O'Brien hopes for more Turf love with Found in Breeders'
Having floored Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf last year, Found is back to defend her crown at Santa Anita tonight.
With a reputation as something of a 'nearly' horse in Europe, she smashed that belief when running out a hugely impressive winner of the continent's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Aidan O'Brien saddled the first three home at Chantilly - the highlight of what has been a truly remarkable season for the Ballydoyle handler - and is also responsible for Arc runner-up and King George winner Highland Reel in the Turf.
There is no doubt which of the pair he favours, though, and his admiration for Found has reached new levels of late, despite her defeat in the Champion Stakes to Almanzor. Last week it appeared Found was going to run in the Classic on dirt, but connections had a late change of heart.
"She is a remarkable filly and without doubt the toughest that I have ever trained," O'Brien said. "When you watch her winning the Arc, you can see her strain ever sinew in her body and she has a relentless will to win.
"It was also handy for us that the Ascot race (Champion Stakes) was slowly run and ended up being a sprint up the straight. It was not gruelling for her by any means and she came out of it particularly well. She's tactically quick, stays well and is the most genuine mare we've ever had. She's a great mare. She doesn't hold back anything and that is very unusual." He went on: "Highland Reel is a very solid horse, he gets a mile and a half well and handles fast ground. He's straightforward and, tactically, he's a great horse. Every race he runs to a very high mark and you are never sure when he's going to put in a massive one again."
David O'Meara's Mondialiste would not be given much chance of beating the O'Brien duo at home, but he becomes a different animal abroad, having won the Woodbine Mile and the Arlington Million. He also chased home Tepin in the Mile last year.
"Mondialiste likes the American style of racing with its fast ground and turning tracks," said O'Meara. "When he won the Arlington Million back in August he clocked the third-fastest time in the last 10 years, so the ground was pretty quick and a similar surface at Santa Anita will hold no fears."
O'Brien, though, was out of luck with his first runners in Santa Anita last night, though Lancaster Bomber finished second under Seamie Heffernan in the Juvenile Turf at odds of 9/1. The race was won by the home team's Oscar Performance trained by Brian Lynch with O'Brien's more fancied other runner Intelligence Cross finishing down the field for Ryan Moore.
Meanwhile, sending runners to the Breeders' Cup was never high on Henry Cecil's agenda, not until Midday won the 2009 Filly and Mare Turf, and nor has it been high on Henry Candy's to-do list until now. But the trainer saddles his first runner across the Pond in his 43-year career, when Limato lines up for one of the hottest of Breeders' Cup Miles; 10 Grade One winners "and he's never won over a mile" the trainer pointed out, drily.
For all that, the sharp, two-turn mile on fast ground should suit the July Cup-winning gelding, which seems to have flourished since he arrived and will be vying for favouritism with America's queen of milers, Tepin.
Santa Anita on Thursday morning, Candy's first at the track, could not have been further removed from the tranquillity of Kingston Warren; hundreds of horses working at different speeds in different lanes of the left-handed dirt oval, sirens going off to announce a 'loose one' and a horse's well-being judged by a stopwatch rather than a watchful eye.
Outwardly butter would not have melted in Limato's mouth, but as he was 'schooled' round the paddock and its statue of Seabiscuit, with a pronounced spring in his step, he was not fooling his trainer.
"He's a nightmare," Candy said. "He'll love showing off to the crowd, but the problem is always getting a saddle on him. He's ticklish and doesn't like his legs or girth area being touched. After he won the Foret at Chantilly I could feel something trickling down my hand and I wasn't aware that he'd kicked me saddling him up. It took three weeks to heal. He's like lightning, front-end or back. He could take your hand off with a cow kick."
Candy's career was initially about high-class middle distance horses such as Time Charter and Master Willie, but latterly fast horses have been finding their way to him; Airwave, Kyllachy, Markab, Twilight Son and, perhaps fastest of all, Limato, which cost owner Paul Jacobs £41,000 as a yearling.
Aidan O'Brien's Alice Springs is also worth a mention in the Mile, a race her trainer has yet to win. Michael Stoute can add to his Cup tally, with Queen's Trust dropping back in trip in the Filly And Mare Turf.
In the Classic in the early hours of tomorrow, with California Chrome, undefeated this year, up against three-year-old upstart Arrogate, it should provide a fitting climax to the world's richest day's racing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)