Sport Horse Racing

Friday 15 December 2017

Champions side by side for Breeders' tilt at history

Aidan O’Brien’s Hit It A Bomb powers home under Ryan Moore to claim the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland last night
Aidan O’Brien’s Hit It A Bomb powers home under Ryan Moore to claim the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland last night

Marcus Armytage

All eyes will be on Keeneland's quirky system for getting runners to the paddock this evening as the world's two best colts, American Pharoah and Golden Horn, will momentarily be at opposite ends of the same parade ring as the 32nd Breeders' Cup reaches its climax.

It is a pity in many ways that they will then go their separate ways; Golden Horn to be ponied to the start for the $3 million Turf, America Pharoah to wait his turn on the dirt for the $5m Classic.

But, like great boxers at different weights, they were destined never to meet and comparisons of their relative merits will be decided, officially, by the slide rules of handicappers - who currently have American Pharoah 1lb superior - and, unofficially, by public opinion.

The two have much in common apart from their short price to sign off as winners. Both Bob Baffert and John Gosden talk of the great minds that accompany each colt's athletic prowess, good looks, fluid movement and big hearts.

Although separated by an ocean both are examples of that rare thing, the thoroughbred gene pool, as it very occasionally does having been interfered with by humans for centuries, getting all its ducks in a row.

In the space of 45 minutes both will attempt to attain a unique place in the history of their breed. American Pharoah is trying to become the first horse to add the Classic to the US Triple Crown, which, in itself, has become a once-in-a-generation achievement.

Golden Horn tries for what is perhaps a more relevant modern day Triple Crown than our own; the Derby, the Arc and Turf. The size of the task can be measured in terms of the six Arc winners - the legendary Dancing Brave among them - which have tried and failed to win a Breeders' Cup.

This being racing, though, there are no certainties. On paper, Golden Horn has the easier task. The American Turf horses are all at the veteran stage as far as Flat racing is concerned and Aidan O'Brien's Found presents the biggest threat but she is contesting her fourth Group One in six weeks and was beaten in two of them by Golden Horn. "It is the end of a long season, but if it wasn't for the ground I'd be confident," said Gosden.

Golden Horn thrives on his work and left home 2kg heavier than he did for the Arc. He has looked fantastic and enthusiastic all week so his long season may not be as much a problem as the ground and his draw, which is a potential trap. But Shining Copper, drawn in two, usually sets off like a scalded cat, so Dettori should get some space.

American Pharoah's problem is that he has to bounce back from defeat and Keen Ice - his conqueror in the Travers after he had been softened up in front - takes him on again. It is hard to see Gleneagles enjoying himself on dirt.

Among the Europeans it is the French who have the best Breeders' Cup strike rate. They usually bring five horses and win two races and this year they have top-loaded their favourite race, the Mile, with more than half their squad, including Jonathan Pease's defending champion Karakontie. Pease, an Englishman who has trained in Chantilly for 36 years and now on the brink of retirement, can sign off with a fourth Breeders' win.

David Wachman says the "signs are good" for Legatissimo as she bids to round off a memorable campaign with victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Winner of the English 1,000 Guineas, the Nassau and the Matron Stakes, she returns steps back up in distance at Keeneland.

And while ground conditions will not be ideal, Wachman is hopeful a long campaign has not caught up with his stable star. "The filly seems OK," he said. "We haven't done a lot with her since she arrived, just gentle exercise, but she seems well."

Legatissimo has most to fear from two fellow European challengers, with Ralph Beckett's Secret Gesture and the Andre Fabre-trained Miss France both worthy opponents.

O'Brien last night got the weekend off to a flyer as his Hit It A Bomb powered home under an inspired Ryan Moore to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf race.

Tenth into the straight, Moore weaved his way through the field on the unbeaten colt and once he engaged top gear, his mount flew home to beat Airoforce which edged out Birchwood for second. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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