Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 15 December 2019

Workforce tops Breeders' bill

Chris McGrath

THE management team at Churchill Downs were alarmed on Tuesday when a tornado warning was issued for the Louisville area. They did not like the idea of an 11th-hour repair job on the iconic twin spires, just 10 days before staging the Breeders' Cup.

In the event, the epicentre passed to the north, and it might well be that the meteorologists had simply got their wires crossed with the local horsemen. For there is no mistaking the storm gathering over the Atlantic, with the three hottest favourites at the meeting -- Workforce, Goldikova and Midday -- all being flown across from Europe.

It was fitting that the nominations for the 27th Breeders' Cup should have been unveiled yesterday at Epsom, the scene of Workforce's spectacular coming of age back in June. He will be the first Derby winner to go to America since High Chaparral, the dual Turf winner of 2002 and 2003.

In conjunction with the possibility of a first Breeders' Cup hat-trick -- whether through Goldikova in the Mile, or Zenyatta in the Classic -- Workforce's participation enabled the Cup's chief executive to hail the fields assembling on Friday and Saturday week as "the deepest in Breeders' Cup history."

Underlying concerns remain, however. The return to Churchill Downs means the dirt races will be run on the sort of punishing surface that has historically inhibited the European challenge. Only four European horses have been entered for the dirt races.

Zenyatta returns to defend the Classic with a 19-race unbeaten career on the line. She will dominate the build-up, but the raiders top the agenda in almost all the grass races.

John Gosden, for instance, has entrusted his hat-trick attempt in the Juvenile Turf to Utley, fifth when fast-tracked from a Yarmouth maiden to a Group One race on Arc day; he also runs Flood Plain in the fillies' version.

Utley's opponents will include Mantoba, Dux Scholar and Master Of Hounds.

Like Workforce, Dux Scholar is trained by Michael Stoute for Khalid Abdullah, whose 16 Group One winners this year leave him two short of a personal best.

With Midday also in his service, he could well find them both in Kentucky next week.

Keeping Goldikova company among the 11 Mile possibles are old rival Paco Boy, Aidan O'Brien's Beethoven and Godolphin inmate Delegator, while Midday is joined by Saeed bin Suroor's Hibaayeb and Andre Fabre's Plumania in her race.

Brian Meehan's Theyskens' Theory is the only European in the Juvenile Fillies'. (© Independent News Service)

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