Last two runs before the BC: First in the Sword Dancer at grade one, third in the Hill Prince at grade three.

2015 form figures before the BC: 13421113

Positional splits in running: 10,11,7,1

2016 Admirals Aces
last two runs before the BC: second in the Saranac at grade three, first in the Hirsch Turf Classic at grade one

2016 form figures before the BC: 0404121

Positional splits in running: 3,4,1,1

2017 Clockwork Chai
Last two runs before the BC: First in the Arlington Million at grade one, third in the Hirsch Turf Classic at grade one.

2017 form figures before the BC: 1111113

Positional splits in running: 14, 12, 6, 1

2018 Early Retirement
Last two runs before the BC: First in the Arlington Million at grade one, second in the Hirsch Turf Classic at grade one.

2018 form figures before the BC: 2122112

Positional splits in running: 2, 2, 1, 1

2019 Dead Madness
Last two runs before the BC: third in the JC Derby, first in the Hill Prince at grade two.

2019 form figures before the BC: 112011131

Positional splits in running: 1,1,1,1

2020 Billy Joel
Last two runs before the BC: eighth in the KY Turf Cup, first in the Hirsch Turf Classic at grade one

2020 form figures before the BC: 221112101

Positional splits in running: 2,2,1,1


7 of the 11 winners had won a grade one in at least one of their last two starts

1 runner had won twice in the season running up to the BC, 4 had won three, 2 had won 4 and 4 had won five or more races.

Probably the most interesting stat is the running styles. two made all the running, two came from behind and the other seven ran the stalk. That’s nine of the last eleven winners were in the top four at every split a very important point if you are thinking of your tap and go instructions for the BC Turf. When you look at the way these horses predominately win and then remember that we had a race engine change to actually help on pace horses (even though there is no evidence here they needed it), you ca only predict that if you are not in the top four at the first split you probably have very little chance of winning.

OK so that’s the past what about the future, we have a balanced field this year for the first time in ages, will the three year olds continue their run or will the four year olds and up take advantage of what has been a great year for the older generation? Here is how they line up for the 2021 Breeders Cup Turf:

1        Sunlander       Ryan S        126

A five year old gelding

Trained by Nakamura Stables and bred by Barcelona Farms

Races: 22
Wins: 6
Purse: $1,343.600
This year: 20001

It has to be said on what this horse has done this year it looks lucky to have even made this field let alone secure the ace draw. But sometimes it takes just one race and whilst that is all it took this year a look back suggests he has a much better chance than recent form suggests.
Second in the JC Derby as a three year old he took the Pattison Canadian International last year on route to a good sixth from a terrible draw in last years BC Turf. He looked pretty good on his first appearance this year but his form fell away until he was sold for just $94.000 to the current owner. They took a while to get to know the horse but found the key to unlock the old form when this horse was brave off the front to win the Henry Championship last time. Recent work times suggest he is right back to his best and that could easily be good enough especially as the trainer is sending most of their runners and the ace draw is a great place to lead from.

2         Billy Joel       Saez L          126

a four year old gelding

Trained by La Canada Racehorses, bred by Broken Spoke Stables

Races: 17
Wins: 8
Purse: $3,194.480
This year: 1102

The first thing you notice about this one is the fact that he has only run four times this year which may be a stroke of genius if he wins this. Whilst many have had a busy year last years BC Turf Champion has been taking it easy, two stakes wins including a grade one suggest he has lost nothing of his zest for racing and the fact that he is fresh could make all the difference. It seems like a passage of right this year to have one inexplicable run on your record and Billy Joels came in the Untied Nations when he was a puzzling eighth. Ignoring that his two early season wins suggested he had lost nothing from his great BC winning form and his prep race for this in the Henry Championship went pretty well as he finished hard for a very close second. He was really impressive last year and he has done nothing really wrong this year so he must be a very good chance of repeating his great win and i do really like the fact that he is much fresher than some of the others.

