Social Discourse – Winx Farewell Edition (Monday 15th April)

There were tons of good races over the weekend, but only one horse will be talked about for decades afterwards, so this is the Winx Farewell Edition of Social Discourse.

  1. Winx and you’ll miss her

Here are the numbers. 43 starts. 37 wins. 33 successive wins. Four years unbeaten. 25 group 1 wins, and £14,564,743 in earnings.

Even those astonishing numbers don’t quite do justice to the remarkable story of Winx’s career, which at one point seemed like it would never actually end – but all good things have to come to a close (to steal and paraphrase some words) and her amazing career finally concluded when – for the 33rd time in a row – she rolled through the straight with a customary late turn of foot to take the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.


48,333 racegoers packed into Randwick, but this mare has captured so many more hearts and minds than that, and for the last time a small army of people woke up in the dead of night or at the crack of dawn to see one of the outstanding horses of the 21st Century.





  1. The Legacy

There are many things that make the Winx story special, but after the Lord Mayor’s Show the online debate turned to the great mare’s legacy. There were many strong views on show.



It’s clear that she has left a deep mark in history – indeed in a modern era where Black Caviar raced less than a decade ago, that Australia has another supermare is absolutely remarkable – and that she’ll be remembered for decades to come, but where does she stand with the on-track ranking?




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One of the features of Winx’s career has been a fierce debate about the value and quality of her opposition and, by extension, middle distance Australian racing. This was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike Black Caviar, she never came to the Northern Hemisphere.


Winx does have much less to answer on that score than most Australian horses. Her last Cox Plate win involved a brilliant and easy defeat of Benbatl, a previous Epsom Derby fifth who had a rating of 124 thanks to an impressive win in the Dubai Turf in March 2018, and in one of her Cox Plate victories she also had a certain Highland Reel well beaten in third.

When assessing her on track ability, it should be remembered that there was ample opportunity (and also financial incentive) for top-class European horses to go over to take her on, and only a couple did; but also that she is a fundamentally different horse to the middle distance champions we have been so blessed to enjoy recently, as a versatile horse who possessed a sprinter’s speed in a country where the majority of races are won with a late burst, a completely different style of racing to European racing, where races are hotly run across a number of undulating courses.

Many critique the class of horse that she faced, but being so dominant – and also racing in a country with plenty of Group 1 races – was understandably going to scare off plenty of her opposition, and perhaps her greatest asset is one of her most underrated, her longevity.




Racing until the age of seven – even more a mare – and doing so 43 times is a remarkable achievement and privilege for a horse that was so good and Chris Waller’s choice to extend her career by avoiding some of the other challenges is likely to have benefited Australian racing in the long term too.


Whatever one thinks of her form on the track, we know that she has left a huge impression on the history books.


  1. Newbury

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that there was a lot of other racing on this weekend from my opening two missives, but we had a packed weekend of racing both on the level and over the jumps. At Newbury, Classic Trials day saw a number of fine performances for the season ahead:

  • Mohaather emerged as a genuine 2000 Guineas contender with a clear-cut success in the Greenham Stakes, showing an impressive turn of foot to get the better of Great Scot, also giving Marcus Tregoning perhaps his best shot at a Classic since Sir Percy.


  • Rockfel second Dandhu prevailed in a blanket finish for the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, getting the better of Tom Dascombe’s Iconic Choice, Aidan O’Brien’s So Perfect and Richard Hannon’s Star Terms, having previously looked set to win with something in hand


  • Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo came home much the best to make a winning return to action in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Stakes, passing Aspetar, Laraaib and Defoe in the last furlong.


  • Chatez was rejuvenated for coming back to the flat with a 16/1 success in the Spring Mile, denying The Dominic Ffrench Davis import, Indeed, by a neck and giving jumps trainer Alan King a big flat winner.


  1. Scotland

Jumps fans, fear not – the Scottish National is clearly not forgotten in these virtual notes and this year’s renewal saw an upset at Takingrisks won at 25/1 for Nicky Richards, with jockey Sean Quinlan producing a fine sit over the very first fence to keep the partnership intact.


This was another recent big win for Richards, the son of two-time Scottish National winner Gordon Richards, who trained the legend Monet’s Garden and went through a rough patch before coaxing plenty of fine performances out of the likes of Simply Ned, Guitar Pete and Baywing.

Travelling well in behind a very strong gallop set by Cogry and Vintage Clouds, he was always moving like a contender and, in the end, stayed on powerfully for a comprehensive win over Eider Chase winner Crosspark with the Trevor Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap in third whilst Big Big River ran a fine race in fifth after losing a lot of ground mid race.

Vintage Clouds was a creditable sixth, having forced the pace very hard from early on.


Looking Ahead: It’s only been a week since Tiger Roll won the Grand National but could both these two be headed to Aintree next April? Nicky Richards has already mentioned it for Takingrisks and Crosspark, who is a year younger and would look a natural for the Aintree.

Nicky Richards, trainer of Takingrisks: "I considered running Takingrisks in the race after he won at Carlisle last month as the cheek pieces seemed to improve him a bit. I don't see why he couldn't be an Aintree horse, he jumps and stays, and although he went on this quick ground it was heavy when he won at Carlisle."


Also at Ayr….

  • Verdana Blue took advantage of fast ground to rout her Scottish Champion Hurdle rivals, with 7lb claimer Connor Brace taking the biggest victory in his fledgling career


  • Secret Investor looked a very smart horse when he provided Paul Nicholls with his seventh win in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase despite bulldozing a number of fences on the way round

  • Azzurri landed a massive week-long gamble to win the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase by nine lengths, going off 5/2 favourite after starting 8/1


  1. Meanwhile, around the globe...

Persian King laid a big marker as he outclassed his rivals in the Prix de Fontainebleau at Paris Longchamp, giving Godolphin yet another classic contender


  • Magical, last seen pushing Enable to the limit at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup, was an impressive winner of the Alleged Stakes (once sponsored by - Ed.), beating classic winners Flag Of Honour and Latrobe


  • Monarch Of Egypt became a first winner for his sire, American Pharoah, the former US Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, from his first start, for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, with Royal Ascot now on the cards


  • Saturnalia maintained his unbeaten record in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas), winning a thriller from Velox, who got first run in the straight


  • Omaha Beach fended off the late charge of Improbable to take the Arkansas Derby, in a result that sealed Kentucky Derby spots for the 1-2-3 (Country House was third)

  • Rushing Fall made a winning debut against older horses when grinding out a very creditable success in the Jenny Wiley Stakes, her fourth success from four starts at Keeneland

  • Delta Prince took his first Grade 1 with a deep rally from last place to win the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile Stakes, also at Keeneland


Racing is a truly global sport, and I hope this wrap of the week's action sets the tone for various national and international narratives in the weeks and months to come. You'll be able to track the stories right here in your weekly dose of Social Discourse...

- William Kedjanyi

Breeders’ Cup Baffert – Back For More

Bob Baffert is one of America’s outstanding trainer’s, having tasted huge success in the American Classics, along with holding an enviable record in the Breeders’ Cup.

