We'll know Gleneagles' Classic fate early - O'Brien
Aidan O'Brien tests the water at Keeneland tonight ahead of his most important Breeders' Cup foray in recent years with Gleneagles tomorrow.
Unfortunately for the Ballydoyle genius, who boasts seven previous Grade One Breeders' Cup triumphs and three separate top-level wins at the Kentucky venue, testing the water is a slightly apt metaphor.
It has rained heavily for much of the week at Keeneland, with the Turf going officially being given as soft.
It began to dry up yesterday, which should at least ensure that the dirt track won't be a mess for Gleneagles' tilt at the Classic, which yesterday lost the dual Breeders' Cup winner Beholder due to a post-work bleed.
"It's impossible to tell how he will handle the dirt," Joseph O'Brien said of the dual European Classic winner ahead of tomorrow's 10-furlong showdown with American Pharoah, "but what I would say is when he stretched his legs this morning he was in very good form and moving well.
"The dirt is still a bit sloppy, but better than it was and they are saying there will not be much more in the way of rain. My horse has a lot of pace, he's a good mover who travels and can quicken up and, while it is a shot into the dark, he has a great constitution.
"I think we'll know after a couple of furlongs; if he's travelling and happy, he's in with a shout."
Still, the two-time champion jockey's father won't have travelled out there in search of soft ground. Tonight, he relies on three juveniles and War Envoy in his quest for a victory at the first Breeders' Cup fixture held at the famous venue.
There is a chance that his runners will cope better with prevailing turf conditions than the locals, though it's not easy to make a case for War Envoy in the Dirt Mile. A Royal Ascot handicap winner, he has looked shy of this level. On the other hand, we've seen on this new fixture in recent years how the standard can be quite moderate, and he might take to the dirt.
O'Brien's best chance of joy tonight might come in the two juvenile races.
Shogun and Hit It A Bomb will strive to give him a third win in the Juvenile Turf. On his decent run in the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere, Shogun's form credentials are the more obvious, but Seamie Heffernan's mount was all at sea on soft ground at the Curragh previously.
Hit It A Bomb is the choice of Ryan Moore. A son of War Front, he is unbeaten in two, and won with any amount to spare at Dundalk last time. It is impossible to know how good he might be, but he is expected to make the locals go in tonight's mile contest.
Alice Springs represents the Ballydoyle firm in the Juvenile Fillies' Turf. A daughter of Galileo, she has been progressive this season, and ran really well last month when third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes on the slowest ground that she has encountered.
She has since enhanced her stock with a fine run over an inadequate trip in the Cheveley Park Stakes, before skating up at short odds in a valuable race at Newmarket. Alice Springs is bred to stay, so tonight's step up to a mile is expected to prove ideal.
Bill Mott's Harmonize is the most obvious threat to Alice Springs. However, as a daughter of Scat Daddy, there must be some doubt about her ability to cope with the slow going.
Meanwhile, Kevin Prendergast's classy dual purpose mare Katie T may have run her last race following an accident at home. This year's BoyleSports.com Hurdle victor was last seen finishing fourth behind Annie Power at Punchestown in May.
"She had a bad fall and was lame for quite some time," said Prendergast, whose stable Flat jockey Chris Hayes has embarked on a winter stint in Dubai. "She won't be active for at least six months. You won't see her this season anyway. She'll probably go to stud if she doesn't come right."
At Mallow on Sunday, Rogue Angel will have to defy top-weight if he is to complete a Grand National double in the Cork version. A narrow winner of the Kerry National, Mouse Morris's charge has been allotted 11st 10lb in the €50,000 three-and-a-half-miler.