3          Stallsome           Court J K         126

a six year old gelding

Trained by Maxmillion Farms and bred by Our Athletes

Races: 24
Wins: 8
Purse: $1,125.860
This year: 10021014

The turf king sends this six year old to the BC for the first time and as usual with HRP form his figures they read a bit all over the place. Bought for just ten dollars after being beaten in a $5.000 maiden claimer this is another masterclass by the turf king who took him from obscurity to grade one winner. Straight to turf routing he won a little stakes race but took a while to move to graded class but eventually did that in taking the Sycamore late last year. Since then he has steadily improved and burst onto the scene when taking the BEL Gold Cup and then following up in the Sword Dancer where he ran the stalk from a wide gate to beat Number Nine and Raj Action Packed. He closed nicely into fourth in the Pacific Classic in his prep race for this so comes here ready for action. There are a lot of things in his favor not least the trainer and the fact that as a six year old he hasn’t been over raced and looks to still be improving.

4       Kings Poker        Stein J           122

a three year old gelding

Trained and bred by Wood Duck Stables

Races: 9
Wins: 4
Purse: $493.890
This year: 2111312

If this was 2020 then this one would be a very strong fancy to win this and even with the fact that the three year olds haven’t been as dominant he still rates a real winning chance. A huge success story for the new stable that bred this themselves and has seen him progress quickly from a four race maiden to a grade one winner. His grade one win came in the Bruce D Stakes which wasn’t the strongest grade one but he did step up on that with a huge run on the Pacific Classic and it is that defeat that actually gives him his best chance in this race. He came on really strong at the end of that race and that suggests he is still improving and his works suggest he can be a part of the finish here from a great draw for the first time BC trainer.

5      Winter Solstice          Bridgmohan S X        126

a six year old gelding

Trained by John Henry and bred by EasyMoney Stables

Races: 37
Wins: 10
Purse: $2,786.990
This year: 11100100

He hasn’t had much success in this race finishing ninth and tenth but it would be unfair to write him off because of those efforts. Twice a grade one winner this year in the Mister D and the Man O War you could argue that he is the best form of his life but between those victories there has been some head scratcher’s. He ran a terrible race in the KY Turf Cup beaten eleven lengths into ninth but that was straight after a stunning win in the Mister D where he beat Hollywood Capo and Immoral with Anoush Command also behind. Like so many things it remains a mystery why he ran so badly but he ran well enough in the Hirsch last time to suggest it was just a HRP blip and is best ignored.
So ignoring that run where does this six year old sit among the many chances? Well he must be considered one of the many chances but the right Winter Solstice has to turn up today and that is probably beyond everyone’s control. His works are strong enough to suggest he will run a race but he is not a stand out as those last two runs suggest.

6         Devil Made Me Doit         Davis D        122

a three year old gelding

Trained by Maxmillion Farm and bred by The American

Races: 12
Wins: 4
Purse: $1,029.520
This year: 1113100

Bought after one race for $200.000 it was clear the turf king saw something in this horse that others may have missed. Still even after that big sale he still wasn’t an instant success, in fact that didn’t come until after his maiden victory 4 months later when he was gelded. If ever there was a case of a colt needing to concentrate it was this as in his next four races he won two graded stakes including the grade one BEL derby. After that game nose win over Found Peace the world looked to be his oyster but in two races since he has failed to reach the top four. To be fair he wasn’t beaten far in either race but you had to be disappointed at how this hugely promising sort didn’t show the fight he had at BEL at the end of those top races. His works since suggest the trainer has been looking for answers and this would be a great stage for this one to deliver on his promise. A good chance but he will have to sort out the end of his races to be a factor for the win.

7          Lets Do It Big Boy         Pennington F        126

A seven year old gelding

Trained by RNP Stables and bred by Team 7 Illusions

Races: 52
Wins: 11
Purse: $2,049.770
This year: 410020021

It is great to see these old horses come back year after year and it is great to see that this one sneaked into the field despite it looking unlikely. He last ran in a BC race in 2019 when fifth in this race from a terrible draw. In 2018 the year before he did even better with a third but since those days which may have been the peak of his curve he has been a bit more erratic. It is remarkable to think that despite a long a note worthy career he has never won a grade one race despite racking up 7 stakes wins. Today would be an awesome time to take your first grade one but it has to be said on the balance of his recent form it looks unlikely. The old fella will give his all and has a good record in this race so don’t be surprised to see him sneaking into the top four.

