Trainer Aidan O’Brien has a history of sending his top horses to the Breeders’ Cup and Found’s impressive Arc de Triomphe victory at Chantilly, France last Sunday (October 2) has made her favorite for the race she won last year, the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
O’Brien (pictured) saddled a never-to-be-repeated first three home in the Arc and second-placed Highland Reel is another potential Breeders’ Cup Turf runner who handles a trans-Atlantic journey and could be tough to beat at Santa Anita. Travel is not currently on the agenda for third-placed Order Of St George but Found is unlikely to be short of company on the flight over the Atlantic.
After filling the first two places in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, O’Brien’s two-year-olds Rhododendron and Hydrangea may well be travelling with their stablemates to Santa Anita. Nothing is decided but the Coolmore Stud owners (‘the lads,’ as O’Brien calls Michael Tabor, John Magnier & co) and its training center Ballydoyle find it hard to resist the big payouts and prestige of winning here in America.
Another Aidan O’Brien trained filly, Alice Springs, is also a likely runner at Santa Anita with a choice of engagements. She features in the USA sportsbooks’ futures betting lines for both the Breeders Cup Mile and the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf. This daughter of War Front is a proven firm ground performer on turf, typical for her sire.
If O’Brien’s horses cope with the travel as well as usual they should bring home plenty of prize money in dollars, adding to their massive European haul.
O’Brien’s Historic Arc Trio
O’Brien achieved something extraordinary in Europe’s most prestigious flat race. He not only trained Found, the 6/1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, but also the second and third horses home at Chantilly.
His trio of runners absolutely annihilated the 16-strong field. It included the most talented colts and fillies from England, France and Japan as well as Harzand, the highly rated colt also trained in Ireland who had won both the English Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby at the Curragh.
O’Brien is widely acknowledged as a genius at producing horses on top form for the biggest races and his reputation has been strengthened. No other trainer has saddled the first three home in the Arc and the race has a history dating right back to 1920.
U.S. Form Franked
Bettors looking to pick the winner of the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe should have taken a good look at the horses with United States’ rather than more local form. The four-year-old winning filly Found won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf beating the 4/6 favorite, the 2015 Arc and Epsom Derby winner, Golden Horn.
Found had finished second in her five previous starts in Group 1 contests in England and Ireland but galloped all the way to the line to win by nearly two lengths. She was ridden by the UK’s top jockey Ryan Moore, no stranger to big-race success here in the U.S., who gave her a typically world class ride. Moore kept her tight to the rail in the middle of the pack before kicking for home in the stretch, timing her challenge perfectly.
Her stablemate Highland Reel finished second partnered by Coolmore’s deputy jockey, Seamie Heffernan. Arc bettors had pretty much ignored this colt, sending him off at odds of 20/1. Looking back that seems a generous price for a colt who won the 2015 Secretariat Stakes by over five lengths at Arlington Park. Highland Reel also won the Group 1 King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July on his preferred quick ground.
The strong stayer Order Of St George finished three lengths behind Found in third. He had won the Gold Cup over a mile further in the mud at Royal Ascot and was dropping back in trip. He was the only O’Brien runner who had not run in the USA.
A 100/1 shot, Siljan’s Saga finished fourth posing questions about the quality of the race. That said Siljan’s Saga had been beaten just four-and-a-half lengths when 8th to Golden Horn in the 2015 renewal. The 2/1 Arc favorite Postponed crossed the line in fifth place, six lengths behind the winner. Trained by Roger Varian in England, Postponed had started his season with two wins in Meydan in the spring.
One of them was in the Dubai Sheema Classic, a Group 1 with a payout of more than $3 million to the winner. This five-year-old son of Dubawi won his next two starts at the highest level in England (including putting Highland Reel in his place at York) but folded weakly at Chantilly. He had been up with the pace from flag fall which may not have been the best strategy when they blasted from the gates.
Another 100/1 shot, One Foot In Heaven, finished only a nose behind Postponed in sixth. He had been held up in the back of the pack suggesting that the pace might have been too hot to sustain when it mattered.
The big Japanese-trained Arc hope, Makahiki who had been given a successful prep run at Chantilly also failed to fire, finishing with only two horses behind him. He was ridden in the middle of the pack out wide and never looked likely to feature.
All three of O’Brien’s Arc runners were four-year-olds by the leading Coolmore sire, Galileo. Galileo’s offspring often perform better on faster ground than they usually encounter in Ireland making travel to England or further afield for a more likely chance of suitable conditions a no-brainer. There has been unusually soft ground in the summer in England this year making it difficult to follow early form with much confidence.
In case anyone thought that the Arc result was a fluke, five days after the Arc on October 7, O’Brien’s aforementioned two runners proved their superiority in the Group 1 Dubai Fillies’ Mile for two-year-olds at Newmarket. Rhododendron won comfortably under Ryan Moore, beating her stablemate Hydrangea ridden by Seamie Heffernan two lengths. The pair cruised six lengths clear of the chasing pack. Both O’Brien fillies were daughters of Galileo and seemed to love the good to firm ground.
This flower-power duo, along with their illustrious older stablemates, may also be making the journey to Santa Anita and the Breeders Cup.
When American bettors sort out their Breeders Cup wagers, keep on the right side of record-breaking trainer O’Brien. His ever-dominant Irish stable is in even stronger form than previous years right now.