Brought up on the family farm in Arizona, Baffert was just 10 when he started racing Quarter Horses purchased by his father. The seed was sown, and as a teenager he worked for $100 a day in racing events on the outskirts of his home town.

By the age of 20, he had progressed to training horses, and gained quite a reputation. In the 1980s, Baffert moved to California, and his involvement with Thoroughbreds began. He got his first big break in 1992, when Thirty Slews won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Baffert has landed a host of Classics since capturing his first in 1997, when training Silver Charm to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He came so close to securing the Triple Crown, when just touched off by half a length in the Belmont. Baffert was to suffer similar frustration a year later when Real Quiet took the opening pair of Classics before going down agonisingly in the Belmont Stakes by a nose.

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He finally captured the Belmont in 2001 with the outstanding chestnut colt Point Given. The three-year-old had previously won the Preakness, but failed to land the Kentucky Derby when only fifth. He concluded the campaign with victory in the Travers Stakes, making it nine wins from 13 career starts, earning a staggering $3,968,500.

Then followed a quiet spell for the trainer with regards to the Classics, though Baffert continued his love-affair with the Breeders’ Cup. In 2007 he captured the Sprint and the Juvenile Fillies, whilst a year later again landing the Sprint along with the Juvenile.

But it was in 2015 that the handler finally achieved the Triple Crown dream. American Pharoah was bred in Kentucky by his owner, Ahmed Zayat. He became Champion two-year-old in 2014, and a year later swept all before him, completing an incredible season with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He became the first horse to complete the Triple Crown for 37 years, and during an incredible career earned $8,650,300.

This weekend Baffert hopes to taste further success in the Breeders’ Cup at his local track, Santa Anita Park. His stables are just a short stroll from the racecourse, and his team of thoroughbreds work at the track daily. He has a powerful team primed to take on all-comers, and the betting suggests he has every chance of landing a valuable prize or two.

California Chrome is thought by many to be the ‘nap’ of the meeting, but in Arrogate, Baffert has a worthy challenger for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with the trainer looking to win the event for the third time in a row. His three-year-old stormed to victory in the Travers Stakes, looking exceptional, and breaking the track record in the process. He did his final piece of work yesterday at the Santa Anita track, and a relieved Baffert said: “He went nice. It was good to get it out of the way. I was a bit tense today. He's a beautiful-moving horse, but he still has to run against California Chrome.”

Though Arrogate looks to have a huge chance, it’s Dortmund that appears to be Baffert’s best hope of Breeders’ Cup glory. He is a short-priced favourite to take the Dirt Mile, and chased home California Chrome last time at Santa Anita. That was over nine furlongs, and the mile looks ideal for this classy colt. He’s five from six at the California track, and will take some stopping.

Baffert has a terrific record in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and has another great chance of success with the four-year-old Lord Nelson. The winner of three Grade 1s already this summer, he arrives off the back of an impressive win in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes in October. Baffert also has three-year-old Drefong in the race. With only five career starts to his name, he will be taking on older horses for the first time, but is another Grade 1 winner, having won in Saratoga back in August.

Despite achieving so much over the years, the drive to succeed shows no sign of diminishing. This looks sure to prove an exciting Breeders’ Cup for Baffert and his team.

Phenomenal Flintshire – Consistency Personified

Arrogate handed Bob Baffert a stunning success in the race in which his star American Pharoah suffered a shock defeat 12 months earlier.

The three-year-old was being tested in graded company for the first time, and shot the opposition to pieces in winning the Travers Stakes in the fastest time ever recorded for the race, and in doing so, shattering the Saratoga track record.

Sent to the front, and setting a searching pace, he never looked in any danger, and scorched clear turning for home, winning by a yawning 13 and a half lengths. Mike Smith had his work cut-out to pull up the winner, proving just how much remained in the tank of this exciting youngster.

“Last year you probably could have poured me out of a shot glass,” Baffert recalled. “We were pretty dejected. I felt bad for the horse. He ran hard, he ran his heart out. The whole town came out to see him do something like Arrogate did today. I'm just glad to be back here with another chance at it. And my horse, what he did today is pretty incredible. He looks like a superstar in the making. I think the fans will remember watching a horse like this, because I know, when I see performances like this, they're very rare.”

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Sky Bet responded to the win by introducing Arrogate to their Breeders' Cup Classic market at 5-1, with California Chrome heading the market at 7-4. Those odds could prove pretty generous come November.

On the same card, a more established Juddmonte Farms star, Flintshire, completed back to back victories in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes. Held up at the rear for much of the race, he cruised into contention approaching the final turn, before Castellano, much to his relief, found a gap on the rail. The jockey asked his mount to make his move, and the race was quickly put to bed.

Castellano was full of praise for his outstanding ally, with the success sealing his place in the Breeders' Cup Turf on November 5. “I was very lucky to go and cut through on the rail and accelerate,” the rider said. “He's a phenomenal horse. I've never seen any horse with that much acceleration on the grass.”

First or second in all bar one of his last 13 starts, and 10 of those being at Grade/Group 1 level, Chad Brown’s six-year-old has become something of an international phenomenon. He’s been runner-up in two Arcs, a Breeders’ Cup Turf and a Hong Kong Vase, and has become a model of consistency at the highest level. He’s sure to go close in November at Santa Anita, regardless of the opposition.

Whilst the radar was set on the Breeders’ Cup over the pond, on this side of the Atlantic, many have their sights on Ascot’s Qipco British Champions Day in October.

On Saturday at Goodwood, Lightning Spear finally put in a performance worthy of the praise he had been adorned by his trainer David Simcock. Always highly thought of, he came with a withering late burst to win the Celebration Mile. He’d run a cracker earlier in the campaign, when a close third to Tepin in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. A return to Ascot for the QEII now looks a realistic target, for which he is best priced 16/1.

Speaking to Channel Four Racing after the victory, Simcock said: “That's a massive relief, honestly. We've always thought the world of him and he was brilliantly nurtured by Olly Stevens. We've just picked up the pieces. We were so pleased with his first start in the Queen Anne and watching his last two races you wouldn't believe it and you feel sorry for the horse as he's very, very good. I'm not one to hype horses and I think he's really talented. He's got a really good turn of foot. Everything is aimed towards Ascot now and we'll have a really good go at the QEII.”

As we approach September, those end of season targets are coming around at pace. The Arc meeting at Chantilly is only a month away. We have little more than six weeks to wait for the British Champions Day at Ascot. And then it will be the turn of Santa Anita to play host to the Breeders’ Cup. Exciting times lie ahead.

Breeders’ Cup Brief – Chrome Shines

It’s still more than two months away, but talk has already turned to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup from Santa Anita.

America’s most prestigious racing event takes place on November 4-5, at one of the country’s most iconic tracks. Santa Anita Park has held the Breeders’ Cup eight times before, including three on the bounce from 2012 to 2014.

It is considered one of the most beautiful racetracks in the United States, with the stunning San Gabriel Mountains forming a glorious backdrop. The course has witnessed victories from ‘racing royalty’ over the years. In 1940 the legendary Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his final outing. The unlikely looking champion became the subject of numerous books and films. A statue of the horse stands on the course.

