America was the focal point of the world this week as a historic moment was taking place. The US election saw record numbers coming out to vote on the next president. Whilst that was happening all over the country, somewhere in Kentucky there was another piece of history being written. Glass Slippers was to become the first ever European winner of the Group 1 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint.
Glass Slippers had signed off 2019 with a first Group 1 win and this year was about answering some questions to doubters. Having thrived in the second half of the season, certain people were questioning her credentials as a tope level sprinter. This season was to be her time to solidify her place at the top table. Kevin had seen his filly improve throughout the year in 2019, making great strides in the latter stages of the season. With this in mind he was always thinking that Glass Slippers would be seen in her best light in the latter months once again.
The plan for the 2020 season was straight forward enough and would begin at Royal Ascot after racing was put on hold for a couple of months. June was the starting point in the Kings Stand and for connections it was a positive start to the season. Those looking purely at results were quick to claim that she was lucky last year and this run proved it. Kevin had other ideas, having raced solely in the centre of the track with no help, Glass Slippers did well up until the final furlong. Obviously Battash is the main man at 5f but Kevin, along with jockey Tom Eaves, were confident that another Group 1 was well within the filly’s grasp.
Goodwood proved a step forward next time out when she finished second to Battash and showed that she was really starting to come into herself. Immediately after that run there was a decision to be made for her next run and it was decided that she would miss the Nunthorpe in favour of the Flying Five at The Curragh. Glass Slippers made sure it was the correct decision as she came from off the pace to win her second career Group 1. That race carried a “win and you’re in” clause for the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint which was a nice bonus for the end of the year.
Before any thoughts of America, Glass Slippers had the task of defending her crown in France. Heading over for the Prix de L’Abbaye, this time round she was no underdog and would actually be the one to beat. Sent off favourite, Glass Slippers was squeezed up to chase the leaders down towards the outer. Travelling well into contention, she then made a strong challenge before just failing to reel in the winner by the narrow margin of a neck. It was a huge effort on extremely testing ground and from an unfavourable draw.
Now it was decision time. Would Glass Slippers head across the Atlantic or would she be heading home for rest. After plenty of deliberation it was decided that she would be tasked with tackling the best of America and head to Keeneland for the 37th Breeders Cup. One of the most important factors was that Glass Slippers has a history of travelling and performing to her best. Although she had not tried anything like the distance Kentucky would be, her past movements did cause optimism that it should not take too much of an affect.
Glass Slippers travelled over to Keeneland 10 days before the race with Kevin and Tom Eaves joining up with her around 5 days beforehand. When Kevin saw the filly and Tom sat on her they knew she had taken everything well and she was reported to have been straight into her routine without any issues. The line up for the Turf Sprint was a little unknown to everyone who doesn’t follow American racing closely. Looking through the field it did seem as though Glass Slippers was bringing the strongest sprint form but history was obviously set against her. Although she hadn’t done it for a long time there was also a question mark of going round a bend. Glass Slippers has won around Chester, one of the sharpest left handed tracks going, but that was back in her juvenile days. When Tom sat on her and took her round the Keeneland bend he quickly reported that she still knew what to do, changing her legs correctly and handling it with ease.
Tom was experiencing the Breeders Cup for the first time which was great credit to owners Terry and Margaret Holdcroft who kept the winning partnership together. Although confident in his filly and his own abilities a little advice never hurt anyone so Tom turned to one of the world’s best for a few pointers, that being Ryan Moore. With his knowledge fully topped up and Glass Slippers bouncing in her prep, Tom had the plan of attack for the race ahead.
There was 14 runners lining up for the sprint and Glass Slippers would be the sole representative for Europe. The draw of stall 6 pleased everyone with the nature of American sprints being a frantic dash for the rail. Confidence was key for Tom and he set his stall out immediately jumping out. Glass Slippers was well away but as expected many of the field were driven along to get forward and cross over to the rail ASAP. This led to a crazy early pace as 3/4 of the field battled for the front positions. Glass Slippers was well into stride but Tom wanted to immediately save ground so just took his filly back off the heels and moved across. This move left him with only 3 horses behind but he had gained the position that he had set out to do.
