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Tom Eaves still on cloud nine after Breeders’ Cup win

Tom Eaves is still walking on air after his fairytale success aboard Glass Slippers in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

The North Yorkshire-based jockey has been overcome by the phone calls and text messages he has received after he rode the Kevin Ryan-trained four-year-old to become the first European winner of the race.

Eaves has watched the race many times since he got back home – which has made the obligatory self-isolation due to Covid-19 protocols more bearable.

“It’s still sinking in. It was amazing. She was absolutely class,” he said.

“I’ve watched the race back numerous times. There was a strong pace on. I was happy where I was early on, then you need the gaps to come.

“It was a great training performance by Kevin Ryan – to have her there in that form was a real credit.

“I’m on cloud nine. The phone hasn’t stopped. It means a lot. I’m very thankful for all the messages I’ve had.”

Eaves returns to action at Newcastle on Tuesday, and after the winter all-weather campaign, he can look forward to renewing his association with Glass Slippers as she stays in training for 2021.

He said: “I’ve had to self isolate and you’ve got to stay at home, so I’ve not really been doing a lot, just watching a few replays.

“All the lads who went over are all in the same boat. Those chances don’t come around very often. It was a dream come true.

“I’m going to keep going over the winter and hopefully ride as many winners as I can and get busy.”

He added: “Glass Slippers stays in training next year, so that’s great. No doubt Kevin and the owners will have a chat about what they’re going to do with her.

“She comes good at that time of year. She proved over there that she goes on any ground, she goes round a bend and she’s stays well. She’s very versatile.”

Monday Musings: Wishing to be elsewhere…

I’m getting onto my travel agent (actually I don’t have one any more as I’ve been nowhere for ages) this morning, writes Tony Stafford. I’ll be trying to find the best (and obviously cheapest) way of getting to my new favourite place, Mata’utu, capital of the little-known Wallis and Fortuna Islands.

You didn’t know it was a country? Nor did I till yesterday when hard on the latest lockdown news, I thought it was time to rekindle my spring and summer obsession with Covid-19 and the statistics thereof.

When, two months ago, August in the UK ended with two deaths and September began with three, we all knew that racing’s apparently idiotic continuation with strict separation of limited-allowed owners from their trainers and jockeys had been way over the top. As I’ve said before, I’ve not gone racing since Cheltenham, but why couldn’t you talk in close company to trainers and jockeys when you could meet them in the pub freely before or after the races?

Now we learn that it was precisely because of how draconian it had all seemed that racing now can continue. The situation with owners has yet to be determined but if we don’t want the rest of society to get the hump, maybe it’s best to give that concession. Well done BHA.

Where so recently there were two and three fatalities, two months on it was 274 and 326, a neat average of 300 which is what it has been for the past five alarming days. Pubs, bars and restaurants will be packed until Wednesday and on Saturday the first sightings of the re-emerging toilet-roll hoarders supplanted the usual non-stop flow of trick-or-treaters on Hallowe’en. When I didn’t hear the one knock by would-be recipients of the goodies Mrs S as usual dutifully provided, we were treated with a raw egg thrown on the newly-cleaned front kitchen window for our pains! Messy to clean eggs are [as Yoda might say].

I thought it would be timely, now total cases in the UK have topped the million, so 14,000 per million of population, which is the ninth highest globally, to return to the subject. Deaths have risen above 46,000, fifth behind the US, France, Russia and Mexico.

Propping up the entire table at 218th – although a couple of cruise liners are included – is the above-mentioned Wallis and Fortuna Islands, which between them have recorded one case, the victim of which has happily recovered.

The islands are in the South Pacific, in between such better-known tourist spots as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, rugby nations whose influence on the game far exceeds the size of their population. Fiji has a team over in Europe at the moment. With only 34 recorded cases in the country it must have been a shock for the tour management to discover that “between five and seven” of their squad due to play an international in Paris with France next week have contracted the virus, so the match is off. Lesson for South Sea islanders: stay home!

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I love statistics. With only one now recovered case, Wallis and Gromit – sorry Fortuna – are listed on that same Worldmeters league table as having 90 cases per million of population. I’d be willing to take my chance, as long as they tell me which of the 15,289 souls from the latest census it was that copped it. Maybe he should be required to wear a badge? Not that they are a total island paradise. Even-handed Wikipedia reports that the “main health risks are mosquitos and sunburn, while drunk driving and intoxicated locals can also be a problem”. Thinking twice now, what with my skin cancer!

**

It would be tragic if racing stopped again not least because it would deny us another sighting of Saturday’s marvellous Charlie Hall Chase winner Cyrname, who put together the complete three-mile performance when cantering home a couple of lengths ahead of the doughty Vinndication.

Sometimes apparent ease can be deceptive but surely not here as Harry Cobden always looked to be in first gear all the way round two circuits of Wetherby as the rest of them huffed and puffed behind front-running Aye Right. Cobden kept Cyrname wide, possibly giving lip-service to the fact the country’s highest-rated chaser hadn’t previously won going left-handed. As the 1966 World Cup commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme would have said: “He has now!”

Stamina didn’t look a problem around a galloping track and the fences, never the easiest, were treated like the most welcoming of hurdles as he soared over them in perfect union with his jockey. Paul Nicholls ought never again to have to justify Cyrname’s being rated 4lb higher than Altior, and all of a sudden the great recent domination of Irish stables in the staying chaser ranks might well be getting properly challenged. Certainly even if he wasn’t able to stretch himself to three and a quarter miles around Cheltenham in March – and how do they bet whether we can go to see it or not? – Kempton’s King George looks a Christmas gift for Cyrname.

