Midday can give Cecil rare double
With or without Workforce's participation in tomorrow's Turf, the $25.5m Breeders' Cup show gets under way today and Midday is confidently expected take a starring role.
Henry Cecil's filly should become only the sixth European horse to double up in a Breeders' Cup.
Until she had won at Santa Anita last year, Cecil had not fully embraced the Breeders' Cup ethos but, like many recent converts, his interest is now almost evangelical, forsaking even a crack at the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe last month to keep Midday fresh for her attempt at a repeat in the Emirates Airline Filly And Mare Turf.
He was the first European trainer to arrive this week and has been hanging around the back stretch soaking up the special atmosphere long after his own work has finished.
After the Derby and Arc winner Workforce had cantered round the turf track -- compared by jockey Ryan Moore to the ground at Ascot for the King George -- for a third day Michael Stoute, having failed to find rain clouds, went in search of a track turf consultant for some scientific input into his ponderings.
In a different approach, Cecil has restricted Midday's exercise to the dirt track, arguing that she will go on the firm ground once but possibly not twice, so he will only give her one bash at it -- in the race.
"I haven't put her on it until the day," he said, expounding his theory. "It's like I'd never gallop a horse round Epsom before the Derby because they might only go round it once. I might be wrong, but a poor plan is better than no plan!"
Tom Queally, who has come of age as a jockey in the last two years, riding 11 Group One winners, confirmed Midday's well-being and suggested that she is better than a year ago.
"She's full of herself, fresh and well, but sensible enough not to buck me off," he said. Any slip-up means the Japanese runner Red Desire is likely to capitalise.
If the power of positive thinking won races, Breeders' Cup regular Brian Meehan would be champion trainer. Five minutes in his company would convince even the chairman of Gamblers Anonymous to put his quartet of runners in a Pick 4.
The best of them, however, seems to be Theyskens' Theory, whose home form suggests Classic potential for 2011. By Bernardini, she is bred to be more at home on the dirt and she can become a rare British winner on the surface in the Juvenile Fillies, getting Frankie Dettori off the mark for the meeting.
"For me, she has blossomed since Ascot," said Meehan. "Today she really bonded with her pony. She looks like she's ready for it. She's pretty gutsy and floats across the dirt."
The absence of any superstars and a poor recent Breeders' Cup record -- one Marathon (which, let's face it, is the Breeders' Cup's one non-event) winner from 34 runners since High Chaparral -- has constituted a lower profile than normal for Ballydoyle. Aidan O'Brien's decision to skip the event does not inspire confidence.
His best chance today appears to lie with Together, which split White Moonstone and Theskyns' Theory in the Fillies' Mile at Ascot. She goes in the Fillies Juvenile Turf, but is up against a poor draw and the smart Winter Memories.
The will-he-won't-he run soap opera of Workforce's participation because of the ground is likely to be left until the last minute though rain is tentatively forecast. "We're hopeful that he will run, but it remains far from certain," said Lord Grimthorpe, the owner's racing manager. If only rain-bearing clouds were up in the air like this decision. (© Daily Telegraph, London)