Santa Anita has proved the happiest Breeders’ Cup hunting ground of all for Aidan O’Brien and some punters appear willing to declare their faith in Declaration Of War’s chance of giving Ireland’s champion trainer the international prize he covets above all others in Saturday night’s $5 million dirt Classic.
The double-Group One winner heads a handful of Ballydoyle hopes that were scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles yesterday ahead of the US’s most valuable two days of racing in the year, which begins on Friday.
Wilshire Boulevard and Giovanni Boldini are in contention to try and provide O’Brien with a third successive victory in the Juvenile Turf contest for colts on Friday night. Wrote in 2011 and George Vancouver last year scored in the race for O’Brien.
Both colts were ridden by Ryan Moore who is set to team up with the majority of the O’Brien horses as apart from Declaration Of War, Joseph O’Brien is unable to make the weight. That means Moore is likely to ride Magician in the Turf and Cristiforo Colombo in the Mile. Irish hopes at the 30th Breeders’ Cup now rest solely on Ballydoyle after Dermot Weld’s decision not to run Flying Jib in the Juvenile Turf for fillies. “We’ve decided not to send her. It looks an excellent renewal of the race so we will wait until the spring for her,” confirmed Weld yesterday.
There have been just nine Irish-trained successes in the history of the Breeders’ Cup and O’Brien is responsible for seven of them. The first was Johannesburg’s memorable Juvenile triumph in 2001 at Belmont. The following year High Chaparral secured the first of his back-to-back Turf successes at Arlington while Wrote and St Nicholas Abbey (2011 Turf) both scored at Churchill Downs.
However, O'Brien has won three Breeders' Cup victories at Santa Anita. As well as George Vancouver last year, Man Of Iron landed the 2009 Marathon. And it is 10 years since High Chaparral and Mick Kinane famously dead-heated with Johar in a fantastic finish to the Turf.
Wins in the Mile for Royal Academy (Vincent O’Brien) and Ridgewood Pearl (John Oxx) complete the Irish scoresheet.
Declaration Of War is the undoubted Ballydoyle standard-bearer on this occasion and Paddy Power reported ante-post support for the Irish horse yesterday.
“Punters have come for Declaration Of War as they know that while he is top-class on turf, he also has three successes to his name on all-weather surfaces and unlike some earlier Coolmore Classic hopefuls, the War Front colt has a beautiful US pedigree,” said spokesman Paddy Power.
A son of the Danzig stallion War Front, a high-class sprinter on dirt before beginning his hugely successful stallion career, Declaration Of War’s dam is a half-sister to the Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags.
Although Saturday night’s highlight has been reported as Declaration Of War’s final racecourse appearance, his name featured yesterday among overseas invitations to Hong Kong’s prestigious international festival in early December.
In other international news, Richard Hughes has been booked to ride the Willie Mullins-trained stayer Simenon in next Tuesday's Melbourne Cup. The Irish star, runner-up in June's Ascot Gold Cup, put up a good display in his first start in Australia this month when ridden by Kerrin McEvoy.
With Johnny Murtagh unable to do the weight, and Ryan Moore committed elsewhere, Ireland's champion National Hunt trainer has opted for Hughes who is to ride Olympic Glory in the Mile at the Breeders Cup on Saturday.
“Richard Hughes rides. The horse is in very good form. Everything is going according to plan. He’s eating and drinking and he’s relaxed in his quarantine,” said Mullins. “He seems like a professional traveller as he’s shown when he’s been over to Ascot.”
Simenon is 23 in the order of entry for the big race, with a maximum field of 24. But he could still miss out, with the winners of two big races at Flemington on Saturday guaranteed a start in the Melbourne Cup.