Aidan O’Brien prepares biggest Breeders Cup team for Del Mar
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud aiming for five in a row in Grade One at Down Royal
Ryan Moore riding Rhododendron (centre) at Newmarket in October. The horse’s odds for the Filly & Mare at Del Mar have eased after drawing 14 of 14. Photograph: Getty Images
Aidan O’Brien is readying his biggest ever Breeders Cup team for Del Mar as the shop-window event of US racing runs from Friday night through to the early hours of Sunday.
The world record breaking trainer has 13 runners lined up to contest eight of the 13 Grade One races worth a total of $28 million.
It is O’Brien’s 20th Breeders Cup raid, and although Churchill’s chances of a historic success in the $6 million Classic – due off at 12.35am on Sunday morning – are rated at 15-1 in local Morning Line betting lists, the Irishman’s chances elsewhere look formidable.
Rhododendron’s odds for the Filly & Mare were eased after being drawn 14 of 14, while Roly Poly has also got a wide draw in the Mile. However with Highland Reel defending his Turf title and US Navy Flag switching to dirt for the Juvenile, Corals still go just 7-1 about O’Brien saddling three winners.
Happily and September will line up for Friday night’s opening race, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, with leading hopes in a race which also includes Now You’re Talking trained by O’Brien’s son Joseph.
Other Irish interest could yet be provided by Fozzy Stack’s Goodthingstaketime, who is second reserve.
The $3 million purchase Mendelssohn will attempt to go one better than his Dewhurst second to US Navy Flag when tackling Friday’s Juvenile Turf, a race in which Gordon Elliott starts Beckford.
On Saturday, Highland Reel will be joined by Cliffs Of Moher and Seventh Heaven in the Turf, and War Decree lines up alongside Churchill in the Classic. Roly Poly is joined in the Mile by Lancaster Bomber, while Washington DC takes his chance in the Turf Sprint.
Far from southern California there will be a changing of the season’s atmosphere in Ireland this weekend.
Saturday sees the first Grade One prize of the jumps campaign, Down Royal’s JNwine Champion Chase, take place, with Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud aiming for a fifth victory in a row in the €140,000 feature.
On Sunday the 2017 flat turf season finishes at Naas with the featured €100,000 November Handicap. Many of the top-rated entries for that race also figure among 13 hopefuls for the Listed Finale Stakes, which will bring the season to a close.
The first of two Dundalk fixtures prior to that sees the new champion jockey-elect Colin Keane with seven rides as he bids to extend his 94-87 lead over Pat Smullen. Ben Rumson in the finale could be the best of them.