Meanwhile here we are at the start of November and within the next six days we will have got the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday and two days of the Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky, out of the way. In other words, all the worthwhile Flat racing of 2020 will have been and gone.

The O’Briens, father and elder son are back down under again, Aidan yet to win it, with 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck who heads the weights for the 24-runner two-mile handicap, and Tiger Moth, second in the Irish Derby this year and then an easy Group 3 winner thereafter. Joseph, who has won it before, also has two chances with proven stayers Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment.

Anthony Van Dyck will have his supporters after his recent close second to Verry Elleegant in the Caulfield Cup, for which the winner has incurred a 1lb penalty. Considering the first prize was £1,666,667 and the runner-up got £476,190, you could say that was hardly harsh treatment. Incidentally, Prince Of Arran, Charlie Fellows’ regular challenger for Australia’s biggest race, third and then second the last two years, got £114,000 for his fourth in the Caulfield Cup.

Verry Elleegant is some handicapper. This year the five-year-old mare, trained by Chris Waller, has gone to the races nine times, five before the actual end of the season in the Australian autumn. Her two best efforts before the break also earned her big money, each time running second behind William Haggas’s Addeybb and Tom Marquand as they picked up £1million plus prizes each time, at the start of his memorable year, while racing was in its lockdown phase back home.

After Verry Elleegant’s break, four more runs have followed bringing three wins including the Caulfield Cup.  All in Group 1 races, she started with a win over 7f, was then fourth over a mile, before further victories at 10f and a mile and a half. The three wins all came in photo-finishes. There must be a big chance that her toughness will be rewarded by victory in the biggest race of them all for Australians, and it comes at a time when Melbourne, so badly affected by Covid-19 earlier in the year, is celebrating as there have been no new cases anywhere in Australia on Friday and Saturday.

Presumably only insiders will be there rather than the six-figures that usually flock to Flemington  but the magic of getting up at all hours tomorrow morning to see John Berry give his usual virtuoso performance, not just on the big race, but all the supporting contests on the day, is an annual treat I don’t intend missing.

So the main tip is going to be Verry Elleegant and it will be a proper Aussie fairy story if she can do it. It’s always good though to see European trainers taking on the locals by using their training methods.

For years I’ve noticed more than a few horses run just before the big race. In the case of the Andreas Wohler four-year-old Ashrun, a son of Authorized – purchase authorized by Tony Nerses, of course! – he has run twice in the last fortnight, finishing a solid fourth to Steel Prince and ex-Hughie Morrison inmate, Le Don De Vie, in the Geelong Cup (Group 3) before as recently as Saturday coming home on top in another Group 3 at Flemington.

Unlike the brilliant home-trained mare and Anthony Van Dyck, Ashrun has no stamina worries for lasting out the two miles. In August he ran in the 1m7f Prix Kergorlay at Deauville and was a very good second, staying all the way to the line, behind Call The Wind. He gets 2lb extra for his win the other day, but again it will be a lovely story if the local pro-forma works for an invader.

Over the years, it seems, fewer Europeans attempt the costly trip across to the US to challenge for the Breeders’ Cup races and nowadays the dirt has become almost a total no-go. With five juvenile contests on Friday, the likeliest win for the invaders might be the Ballydoyle runner, Battleground, who has been reserved for the Juvenile Turf.

Royal Ascot winner Campanelle will be all the rage for Wesley Ward in either the Juvenile Turf Sprint, where she might meet Lippizanner for Aidan and the team, or the possibly easier-looking Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in which the Roger Varian-trained Nazuna might also be dangerous.

Three of the Saturday races that stick out as possible obvious chances for the travellers are the Mile, the Filly and Mare Turf, and the Turf. They could give us (yes it’s still ‘us’ even if we can’t be there!) three wins. In the F & M T Cayenne Pepper, Peaceful (my pick), and recent rivals Tarnawa and Audarya are a likely team for exotic wagering. In the Mile it’s One Master, Circus Maximus, 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko, and Irish 2,000 hero Siskin for the same bet. O’Brien (AP) and Gosden will line up with two runners each for the Turf, but this time it looks a straight match between Lord North (Gosden) and Aidan’s Magical. It has to be Magical for me and how I wish she could have had another shot at Addeybb after her luckless run at Ascot.

- TS

Kameko to miss Champions Day and head straight to Breeders’ Cup

Kameko will bypass Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday and head straight to next month’s Breeders’ Cup meeting.

The 2000 Guineas winner bounced back to winning ways with victory in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket late last month, following a luckless run that had seen him finish fourth in the Derby, Sussex Stakes and Juddmonte International.

Trainer Andrew Balding and owners Qatar Racing had been considering an outing in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but the likelihood of very soft ground means the Kitten’s Joy colt will instead plot a direct route to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland on November 7.

David Redvers, racing manager for Sheikh Fahad’s operation, said: “Given the ground at Ascot is going to be testing, Kameko will go straight to the Breeders’ Cup and will not run on Saturday.”

Kameko had been as short as 4-1 with some bookmakers for the Ascot Group One, with the John Gosden-trained Palace Pier an odds-on favourite.

