Sunday 22 October 2017

The Fugue can reward Gosden's bold ploy in Turf war

When the sun sets on the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia tonight, some $27m will have been redistributed during the two-day sporting extravaganza which, in its previous 29 editions, has brought us memorable moments.

Who could forget Zenyatta's dramatic last-gasp defeat in the Classic as she went for 20 wins from 20 starts; Arazi, like a motorbike scything through touring cyclists; or Lester Piggott's comeback on Royal Academy?

As the Breeders' Cup celebrates its 30th year, the travelling circus has pitched camp in Santa Anita.

Do not, however, be fooled by the track's easy charm, its picture-postcard looks or shirt-sleeve climate. When the gates clank open, these two ovals of dirt and turf transform into a fierce battleground. Make no mistake, 5,500 miles from home, this is the ultimate away match for European runners and their jockeys need to be aggressive here.

The Fugue, in the Turf, and Dank, in the Filly And Mare Turf, both have chances of adding to the impressive haul of Breeders' Cup winners trained by John Gosden (four) and Michael Stoute (five), but Olympic Glory in the Mile and Declaration Of War in the $5m Classic face mission almost impossible.

The Fugue was an unlucky loser in last year's Fillies And Mares' Turf but can today join an elite bunch of fillies – which includes Zenyatta, Miesque, Goldikova and Ridgewood Pearl – to have taken on and beaten the colts at the Breeders' Cup.

"We've taken the bold route," admitted Gosden on his return to his old stomping ground where he cut his teeth as a trainer. "We know from last year she handles the track and we are not frightened to take on the colts."

Without The Fugue, Dank has a great chance of adding to her Beverley D win at Arlington in the Filly And Mare Turf.

She is drawn on the rail, but if there is one jockey who relishes that challenge it is Ryan Moore. Last year Excelebration found it difficult to live with Wise Dan in the Mile a fortnight after easing to the QEII and Olympic Glory faces an identical challenge.

Quite apart from Santa Anita's two-turn Mile being the antithesis of Ascot's straight mile in a bog, the question is whether or not he has fully recovered from Ascot. If Aidan O'Brien wins the Turf with his Irish Guineas winner Magician, which has not run since Royal Ascot, it will be remarkable, but if Declaration Of War could win the Classic, it would represent the high water mark of the trainer's career.

Even track officials admit Santa Anita's new dirt track has the fiercest kickback in America – not a title easily won – and O'Brien expects to know his fate going into the first bend. Even if he overcomes a regulation sand-blasting in the face he may not be man enough to overcome Mucho Macho Man. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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