The Triple Crown series in the United States is over for another 12 months, which means that all attention now switches to the season-ending Breeders’ Cup later in 2023.
This year’s world championships of flat racing will take place at Santa Anita Park in California, with the top juveniles from across the globe in action on Friday, November 3, before the world’s best will collide across a number of prestigious Grade 1s on Saturday, November 4. But, who are some of the very early contenders that could be the stars to follow at Santa Anita later this year?
There are few more popular horses in training in the United States than Godolphin-owned Cody’s Wish. The runner was a heart-warming winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland in 2022, holding off the challenge thrown down by Cyberknife to land victory by a head.
The five-year-old has already returned to action this year looking better than ever, winning the G1 Churchill Downs Stakes by a commanding four-length margin from Hoist The Gold. His dominant streak on track resumed at Belmont Park on June 10, as he dominated a deep field to land the G1 Met Mile.
The same race was won by Flightline in 2021, setting him up for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and there is every chance that Cody’s Wish will take his chance at Santa Anita this year in his bid to win the biggest Grade 1 on the U.S. calendar.
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The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is often one of the best races of the weekend, and this year’s promises to be no different. There are familiar faces at the top of the betting with Clairiere looking to finally land the big prize, and Nest returning for a second bid after coming up short in 2022. However, a horse that has been lined up for the Distaff throughout this season is Julia Shining. The three-year-old by Curlin ultimately bypassed the Kentucky Oaks in May after finishing third behind Defining Purpose in the G1 Ashland.
She has won twice from three starts to this point, which includes a Grade 2 success in the Demoiselle. At the moment, it is all about the vibes coming out of the Todd Pletcher yard, but they are planning a huge second half of the season for the three-year-old. Pletcher knows what it takes to win the fillies race at the Breeders’ Cup, having landed success just 12 months ago with the irresistible Malathaat.
The Japanese have targeted some of the biggest international events in the diary over the last five years, and they could be set to land another huge prize in the second half of the season. Connections from the Asian country have always prioritized a win in the G1 Arc de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Equinox could yet end up taking his chance at Longchamp in October. However, given the heavy conditions that Group 1 is often staged on, a more likely route could see the Japanese runner taking his chance at Santa Anita.
The four-year-old solidified his claim as the world’s best horse on the turf in late March, as he delivered a scintillating effort to claim success in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic. It was the manner of the performance that took the breath away, as jockey Christophe Lemaire barely moved on the four-year-old, as he quickly sped away from Westover to win by a commanding three lengths. That success quickly got tongued wagging, and he could be primed for another career-best run at Santa Anita later this year in an equally high-quality field.