Due to its proximity to Los Angeles, the track has often attracted the rich and famous. The likes of Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy and Errol Flynn, all owned horses that raced at the Park.

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In the Breeders’ Cup of 2009, the incredible mare Zenyatta, became the first female to win ‘The Classic’. The Santa Anita public treated her like a filmstar. A year later she attempted to win the race again, and in doing so, retire undefeated from her 20 career starts. In an agonising finale, she missed out by just a short-head.

California Chrome bids to dazzle at Santa Anita this time around. At the weekend he proved mightily impressive in taking the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He defeated his chief rivals, Beholder and Dortmund, with a great deal of ease. Beholder had won the race a year ago by a yawning eight lengths, and is a ten-time Grade 1 winner.

Art Sherman’s five-year-old appears better than ever this season, and is five from five for the campaign. The latest success pushed his career earnings to a staggering $13 million. His odds were cut to as short as 5-4 for ‘The Classic’ in November, and on this evidence he’ll be incredibly difficult to beat.

“I knew the race was over at the three-eighths pole, because I know what the horse can do," said Sherman after the victory. “If Espinoza would have rolled him out, he would have been close to the track record. But I'm not looking for the track record. Let him come back in one piece. We've got some serious races the rest of the year."

Sherman confirmed that the Breeders’ Cup means everything this year, when adding: “I'm not pressing him. I want a fresh horse going into that race (The Classic). He'll let me know how he's feeling."

Though much can change between now and November, it appears that the Juddmonte winner, Postponed, may well take in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, should he recover well from his tilt at the Arc.

His trainer Roger Varian reflected on the Group 1 success, when speaking to At The Races, saying: “It was important to achieve that Group I win over 10 furlongs. Whether he needs to go over 10 furlongs again, possibly not. He'll step back up to a mile and a half for a crack at the Arc next time. If he comes through the Arc unscathed, we'd consider a crack at the Breeders' Cup Turf and I should think that would be it for the year, but we've got a big one to focus on right now.”

More clues for the Breeders’ Cup should be forthcoming at Saratoga this weekend. The Travers Stakes is the feature, which last year saw a shock defeat for the outstanding colt American Pharoah. Exaggerator has won both the Preakness and the Haskell Stakes, having previously been runner-up in the Kentucky Derby to Nyquist. This trip is sure to suit, and a victory will likely see him added to the contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.

Breeders’ Cup 2015: A Homecoming for the Ages

Breeders' Cup XXXII, hosted for the first time by Keeneland racecourse, in Lexington, Kentucky, was billed as a homecoming for the franchise. As the birthplace of so many champions - Kentucky can boast to have bred 78% of all US-bred Breeders' Cup winners, and 64% of all winners since inception - this was a venue as fitting as any to host the end of season 'World Thoroughbred Championships'.

Romance and appropriateness aside, questions had been murmured regarding Keeneland's ability to accommodate such a vast jamboree. After all, this is no Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby annually welcomes 170,000 racegoers and revellers; nor is it Santa Anita, host six times since 2008 and nine in all, thus possessing a bombproof blueprint for staging the event.

Moreover, the last time the Cup was hosted outside of those two venues, at Monmouth Park in 2007, it was something of a disaster with rain and logistics making that year memorable for all the wrong reasons. It is surely more than coincidence that it took another eight years for a new venue to be chanced.

The main risks were perceived as the weather - as Bayern was winning the 2014 Classic in sunny Santa Anita, snow was falling in Keeneland - and those pesky logistics: could a track unaccustomed to 50,000+ crowds cope with such a phalanx of fans? As time soon told, there was little about which to fret.


One of the great things about racing, and about Breeders' Cup week in particular, is that horses are largely trained under public scrutiny on the track. What makes Cup week so special is that global equine superstars congregate in a single place, allowing aficionados unprecedented access to their horsey heroes.

So it was that this week, as well as the likes of Golden Horn and Gleneagles, familiar friends of European track dwellers, the best of the rest also strut their thang for all to see. Best of the best is a chap called American Pharoah, a home bred born and raised in the state of Kentucky - where else?

American Pharoah completes his final workout

American Pharoah completes his final workout

Winner of the Triple Crown in America, the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 (and only the fourth since 1948), this fine fellow has enjoyed a special year, and was already assured Hall of Fame status courtesy of that terrific treble in the early part of the season.

A few moments before AP graced the training track, his main rival, a five-year-old mare called Beholder, also cantered a couple of circuits. Sadly, her interrupted preparation - she spiked a temperature during transit from California - caught up with her and she was withdrawn from the field.

If there were a few initial clouds of doubt regarding the venue for 2015 Breeders' Cup, there were no such reservations about the quality of the participants. The brain fails when trying to recall a deeper entry, as the winners of the Derby, Arc (Golden Horn both), 1000 Guineas (Legatissimo), and English, Irish (Gleneagles both) and French 2000 Guineas (Make Believe) all flew in to represent the European Classic generation.

A robust older, and younger, Euro contingent supplemented the established stars, and they in turn joined the biggest names on the US scene this year: Liam's Map, Private Zone, Runhappy, among many others.

The stage was thus set for what is a slightly lop-sided two day extravaganza, with four races on Friday little more than an amuse bouche ahead of Saturday's vast a la carte selection [personal preference would be for one further race - the Turf Sprint perhaps - to move to Friday making a slightly less unbalanced 5-8 split].

Friday Races

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

First up, the Juvenile Turf, and the word in McCarthy's, Lexington's obligatory Irish home from home, was that Hit It A Bomb could not get beaten. Strange then, in the face of such confidence, that he was sent off at 7.2/1 against 9/2 in the early running here in Blighty. The reasons for his market uneasiness were threefold: inexperience off just two lifetime starts, lack of Group race form, and a "parking lot" draw.

As it transpired, Hit It A Bomb had three things in his favour: a rapid early pace which strung the field out; Ryan Moore riding a perfect race (again); and his own incredible talent enabling him to surge to the lead in the last few yards having spotted a dozen rivals distance turning in.

1-0 to Europe and, with so many top-notch turfers still to come, hope swelled for a strong European weekend.


Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

Little Euro interest in race two, the 'Dirty Mile', as the shortest priced favourite of the entire weekend, four-year-old Liam's Map, was 'expected'. And for good reason. Liam's Map had charted a course to five wins in a very light seven race career, including by a wide margin and with a career best Beyer speed figure in Grade 1 company on his most recent start.

Generally a need the lead type, the question here was that if he was taken on early how would he react? Missing the break was an unfortunate beginning, and then when forced to check numerous times on heels behind the pace-pushing pair of Mr. Z and Bradester it looked as though the shallow odds were in deep water.

Shuffled back to a boxed in seventh, albeit only two lengths off the lead, rounding the far turn, Todd Pletcher's grey colt showed all his class when the gap finally came, ceding first run but not first past the post to a game and clear second best, Lea.

In the circumstances, this was an effort that could be marked up and marked up again. Sadly, that will be for academic purposes only, as Liam's Map now travels the ten miles from Keeneland to Lane's End Farm's breeding sheds to begin his new career.