8        Never Met Me         Gonzalez Ru        126

a five year old gelding

Trained and bred by Mb Stables

Races: 26
Wins: 7
Purse: $1,056.250
This year: 214402111

Previously when this horse was tried on turf he was two wins for nine starts, but this game is all about timing and since his return to the grass he has been three form three including two big graded stakes. That timing may just be key here as he has hit the sort of form run that often see’s a successful BC campaign. A little inconsistent over the years he had been dropped all the way down to a BTP allowance in July and didn’t even manage to win that so it was no surprise that he was given another go at the turf after his dirt form had hit pretty low lows. He went to the Lure at 48/1 but low and behold just three weeks after his BTP failure he once again found his form and won that race by a pretty comfortable length. Two weeks later he just lasted home by a nose to win the DMR Handicap but then surpassed both of those good wins with a dominant front running display in the Pattison Canadian International where he beat many of today’s rivals. Could this remarkable return to form be completed by a BC Turf success? Well if any trainer can do it then Mb Stables can and he will certainly have some justified support in making it four wins in a row.

9        Raj Action Packed          Jaramillo E         126

an 8 year old gelding

Trained by Arindel, bred by Night Rider Stables

Races: 56
Wins: 14
Purse: $3,408.540
This year: 11122310

This great veteran has run in this race twice before finishing sixth and fourth, both times for his current trainer who claimed him in 2019 from the breeder. This season he had looked as good as ever notching up four graded stakes wins including a huge win in the KY Turf Cup but his last race was a mystery and one that forces us to ask questions of the eight year old that we haven’t had to ask so far. That last race was in the Hirsch Turf Cup where drawn nicely he ran two seconds slower than he did when winning the KY Turf Cup the race before and ended up ten lengths behind at the line in second last place. He rarely runs a bad race so that effort was a mystery and one that may or may not have an explanation. Has his busy season caught up with him? Has he fallen off the edge of his raceability as he approaches his ninth year? I can think of no good reason why that happened so we must assume that the old fella just had an off day.
So on that basis what are his chances on all other known form, well, not bad at all is the answer. I am not sure he is at the very top of the turf routing division, close enough to be given a real chance but maybe his runs in the last two BC Turf’s are just about where he stands and whilst a top six finish is extremely feasible a win still seems unlikely. I would love to see the old fella prove me wrong, he is an admirable warrior and one that deserves success but he wont be my first choice here.

10        Iron Nation          Carrasco V R      126

a four year old gelding

Trained and bred by Nakamura Stables

Races: 20
Wins: 7
Purse: $2,957.000
This year: 0403201

His form figures do not read great this year but that is only one side of the story for last years BC Mile winner. With his run of wins at the end of last year in the SAR Derby, the WO Mile and then the BC Mile he was lauded as the champion turf router and horse of the year and it looked like he would never be beaten again…..but this is HRP so it wasn’t as clear cut as that. Three year olds were very different last year and very often a successful three year old has found it hard in their four year old season to reach the same heights on level weights with the older’s of giving weight to the three’s. He definitely followed that trend struggling to win and although he ran some good races just didn’t look the horse he was last year. Then came the Hirsch Turf Classic in his last start and for some reason we suddenly saw the Iron Nation of old. What changed we will never know but something did and he was mighty impressive in cruising home by two lengths with horses behind that had been beating him all year. To be fair whilst he hadn’t won this year he was a neck third in the Shoemaker and second in the United Nations so he hadn’t been bad just not as good as he was.
So is he back…..well yes i think he is, his works says he is back on the upward curve and i have a feeling that momentum may take hi to the top of the pile in this race.

11   Controlled  Power          Van Dyke D       126

A seven year old gelding

Trained by Spankys Barn, bred by LionKing Stables

Races: 49
Wins: 9
Purse: $1,663.400
This year: 020113401

Another great old horse that seems to have been around forever and whilst he has some great form his BC appearances have been way below par. 13th in 2018 in the mile and 13th in the 2020 turf he deserves a better BC legacy than that but it is an uninspiring record when looking for a winner. Like most old horses he has become a little inconsistent in recent years but this season he has been pretty solid through his campaign. Third in the United Nations, fourth in the Sword Dancer and sixth in the Pattison were old good efforts and he gained some compensation last time out when taking the Sycamore from this very draw. He is one of those stories waiting to happen and it wouldn’t take much for him to have a good day and break his BC duck.

