Wednesday 24 January 2018

Hannon fury at Breeders' track shut-out

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

There were angry scenes at Churchill Downs yesterday ahead of tonight's opening salvo at the Breeders' Cup after the leading English handlers Michael Stoute, John Gosden and Richard Hannon were all prevented from exercising their horses on the turf course following a rain shower.

The decision by track officials stunned the trainers, who were eager to put the finishing touches to horses that had travelled across the Atlantic to compete on tomorrow's showpiece card.

Hannon's son and namesake, who is representing his father in Kentucky, then used his father's website to voice his disgust over being denied the opportunity to gallop Strong Suit, one of the favourites for the Mile, on the grass surface.

"It is an absolute disgrace," he said, "and I now know why my dad won't come to America. He has always been a good judge and he won't have the Yanks at any price -- and he is dead right.

"It has cost us £120,000 to bring Strong Suit to America and we have been treated like second-class citizens. They had a bit of rain this morning but it was nothing major and I could not believe it when we were told we would not be able to work on the grass track."

On tonight's distaff-heavy card, Aidan O'Brien will saddle three Ryan Moore-ridden runners. Of the three, Misty For Me is possibly the best chance of a first ever Irish success at Churchill Downs in the Filly and Mare Turf.

The four-time Group One winner is an 8/1 shot for the 11-furlong contest. Joining her in the 12-runner event are the first two home in the Prix de l'Opera, Nahrain (4/1) and Announce (5/1).

In the Grade One juvenile fillies' race over a mile on dirt, the Ballydoyle handler relies on the recent Curragh scorer Homecoming Queen.

There is an equivalent heat on turf earlier. The Dundalk maiden winner Up is the sole O'Brien runner in that Grade Two, a race that John Gosden's Marcel Boussac winner Elusive Kate heads the market for at odds of 11/4.

O'Brien, meanwhile, will use blinkers on So You Think in the Breeders' Cup Classic tomorrow as he feels the giant Australian import is getting too relaxed in his races.

Winner of three Group Ones since moving to O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables, he has met with defeat in his last two races, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

But O'Brien believes he could run a huge race if he adapts to the dirt surface, in a race where he will be the only European challenger.

"The reason he is wearing blinkers is because of the way he has run in his last three starts, especially when he won the Irish Champion Stakes when he appeared just to do enough at the end," said O'Brien.

"We saw in Leopardstown that he was going to the front and waiting and he was just too relaxed."

Irish Independent

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