High Definition set to head into winter as Derby favourite

Aidan O’Brien is looking forward to a Classic campaign with High Definition in 2021, after confirming the unbeaten colt is finished for this campaign.

The son of Galileo heads the market on next year’s Derby, having followed up his Curragh maiden win in August with victory back at the Kildare track in the Beresford Stakes – finishing to great effect on both occasions over a mile.

O’Brien’s charge does hold an entry in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday week, but the Ballydoyle trainer said: “The plan always with High Definition was to give him two runs. That was his maiden and the Beresford, and we haven’t changed off of that.

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“The plan was then to bring him back and train him for the Classics next year.

“We’re very happy with the way he has come out of his last race and that’s the way we are looking with him next year.”

Another high-class juvenile for O’Brien is Battleground, who has not been seen since adding the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood to his Chesham Stakes victory at Royal Ascot.

By War Front out of O’Brien’s Arc-winning mare Found, he is set go to the Breeders’ Cup.

O’Brien said: “Obviously he didn’t go to the Dewhurst, so the plan at the moment is we’re thinking of going to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with him. He seems to be in good form at the moment.”

Battleground has looked a high-class colt in the making
Battleground has looked a high-class colt in the making (Hugh Routledge/PA)

O’Brien recorded a one-two in the aforementioned Dewhurst with St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley, and added: “I think St Mark’s Basilica is probably finished and we’ll make a decision on Wembley probably during the week, but it’s very possible they might be finished.

“We’ll see about Wembley during the week, but I’d imagine St Mark’s Basilica might be finished for the year.”

As expected, dual Classic-winning filly Love will not go to the Breeders’ Cup, but will stay in training next year.

O’Brien said: “I don’t think Love will go to the Breeders’ Cup. At the moment we’re thinking that she’s had a busy enough time and we trained her hard for the Arc.

“Obviously that was her big target in the autumn and she was trained hard for it, and with a view to keeping her in training next year I think the lads are maybe leaving her for this year.

“So there’s a strong possibility that she won’t run any more this year.”

Love not certain to head to Breeders’ Cup

Aidan O’Brien has suggested his dual Classic winner Love may skip the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland next month.

The filly has been imperious throughout her three-year-old campaign, having been busy in her juvenile season with seven runs.

She began by winning the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and was even more impressive at Epsom in the Oaks, beating stablemate Ennistymon by nine lengths.

Given a mid-season break, the daughter of Galileo then won the Yorkshire Oaks at York, a run that was meant to put her spot on for a crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, only for very heavy ground in Paris to scupper that plan at the 11th hour.

As fate would have it, she would have been a non runner in any case due to the well-documented problem with contaminated feed which led to the Ballydoyle handler withdrawing his runners from last Sunday’s card at ParisLongchamp.

The Arc was won by Sottsass with In Swoop a close second, the latter having been behind O’Brien’s Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris.

When asked if Mogul would head to the Breeders’ Cup with Love, O’Brien replied: “Mogul is a possible for Champions Day at Ascot or the Breeders’ Cup.

“Love might be finished for this season with next year in mind.”

Breeders’ Cup and Ascot options open for One Master

William Haggas is tempted by a Breeders’ Cup bid for One Master if he feels Qipco Champions Day at Ascot comes too soon for his durable mare.

The six-year-old created history by becoming the first horse to win the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp three times at the weekend.

One Master ran in the Champions Sprint last year, finishing a one-length second to Donjuan Triumphant in heavy ground – and should the conditions be testing again, Haggas feels she would once more put up a bold bid.

However, as that six-furlong race is on October 17, One Master would be facing a quick turnaround and the Newmarket trainer feels the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland around two turns could also be a suitable race.

“Isn’t she marvellous? She’s just a good filly – very tough, very genuine and I’m very proud of her,” said Haggas of One Master, who was having her sixth run of the season.

“It wasn’t in the original plan to go to the Park Stakes at Doncaster in September, but because there could have been a problem getting to France with rising (Covid-19) infections there and here, I thought we’d better go.

“I didn’t want to miss that then be thinking ‘what if I’ve kept her all this time and it doesn’t take place’, so that was why I ran her there.

“She doesn’t do a lot of training in between her runs and she thrives on racing. She’s looked after us and we’ve looked after her.

“We’ll see how she is. Keeneland is tempting, but Ascot in the Sprint on heavy would be tempting too, as she clearly goes on it.

“A lot will depend on how she is, it is only two weeks to Ascot so we’ll see.”

Breeders’ Cup bid next on the agenda for Tarnawa

Dermot Weld has confirmed Tarnawa will head to the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Keeneland following her victory in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp.

The four-year-old will have the choice of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf or the Turf, where she would take on colts and geldings.

Weld admitted leaning more towards the Turf should the ground be firm as it is over her optimum distance of a mile and a half compared to the mile and a quarter of the Filly & Mare race.

“The present plan is Champions Day will come too soon because she has had a busy couple of months,” Weld told Sky Sports Racing.

“She was a good winner at Group level here in Ireland in August and I just feel the extra time to the Breeders’ Cup would be beneficial.

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“No decision will be made yet whether it will be the Filly & Mare or the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“I would like to see nearer to the day. It will be early November and I’ve been in Kentucky when they’ve had snow at that time of year, so don’t take it for definite the ground would be firm.

“Those factors will come into my mind.

“If it was fast ground, we might look more at the mile and a half (Turf).

