Audarya is aiming to join Ouija Board as a dual winner of the Filly & Mare Turf at the Breeders’ Cup.
James Fanshawe’s five-year-old does not head to Del Mar in quite the same form as she travelled to America last season – but still has the credentials to be a major player on Saturday.
Whereas last year she had won the Prix Jean Romanet and gone down by just a length to Tarnawa, subsequent winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in the Prix de l’Opera, this year she has not managed to get her head in front.
There have been signs, however, in three of her four starts that her ability remains fully intact.
Beaten just three-quarters of a length by Love on her return in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, she also went close in the Prix Jean Romanet and the Opera again.
Fanshawe remains optimistic that Audarya can pull off a famous double – although he will not be there in person to witness her effort this time, and will instead watch from his Newmarket base.
He said: “It’s really frustrating – I’d love to be out there. We had such a great time last year, and obviously got the perfect result in the end.
“But it’s just the way things are – I’m afraid (wife) Jacko and I can’t make it. But we’ve got a really good team in place – we’ve got Helen, who does the travelling, and Geoffroy de la Sayette, who rides Audarya every day and knows her really well.
“They were in the team last year, and our son Tom is out there as well.”
Fanshawe concedes Audarya’s preparation is in contrast to her sustained improvement en route to Keeneland 12 months ago – but he is not significantly concerned, and is banking on conditions to suit her.
“It was very different last year. She went from handicaps to winning a Group One in France, and then she just kept on improving,” he said, on a call hosted by Great British Racing International.
“This year, she’s had to start at a much higher level. She ran very well in the Prince of Wales’s, when she was second to Love, and that was the last time she’s had quick ground until now.
“The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare last year broke the track record, so she obviously likes the quick ground.
“She ran very well in the Romanet, when it looked like she’d won and then she got done on the line, and she ran a pretty good race in the Opera – not beaten very far (behind Rougir), on very heavy ground last time.
“So it’s a slightly different preparation, but she seems in good form.”
Audarya is drawn widest of all in the 12-strong field, round Del Mar’s tight track.
Fanshawe said: “The 12 draw isn’t ideal, but we’ve done quite a bit of homework on that.
“I think the Del Mar Handicap was won by a horse (Astronaut) drawn 10 of 10, so we hope it’s not too much of a disadvantage.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Love missed two planned high-profile engagements last month, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and then British Champions Day at Ascot, since finishing a short-head runner-up in a Curragh Group Two in September.
O’Brien said: “She just got a little bit of a temperature before the Arc, and that’s why she didn’t run.
“Then she could have run on the English Champions Day, but her bloods weren’t quite 100 per cent. The Breeders’ Cup was always going to be on her agenda at this time of the year.
“She put a big one on the board in the Prince of Wales’s and has freshened up nicely.
“I was very happy with the race she ran at the Curragh. A good break is important to her out of the gate, and I’ve found in the last few years we are running more out of Ireland in the States and they are breaking better.
“She could go to Hong Kong after this if everything was well.”
Pauline Chehboub, racing manager to Rougir’s owners Haras de la Gousserie, said: “She ran a big race in Paris (winning the Prix de l’Opera) and has had a big season.
“We are happy with her – she is a solid filly and she will love the American pace.
“That will be an advantage for her, and she goes on soft ground and normal ground, so that is not a problem for her.
“The advantage for her will be the pace – and she has a good draw (four), which is important here. We are confident she will run a big race again.
“She is in very good form and looks very happy, which is a good point for the end of the season.”
Andrew Balding’s Queen Supreme and Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road complete the British challenge.
The latter, who has raced just once since struggling in a soft-ground Oaks at Epsom in June, is out in stall 10.
“I was a bit disappointed by her draw,” said Palmer.
“She’s got quite a lot to find on ratings, but she’s been running well in England without winning Stakes races.
“Stepping up into Breeders’ Cup company and a $2million race is a big ask, but she’s shipped over really well and finished third in a Group Three the other day on her first run for a long time.
“She is drawn a bit wide, but if (jockey) Oisin (Murphy) is able to work her into a nice position, she could run a really good race.”