Juvenile Fillies Turf

The second of the two juvenile turf heats, this time for the girls, and with Alice Springs, Nemoralia and Illuminate in the field, Team GB/Ire looked promising. In the event, the raiding party again failed to deliver as it has done in all bar two of the eight renewals. It may be no coincidence that the two victories came in the two 'Lasix off in juvenile races' years (Lasix being an almost ubiquitously applied elixir in American racing to restrict horses' bleeding) of 2012 and 2013.

That was supposed to lead to a wider ban on the drug at Breeders' Cup but, instead - and perhaps partially as a result of Europe sweeping the board in the juvie turf events at those two Santa Anita meetings, the US horsemen revolted and the Breeders' Cup Committee reneged.

Still, before we get too morally pugnacious, it should be noted that most of the European team - including both of its winners - were deploying raceday medication. So was main Euro hope, Alice Springs, here. She ran a great race in second, possibly squeezed a little in the straight, behind by Canadian-based Mark Casse's maiden Breeders' Cup winner, Catch A Glimpse, and in front of Jeremy Noseda's all-too-late runner, Nemoralia. It was to be a great weekend for Casse.


Breeders' Cup Distaff

With Beholder's defection to the Classic, and latterly her defection from the meeting, the Distaff looked wide open and lacking in star quality. Five year old Wedding Toast was favoured, but she ran a lacklustre race having used plenty of petrol trying to secure her preferred front rank berth.

In the end it was a dirt double for Todd Pletcher, as he welcomed Stopchargingmaria into the winners' circle. She'd run a flat fourth last time out and had failed to better a 95 Beyer in 15 career starts. In beating Stellar Wind, a progressive three-year-old but one which had also failed to surpass 95 Beyer, this looked a moderate renewal. Indeed, every previous winner since 2005 had recorded at least 100 on that speed scale.

For the record, here's the tape.


A crowd of 45,000 watched the Friday action and, as one of them, I felt the track handled the numbers well. Queues for wagering, drinks, food and toilets were all shorter than at big UK race days, and there was the usual relaxed Breeders' Cup crowd vibe throughout. The sun even poured a beautiful sunset over Keeneland on Friday evening as a portent of what was to follow during its next arc.

The sun sets on Day One of Keeneland's Breeders' Cup

The sun sets on Day One of Keeneland's Breeders' Cup


Saturday Races

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

A bigger crowd of just north of 50,000 were in attendance on Saturday, though many of them were yet to arrive as the young ladies prepared for the first of nine Cup races on Saturday, a nonet culminating with American Pharoah's bid for pole position in the pantheon of American racehorses.

Songbird, a winner of three, including two consecutive Grade 1's in dominant fashion, shipped east from California. Her form was in a league of its own, her speed figures were in a league of their own, she looked set to have her own way on the front again, and she traded commensurately short at 3/5.

As the gates opened, she catapulted to the front and never saw a rival, easing off to a near six length verdict over the pick of the East Coast entries, impeccably bred Rachel's Valentina (by Bernardini out of Rachel Alexandra). Songbird is the best winner of this I can remember. So, while Beholder (2012) went on to great things including beating the boys up this year before injury intervened ahead of the Classic, this filly could take on the lads much earlier, perhaps even having a tilt at the Kentucky Derby.

Her time here compared favourably with the Juvenile winner though, as we'll see, that one didn't have quite such a straightforward trip.

This is one to enjoy, as have all her races been, three of them Grade 1, which she's now won by a combined 22 lengths, for an average 5 1/2 length winning margin. She's a fleet-footed filly. Fact.

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Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

Next up, the Turf Sprint. Run for the eighth time, but the first time at the intermediate distance of five and a half furlongs, that proved to be the key to unlocking a big-priced winner. Mongolian Saturday was his name, and his beautifully swathed connections were a treat for thousands of appreciative spectators, many obliged in their search for selfies.

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky

Running free of Lasix, the son of Any Given Saturday was to kick off a noteworthy 'clean' Sprint double, the only runners in their respective races not on the 'juice'.

He'd been a tremendous servant to connections all season running some competitive speed figures and finishing in the frame in his previous ten races.

But back to that aforementioned distance key. Mongolian Saturday had won his only five and a half furlong turf race; and second placed Lady Shipman had won four of five turf starts at the trip. They were two of only four in the field with a strong record at the precise range which, in races decided by fine margins, may have tilted the scales in their favour.

Specifically in relation to the winner, he's run a sensational race, having been drawn on the wide outside, been gunned to contest a 22 second flat opening quarter, and hung tough in the straight to win by the proverbial fag paper. This was Florent Geroux's second Cup win of the weekend and his third in all after Work All Week's Sprint triumph last year. He's a name to note.

Mongolian Saturday was a 15.9/1 chance on the tote board, having been 25/1 here.

Here's the race: heart-breaking if you backed Lady Shipman, heart-warming if you were a North American racing fan based in Ulaanbataar!


Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

Now eight years old, the Filly and Mare Sprint has still to welcome its first three-year-old winner, but that didn't stop Cavorting being sent off the warm 3.4/1 favourite. She ran pretty well in truth, eventually finishing fourth having been held up from her outside draw, but she was no match for Wavell Avenue.

That one, giving Chad Brown his first dirt winner at the Breeders' Cup and his sixth Cup win overall, reversed the form with La Verdad from Belmont's Gallant Bloom Handicap. If this race had been the same distance as that one - six and a half furlongs - the result would have been the same. But this was seven furlongs, and the visual impression of Belmont was confirmed at Keeneland, as La Verdad's stamina gave best to Wavell Avenue's late run.

La Verdad and Wavell Avenue ran the same races for 6.5f

La Verdad and Wavell Avenue ran the same races for 6.5f

Taris looked the unlucky filly, caught on heels for much of the home straight, and Simon Callaghan's Coolmore four-year-old can be marked up on this effort. This viewer thought Taris's jockey, Gary Stevens, was a tad lily-livered about making something happen and probably should have been at least second if he'd switched to the three path about a furlong and a half out. Uncharitably, Stevens blamed La Verdad for checking his run up the rail, but he was looking for a miracle gap and it was a poor ride, plain and simple.

Anyway, don't take my work for it. Judge for yourself...


Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Run for the first time over nine and a half furlongs, the shortest distance in the race's 17 year history, Europe had a very strong hand. Legatissimo has carried all before her on our side of the pond this year, winning the 1000 Guineas, the Nassau and the Matron Stakes, and running close seconds in the Oaks and Pretty Polly, all Group 1's.

Here she was sent off the 9/10 jolly, with a trio of further solid European Group 1 performers in Miss France, Secret Gesture and Queen's Jewel in support. The worry for Legatissimo, long season aside, is that she tends to take a while to hit her stride, something inconducive with the inside turf oval at Keeneland.

Concerns proved well founded, as Moore's firm rousting took a furlong to elicit the desired response, during which time Stephanie's Kitten had kicked in her more instant turbo and burned through a dream split between the fading trailblazers to put the race to bed.

This was a second Breeders' Cup success for six-year-old Stephanie's Kitten, who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf back in 2011; and she'd also run a game second in this race last year. Her 2015 victory took place just six miles from where young Stephanie was born and raised as a kitten, and it is to there that she will now be retired to the paddocks. This was a seventh BC triumph for Chad Brown, hard on the heels of his sixth in the previous race.

