Tarnawa set to be Irish Breeders’ Cup banker in bid for back-to-back titles

Dermot Weld’s set to be hot favourite for $4m Turf despite outside draw

Tarnawa is set to start one of the hottest Breeders’ Cup favourites over Friday and Saturday’s action in Del Mar and appears to be an Irish ‘banker’ at US racing’s biggest meeting of the year.

Despite trainer Dermot Weld’s fears about firm going, and being handed a stall 13 of 14 draw, Tarnawa is a local morning line 9-5 favourite to become just the third horse to win the $4 million Turf back-to-back.

Only Aidan O'Brien's Japan is drawn on the defending champion's outer and Colin Keane will have a distant view of his main American opponent Domestic Spending, who has got a plum spot in stall three.

Another O’Brien runner to get a spot in the field is Broome, although with their stable companion Bolshoi Ballet first reserve, and another Ballydoyle horse, Mogul, third in line for a late slot, the final complexion of the field could change.


Jessica Harrington is also facing an anxious few days with her Irish Champions Weekend winner Real Appeal first reserve for Saturday's $2 million Mile on turf.

O’Brien’s Mother Earth and Paddy Twomey’s Pearls Galore are drawn nine and 12 respectively among the 14 Mile runners.

They feature among 13 Irish declarations in all over the two days of action which begins on Friday.

Michael O’Callaghan will have his first Breeders’ Cup starter with Twilight Jet drawn on the inside of the Juvenile Turf Sprint while Glounthaune will try to supply a fifth Ballydoyle success in the Juvenile Turf.

They are the only Irish runners on Friday with Tarnawa leading the bulk of the raiding party 24 hours later.

Paddy Power go 9-4 about two or more Irish-trained winners in the half dozen races that horses from this country line up in.

This 38th Breeders’ Cup will be the first where use of the medication Lasix will not be permitted on raceday, a move welcomed by Irish trainers including Aidan O’Brien.

Lasix is a diuretic widely used in US racing to prevent or curtail horses bleeding but its raceday use is not permitted in other major racing jurisdictions.

It was not permitted in two-year-olds at last year’s Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland but that ban has been extended to all 14 races this year.

Ireland’s most successful trainer at the Breeders’ Cup, Aidan O’Brien, has adopted a ‘When in Rome’ policy to Lasix when competing in the US in the past but has welcomed the change.

“We don’t medicate our horses over here at all and very rarely give any. The only medication they get is antibiotics for cold or flu or infections. They’re really the only medications we use,” O’Brien said earlier this week. “So we’re always very happy to go. We think that the [change] is definitely a good thing.”

Twilight Payment’s attempt at back-to-back Melbourne Cup victories barely began at Flemington in the early hours of Tuesday morning and Joseph O’Brien’s topweight could eventually finish only 11th behind the local superstar, Verry Elleegant.

A slow start meant the sole Irish raider could never get close to the pace and jockey Jye McNeil reported: “He wasn’t able to get into his usual role and at the halfway point he really struggled.”

It proved an anti-climax for O’Brien who made the trip to Australia and had previously described the veterinary protocols involved in getting Twilight Payment back to Flemington as a nightmare.

Verry Elleegant produced a performance much more stylish than her spelling when recording a 10th career Group One victory.

Australia's current horse of the year swept past the hot favourite Incentivise in the straight to win for jockey James McDonald and trainer Chris Waller, who famously handled the career of another star mare, Winx. The British hope Spanish Mission stayed on to be third.

It completed a remarkable comeback for McDonald who was hit with an 18-month ban in 2016 for profiting from a $1,000 bet made for him by a punter on a horse he rode to win.

As a result the then 24-year-old New Zealander was released from his contract with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and his career looked on the skids.

His triumphant return in recent seasons was crowned by Verry Elleegant’s success and McDonald said: “It means everything. It’s the one race I’ve dreamed of riding in and of winning. That’s how you want to win a Melbourne Cup.”

After a spate of fatal incidents in the race in recent years, perhaps the best outcome of all for Racing Victoria officials was that all 23 runners returned without serious injuries.

Closer to home, jumps action continues to step up a gear this weekend with the Stayers champion Flooring Porter set to make his return to action in Sunday’s Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.

Gavin Cromwell’s Breeders’ Cup hopes were cruelly finished when his Royal Ascot winner Quick Suzy was ruled out of her Turf Juvenile Sprint target at Del Mar with a temperature.

However, the Co Meath trainer’s star at the other end of the distance spectrum is one of 11 entries left in the Lismullen at Tuesday’s acceptance stage.

The Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios is also set to make his own return to action at Naas on Saturday when lining up in a Grade Three.

“It is always hard for the juvenile hurdlers when they step up with the big guns but this is the perfect opportunity to get his season started as it is for four-year-olds only,” trainer Henry de Bromhead said on Tuesday.