Aidan O’Brien has had his eye on the Breeders’ Cup Turf all year for Auguste Rodin.
The fact the beautifully-bred colt has won the Derby at Epsom, the Irish equivalent and the Irish Champion Stakes already only adds to his appeal.
Being by the Japanese champion Deep Impact and out of the Galileo mare Rhododendron, a three-times Group One-winning sister to the brilliant Minding, Auguste Rodin had every chance of making it to the top.
There have been bumps in the road, namely no-shows in the 2000 Guineas and the King George at Ascot, but O’Brien feels he has got to the bottom of those and everything is in place for another big run.
“This is the race for Auguste Rodin, it’s a lovely flat track and we’ve probably had our eye on this one all year,” said O’Brien.
“The (Irish) Champion Stakes should have set him up lovely for it.
“He’s a very well-balanced horse and on breeding one we have dreamed about. A Galileo mare with Deep Impact.
“The couple of times he got beat he flew in on the day but he’s travelled over here well and is beautifully relaxed. I think he’s totally happy in himself.
“He’s a big personality and confident in himself. I’m looking forward to him showing what he can do.”
O’Brien has won the Turf more than any other trainer, six times. But John Gosden has a success to his name through Enable and is hoping Mostahdaf can sign off his career in the best possible fashion.
The five-year-old has been enjoying himself in the mornings at Santa Anita, and is all set for one more big assignment before he retires to take up stallion duties.
His victories in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Juddmonte International are two of the best pieces of form European racing has to offer this season over 10 furlongs, but he faces an extra quarter of a mile here.
“Mosthadaf is the most cheerful of horses and is thoroughly enjoying himself,” said Gosden.
“Horses can be vociferous like him out here. He’s a great joy to train and can go out and shout like Stradivarius who was also raw.
“The Classic has cut up and the Turf is by far the best race on the card. I wouldn’t underestimate the French horse (Onesto). It’s a fabulous mile-and-a-half turf race.”
It is only two weeks since King Of Steel brought the house down at Ascot by lunging late to provide Frankie Dettori with the perfect send-off in Britain by lifting the Champion Stakes.
Trainer Roger Varian acknowledges the quick turnaround, but has been delighted with his condition both before his trip across the Atlantic and since touching down on the American west coast.
He said: “He seems to be thriving and we will never know until those gates open and we see how he performs, but in his demeanour and action and the way he is, we really couldn’t be happier with him and we have our fingers crossed for a good performance.
“You have to treat every horse as an individual and they are all a little bit different, but he has a great constitution and seems to have taken the Ascot race in his stride. Horses can really thrive at this time of year or they can cry enough. He’s not had too busy a season, he’s only had the five races nicely spaced out.
“He travelled out here well and with the sun on his back and the change of scenery, he seems to be in great form. The vibes he’s giving us are really positive.”
King Of Steel is set to stay in training for the 2024 season and Varian is hoping the trip to California will serve his colt well in the long-term no matter what the result on Saturday.
“I think win, lose or draw the experience won’t be lost on him and will stand him in good stead for whatever we aim him at next year,” he added.
“He’s going to stay in training so he’s an exciting horse for us all to look forward to next year and horses often improve with racing and different experiences.
“Hopefully we will come home with a prize but if we don’t, then I don’t think it will be a wasted experience.”
Bricks And Mortar in 2019 was the last home-trained winner, but in Todd Pletcher’s Up To The Mark there is a live threat to the Europeans.
A revelation since switching to the grass from dirt, his last three starts have produced Grade One victories, most recently beating Charlie Appleby’s Master Of The Seas.
And while like Mostahdaf he must prove as effective at a mile and a half, his Hall of Fame trainer is confident in that regard.
“He’s a horse that trained very impressively before his debut, which he won, at Saratoga,” Pletcher said.
“Then we got a little bit frustrated with what he did after his maiden win. After his last his last dirt race at Aqueduct, I said, ‘You know, I think this might be a turf horse’.
“We just feel like the strength of his race in the Manhattan at a mile and a quarter and the firm ground in California that the mile and a half is what he’s best suited for.
“The real key is the way he settles. He was very relaxed in the Coolmore Mile early on, which allowed him to deliver that big kick. And he did the same thing in the Manhattan. And also the (Bourbon) Turf (Classic) at Churchill.
“He turns off, he can gallop and then he can accelerate. As long as he does that, going a mile and a half, we feel confident that he can get that distance.”