“You must remember she’s won three Group races over a mile and a half. She is very effective over that distance.”

Weld reported Tarnawa to have taken the Opera in her stride.

“She came back immediately after the race yesterday evening,” said the County Kildare trainer.

“She’s in great shape and was out in the field this morning and was as happy as could be.

“She’s a very good filly to win those two Group One races (Prix Vermeille and Opera), so competitive, back to back – (it) was a big achievement.

“We weren’t sure she’d handle the ground with the speed she has, whether she would as effective on that surface, was my concern.”

While Tarnawa may not be heading to British Champions Day at Ascot, Weld has yet to decide whether his dual Irish St Leger heroine Search For A Song goes for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.

“The decision will be made whether she goes to Ascot on Champions Day for the Long Distance Cup,” he said.

“We’ll look forward to training her next year and win another Irish St Leger with her.

“She’s not the easiest lady in the world. Things just didn’t go her way earlier in the year. She has had her moments. It was a matter of regaining her confidence and that’s what we achieved.”

Breeders’ Cup bid not ruled out for Fanny Logan

John Gosden has not ruled out sending Fanny Logan back to America for a second shot at glory in the Breeders’ Cup Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf.

The daughter of Sea The Stars has not been sighted since running out an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Though Gosden faces a race against time to have Fanny Logan ready for the Grade One prize at Keeneland on November 6, in which she finished fourth at Santa Anita last year, he believes she still has a chance of making it.

He said: “Fanny Logan is on the easy list.

“She might come back late in the autumn.

“We will see if we can get to the Breeders’ Cup again.”

Star Catcher, left, could bid to make it back-to-back wins in the Qipco British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA Images)
Star Catcher, left, could make her belated return in the Qipco British Champion Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA Images)

Star Catcher could bid for back-to-back victories in the Qipco British Champion Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes at Ascot on her belated return to action.

The Sea The Stars filly has been off the track since completing a Group One hat-trick in the mile-and-a-half prize at the Berkshire track last year.

Gosden said: “She is in a similar situation to Fanny Logan.

“I’ve had a bit of a struggle getting her back, but we will see if we can make Champions Day with her.”

Should Star Catcher fail to appear on track this season, Gosden feels the paddocks could beckon next year.

He said: “I would have thought Mr Oppenheimer would want to breed with her next year.

“I’ve still got to talk to him about that, however.”

New Mandate rules in Royal Lodge for Beckett and Dettori

New Mandate continued his rapid rise through the ranks with victory in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket.

The Ralph Beckett-trained two-year-old made it a hat-trick of wins for the season as he successfully stepped up to a mile in the Group Two prize.

Having demonstrated his battling abilities when squeezing through a tight gap to land a Listed race at Doncaster last time out, the New Bay gelding was forced to dig deep again before emerging victorious.

Despite Ontario throwing down a late challenge, he could not find a way past New Mandate with three-quarters of a length separating the pair at the post.

Beckett said: “I was always surprised he could do it at seven really, given his pedigree and so on. It is extraordinary I managed to get him beaten twice in maidens. The first time out I hadn’t done enough with him really and I suddenly realised that afterwards.

“The second time, Jack Mitchell kind of got rolling a bit early on the July Course. He has shown up from the first piece of fast work he did. Everything he has done has been very professional.

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“He was gelded in January as he was like Warren Beatty on steroids. We had to geld him, but he wouldn’t have been the horse he is if we hadn’t.”

A trip to America could be on the cards for New Mandate, with Beckett eyeing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, for which he was introduced at 10-1 by Paddy
Power.

Beckett said: “We will see where we go from here. Obviously he can’t run in anything worthwhile in the spring, so we have to cut our cloth this autumn.

“We will have a discussion about the Bredeers’ Cup Juvenile Turf. It has been great.”

Saffron Beach landed something of a gamble when making a winning debut in the Blandford Bloodstock Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.

Available at long odds on Friday, the Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained New Bay filly, who returned at 12-1, knew exactly what was required on her racecourse bow, running out a four-and-a-quarter-length winner of the seven-furlong prize.

Chapple-Hyam said: “It’s no surprise. We were very happy with her and she had been galloping with the colts Albadri and Prince Of Abington. She has shown a nice attitude. It’s always nice to see her go away from the field.

“It was impressive and it is nice to have a good class filly in the stable.

“I certainly did back her. Prince Of Abington won nicely at Ascot and Albadri ran a blinder the other day in the Tattersalls Stakes. When you’ve got horses working together, you get a guideline.”

A step up in class is now likely for Saffron Beach with the Racing TV Stakes, better known as the Radley, at Newbury identified as a possible target.

Chapple-Hyam added: “I think I’d like to keep her at that trip on her next start. The Sangster and Wigan families are local to Newbury, though I wouldn’t want soft ground for her. We will just have to watch this weird English weather.”

Fledgling trainer George Boughey saddled his first winner at Newmarket as Mystery Angel (13-2) flew late to win the British Stallion Studs EBF “Jersey Lily” Fillies’ Nursery Handicap.

“That’s my first winner at Newmarket. We’ve always thought quite a lot of her, but she takes a lot of hard work to get fit,” said Boughey.

“She is a good moving horse that the guys in Nick Bradley’s syndicate (owners) will have a lot of fun with.

“Nick has done very well putting his horses in stakes company, so we could have a look at the Montrose back here while there is a Group Three over in France as well, but it is still early days.”

