The Breeders Cup always has a feel of the Ryder Cup. Although they like to bill it as the world championships of racing it is more like USA vs Europe. It is a thrilling spectacle for all racing fans and having watched it for years, Kevin broke new ground with his first ever runner at the meeting. East travelled over to Kentucky with her unbeaten record on the line when she took on the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs.
East has been breaking new ground since she was purchased. When the hammer fell at E315,000 for the Frankel filly it was the highest price paid at the Goresbridge breeze up sale. She would also be the first progeny of Frankel that Kevin had trained. Having given her time to get over the breeze up process it was late summer when she really began to thrive. With her work getting better and better, East really started to look like a promising filly but it was her final piece that showed she could be very good. All the prep done, it was time to hit the track.
Although not renowned for producing high class 2yo’s, Hamilton has been the start for a few of Kevin’s good juveniles. When East cruised through the race and then quickened up to win by 1/2 length, she certainly looked a nice prospect. Even more impressive was this debut win was over 6f, a trip that was surely on the sharp side.
Heading straight into Group 3 company, East was immediately being asked some tough questions. Travelling to France she would contest the 7f Prix Thomas Byron at Saint Cloud. Although a small field lined up it was full of pattern form, apart from East. She proved the classiest horse in the line up and showed that inexperience was no problem. Patiently ridden by Stephaine Pasquier, she quickened up from last and swept down the outside. Winning under a hands and heels ride, East looked like she was doing a piece of work rather than taking a Group 3 contest.
Following her win in France there was big plans immediately being laid. The obvious step was Group 1 company but would it be back to France or a dream trip to Kentucky. Connections opted for the USA and so all the protocols were put in place to get East across the Atlantic and give Kevin his first Breeders Cup runner.
Obviously travel and settling in is a massive factor for a trip of this type but East has had plenty of experience in her short lifetime of doing a lot of travel. Despite this there is always concerns but once she touched down in the USA her groom, Harriett Lees, was delighted with the way the filly settled in. With a week to go until her race all the fast work was done and now Harriett had the job of maintaining East, looking to peak on the day.
Unfortunately Kevin could not travel to states due to recent back surgery so Harriett was key to East’s preparation. Son and Assistant Adam would travel out but Harriett would have the first few days on her own. With regular updates she did a fantastic job and all went smoothly leading up to the race. East didn’t leave a nut of food and took everything in her stride, treating it just like any other day back at the yard. With the filly calm and looking a million dollars she went into the race in the best possible shape.
The race attracted some of the top European fillies. Group 1 winners Lily’s Candle and La Pelosa, Group 1 placed The Mackem Bullet, Group 2 winner and 1000 Guineas fav Just Wonderful would all line up. The US charge was led by the favourite Newspaperofrecord who entered the race with a huge reputation after two devastating wins. East was certainly going to have to be at her best to enter calculations especially when she was given the widest berth of 14.
Jamie Spencer travelled over to take the ride and with the draw there was very little he could do but take his time. East took all the pre lims with her typically cool attitude and headed to the start as though she owned the place. Although Jamie had to ride for luck he didn’t want to get too far back so was planning to jump and then find his position. Unfortunately East jumped to her right leaving the stalls which gave Jamie no choice but to drop in last. The fav took the lead as she had done in both her previous and set a good even gallop. Rain had created yielding ground so East was up against it sat almost 15 lengths behind the lead.
There was very little change through the first half of the race with Newspaperofrecord left alone up front setting a good gallop. East travelled well at the back and had settled into a lovely rhythm. The race would really start to heat up heading into the home bend, taking the field into the last 3f. La Pelosa had given chase for most of the way and started to come under pressure as the fav continued to turn the screw. This allowed fellow US runner Concrete Rose to move into 2nd and try to chase down Newspaperofrecord. East still travelled well but was still sat last of the 14 runners.
Swinging around the bend with 2 1/2f to run and the leader was still going well. Most of the field were under pressure now, only the first and last were still on the bridle, although 12 lengths separated them. East now began to move up through the field and passed a couple nearing the straight. She was travelling with ease and suddenly it looked as though she was set for a big run.
Newspaperofrecord entered the home straight and into the final 2f still travelling powerfully. Jamie was now making a move but East received a bump as the runners swung wide off the bend. Having to stop riding and readjust, Jamie just took a few seconds to balance East up once more. He looked for a gap but that closed too and now it was looking as though East might run well but be unlucky. Newspaperofrecord kicked on from 1 1/2f and went clear. It was here that Jamie found a gap and sent East in pursuit, although it would prove to be in vain.
Moving into the final furlong and the winner was determined as Newspaperofrecord set sail and was well clear. Now it was all about who would be second and East was really beginning to respond. Racing up the centre of the track she began to quicken up and picked off those in front one by one. Head to the ground East was starting to fly home and it now looked like she could go and grab second. There was still plenty of ground to make up but she was hitting top gear. Newspaperofrecord has the race sewn up but it was East who was finishing well to grab second spot in the dying strides.
The winner is something special and looks a superstar in waiting. East though could well be very special herself. Obviously there was no catching the winner but she did so well to finish second. The ground that she made up was very impressive especially when she did not get a clear run. Without interference she would have been a clear second. Jamie also said that she got away with the ground but better ground will see her in an even better light. This performance really puts her in the top echelon of European fillies as she beat some top fillies whose form all ties in with the best on offer. The 1000 Guineas has to enter calculations now and that will be the target now as East has certainly proven herself that quality of filly. It will be well deserved break now and the break will do her the world of good. With plenty of growth likely to come, East could well be even better next year. She is a dream to train with such a likeable attitude and the class to match. Harriett deserves a ton of credit for the job she did with the filly. Not only in the USA but from day one. Harriett is one of the reasons that East performed so well and is a credit to yard.