Queen's Jewel, with Lasix aiding her constitution for the first time, was hampered in the initial furlongs and ran home best of all in third. But it would be ambitious to suggest the early impediment was the difference between victory and defeat. It was not.

Irad Ortiz, Jr., architect of Secret Gesture's "taking down" in the Beverley D. had a dream trip through a packing field here to prove the scourge of Europe once again. He's surely used up two of his nine Kitten's lives in recent weeks.


Breeders' Cup Sprint

This looked a great race in prospect, and it was the fairy story of the weekend, though with a Roald Dahl (or Edgar Allan Poe if you prefer) ending. Trainer Maria Borell had been successfully tilting at windmills all season with her gorgeous three-year-old Super Saver colt, Runhappy. This young chap, and his young trainer, are very hard not to love. Both go about their business with passion and talent, and both wear their hearts on their sleeve.

Here, Runhappy was up against a much more battle-hardened foe in the shape of Private Zone, a six-year-old veteran of 30 races, against Runhappy's six prior outings. Private Zone had been invincible this season at seven furlongs, but was dropping back an eighth here, against a progressive long-striding six furlong specialist.

The fractions were ridiculous, Private Zone dashing out from stall 13 to share the lead through the first quarter in 22.05, and the half mile in 44.31. What a huge race he ran in defeat eventually yielding to Runhappy late in the last furlong in a finishing time of 68.58 seconds. That's an average seconds per furlong of 11.43. Whoosh! Track record.

Runhappy had a wide trip in the three path around the turn so he too can be marked up on what is already a phenomenal run. Moreover, this was the first time he'd sat off the lead, rating in third. It caused him little or no inconvenience as he bounded up the home stretch to win going away. He'll get seven easily, and may stretch out to a mile if that rating style can be harnessed.

There was to be the ultimate sting in the tail, however, as Borell learned the morning after "the best day of my life" that she would no longer be training the horse. This staggering bombshell was delivered as it emerged that there was a conflict of opinion between the trainer and the owner's racing manager about Runhappy shipping west to continue his racing career.

For a young trainer who has done nothing wrong - and a heck of a lot right, regardless of the raw ability of her horse - that must be so hard to take. Horse racing is a cruel sport at the best of times, but decisions like this beggar belief, and I trust the owner, a mattress salesman, continues to sleep soundly at night. I'm confident I wouldn't be able to.

Here's the unbridled majesty of Runhappy gunning down a gladiator...


Breeders' Cup Mile

The Mile has been about France and America since Ridgewood Pearl last claimed the prize for Britain or Ireland in 1995. That was 20 years and 50 runners ago, and that sequence extended to 52 runners here.

In truth, before the race it looked like one for the French, who had a fearsome line up of G1 scorers in Make Believe, Impassable, Esoterique and Karakontie. But, for whatever reason, they all misfired and misfired badly, running no better than fifth between them.

The winner, Tepin, had been clear pick of the domestic squad coming in to the Mile, having blitzed a massive seven length Grade 1 victory over course and distance (soft turf) four weeks earlier. She proved that career best to be no fluke, stalking obvious pace angle, Obviously (!), before finding herself five clear with a sixteenth to go.

As is often the case in the Mile, regardless of the host track, there was scrimmaging on the inside rail, the Gallics clambering all over each other. Mondialiste, held up as usual, saw daylight too late but flew home for a clear second for Danny Tudhope and trainer David O'Meara. Clearly my Friday night pep talk with the cuprous conjuror had worked its magic!

Tepin, 4.9/1 at the off but available at 14's just a few days ago in Britain, had the perfect position off a steady pace, and gave her trainer, Mark Casse, his second win of the meeting, and jockey Julien Leparoux his sixth Breeders' Cup win overall.

Here's the race again:


Breeders' Cup Juvenile

The antepenultimate Cup race of 2015, the Juvenile, looked a touch sub-standard on paper, and so it proved. Nyquist, one of only two unbeaten colts in the race, and one of only two unbeaten on dirt, had a tough post in 13 to overcome.

Things looked insurmountable as jockey Mario Gutierrez was forced six wide around the first turn. But that was down to three wide into the second turn, and Nyquist's stamina kicked in to forge the pairing into a three length lead in the straight. By the line, he was all out to hold another wide-drawn wide-tripper, Swipe, but hold him he did to reward backers at odds of 4.7/1.

The pair pulled more than two lengths clear of their field and, though it was probably a moderate field, this duo can be rated slightly higher than the finishing time for their efforts.

In what looks a wide open Durrrby year in 2016, both deserve their places near the head of the market, albeit at prices (20/1 Nyquist, 33/1 Swipe) that reflect the openness of the heat. Brody's Cause also had a shocker of a run, finishing caked in filth for a staying on third, and his 33/1 quote is moderately attractive too, this first loss on dirt perhaps down to inexperience as much as anything.

Songbird is the 16/1 favourite with British books, and there are surely worse 16/1 shots than her, notwithstanding that she may not take in the Kentucky Derby, and that it is very, very hard to win that race with her run style (only War Emblem, 2002, has led gate to wire since 1988).

A lot will change between now and the 'run for the roses' in the first weekend in May but, for now at least, this may be the best trial there has been so far.


Breeders' Cup Turf

The last of the six grass races is the immaculately-named Turf, a mile and a half contest. It has been an awful race for favourites down the years with highly-touted 'obvious' Europeans routinely beaten. Against that backdrop, Golden Horn - winner of the Arc and Derby this season, as well as the Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes - attempted to buck the trend.

In opposition was a solitary further Euro, Found, a filly who has a propensity for close up defeat and who ran an unlucky five lengths ninth in the Arc in her only try at the distance. It was her general malady of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory rather than that Arc run which put this scribe off the 'wrong' Euro in a race I traditionally call wrong, and from which I am now considering self-exclusion.

Suffice it to say that, in the face of an ordinary enough challenge from Team USA and the presence of an only remotely interesting South American challenger, Ordak Dan, I wagered heftily on Golden Horn at what turned out to be a too good to be true local quote of 4/5. Way to return significant profits from whence they came!

In the race itself, Goldie Hawn looked to have few problems with his trip, likewise Found. Indeed, likewise all, so the result has to be seen as fair if not necessarily representative. After all, whilst Found over Golden Horn is credible, that the pair were no more than a length or so in front of Big Blue Kitten and, more notably, Slumber, implies one or both of the shippers ran some way below their best.

Maybe it was their long seasons, maybe the travel, more likely a combination of both. But the differential between Derby/Arc-winning form has to be more than a length superior to the pick of the local crowd, doesn't it? What is worth taking away is that both third and fourth were trained by Chad Brown, comfortably the best American trainer of Breeders' Cup turf runners, and a man to keep well onside going forwards.

For those who didn't back Golden Horn - especially if you did take some of the incredibly-generous-and-not too-good-to-be-true 6.4/1 on Found (exacta paid a whopping 20/1) - here is the re-run.