The closing Bentley Motors Handicap went the way of Mark Johnston’s Vale Of Kent, who rallied back past Gallipoli for Franny Norton.

Ghaiyyath ‘unlikely’ to take Arc chance

Charlie Appleby has confirmed Ghaiyyath is unlikely to line up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on Sunday week.

The five-year-old has been one of the stars of the season so far, completing a Group One hat-trick with a trio of tremendous front-running displays in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket, the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and the Juddmonte International at York.

He suffered his first defeat of 2020 when Magical reversed the International form in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown earlier this month – and Appleby feels a trip to France just three weeks later might be the wrong call.

Appleby said: “I think it is probably more a negative than a positive at the moment – I think we are saying the Arc is probably an unlikely next start for him.

“He has put up four big performances this year and the first two or three were nicely spaced out. We know that was one of his quickest back ups all season – from the Juddmonte to the Irish Champion Stakes.

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“To go for the Arc and then look for a target afterwards, i.e. the Breeders’ Cup – that would be a big ask for a horse like him, in my opinion, as he puts in so much.”

Ghaiyyath could make his next appearance over a mile and a quarter in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 17, or wait for a return to a mile and a half in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in early November.

“Without having a rubber stamp, we are looking like missing the Arc and looking towards Champions Day or the Breeders’ Cup,” Appleby added.

“Plans will be dictated by the conditions. The horse had a quiet week after Leopardstown, as he has done after each race this year, but we’ve been pleased that he is showing his wellness again. Ascot is there as a possibility for sure.

“We’ve seen what he can do over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. When you win an Eclipse, then a Juddmonte and then go and run a great race in the Irish Champion over 10 furlongs, I think people tend to forget what he can do over a mile and a half.

“He has only run three times over a mile and a half. He has broken the track record twice – in Germany and here in the Coronation Cup.

“We are in a lucky position. He is competitive over 10 furlongs and he is very good over a mile and a half in my opinion, and that brings the Breeders’ Cup into strong contention.”

Options are open for Pinatubo
Options are open for Pinatubo (Niall Carson/PA)

Another Appleby-trained star who will not be heading to Paris is Pinatubo.

The Prix de la Foret was mentioned as a potential target following his fast-finishing second in the Prix du Moulin last month, but he is set to run in either the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot or wait for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Appleby said: “Pinatubo is not going to go to France next week – he is having a break after the Moulin.

“All being well, you’ve got the two options – Champions Day at Ascot over the mile or the Breeders’ Cup. Again, without having a rubber stamp on it, you would say the percentage call would be to look towards the Breeders’ Cup.

“The Breeders’ Cup Mile could be tailor-made for him. We will go where the percentage call is right.”

Ward plots direct route to Breeders’ Cup for Campanelle

Campanelle will head straight to the Breeders’ Cup after connections decided against a tilt at next weekend’s Cheveley Park Stakes.

Having provided Wesley Ward with a fourth success in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, the daughter of Kodiac successfully graduated to Group One level in last month’s Prix Morny at Deauville – a third win in the race for the ebullient American after No Nay Never and Lady Aurelia.

A tilt at the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Saturday week was under serious consideration, but Ward is keen to keep his powder dry for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf on November 6.

Ward said: “Campanelle seems in very good shape and she’s having her first breeze since Frankie (Dettori) steered her to success in France on Saturday.

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“We took her out of the Cheveley Park. I just felt I’d like to keep her under my thumb a little bit before going to the Breeders’ Cup.

“She’s done everything we’ve asked of her – she’s three from three. We were struggling to find a turf maiden for her, eventually we did at Gulfstream and it was only 20 days between that race and the Queen Mary.

“With the shipping as well, I would never usually run them back that quick, so for her to go and win at Royal Ascot showed she’s a super good filly and then she won much more impressively at Deauville after a good spacing since Ascot.

“I think this filly could be something really special and I don’t want to ship her over and back again before the Breeders’ Cup.

“By keeping her here, we have a good couple of months to make sure she’s at her very best.”

Campanelle is likely to spearhead a strong Breeders’ Cup team for Ward, with the showpiece meeting this year taking place at the trainer’s home track of Keeneland.

Golden Pal (right) was touched off by The Lir Jet at Royal Ascot
Golden Pal (right) was touched off by The Lir Jet at Royal Ascot (Julian Finney/PA)

Another leading contender for the team is Golden Pal, who was narrowly beaten by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Uncle Mo colt was in line for a tilt at the Nunthorpe at York, but he instead remained in America and has since bolted up in a Stakes race at Saratoga. The Juvenile Turf Sprint is his Breeders’ Cup target.

“He’ll breeze on Saturday as well. It was a shame we couldn’t come over for York, but he’s a super quick horse, as he showed in his last race at Saratoga,” Ward added.

“The Breeders’ Cup race for him is over five and a half (furlongs). He’d prefer five as he has so much speed, but it’s his home track and I still think he’s going to be tough (to beat).”

Breeders’ Cup date beckons for Safe Voyage

John Quinn has put the Breeders’ Cup Mile top of the agenda for Safe Voyage following his latest big-race success in Ireland on Saturday.

Following an impressive display in last month’s City of York Stakes, the seven-year-old doubled his Group Two tally and claimed his 12th career victory overall with the narrowest of triumphs over Sinawann in the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.

