A haul of four wins at the Breeders’ Cup over the weekend represented a welcome change of fortune for British trainers. So what if one of them came in the often-derided Marathon? It still goes down as a win at the Festival. Add to that an Irish trained winner in the shape of Aidan O’Brien’s Magician in the BC Turf and it amounts to a highly successful trip for Europe’s adventurers.
London Bridge kicked things off in the first of the Breeders’ Cup races, the Marathon, which is run over 1m 6f, so at the short end of long distance flat races. He was sold last winter and new owners Waratagh Thoroughbreds, headed by Australian Paul Fudge, specifically had this race in mind. London Bridge was a first runner at the event for Lambourn trainer Jo Hughes, and concluded a season in which three handicap wins at Brighton, Sandown and Ripon in the spring laid down a marker for a trip to America’s West Coast.
American jockey Mike Smith had not been confident when he first sat on the horse last week, but found a different animal on raceday. He said, “I didn't have a whole lot of confidence on dirt but in the paddock he was so full of energy, he wasn't like that the other day. He gets every yard of the mile-six and that was the difference. I'm extremely happy, the connections are good friends of mine and I'm glad they didn't listen to me because I would have told them to scratch. I was pushing away at him for some time and wasn't too confident early on, but then all of a sudden at the three-eighths pole he took hold of the bit at just the right time, which is exactly what I hoped he would do.”
The same jockey paired up with another Breeders’ Cup debutant, Charlie Appleby, in the next race, the Juvenile Turf. Outstrip did just that to his rivals, giving his fledgling trainer a first Group 1 success in his first season. The two year old was Godolphin’s only runner at the meeting. Racing Manager Simon Crisford immediately pointed him towards the 2,000 Guineas next season, saying, "This horse was bred by Sheikh Mohammed and is by one of the most fashionable sires around (Exceed And Excel). The one thing Outstrip has is a turn of foot and he loved that fast ground. I imagine he will remain in Newmarket over the winter to be prepared for the QIPCO 2000 Guineas.
As we come to the end of a season wracked with problems for the organisation, he was quick to point out those difficulties had not detracted from the business of winners. He said, “We are one or two away from what will be numerically our best ever season and Godolphin are the top prize-money owners in Britain.”
Aidan O’Brien ran two horses in the Turf Juvenile. With Giovanni Boldini coming home second, Friday night was looking good for Europe.
An hour later they were looking even better, after Chriselliam was a comfortable winner of the Juvenile Fillies event over a mile. She was following up her Group 1 win in the Newmarket Fillies’ Mile, and if that success was a surprise, this one wasn’t especially so. Again, it was a first season trainer in charge, with Charlie Hills delighted at how she ran. He said, “This is the icing on the cake for a great year.
We've known she was talented for a long time and you get everything from her as she travels and picks up with a great turn of foot. It's not often that you see anyone take a pull halfway down the straight in a Breeders' Cup race, but that's what Hughesie did. After she won at Newmarket it sounded silly to leave her in her box and here we are. I can't wait to take her home and train her for the 1000 Guineas next year (for which she is favourite).
She was sensational today and travelled round there like a true professional. She flew across the line and I couldn't be more pleased with her. The more racing she has had, the more she has learned what she is about. She's put it all together again today and shown a great turn of foot.”
Chriselliam was a first successful ride for Richard Hughes, and sent him off in good heart to Australia to partner Simenon in the Melbourne Cup tomorrow morning.
To complete the novice connection, step forward part owner Willie Carson. He would have broken his duck at the meeting in 1990, but for jumping a shadow of the stand inside the final 50 yards in the Sprint. An obviously devastated jockey couldn’t believe what had happened, but managed a bit of light relief when interviewed immediately after the race by Brough Scott, saying, “My bank manager’s going to be crying.” He’ll be much happier this morning.
On Saturday, the second race brought more joy to Britain, though this time through one of the most experienced stables, and a win that was strongly predicted. Dank, favourite for the race, came home first for Sir Michael Stoute’s yard, half a length in front of French raider Romantica. Dank had to work hard for the Filly and Mare Turf, a race that may prove to be her last. Stoute hopes not, a he explained after a gem of an understatement. “I don’t mind going into the winner’s enclosure. I'd like to keep her in training next year and I'm going to have to be quite persuasive.” I expect he’s already been on the phone a couple of times to owner James Wigan.
Things had gone reasonably for Aidan O’Brien’s runners at this point. Then along came Magician to give him finally a winner in the 12-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf, the fourth time O’Brien has sent out the winner in this race. And with John Gosden’s The Fugue finishing runner up, it meant a third one-two for Europe. And Magician gave Ryan Moore a double on the night after his earlier ride on Dank.
O’Brien had initially planned to run Camelot in the race, but a setback to that horse a couple of weeks ago led to a comeback run for Magician after a break of over four months following his own injuries. He saw Magician as an extra special horse, saying, “ I've had some great horses (win the race), but this one is a bit different in that he is a Classic winner over a mile. The icing on the cake is that he is by Galileo, who is the most incredible stallion I shall ever have anything to do with. Hopefully he'll come back next year."
O’Brien’s night wasn’t over, as in the final race of the Festival, Declaration Of War finished a close up third behind Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in the closest finish of all the races. Declaration Of War finished just a nose and a head behind the winner. Again, this was a race for newbies, though this time American ones. At the age of 50, comeback jockey Gary Stevens was winning the race for the first time, and trainer Katherine Ritvo was the first woman to train the winner.
How does this year measure up for European trainer horses? The size of their challenge was much reduced, with only 16 horses travelling to America, down from 30 a year ago. To come home with five winners and four placed horses has to count a grand success.