Ger Lyons not surprised at growth of Ireland’s Breeders’ Cup raiding party

New faces among those trying their luck to win some of the overall $31m pot

Trainer Ger Lyons with Masen after completing a four-timer at the Irish Champions Weekend at  Leopardstown. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

Trainer Ger Lyons with Masen after completing a four-timer at the Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

 

The 38th Breeders’ Cup looks set to have the broadest team of Irish hopefuls yet competing at US racing’s ‘World Championships’ which begins on Friday in Del Mar.

Only a handful of Irish trainers have saddled winners at American racing’s end-of-season shop window event, which this year will see 14 races worth $31 million run over Friday and Saturday at the track just north of San Diego.

Aidan O’Brien, who has had 13 Breeders’ Cup winners in all, once again provides the bulk of the Irish raiding party with a squad headed by the top fillies Love and Mother Earth.

Dermot Weld joined an elite group of successful Irish based trainers when Tarnawa landed the Turf in Keeneland last year and the mare is on target to defend that crown on Saturday night.

The only other trainers to successfully raid the Breeders’ Cup from Ireland are Joseph O’Brien, with Iridessa in 2019, as well as John Oxx and the legendary Vincent O’Brien.

However, some new faces are among those trying their luck at one of the most high-profile and lucrative meetings on the global racing calendar.

Friday night’s ‘Future Stars Friday’ sees five Grade One events for two-year-olds with Curragh based Michael O’Callaghan pitching Twilight Jet into the Juvenile Turf Sprint.

The risk in flying thoroughbreds 8,500 kilometres to the west coast of the United States was shown in the news on Tuesday that trainer Gavin Cromwell’s Royal Ascot winning filly Quick Suzy was ruled out of the race after being found to have a high temperature following the transatlantic trip.

On Saturday, Paddy Twomey has a first Breeders’ Cup runner, with Pearls Galore a general 12-1 shot for the Mile, while Dubliner Ado McGuinness pitches his Prix de l’Abbaye hero A Case Of You into the Turf Sprint.

Ger Lyons, too, is set to be represented by Acanella in the Filly & Mare on Saturday night and he believes the diversity of the Irish challenge in Del Mar reflects the depth of day-to-day competition at home.

“We all know at home what we’re pedaling against. If you take your foot off the pedal there’s going to be 10 on top of you and passing you. It’s a tough station but that’s what makes it good,” he said on Monday.

“I’ve always maintained that it gets taken for granted the level that we play at over here. It’s just taken for granted. I think it is as strong an organisation [Irish racing] as there is in the world in horse racing.

“A lot needs doing. It doesn’t mean they can sit on their laurels. But the players are doing their bit.”

Sunday’s conclusion to the Flat season in Ireland saw Lyons finish fourth in the trainers’ championship with over €2 million in prizemoney and his No 1 rider, Colin Keane, crowned champion jockey for a third time with a record 141 winners.

Acanella, winner of the Snow Fairy Stakes in August, is a late shot at landing a top-flight prize in 2021 as afterwards she will remain in the US to continue her career.

Another Juddmonte owned star leaving Lyons to continue racing in the US is Masen, the final leg of a memorable Lyons four-timer on the opening day of Irish Champions Weekend and winner of the Knockaire Stakes last month.

“Basically, we found out categorically in the Matron the mile isn’t Acanella’s trip. A mile plus is her trip. The Snow Fairy was perfect for her,” Lyons added.

“With a filly like her there’s every chance of her winning her Grade One over there whereas she mightn’t over here. That’s the plan.

“And while we knew she was going to America we said why not take in the Filly & Mare, so here we go. We will be running to win but if you ran first three in a Grade One we’d have done our job perfectly well and then it’s over to the next guy to bring her to the next level.”

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