A step up to Group One level beckons for a horse clearly in the form of his life – and while both the Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp and the QEII at Ascot are under consideration, it is the two-turn mile at Keeneland in November which whets Quinn’s appetite the most.

Reflecting on Saturday’s win, he said: “We’re delighted it just went his way. I think he deserved it as he’s so tough and admirable – everything you want in a top-class racehorse.

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“It was his first win over a mile, which is great – it opens up other doors.

“We’ll see how he comes out of the race, but I’m going to work back from the Breeders’ Cup. We can look at the Foret and the QEII, but he’ll only run in one of those, if any.

“They’re all very good races, but the Breeders’ Cup Mile is the race that appeals the most.”

A fine weekend for the Malton-based trainer almost got even better at the Curragh on Sunday, with Keep Busy beaten just half a length in the Group One Flying Five Stakes by a fellow Yorkshire raider in Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers.

Keep Busy (right) pushed Glass Slippers all the way in the Flying Five
Keep Busy (right) pushed Glass Slippers all the way in the Flying Five (PA)

Quinn was unsurprisingly delighted with Keep Busy’s display – and far from disappointed by the performance of her better-fancied stablemate Liberty Beach in finishing seventh in the same race.

“It was a phenomenal run from Keep Busy – she doesn’t know how to run a bad race,” Quinn added.

“She got a bump from a horse going backwards and was beaten half a length, but that’s racing and full credit to Kevin and all the connections of the winner.

“Liberty Beach ran a good race as well. She just had no luck in running and was only beaten three lengths.

“They’re both entered in the Prix de l’Abbaye and if they’re both well, that’s where they’ll go.”

Breeders’ Cup 2019: Five Takeaways

The 2019 Breeders' Cup returned to Santa Anita for the tenth time. Much of the preamble to the weekend was familiar, then, but this year there was a difference. A near palpable atmosphere of anxiety and introspection pervaded proceedings; and, in spite of forensic levels of veterinary scrutiny, BC36 was not to sail smoothly across its troubled waters. That story, amongst others, is recounted in these five takeways from the meeting.

1 JOSEPH & HIS AMASSING TECHNICOLOR PALMARES

Where were you in your career path when you were 26? For most of us mere mortals, college days were behind us and we were taking our first fledgling steps in a job or career. Joseph Patrick O'Brien, barely past the quarter century, has already summited a career in the saddle which began promisingly but perhaps little more with a piece of a three-way tie for the Irish Champion Apprentice title in 2010.

The following year, he enjoyed Classic success with Roderic O'Connor in the Irish 2000 Guineas, and rode another two UK or Irish Group 1 winners, the last of which was Camelot in the Racing Post Trophy. A fortnight after that Doncaster highlight, O'Brien raised his own bar by scoring aboard St Nicholas Abbey in a Churchill Downs edition of the the Breeders' Cup Turf at the age of 18.

2012 was Joseph's - and Camelot's - year as the pair won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the 2000 Guineas and Derby, before being cruelly denied victory in the St Leger by a horse trained by the subsequently disgraced Mahmood al Zarooni who admitted charges of using performance enhancing drugs on his horses.

That year, 2012, Joseph proved he could do quantity as well as quality as he won his first Irish Jockeys' Championship, an award he retained with a record score in 2013.

By 2016, still aged just 23 - twenty-three! - he swapped the saddle for the demands of training and, to nobody's surprise, hit the ground running, his first Group 1 win coming in the Moyglare Stud Stakes of the same year with Intricately. [It was rumoured that he had also trained Ivanovich Gorbatov to win the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle in March that year, but let's stick to published record].

As a trainer, in less than three years and at the age of 26, he already has an Irish Derby, a Melbourne Cup and now a Breeders' Cup win to his name. The game triumph of Iridessa - who bounced out of the stalls from box one and got a great position under Wayne Lordan - in the Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday was Europe's sole victory at the meeting, and made Joseph the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race.

Naturally, given his prior exploits aboard St Nick, he is also the youngest person to record a Breeders' Cup win as both a jockey and a trainer. The sole other member of that most exclusive of Breeders' Cup clubs is Freddie Head, the French horseman who won two multiple Miles with both Miesque (as a jockey, aged 40 and 41) and Goldikova (as a trainer, aged 61, 62 and 63). Chapeau to Freddie, but Joseph is emerging as an altogether different jus.

 

2 AIDAN OFER'BRIEN

While O'Brien Jr was further enhancing his CV, father Aidan was enduring what might legitimately be dubbed a minor crisis. To some that may sound preposterous, so allow a little context: this year, Aidan has trained 15 Group or Grade 1 winners, last year the international G1 tally was 14; but in 2017 it was 28, in 2016 it was 22 and in 2015 it was 17.

At such rarefied altitude and on such small sample sizes it is perfectly reasonable to account for the differential as the dreaded variance - statistical slings and arrows if you will. And that's probably right enough.

But, in the microcosm of the Breeders' Cup, Aidan has now gone 35 runners without a victory since Mendelssohn prevailed in the opening race at Del Mar, the Juvenile Turf, in 2017. Again, it's a small sample. And he was dealt the rummest of rum deals at the post position draw with almost all of his nine entries exiting a double digit stall.