Breeders' Cup Classic

Despite a dozen races having been confined to the record, those Breeders' Cup propagandists had it bang on the money: "The Best Is Yet To Come".

The best was yet to come. Not the best race, you understand. That was probably Runhappy's cold-blooded assassination of the ageing warrior, Private Zone. But the best racehorse. A fellow by the name of American Pharoah.

The 'Pharoah' was a champion coming into the race, having won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes - the Triple Crown. He was the first since 1978 to achieve this mythical feat and he did it at a time when American racing was pleading for a shot in the arm of his ilk.

Since the Belmont in early June, AP had raced twice: first he confirmed superiority over his age group in the Haskell, but then... he... was... beaten. Gasp.

Just as tactics got the better of Golden Horn in mid-season, so the Pharoah was tactically mastered in the Travers. Not by a single horse, but rather a 'double teaming' whereby Frosted - a rival here - buttered him up on the speed before Keen Ice - another rival here - ran by in the lane. Not. In. The. Script.

But if gamblers love a golden child, they love a story of loss and redemption more. In truth, there was little to redeem, AP losing nothing in defeat due to his valiant efforts in the face of tough breaks. He was akin to a Tour de France champion being mastered by team tactics on an Alpine stage, but with General Classement victory assured.

Here, his task was simplified considerably by the late defection of Beholder. The clear main danger had not been herself since travelling to Kentucky, and she succumbed to the almost inevitable in scratching. Her absence made Pharoah's task easier than merely having one less horse to beat.

No, Beholder was a key facet of the tactical shape of the race, having been expected to ride on the shoulder of AP from half a mile and more out. In her, and also the bulky hard-to-keep-sound Smooth Roller's absence, there looked to be no pace contention for Bob Baffert's world beater, whose metier is to turn the screw from the front. To use the cycling analogy once more, AP is happiest when in solo time trial mode.

Here, off a steady first quarter mile, he led all the way, gradually increasing his cadence as his rivals wilted in behind, eventually running away from them by six and a half lengths in a time of 2:00:07. Two minutes and seven hundredths of a second. But for some supreme saddle posturing by jockey Victor Espinoza in the shadow of the post, American Pharoah would surely have ducked under the two minute barrier.

Still, as you can see, it was a GREAT photo opportunity, very well taken, and an image which looks sure to endure for generations to come.

Victor with a grin for the ages...

Victor with a grin for the ages... (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The race itself was without other incident, and it was without the need for other incident too, this being a glorious equine monologue, the final procession of a Pharoah: the American Pharoah.

The crowd had come to watch him strut his stuff and, in the face of no adversity, he did just that. His welcome was rapturous and, over the course of the season, wholly deserved.

Once the dust had settled, I snuck away from the madding throng to wave cheerio to, as NBC's fantastic race caller put it, "the horse of a lifetime", as he was led away from a race track for the final time.


Keeneland 2015 was one of the great Breeders' Cups. Perhaps the greatest of all Breeders' Cups. Certainly the best of the thirteen Breeders' Cups since 2001 that I've been lucky enough to attend.

Fears about the ability of Keeneland, and Lexington in general, to cope with the legion of racegoers were unfounded. The track and the town handled the influx comfortably. The weather was cool - sure, it's November, right? - and, for the most part over Cup weekend, dry. On another weekend it could have rained, and on another one still it might have snowed. But racing isn't always in sunshine, and not all horses train under nature's lights, so I say fair enough.

More importantly, for the Breeders' Cup itself, it basked in its own sunshine by bringing the American Pharoah out for one last glorious hoorah. From a selfish perspective, I hope this signals the start of a new confidence in pushing the boundaries of Breeders' Cup locations.

Keeneland, in Lexington, in Kentucky, is more than just a spiritual home for US racing. It is the epicentre of the breeding business, itself the lifeblood of the sport. After a Breeders' Cup where eleven of thirteen winners - 85% - were bred in the state of Kentucky, this truly was a homecoming for the ages.


p.s. the Breeders' Cup Compendium, which can be downloaded here, made a clear profit of over 21 points on stakes of just 16 points. It flagged winners at 25/1, 14/1 and 12/1 as well as a number of others at shorter prices; and it made for a very fun evening for subscribers 🙂

Right On Cue – Jumps Season Takes Flight

Cue Card back on top

Cue Card back on top

Across the Atlantic American Pharoah’s historic victory thrilled a nation, and proved a fitting conclusion to the Breeders’ Cup. Whilst back in Old Blighty Cue Card reminded us of the enthralling winter that lies ahead.

Action from Wetherby, Ascot and Down Royal provided a notable gear-shift in the latest National Hunt campaign. But it was Colin Tizzard’s stable star that created the headlines. Last season had proved a huge disappointment, when after poor runs at Haydock and Kempton he had to miss the Cheltenham Festival due to on-going wind issues. He was then thumped by Don Cossack at Aintree, before ending the campaign with a promising run at Punchestown. Saturday’s stunning win in the Charlie Hall Chase was a welcome return to form for the popular chaser.

Tizzard had spouted confidently of a big run and so it proved. After the win the trainer said: “Last year he was troubled by a trapped epiglottis, so it is wonderful to see him back to something like his best. We brought him in a month early this time and he's been brilliant all the way through. He's in the Hennessy and on Tuesday morning he'll also be entered in the Betfair Chase, so we've got options.”

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The Betfair at Haydock had been the scene of his last success back in 2013, and surely that would now be the logical target, assuming he comes out of the Wetherby victory fit and well. It was the first time Paddy Brennan had partnered the horse in competition and the jockey was clearly thrilled with the win. He rode the horse prominently throughout, taking the lead turning into the straight. There was a moment between the last two fences when Cue Card looked to be tiring, however, he picked up again after the last and was going away at the line.

David Pipe’s pair of Dynaste and Ballynagour ran with great credit in second and third, and at least one of those seem likely to reoppose later this month at Haydock.

Earlier at Wetherby the testing ground had proved a little too much for Rock On Ruby to handle, when he failed to land a blow on impressive winner Kilcooley in the Bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle. The winner is a machine on soft or heavy ground and could prove dominant in staying hurdles throughout the winter if getting his preferred conditions. Charlie Longsdon’s six-year-old ran his rivals ragged in what appeared a lifetime best performance.

Both Rock On Ruby and the third home Aqalim will prove far more competitive on a sounder surface, and cannot be discounted from the major end of season staying events.

Over in Ireland, Don Cossack was cruising to victory in Down Royal’s Champion Chase. He’s a hugely talented chaser with a serious engine; however, his jumping is still sticky at times, and will probably need to improve if he is to beat the very best. He looks likely to head for Kempton and contest the King George, though I’m not certain either the track or style of race would necessarily suit this huge strong galloper.

Yesterday saw the return of another with Gold Cup aspirations when Saphir Du Rheu jumped impeccably at Carlisle. He had to beat The Young Master decisively and duly did so with a round of jumping that will have thrilled his trainer. With Silviniaco Conti likely to swerve Cheltenham next March, Nicholls will be hopeful that Saphir can step into the breach.

