Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Brien draws Breeders comfort

Thomas Kelly

WHILE Hurricane Sandy is wreaking havoc on the east coast of America, Europe's equine raiders are hoping to cause a storm of their own on the west coast at the Breeders' Cup.

The Irish representation at the two-day fixture in Santa Anita is strong and, for once, the draw has been relatively kind.

Excelebration is the big Ballydoyle hope, and Aidan O'Brien's admirably consistent colt has hardened as favourite for the Mile contest after being handed stall six of nine.

The four-year-old touched down in California as many people's idea of the European 'banker' of the meeting following his brilliant display in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Ladbrokes cut Excelebration to 5/4 favourite from 6/4 following the draw, while French star Moonlight Cloud has drifted in the market after being handed the widest draw in stall nine.

Excelebration's Ballydoyle stablemate St Nicholas Abbey also got a decent berth and will break from stall three when he defends his crown in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

The five-year-old was a hugely impressive winner of the mile-and-a-half Grade One 12 months ago when giving the trainer's son, Joseph, his first winner at the prestigious event.

St Nicholas Abbey is joined in the line-up by stable companion and regular runner in America, Treasure Beach, which is next door in stall four of 12.

Frankie Dettori partners former Brian Meehan inmate Cogito (six) for Doug O'Neill, while the former Stan Moore-trained Slim Shadey is an interesting runner for Simon Callaghan, but stall 11 is clearly not ideal.

The Juvenile Turf kicks off Saturday's card and Roger Charlton will have been pleased to have drawn stall six of 15 for his ante-post favourite Dundonnell. Jeremy Noseda's Fantastic Moon has also fared well in stall five, Godolphin's Artigiano is in stall two and O'Brien's George Vancouver is in stall three while stablemate Lines Of Battle will be ridden by Richard Hughes from stall 14.

SHORT STRAW

Starspangledbanner was another Ballydoyle contender to draw the short straw -- being located in stall 14 of 14 as he aims to bounce back to form in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Richard Hannon Jnr has expressed his delight after Sky Lantern was given stall three for Friday's Juvenile Fillies Turf. "So much better than last year when Strong Suit drew 11 from 13," said Hannon Jnr, who is assistant to his father. "You need to break well in America, otherwise you are history.

"Sky Lantern has a real chance of getting competitive from her inside draw, because even if she does not break as quickly as the local runners she still has the opportunity to hold her position."

Ralph Beckett's Waterway Run -- to be ridden by Dettori -- is in stall 10, while the Noseda-trained The Gold Cheongsam is wider in stall 12. O'Brien's Infanta Branca, the mount of Ryan Moore, has got stall 15 but is currently first reserve.

Also on Friday, O'Brien's Fame And Glory (stall two) tackles the dirt and 13 opponents over a mile and three-quarters in the Breeders' Cup Marathon.

The former Royal Ascot Gold Cup winner is joined by the Dermot Weld-trained Sense Of Purpose (stall 13) which will be ridden by Pat Smullen.

There is strong European interest in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, with John Gosden's The Fugue (stall four) taking top billing among a field of 12 runners.

Last year's runner-up Nahrain (stall eight) is back for more for Roger Varian and Hughes has picked up the ride on David Simcock's I'm A Dreamer (stall 11), while O'Brien saddles the Moore-ridden Up (stall seven).

Meanwhile, Coolmore Stud have purchased a 50pc interest in the unbeaten Shanghai Bobby ahead of his run in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday. The Todd Pletcher-trained two-year-old is a leading fancy for the Grade One over an extended mile and has won all his four starts.

Irish Independent

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