Breeders Cup racing will see 15 Irish-trained horses among European challenge

Aidan O’Brien’s 13 entries include Mendelssohn in Saturday night’s climax to the event, the $6m Classic on dirt

A total of 15 Irish-trained horses are among the strong European challenge for the 35th Breeders Cup in Kentucky this week.

Aidan O’Brien has 13 entries guaranteed a run over the two days of US racing’s hugely lucrative shop-window event on Friday and Saturday.

They include Mendelssohn, who has been supported in the betting to finally provide Ireland’s champion trainer with victory in Saturday night’s climax to the event, the $6 million Classic on dirt.

Mendelssohn has got a good draw in stall nine of the 14 Classic starters, whereas Godolphin's Thunder Snow (one) and John Gosden's Roaring Lion (two) face an uphill task breaking from the inside.


Half of O'Brien's previous dozen Breeders Cup victories have come in the mile and a half Turf, where this time he will take on the dual-Arc heroine Enable with both Magical and Hunting Horn.

Dermot Weld has yet to win a Breeders Cup race, and his chance of changing that with Eziyra in Saturday's Filly & Mare Turf have not been helped by a wide outside draw of 14.

Princess Yaiza will be a first Breeders Cup starter for Co Meath-based trainer Gavin Cromwell in the same race. A Group Two winner at Longchamp over Arc weekend, Princess Yaiza will break from stall five under jockey Andrea Atzeni.

Juvenile contests

O'Brien is set to have four runners in Friday's juvenile contests. They include both Sergei Prokofiev and So Perfect in the Turf Sprint, which kicks off the $30 million event at Churchill Downs.

The Ballydoyle trainer is also set to have three horses line up in Saturday's Mile event, with Ryan Moore opting for Gustav Klimt over both I Can Fly (Jamie Spencer) and Happily (Wayne Lordan).

O’Brien has the biggest single team of horses among a raiding party at Churchill Downs that also includes runners from Britain and France.

Even in a Brexit climate it appears some punters are adopting a Ryder Cup-style continental attitude to the traditional transatlantic rivalry. Odds on six or more European-trained winners have been cut to 8-1.

"Traditionally European horses aren't knocked over at the Breeders Cup but this year is a different story," a Ladbrokes spokesperson said. "With such a strong team heading across the water we have seen a lot of patriotic support already."

One significant element to the turf action could be local weather forecasts in Louisville of up to 80mm of rainfall before the Breeders Cup racing begins on Friday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column