Now Glass Slippers has won one of the fastest 5f races in the world but the pace here was something else. Down the back straight Tom moved Glass Slippers up to sit on the main body of the field. He had taken the rail position now which saved precious ground but presented a wall of horses in front. The latter stages would require bravery and luck with the right gaps opening but stage one of the plan had been executed. They settled down as the field gathered their positions and after the first 1 1/2f the pace settled but still proved to be strong.
The long swooping bend of Keeneland took the through to the halfway stage. Glass Slippers was travelled nicely along the rail but still had around 6 lengths to make up. The leaders would begin to get rolling as they moved into the second half of the race, stretching and trying to kick off the bend. It is a move seen so often and as they entered the home straight it looked as though the leaders may well have stolen a march. Tom had been winding his filly up to maintain her position but immediately knew he had to match those in front if they were going to reel them in. Coming off the bend Glass Slippers moved past a few rivals on her outer and had made a little progression to take fourth spot. Although she had made up some ground the leaders were still clear of her by 3-4 lengths with just 1 1/2f to run.
It was around the furlong pole when the first smell of victory came. After looking powerful entering the straight the leaders suddenly looked vulnerable with their stride shortening and coming back to the field. Glass Slippers had moved up nicely along the rail and was one of the first to be within striking distance. Favourite Leinster had been to the forefront throughout and was still there whilst his market rival Imprimis was making eye-catching headway with Glass Slippers. Tom now had his filly rolling and after manoeuvring around Texas Wedge who was weakening a gap appeared. There was space for only one as Leinster was soon looking to close it. In England, Tom is well known for his bravery but maybe that news hadn’t travelled across the pond. It was 50/50 between Tom and Irad Ortiz Jr, jockey of Imprimis, but those odds soon favoured the Brit. Claiming the gap he sent a very willing Glass Slippers through and she quickened up to join the leader. Momentum was on her side and Glass Slippers pushed through and claimed the lead with just over 100 yards to run. Those around couldn’t match her turn of foot and Glass Slippers pulled away by a length. Tom asked her for everything and everything she gave. There was time for a late flourish from eventual runner up Wet You Whistle but Glass Slippers turn of foot had done the damage. The punch of the air form Tom signalled Europe’s first ever winner of the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint and the name Glass Slippers was etched into the history books.
What can be said of the superstar filly Glass Slippers. It is amazing to see her progression throughout the years and now she has certainly put her name in lights. Already a dual Group 1 winner, Glass Slippers not only added to that but added another country to her list also. It shows how difficult it is to go over to America and take them on in their own back yard with the history of this race. Not only was it a great performance from horse but Tom delivered one of his best ever rides. He took the brave mans route to take her back and save ground. It meant he would need the gaps to open but would also need to be brave. This attribute has never been his shortfall and the move he made was pure grit and determination, something that his counterpart couldn’t match. Tom has always been one of the most respected jockeys in the north and probably hasn’t quite had the opportunities his ability has deserved so to see him win on one of the world’s biggest stages was special. Owners Terry and Margaret Holdcroft of Bearstone stud were able to go over and witness the tremendous victory of Glass Slippers. Not only do they own her but bred the filly along with her family. They have been in the game for years and put so much into racing on both ownership and breeding sides. It is lovely to see long time supporters of the sport being fully repaid and Glass Slippers has proven to be a horse of a lifetime. They have had horses for many years with Kevin so it is fitting that they could enjoy this win together. Finally the staff deserve huge credit, especially James “Jimmy” Gee. This year has been so different for everyone involved but the team at Hambleton Lodge have worked so hard to get these horses to their peak. Although it was a team effort, it was Jimmy who headed to Keeneland with the filly and was a credit to the yard whilst over there. It is a huge responsibility to travel with horses and she not only looked amazing but performed likewise. It is a historic win that will live long in the memory.