Some editions of the Breeders' Cup World Championships are more worldly than others, as the participation of runners from other countries varies from year to year. This year, 32 overseas competitors were pre-entered, and they include some of Europe's biggest names.
In general, European horses run on turf and are considered superior to their American counterparts over the surface. As such, they usually are bet pretty heavily when it comes to the grass races on the Breeders' Cup card. Here are some of the names you should know heading into this weekend's event at Keeneland.
Leading the international contingent is Golden Horn, who will be competing in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf. A good-looking, 3-year-old colt, he has won eight of nine lifetime starts, including England's Investec Derby, Ireland's QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and France's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, while amassing earnings of more than $6 million.
Golden Horn first took on his elders in July, beating The Grey Gatsby in the Coral-Eclipse, and has continued to do so throughout the second half of the racing season, so that is not a concern. However, rain is in the forecast during the week in Lexington, Kentucky, which could be a problem for him if the ground gets too soft.
Finishing second in the Irish Champion Stakes behind Golden Horn was the filly Found, who also finished second in England's QIPCO Champion Stakes and has taken on the boys all year. Campaigned by Coolmore, who leads all owners with 10 Breeders' Cup pre-entries, she is another one to watch in the Turf.
Another talented, 3-year-old runner in Europe this year has been Gleneagles. He took both the English and the Irish 2000 Guineas before winning at Royal Ascot in the St. James's Palace Stakes. Also owned by Coolmore, Gleneagles will be attempting dirt for the first time when he lines up in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Running on a new surface is never easy, but Gleneagles does have a pedigree that suggests he may take to it. He is out of a mare named You'resothrilling. Her full brother is none other than Giant's Causeway, who gave Tiznow all he could handle in the 2000 Classic before finishing second by a neck in what was also his first start on dirt. Giant's Causeway is now one of Coolmore's flagship stallions.
Bigger concerns come in the shape of form and distance, as Gleneagles has been at his best at a mile, and the Classic is 1 ¼ miles. Additionally, he has had only one start since mid-June, not because of injury but rather because the ground was not to his liking, and he was scratched from a multitude of races between then and now. Gleneagles is the only foreign horse entered in the Classic.
Also hailing from the powerful Coolmore stable is one of the best fillies in Europe, Legatissimo. This 3-year-old filly has been first or second in eight of her 10 lifetime starts and is entered in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Legatissimo has won three Group 1 races this year and been second by a short head in two more. She earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup via her victory in Ireland's Matron Stakes this September, and earlier this year she won England's 1000 Guineas and Nassau Stakes.
One of her biggest competitors comes in the form of Secret Gesture, who although based in Europe is a familiar name to American race fans. The filly won but was controversially disqualified from the Beverly D. on Arlington Million Day this August.
The Breeders' Cup Mile is always a popular race for foreign horses, and this year is no exception. Last year's upset winner Karakontie was bred in Japan but races primarily in France. He is back to defend his title but has raced only twice since then and hasn't won.
A horse on the rise is Make Believe, who won the Prix de la Foret with ease the same day that Golden Horn won the Arc. Make Believe's first win in top company came in May when he took the Poule d'Essai des Poulains -- Prix le Parisien, and if he displays the same form he did in the Foret, he will definitely be in with a chance.
That said, fillies and mares have done well in the Mile throughout the years (Goldikova, anyone?), so if you are looking for a girl to beat the boys, keep an eye on Esoterique.
Technically, Cymric is not a foreign horse, as he was bred in Kentucky. However, this Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf hopeful has been racing exclusively in Europe and is an intriguing young runner. In his last start, Cymric finished a short neck in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, another Group 1 that was held on Arc day.
Not only has he proven his talent on the track, but Cyrmic's pedigree involves a lot of familiar names to the Breeder's Cup. His sire, Kitten's Joy, finished second in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf, was the champion turf horse that year and has gone on to be a success at stud. Meanwhile, his female family traces back to Personal Ensign, whose victory in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff is considered one of the greatest races of all time.