12    Last Way To The Beac       Velazquez J R         122

a three year old gelding

Trained by Maxmillion Farm, bred by Lemax Farms

Races: 11
Wins: 2
Purse: $679.480
This year: 3302301

Well the one thing the Turf King does for me every time is give me something incredulous to write about. Here we have a horse without a single BC Point and zero graded stakes wins in the BC Turf field, what a story it would be if he could add the BC Turf to his single win this year. Bought for $275 he was immediately put to the grass where he managed just two thirds and a second in five low grade starts before his run in the JC Derby. Then of course came the JC Derby where from a wide gate he made all the running and scored by just under a length, only his second win with the other one coming in a maiden. Now we know the Turf King doesn’t buy horses for $275 for nothing and this one had always promised a win like that but it was still a bit of a shock. Now he is in the BC Turf and just maybe Maxmillion Farms has another shocker up his sleeve. I love the fact this horse has so little BC credentials to go on and even his name isn’t finished, with the last h in his name being missed off, but here he is and to be honest if you ignored all his other form and just looked at that last win and his work times you would have to give him a very real chance of winning.

13    Found Peace         Hernandez C J      122

a three year old gelding

Trained and bred by Mb Stables

Races: 16
Wins: 5
Purse: $1,543.400
This year: 311202134

As i mentioned earlier we do not have the usual cohort of one race wonders that we normally have from the three year old division in this race but what we do have are the best and that is a refreshing change. This one is the highest qualified three year old and has proved in his last two that he can live with the older horses where many three year olds have failed this year. Beaten a nose in the BEL Derby by Devilmademedoit he went on to exact his revenge in the SAR Derby but a lot of that reversal was down to the draw so i wouldn’t be reading too much into it. In his next start in the KY Turf Cup he ran a blinder against the older horses leading from the gate and running a fine third behind Raj Action Packed and Farquaad. In his last start he again ran well against the older’s ending up fourth in the Hirsch, this time as a loose stalker. In both races he faded at the end and that is a worry but he was tenacious when winning the SAR Derby so i don’t think its a stamina problem. I am not sure the three’s have caught up enough just yet to see him winning but he is right in there with a chance if the master can find an instruction to work from this gate.

14      Anoush Command          Gutierrez Mario         126

a four year colt

Trained by Fractious, bred by Serenity Stables

Races: 25
Wins: 7
Purse: $2556.200
This year: 012341403

I love the fact that this one is still an entire because there is no doubt he will have a second career in the shed when his racing career is over. Like most higher class three year olds he started his career on the dirt winning the FL Derby before running a strong fifth in the crazy KYD of 2020 and then a fine fourth in the Preakness where he tried to make all from a wide draw. He added the Queens Plate to his record before he was switched to the turf late in the year. Like most do he made an immediate impact winning the HOL Derby at grade one and that has pretty much cemented his path to today’s race. Since then he has added two more grade ones including a famous win in the United Nations in July where he made all and galloped them into the ground. Since that win he has been ridden with a little more restraint especially when a closing third in the Hirsch last time. I suppose the big question here is where he ends up in running and what sort of pace the race has. He was so good in the United Nations that you could argue that a front running role would be the best but then he ran well in the Hirsch last time running as a deep closer off a slower pace so it really is impossible to tell what will happen in this race. This wide gate could well be an advantage because he may be able to use the wide gate push to clear the field and lead but whether his trainer or the race engine has the last say i feel that he has all the ammunition to win this race –  but then you could say that about every runner.

15       Owens           – Also Eligible – 122

A three year old gelding trained by Mb Stables it looks unlikely he will make the field and a lot more unlikely that he will win if he does.

16      Plucky Flash         – Also Eligible – 126

A four year old gelding, trained by Rock Creek. I am not even sure how he got on the AE list as his only stakes run resulted in a seven length sixth. Forget him

17     Strategic Edge      – Also Eligible – 126

A five year old horse trained by Maletto. No hope of getting in or winning.


It often works out that the Mile and the Turf are so interchangeable that there is a watering down of both fields but this has just about the best of the long distance turf routers this year so a true champion should arise. This is a great mix of wiley old veterans, sprightly promising three year olds and past champions and will as always be a spectacle. Working on the previous years you would have to value the obvious chances of Kings Poker, Devil Made Me Doit and Found peace with maybe Kings Poker being the safest bet of the three just because he seems the most consistent. Of the older horses Billy Joel, Sunlander, Never Met Me and Iron Nation look outstanding. I think i will just favor Sunlander to beat Iron Nation with battling for third one of the three year olds.

Categories: BC 2021-2022, Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES, THE BREEDERS CUP

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