11/01/2010 2:39PM

Buena Vista Boosts Red Desire's Hopes


This past weekend's racing in Japan and France offered some keen insights into the chances of a number of foreign-trained entries in the Breeders' Cup. The most telling event occurred at Tokyo Racecourse, where Buena Vista ran the best race of her life in defeating males in the $3.1 million, Grade 1 Autumn Tenno Sho going 1 1/4 miles on turf.
Japan's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf hopeful Red Desire may be rightly considered Buena Vista's archrival. The two of them, both 4-year-olds, have met four times in their careers and have never been separated by more than a length.
A bit of background on Buena Vista first. Her victory in the Tenno Sho, or Emperor's Cup, one of Japan's most coveted races, came after a 4-month layoff. In her previous start she had finished a half-length second in the 1 3/8-mile, Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen to Nakayama Festa, the horse who was a neck second to Breeders' Cup Turf favorite Workforce in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 3.
An analysis of the four clashes between Buena Vista and Red Desire makes them difficult to separate. Their first meeting came on April 12, 2009 in the one-mile Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas. It was just the thrid race of Red Desire's career, yet she ran the victorious and more experienced Buena Vista to just a half-length in finishing second at 13.40-1.
Six week later in the 1 1/2-mile, Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, Red Desire was caught on the line by Buena Vista, the margin between them a mere nose.
Red Desire would take a measure of revenge on Oct. 18 when she held off a hard charging and rather unlucky Buena Vista in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Shuka Sho.
Buena Vista would then skip the all-important Japan Cup at 1 1/2 miles on Nov. 29 when Red Desire would finish third behind the great Vodka with Japanese St. Leger winner Oken Bruce Lee in the runner-up spot..
Both fillies spent some time in Dubai this winter, Red Desire besting males in Round 3 of the Group 2 Maktoum Challenge going 1 1/4 miles on the Meydan Tepeta. Buena Vista's unlucky second to Dar Re Mi in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic was probably a slightly better effort than Red Desire's Maktoum Challenge victory.
The pair returned to Japan to meet in the Grade 1 Victoria Mile, a race restricted to fillies and mares. In it, Buena Vista beat Red Desire into fourth place by a length, the mile proving too short a distance for the Filly & Mare Turf candidate..
Buena Vista and Nakayama Festa will battle it out for Japanese Horse of the Year honors in this year's Japan Cup on Nov. 28 and the Arima Kinen on Dec. 26. Red Desire will not be able to make the Japan Cup because of quarantine restrictions which will make it impossible for her to run on such short notice. She will, however, be able to run in the Arima Kinen, should her connections so desire.
So, if Buena Vista is just a half-length behind Nakayama Festa, and if Nakayama Festa is just a head behind Arc winner Workforce, and if Red Desire is about a half-length or less behind Buena Vista, that form would give Red Desire a good chance of winning the Breeders' Cup Turf. As she is almost sure to opt for the Filly & Mare Turf, her form on paper is better than that of the race favorite and defending titleholder Midday.
Red Desire worked brilliantly on the Churchill Downs main track on Saturday, going 5 furlongs in a minute flat. It was the second best of 41 works on the tab and it signaled that she will be a major force in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Roderic O'Connor's 1 1/2-length victory in the juvenile one-mile, Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Sunday does not relate directly to any particular horse in the Breeders' Cup. It does however, frank the form at the top end of the European 2-year-old division, which is as strong as we have seen in many a year.
In his previous outing, Roderic O'Connor had attempted to lead throughout in the 7-furlong, Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes before giving way to Frankel, the Galileo colt who rates as the best 2-year-old in the world. The eight Europeans in the juvenile turf races and the two in the juvenile dirt races all benefit by the solid form that has been on display in Britain, France and Ireland since early summer at Royal Ascot.
In the juvenile turf races, it is wise to remember that the Euros in those contests have been competing against the best of the European turf strong division. Their American rivals, meanwhile, have been competing in turf races that rate as a second division behind our juvenile dirt stakes.