The champion trainers of Britain and Ireland were in upbeat and hopeful mood ahead of the Breeders’ Cup, which gets underway a week on Friday at Churchill Downs, Kentucky.
John Gosden, whose lead in the British Champion Trainer title race is already unassailable, has high hopes for superstar mare, Enable. Of the dual Arc-winning four-year-old, he said, “She was only 85% [fit] for the Arc, but she’s fully fit now. She’s fresh but she’s a filly shipping in at the end of the year. We’ll need to see how she’s travelled”.
Of the fact Enable is trying to do what numerous Arc winners, including Gosden’s Golden Horn, have previously failed to do and double up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the master of Clarehaven seemed largely unmoved. “Golden Horn hated the ground; they had an inch and a half of rain there [in Keeneland]. And Dancing Brave was asked to train at 10 in the morning when the sun was at its hottest. It was most unfair on him”.
There are no concerns about the track either, with Enable having won around the tight turns of Chester in her three-year-old season.
When discussing Roaring Lion’s tilt at Breeders’ Cup Classic glory, Gosden was more circumspect, insisting it is a “brave, bold decision” by Qatar Racing Ltd, the recent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner’s owners. “He’s not bred for the dirt, but a mile and a quarter is his trip. The challenge is not so much the surface, but racing in unfamiliar conditions a horse’s breathing can get compromised”.
Roaring Lion has reportedly come out of the race on Saturday well, and is expected to take his chance in the Classic, though he does have a second preference entry in the Turf over an extra quarter mile.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s perennial Champion Trainer, Aidan O’Brien, was looking forward to sending his biggest team yet to the Breeders’ Cup. The Ballydoyle battalion will fly out on Monday and may not be seen walking on the Churchill track until as late as Thursday morning.
O’Brien saddles impressive Cornwallis Stakes winner, Sergei Prokofiev, in the opening Juvenile Turf Sprint, and he enthused, “I was delighted with him in Newmarket. He’s a very fast horse for whom a fast pace will suit; he seems to relax better when they go quick”.
The son of Scat Daddy, whose human namesake composed an opera called The Gambler, may prove to be a pretty good bet in the Breeders’ Cup overture.
The Coolmore ‘lads’ could have as many as three runners in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, though O’Brien sounded a note of caution about the participation of Hermosa, who may not run. However, Just Wonderful looks likely to take her chance. “She’s a classy filly, who likes to follow the pace, and quickens very well”.
Those are perfect attributes for a race in which APOB has saddled eleven runners but has yet to win.
In the boys’ equivalent, the Juvenile Turf, Anthony Van Dyck will take some beating if allowed to take his chance. O’Brien reported, “He’ll handle nice ground, and one of him or Broome will run, but both probably won’t”. Broome, he continued, “is in good form, but has had a tough enough season and we’re taking it day by day with him”.
The highly talented rogue that is Lost Treasure is being aimed at the Turf Sprint, over five and a half furlongs. He’s a horse that needs to be delivered right on the line as he has a marked tendency to pull himself up immediately after getting his nose in front, but there’s little doubting his ability.
In a race where they’re sure to go off hard, it may just fall into his lap. “He doesn’t want to be in front too long”, O’Brien confirmed with uncharacteristic understatement, “but if things fell for him he might be right there”.
‘The lads’ are triple-handed in the Mile as well, a race in which Aidan is 0 from 19 to date. It is a bit of a hex race from a British and Irish perspective, with no winner since Ridgewood Pearl in 1995. Gustav Klimt could be the main hope. “Ryan was delighted with him after Haydock [G1 Sprint Cup], and we wanted to give him another chance at a mile. He’s a well balanced horse who travels and quickens well”.
I Can Fly may also run here having been seen flashing home in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes behind Roaring Lion last weekend. Her trainer said, “She was comfortable back at a mile, and Donnacha was delighted with her. The QE II was a great run”.
Happily completes the trio, and “she’s coming to herself; there might be a little more to come. A flat mile will suit her well. We’re looking forward to her if she gets a good draw”.
In the Turf, O’Brien will probably saddle Magical. “She has had an easy enough season, coming into the autumn a fresh filly.”
Regardless of what precedes it, the final note for Ballydoyle will be struck by Mendelssohn, last year’s Juvenile Turf winner who takes his chance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He’s been preparing on the dirt this season, including when a gallant third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time. There he battled Diversify through relentless early fractions and hung impressively tough to cling on for third.
“We’ve been happy with his three run prep”, reported O’Brien, “and we think he’s progressed with each run. Ryan was very happy with him the last day and we’re looking forward to it”.
It promises to be a spectacular 35th edition, with Europe holding no fewer than 49 entries, a record. The champion trainers of Britain and Ireland will both be relishing the prospect of adding to previous Breeders’ Cup victories to crown their respective seasons.