But Bricks And Mortar won the Turf, with a troubled trip, from nine when Anthony van Dyck lost from five. In the same race, Mount Everest, presumed the pacemaker (which may be incorrect), fluffed the start and was never nearer than at the line. Uni won the Mile from stall 11 where Circus Maximus was drawn nine; Just Wonderful missed the kick and was never nearer than fifth in the Filly and Mare Turf from stall 11; Tango and Etoile, drawn eight and 14 respectively, finished eighth and tenth having both broken moderately and struggled to get track position; Arizona, drawn 12 in the Juvenile Turf, was slow at the gate and never nearer than his final position of fifth; Fort Myers ran respectably in seventh from 13 in the same race, though he too was no better than tenth as they passed the stands first time; and King Neptune actually broke alertly in the Juvenile Turf Sprint but wasn't persisted with for a position and entered the turn in seventh place before finishing eleventh.

What is the recurring theme? In fairness, there are two, and one of them is the draw, which is out of the hands of the trainer. The other is the number of times Aidan's horses - again, in fairness, most European horses - broke slowly and were simply in a borderline insurmountable position on a tight inner turf track which was riding like lightning. Even when the races were a little more tactical on the turf, a slow start meant as many as a dozen horses in a 4 x 3 or 3 x 4 phalanx ahead: it is very, very difficult to overcome a pedestrian beginning.

Aidan quite rightly says that he spends all year trying to get horses to settle and relax, and that is the way to win European races. But if a horse doesn't have early tactical toe in order to secure a position, it is almost game over in double-digit US fields. It has been suggested that perhaps he should use American jockeys who are more accustomed to pinging a horse from the gate but, firstly, it's not necessarily something a jockey can influence especially, and secondly, the local lads would generally need to take care not to spurn their bread and butter.

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While chatting with one New York punter the somewhat harsh soubriquet Aidan Ofer'Brien was coined, ofer meaning zero for, as in zero for 35 since Mendelssohn in 2017. It is fantastic, and likely extremely important, that Ballydoyle continue to send top division horses to the meeting - it would be an event lighter on entries, far less interesting from a European perspective, and less compelling as a wagering proposition, too, if he didn't - but if they are to be more than making up the numbers, gate speed 101 looks in order. Here's hoping the peerless trainer of his generation reverts to his longer-term type at Keeneland in 2020.

 

3 THE TRACKS

It doesn't matter where you are in the world, if your horse is unsuited to conditions it is unlikely to win. So let's discuss the tracks, the already mentioned in despatches turf course first.

It was lightning fast. They haven't had meaningful rain in LA for six months, a fact evidenced by the desperately unfortunate wildfires that are raging in the north of the state. Sure they've watered the course and continued to hydrate it. But the temperatures have been 30C+ for much of the past fortnight and before. The water table is non-existent. It was suggested by a Clockers' Corner wag that, when going to inspect the turf track in white shoes, the horseman in question returned with green soles. Well that's one way to make brown turf look green!

Of course that's almost certainly just bluster - as easy on the ear as it is - but the fact remains that if you don't have a horse that can handle Bath firm, you probably don't have a horse for the race when the Cup heads west.

Another point on the turf track, specifically in relation to the Juvenile Turf Sprint. In its inaugural running in 2017 (on the undercard), Declarationofpeace - for Aidan O'Brien, in the opening race on the Saturday - led home a Euro superfecta from 'our' only four entries. The winner had the best Euro form around a turn, and was slowly away in a race run too fast, the pace collapsing.

Last year, when none of the Euro entries had winning form around a turn, we did no better than third. This year, although Europe did even less well, the best finisher - fifth-placed Dr Simpson, a rank outsider on the US tote at close to 60/1 - was two from two on turning tracks, by seven lengths at Chester and then in a Group 3 against the boys. She is also a fast starter. Although she wasn't good enough to win, that's the sort of horse you want for this gig. If Dr Simpson's trainer, Tom Dascombe, had sent lightning breaker and turning track specialist Kachy across, he would have been seriously interesting in the Turf Sprint.

In bigger fields and at longer trips, it is often the 'best trip' - that is, the horse which gets least interference excluding front runners whose record is terrible, that wins. There is so much traffic and misfortune to factor into pricing these races up from a value perspective that they are almost a blanket 'no bet'. The sensible approach to hardier punters is to back an American horse with a British bookmaker and hope for a good trip. Races like the Mile are peppered with big-priced winners through their history, Tourist (US horse, 11/1 US tote, 33/1 UK books), Karakontie (French, 29/1 US tote, 16/1 UK books) and Court Vision (US, 64/1 US tote, 50/1 UK books) being three since only 2011 in that particular event.

The DIRT track had been harrowed very deep, and rode slow. The Classic was a truly run race and it was won in a time of 2:02.80. The previous Santa Anita Classic, in 2016, was won in a time of 2:00.11, and the Santa Anita Classic's before that in 1:59.88, 2:00.72, 2:00.11, 2:00.32 (Zenyatta, Pro-Ride), 1:59.27 (Raven's Pass, Pro-Ride), 1:59.88, 2:00.83, and 2:00.40.

Appreciative that this is labouring the point but, to spell it out, the 2019 Classic was two seconds - something like eight lengths - slower than the next slowest of seven Santa Anita dirt Classics, excluding the slightly quicker Pro-Ride surface which was controversially installed and even more controversially ripped up again in and around 2008/9.

And yet Vino Rosso was given a legit number for his win. Timeform US had him on 133, six spots higher than the next best winner at the meeting; Beyer had him at 111, a point behind Mitole (his closest pursuer on the Timeform numbers). That's by way of reaffirming the slowness of the track.