As American Pharoah and Golden Horn retire from racing and take up their new careers as stallions, so we welcome familiar heroes to the new National Hunt season. The early signs are certainly positive. Last winter was sensational, and we look set for more of the same.

Dettori and Moore set for ‘Tussle in the Turf’

Top Jocks - Dettori, Moore and O'Brien

Top Jocks - Dettori, Moore and O'Brien

Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori are regulars on the Breeders’ Cup Turf roll of honour.

Magician and Conduit did the trick for Moore, whilst Dettori struck with Daylami and Fantastic Light for Saeed bin Suroor before wins on the Meehan pair Red Rocks and Dangerous Midge.

The Italian is rejuvenated thanks in no small part to his association with John Gosden. The horse to put Frankie back in the limelight is of course Golden Horn. The jockey understandably loves the colt and is hopeful of ending the campaign on a high. Speaking recently he said: “He’s the sort of horse who thrives on his racing, he takes his races really well and I think he is getting better. He's very tough - most of the great ones are. He always has something to give.”

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Brilliant in the Epsom Derby, Golden Horn was scintillating in the Arc, but conditions are likely to be less favourable at Keeneland. Gosden remained unfazed when saying yesterday: “It is soft, good to soft in places. We are in a period of hopefully 48 hours of dry weather. It will improve all the time. We are making it clear we plan to run.”

A season spent asserting that the colt was at his best on a sound surface suggests that he will be vulnerable on Saturday. There’s every chance that Ryan Moore will be best placed to capitalize.

Back on track after spending much of the season on the side-lines, Moore is ‘top-dog’ for Coolmore and has several high profile rides during the Breeders’ Cup. Aidan O’Brien’s filly Found, will be one of his better chances of success. She’s high-class, though has endured a rather frustrating campaign.

Her second place to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes gives her every chance in the ‘Turf’ especially if the favourite fails to run to form. Her last performance, when given plenty to do in the Qipco Champion Stakes confirmed her ability to challenge the colts at the very highest level.

Only two fillies have won the race since its inception in 1984, though O’Brien does have a good record with his three-year-olds. Son Joseph spoke yesterday of the filly, saying: “Found has handled a bit of juice in the ground before, so it mightn’t be as big a problem for her as for some of them. She takes her racing with a great attitude.”

Aside from the ‘Tussle in the Turf’, the two jocks have every chance of adding to their Breeders’ Cup winning tally. Both have mounts for Wesley Ward in the Turf Sprint, though Dettori has the plum ride on Undrafted. Moore then partners Legatissimo in the Filly & Mare Turf, whilst Frankie gets the leg-up on Miss France for Fabre.

Moore’s final ride is on Gleneagles in the Classic. He’s an intriguing challenger to the mighty American Pharoah. Untested competitively on dirt, and stepping up in trip for the first time, much appears to be against him. But this colt is a duel Guineas winner and O’Brien clearly holds him in the highest esteem.

Arguably two of the greatest jockeys in recent times are set for a thrilling weekend on the international stage. Their coming together is just one of numerous captivating Breeders’ Cup narratives.

American Pharoah primed for one last Hurrah

An American Hero

An American Hero

The Breeders’ Cup guest of honour continued to shine during his final work at Santa Anita.

American Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Yesterday he ‘breezed’ four furlongs before a gallop over five under the watchful eye of trainer Bob Baffert. Saturday’s $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be his final race before he starts his career as a stallion based at the Coolmore America Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

An emotional Baffert spoke of his equine hero with that final race drawing near: “He fulfilled a goal for me that I wanted but thought was probably unreachable, and that was to win the Triple Crown. It was emotional for me because unfortunately my parents weren't around to see it and they were always my biggest fans.“

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Of that historical final leg of the Triple Crown he added: "The Belmont is the first time I've run a horse and never rooted for it. I just watched in amazement, and that's really rare. I always root and scream my lungs out, but watching him, I just knew he was going to do it. There was something about him that's so special. We finally did it and we did it with a horse that was just so incredible.”

The exceptional colt has won eight of his 10 career starts, accumulating earnings of almost $6 million.
The trainer appeared more than pleased with his stars recent work, saying: “It went really well. I was debating whether to work him in company—like, maybe put a target in front—but we just wanted to cruise around there, and it was nice that we had the track to ourselves. He looked like Pharoah.” Ridden by his regular work rider Martin Garcia, the gallop proved a little faster than anticipated.

“He did it the right way,” Baffert said. “I just told Martin to keep him in hand and let him cruise around there. That's what he did. He could have slowed him down a little bit, but he was doing it the right way. I was pretty impressed. Going into this race, he's ready to roll.”

It was also American Pharoah's last run at the Santa Anita track, a place that has become home for most of his career. “Walking up here, I was getting a little bit emotional,” Baffert said. “I was excited to watch him work, and got a little bit nervous. It was great the way he was doing it, but a little piece of me said, 'it's a little bit sad.' We now have to ship and the ship has to go well. It doesn't matter where he goes. He's handled it very well so far. He's used to everything—the crowd, the paddock—he's just that kind of horse. It makes my life so much easier, but that's because he's so great. He can handle it mentally.”

Three-year-olds have a decent record in the Classic but by no means outstanding. Horses that have found success in the Triple Crown events rarely shine at the Breeders’ Cup. Curlin back in 2007 was the last horse to win both the Preakness Stakes and the Classic in the same season, whilst Drosselmeyer won the Belmont in 2010 and a year later won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The effort of a Triple Crown campaign is notoriously testing for a young horse, and Pharoah’s last run, when beaten in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, is cause for concern. Despite all this, the bookies have him as a short-priced favourite. He slipped up at Saratoga, but given a break since and seemingly on the back of a smooth prep there’s every chance America’s latest racing sensation can finish on a high.

“It’s going to be a sad, but a happy day when he leaves because he put us way up there,” Baffert said. “He gave us the biggest thrill you could get in racing.”

It would be a fitting final act, if he could give his trainer and connections one last thrill on Saturday night.

American Pharoah set for Travers outing

Sensational American Pharoah

Sensational American Pharoah

It’s been announced that US Triple-Crown winner American Pharoah will next head for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The race takes place on August 29 and will be his last prior to the Breeders’ Cup at the end of October.

After another stunning piece of work at Del Mar, his owner Ahmed Zayat confirmed the colt will head to New York. He is set to fly to Saratoga on August 26. Trainer Bob Baffert confirmed his star’s wellbeing on Sunday, saying: “He always works well, but we wanted to see if he still has that energy level. It was a pretty incredible work, and he's a pretty incredible horse.”

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With seven Grade 1 victories to his name, American Pharoah is fast becoming one of ‘American Dirts’ all-time greats. A hard fought victory in the Kentucky Derby was followed by a romp in the Preakness Stakes. This was arguably surpassed when he took the Triple-Crown in stunning fashion, destroying the field in the Belmont Stakes. Some may question the opposition but his strong performances have been backed by the clock.

His latest Grade 1 victory at Monmouth Park in the Haskell Invitational proved to be no more than a training session. In front of a record crowd he led from the off cruising clear before being heavily eased nearing the post.

