Dermot Weld joined an exclusive club when Tarnawa swept to Breeders Cup glory in the $4 million Turf at Keeneland on Saturday night.
On a programme when Aidan O’Brien saddled a remarkable 1-2-3 led by the shock 73-1 outsider Order Of Australia in the Mile, Tarnawa finally filled in a rare blank on Weld’s international CV.
The renowned pioneer of global racing is still the only European trainer to have saddled a winner of a US Triple Crown race (1990 Belmont with Go And Go) while Vintage Crop’s Melbourne Cup success in 1993 changed the face of Australia’s most famous contest.
However a victory at the Breeders Cup had proved frustratingly elusive in 16 previous attempts prior to Saturday and Weld might have been forgiven for thinking fate was against him again when Tarnawa’s intended jockey, Christophe Soumillon, was ruled out on Friday due to a positive Covid-19 test.
The 72 year-old Curragh trainer wasn't at Keeneland but shopped local for a replacement, booking Ireland's newly crowned champion jockey Colin Keane. He was in Keeneland to ride Siskin in the Mile and although that colt disappointed Keane made up for it with a vengeance.
Settling Tarnawa at the rear of the field, he brought the Aga Khan owned filly with a sweeping run down the outside that saw the 3-1 shot decisively beat O’Brien’s 15-8 favourite Magical. The local horse Channel Maker was third.
It meant success for Keane at his first Breeders Cup and a hugely satisfying victory for Weld at one of world racing’s most famous events.
He is just the fifth Irish based trainer to win at the Breeders Cup. The legendary Vincent O’Brien first struck with Royal Academy 30 years ago. Only John Oxx, Aidan O’Brien and his son Joseph a year ago with Iridessa had managed to join him prior to Saturday.
Weld's son Mark represented him in Kentucky and said: "We're absolutely over the moon. It doesn't get bigger than this, and Colin's first ride for us.
“I’m said that my Dad’s not here but this Covid situation is what it is. We’ve been on a remarkable journey with her this year and now a Breeders Cup.
“As soon as I saw Colin pull her out, once she went to pick up, it was exactly how Christophe rode her in Paris (Prix de l’Opera and Vermeille) and she’s like a jet - off she goes. He has done a remarkable job with her.”
Dominant at home, Keane’s profile on the world stage will have been boosted hugely by an assured display on a filly Weld had admitted required some knowing.
The 26 year old from Meath has risen to the top on the back of his association with Siskin's trainer Ger Lyons, resulting in persistent speculation it's only a matter of time before he is snapped up by some of racing's biggest operations, including even the Ballydoyle team.
That speculation is likely to only intensify on the back of a hugely valuable success on the international stage where Keane’s victory continued a theme on the night of replacement riders emerging with the glory.
Earlier Aidan O’Brien bridged a three year winless gap at the Breeders Cup in style with Order Of Australia shock success in the Mile.
The horse who got promoted into the race due to One Master’s defection, and was ridden by Frenchman Pierre-Charles Boudot as a late replacement for the unfortunate Soumillon, upset the odds with a lifetime best.
Boudot had earlier broken his Breeders Cup duck on the English filly Audarya in the Filly & Mare and worked his magic again on a colt who had previously won just two minor races at the Curragh and Dundalk in September.
From the outside 15 gate Order Of Australia worked his way into a good position just off the pace and on the turn-into the short straight showed no inclination to know his place according to the odds board.
Instead a regally bred but previously temperamental colt - Seamus Heffernan got a 22 day ban for his use of the whip trying to steer a wayward Order Of Australia in the French Derby during the summer - showed a fine attitude to take the initiative a furlong out.
The Ballydoyle No. 1 Circus Maximus closed the gap to a neck at the line and Lope Y Fernanadez ran on late to take third in a finish that echoed O’Brien’s renowned clean sweep of the places in the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Tirfiecta paid over 8,700-1.
It was a first victory in the Mile for O’Brien whose 24 previous runners in the race included superstar names such as Rock Of Gibraltar. Where he failed however, the previously unheralded Order Of Australia succeeded.
The colt, bred by O’Brien’s wife Annemarie, was a 13th Breeders Cup success in all for the trainer and a first since Mendelssohn was successful at Del Mar in 2017, albeit it took place behind closed doors due to coronavirus and the man himself wasn’t present.
Instead Boudot was the man of the hour at Keeneland and he reported: “Aidan told me before the race that he was a special horse for the mile and he was confident of a good run on small track. he did very well and the trip was perfect.”
People could have been forgiven for rubbing France’s champion jockey for luck after an extraordinary sequence of circumstances conspired to give him a breakthrough onto the world stage.
Boudot got the ride on Audarya after her intended rider, Ioritz Mendizbal, tested positive for coronavirus in France and couldn't travel to the US. Boudot stepped in helped give Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe a first Breeders Cup win with his first runner.
“It was a fantastic ride. He was drawn 11 and somehow got to the inside,” Fanshawe said. “I thought she was going to get tired but she kept going. She has thrived since she’s been here.”
Jessica Harrington’s runner Cayenne Pepper rushed to the lead from an outside draw but was done with on the turn in. O’Brien’s hope Peaceful was also out of the money.
European trained horses won all four turf races on Saturday night and Glass Slippers gave Co. Tipperary born trainer Kevin Ryan his own maiden Breeders Cup success with just his second runner when landing the Turf Sprint.
Jockey Tom Eaves took the brave man's route on the rail and secured a split at just the right time for a filly who in September landed the Flying Five at the Curragh during 'Irish Champions Weekend.'
It was a first European success in a race first run in 2008.
Ryan, originally from Golden but long established as one of the top handlers in the north of England, had finished runner up with East in his only previous Breeders Cup attempt in 2018.
Glass Slippers started 10-1 despite a proven Group 1 profile having won last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye and finishing runner up in the same race a month ago.
"We knew she goes round a bend very well, as she had won at Chester, and Tom had a word with Ryan Moore who told him to take his time and opt for the shortest route.
“ Being over five and a half furlongs that extra half a furlong was massive,” said Ryan who travelled to Keeneland.
“She has always been a good traveller and thrives wherever she goes, although she had not been this far. But through the week as she was drinking and eating well, we got happier with every passing day.
“It’s great that she will be back for another season next year and if things go to plan I would love to come back to run in this race at Del Mar,” he added.