There were good reasons for that, which we'll get to. But what it meant in racing terms was that it was extremely difficult to win from off the pace. You still needed stamina and no little class to get the job done, but only one horse - Blue Prize - was able to win from some way off the pace across the seven dirt races.

The best parallel for British and Irish bettors is that the surface was something akin to Southwell: deep, with serious kickback, where early speed is sustained more often than not and very little comes from far back. This year's Breeders' Cup was, for a lot of dirt race entries, like coming from a fast track qualifier at Lingfield, Chelmsford or Kempton to Finals Day on the Rolleston beach.

It was a necessary step to harrow the course that deep but, in many racing ways, an unsatisfactory one.

 

4 WELFARE

Here's why it was necessary. California is a liberal state and a perfect example of the emerging anti-racing sentiment we are seeing in Britain and in other jurisdictions around the world, notably Scandinavia. There is a war raging between traditionalists and revisionists inside of racing. It's a lop-sided skirmish outside of the bubble.

Governor Gavin Newsom in September called racing at Santa Anita "a disgrace". Newsom wasn't pulling any punches in this New York Times article where he was quoted as saying,

“What happened last year was unacceptable, and all of the excuses be damned. We own that going into the next season, and we’re going to have to do something about it. I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform. That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.”

That was in response to news that more than thirty horses had been put down as a result of injuries sustained either training or racing at the Arcadia track. Despite the trash talk style (notably, emotive language like "precious animals"), there is plenty of substance behind this soundbite, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic now tapping into an animal welfare zeitgeist among their constituents. Indeed, California's senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is of the same view and has publicly expressed it.

That's obviously bad news for racing.

What is worse is that some of the reasons for fatalities may have been avoidable. I see three main factors as conspiring: a fashion for breeding precocity and speed at the expense of durability and stamina; over-training young horses whose limbs cannot yet sustain the level of work demanded of them; and the increasingly sophisticated use of medication to patch up injuries and/or supplement punishing training regimes.

Clearly I'm not a vet and I present the above as no more than conjecture - my take, if you like. I'd very much welcome an educated rebuffal of any or all from any reader qualified to do that.

For me there are two bottom lines on the racing welfare debate. Firstly, whilst fatalities are inevitable - a point racing has to defend explicitly and unequivocally - the current levels are very likely unsustainable. And not just in California, or even America as a whole.

Second, this is an extremely complex debate peppered with flexible morality codes. Anyone who feels vehemently one way or the other probably hasn't given the subject enough thought.

 

5 WHERE NEXT (LITERALLY) FOR BC?

It was in the aftermath of Governor Newsom's comments that extensive vetting was implemented ahead of this year's Breeders' Cup. That led to the high profile scratchings of Imperial Hint, Fleeting and Suedois among others, on veterinary advice. Last year at Churchill Downs, Polydream, favourite for the Mile at the time, was withdrawn under similar circumstances.

Thus, naturally but even more than ever, organisers were praying for an incident- and injury-free Breeders' Cup. They almost got it.

Going into the Classic, the final race of 14 across two absorbing days of pageantry and sport, horsemen and administrators alike would have been justifiably feeling like a job well done. Alas, for racing just now it seems, if it wasn't for bad luck it wouldn't have any luck at all.

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky. But not in Santa Anita

In amongst the millionaires and the billionaires and the silent powers of horse racing exist an ownership group called the Mongolian Stable and their trainer, Enebish Ganbat. They love their racing, are passionate about it, and share their passion with anyone who feels similarly. In 2015 at Keeneland, they enjoyed their greatest day as Mongolian Saturday won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. He raced without Lasix, the near ubiquitous diuretic said to restrict the likelihood of a horse bleeding. He was the only horse in the field not to receive it.

These guys don't sit in a box quaffing Veuve; they are out in the cheap seats in full national dress posing for pictures and glad-handing anyone and everyone. They, and people like them, are what the sport needs.

In the Classic, they had sportingly supplemented Mongolian Groom, who had beaten Classic favourite McKinzie over the Santa Anita track in their respective final preps, and who it should be noted did run on Lasix.

Their horse broke well and was second throughout the first mile, a length off pace-setting War Of Will, with last day foe McKinzie right there as well. But disaster struck for Mongolian Groom, Mongolian Stable, Ganbat, the Breeders' Cup and American racing, as the horse suffered an injury to his left hind leg which could not be treated. Very sadly, he was taken into the horse ambulance and euthanized.

It was deeply distressing on so many counts, primarily for connections, whose love of the game and for their animals is more transparent than most top tier ownership collectives; and all the more so that the ramifications of this event, as another inquest will inevitably be held, will overshadow their own feelings of loss.

The next Breeders' Cup is in Keeneland, far from the madding Californian crowd, then nominally at Del Mar in 2021. But Del Mar is in Southern California, and Churchill Downs may again be on standby as it was reported to be earlier this year in case matters at Santa Anita became irreconcilable.

So yes, Keeneland and Del Mar have been officially unveiled for 2020 and 2021, but will the Breeders' Cup return to Santa Anita in 2022, as was widely expected? Indeed, in light of the political firestorm expected to play out in the state, the question may be whether the Breeders' Cup will ever return to Santa Anita.

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

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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.

**

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.

Matt

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 🙂