Bob Baffert trained the sire, Pioneerof the Nile, a Kentucky Derby runner-up in 2009. It comes as no surprise to see that Northern Dancer appears on both sides of the pedigree, though admittedly going back a fair few generations. Both owner and trainer have hinted at their star’s standout quality. “We felt that he had brilliance in him,” said Zayat, “his demeanour, his aura, his conformation, and the way he moved.” Baffert added: “I've never had a horse that moves or travels over the ground like he does.”

His greatest test is likely to come at Keeneland, Kentucky, in the Breeders’ Cup at the end of a long arduous campaign. However, his trainer is sure to be a little nervous taking in the Travers Stakes. The only previous Triple Crown winner to find success in the race was Whirlaway in 1941.

Affirmed did cross the line ahead in the Travers of 1978 having already secured the Triple Crown, but was disqualified and placed second after interference with the runner-up Alydar. Baffert himself has a poor record in the race with just one win in five attempts. “I was looking for a reason not to run in the Travers but he didn’t give me one,” the trainer said. “I feel confident that he’ll run his race. If I saw he was a little flat he wouldn’t be on that plane.”

It’s hard to envisage anything other than another impressive victory for the great horse, assuming he arrives in New York fit and well. It will then be full steam ahead Kentucky for a thrilling season finale, before retiring to his duties as a stallion. He will stand at Ashford Stud, a division of Coolmore, after breeding rights were sold by Zayat.

It is estimated that his stud fee could reach $200,000. He looks set to be a star long after his sensational track exploits are over.

Sunday Supplement: Triple Crowned

American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

When dawn broke over London and more particularly Epsom yesterday, I already had the theme of my – what do I or you call it? – blog, article, entertaining (one hopes) romp, as the Editor once unwisely suggested, through the years or simply an hour’s self-indulgence.

Who else deserved centre stage but a jockey who’d not had a single ride for his nominal boss in his native land this year – and won’t have at The Curragh today – but came through to win the Investec Oaks on Qualify at 50-1 for said trainer? I’ll get to him later, much later, for as dawn passed to afternoon in Surrey, then across the Atlantic to late afternoon in New York, seismic shocks were delivered to both racing establishments.

Two questions had been exercising the brains of world racing. Would Golden Horn stay a mile and a half, once Anthony Oppenheimer had accepted that he should pay the £75,000 supplement to get his unbeaten colt into the Derby, and would American Pharoah stay the very different mile and a half of the Belmont Stakes to become the 12th winner of the American Triple Crown?

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Both questions were answered in the affirmative, much to the delight of Epsom observers, able to watch 44-year-old Frankie Dettori make possibly the most poignant of his trademark dismounts – we left straight after so I’m guessing he did one? – but much more emphatically to the packed stands at Belmont Park after American Pharoah’s trap-to-line right-of-passage around the vast oval that has killed so many owners’ dreams since Affirmed’s win under Steve Cauthen 37 years ago.

Watching on TV last night it was hard to stay immune from the emotion from New York. As he went over the line, Victor Espinosa (at 43, just a jot younger than Frankie) held his whip aloft in celebration – the same whip that crunched down repeatedly on American Pharoah’s flank as he coerced him to success in the first leg of the TC, the Kentucky Derby.

Without what has been construed over here as unacceptably harsh riding, he would probably have been beaten in Louisville and the Triple Crown would not have happened. Suffice to say that the Americans are far less squeamish when it comes to use of the whip. Espinosa, who was on Bob Baffert’s last failed Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem – whose Derby win was my only trip to a Triple Crown race – needed far less vigour this time, all the necessary power was in the Pharoah’s hooves and through his handsome body.

When I said “emotion”, it hardly pays justice to what actually happened. As they crossed the line, the crescendo of sound just swelled into near-delirium as 100,000 proud New Yorkers welcomed the California-trained champ, who won by five and a half lengths from second favourite Frosted. It was a long wait on one of those spaced-out US cards that leaves hours almost between races, but immensely worth it.

It wouldn’t really have mattered if four chimpanzees rather than the two line-ups – that’s right Attheraces had a crack, but sorry Matt (Chapman) I stayed with the other side. They had the tried and tested Angus McNee and James Willoughby duo supplemented by the dour man Mark, who seems to have the same Hull accent that inhabits the channel through other Timeform graduates, and refreshing Rachel. She’s the American lady who first saw the light of day on our tellies in conjunction with her pal Mark Johnson, who must have met her during his commentating stints at Churchill Downs.

Rachel – her surname begins with C and is Italian – was unstinting in her support of American Pharoah’s prospects, even going so far as to reassure one emailer to the show who’d backed the treble of Golden Horn, Barcelona in the Champions League Final and the Pharoah, with “you’ll be fine”. He was, and she was too. Even James was less quirky than usual, apart from frequent glances away from the action and thus the wide-angle camera. It was great entertainment, and real history, even if the host US broadcaster’s frequent jump from Kenny, to Laffit, to Uncle Tom Cobley for a series of 30-second inserts still gets on one’s nerves.

By the way, did you notice that Neymar, who scored the final goal at around 9.55 p.m. BST last night, also won a race for Michael Bell at Newcastle during half-time in the football. Bell, a big Manchester City fan, got 3-1 for his money. Earlier at Newcastle, Sir Alex Ferguson, Champions League-winning manager for the other Manchester club, also had a winner with the promising newcomer Red Artist for Simon Crisford. He had to accept 9-4. 1-0 to Bell!

I don’t know about you, but I reckon Golden Horn was one of the most emphatic Derby winners in recent history. The Dante winner challenged stable-companion Jack Hobbs at the furlong pole, and quickly moved clear. Anthony Oppenheimer has been trying to win the race through his breeding programme for many years and it’s wonderful for him that his trainer, John Gosden, encouraged him to stump up the 75 grand. As I said last week, 10-1 about what turned out to be a 13-8 shot was fair value.

Golden Horn won’t have to be exposed to a mile and a half any more, unless his superiority over his stablemate continues to expand. The Eclipse is there on the near horizon for him and The Curragh beckons Jack Hobbs. It’s great when the Derby goes to an unbeaten colt and as with Sir Ivor and several other potential non-stayers, their wins are generally more glorious.

For now it’s going to be ever onward and upward for Frankie and obviously Ryan Moore who for once missed out on a Classic winner thanks to the late powerful run of Qualify and Colm O’Donoghue on Friday. Aidan O’Brian commented: “We don’t use Colm very much, only on the big days”.

Last weekend Colm was also in England riding five horses at Chester. Three were for Brian Ellison and he was very powerful in the finish on last-gasp winner, Eastern Racer. With the Oaks victory, he now has twice as many wins in England this year as in Ireland where his only success from 16 mounts was on the Tara Lee Cogan-trained Bobby Jean at Limerick.

That track was the scene last night for another Aidan O’Brien-trained winner, Rosshaven Lady, in the concluding mares’ bumper. Owned and bred by Maurice G O’Brien, (any relation?) she won comfortably in the hands of another up-and-coming Ballydoyle rider, Sara O’Brien, who with mum Anne-Marie and sister Ana was in the Epsom paddock earlier in the day. Talk about hard work. No 9-5 for them, more like 5 a.m. to midnight!