After the successes of last year at Churchill Downs when Expert Eye, Line Of Duty and Enable all won for British-based trainers in the Breeders’ Cup, many would be forgiven for expecting even bigger things this year at Santa Anita Park.
As well as those big three winners, the performances of the likes of Thunder Snow and Wild Illuision were excellent and it was hoped by many on this side of the pond that the Europeans could mop up in California but due to a number of reasons, the team has been significantly weakened as the season has drawn on.
What Could Have Been
Given the inclement weather in Europe at the end of the turf season, a number of trainers may now be wishing they’d skipped the likes of Champions Day or Arc weekend to wait for Santa Anita.
Connections of regally-bred Elarqam have been at pains to suggest they think he want faster ground and a mile-and-a-half, so surely the $4million Turf race would have been ideal for the colt trained by record-breaking Mark Johnston at Middleham?
John Gosden’s King Of Comedy, just behind Elarqam in a good renewal of the Juddmonte International at York, is thought to want a fast mile and would have been a great shout for the TVG Mile on Saturday, however his season is now over. He was unlucky not to beat Circus Maximus at Royal Ascot as an inexperienced horse, and that challenger is now favourite for the Mile on Saturday which has to irk the Clarehaven team.
Injuries and Unfortunate Passings
Last year was a vintage one for precocious two-year-olds, but who could have foreseen injuries and setbacks being suffered by all of the big three of Calyx, Too Darn Hot and Quorto? The first two are now retired, along with brilliant filly Magical who suffered a temperature this week and Blue Point who bowed out on a high with two big wins at Royal Ascot.
Godolphin’s Thunder Snow was third in the Classic last year and had his whole programme shaped around going two better this time, something he’d be strongly fancied to do now especially the way the $6million feature has opened up after McKinzie’s latest defeat. Having suffered a temperature though, he’s been put away until the spring when he’ll go for a third Dubai World Cup.
Beat The Bank suffered a fatal injury when winning the Summer Mile and would have been a leading light for the Mile after narrowly being beaten in the Queen Anne, and so too would Line Of Duty who won last year’s Juvenile Turf race but the Charlie Appleby-trained three-year-old also unfortunately passed at the weekend.
While injuries aren’t always to blame, we could have reasonably expected Battaash, who is not being risked in the Turf Sprint after a poor showing in the Abbaye, Benbatl, who would have preferred this mile rather than the soft ground QEII, Enable, who is now put away for next year or any number of John Gosden fillies to have been among the front rank in their relevant races.
Some Still in With a Shout
Despite all of this, the European team have a number still in with a shot with Royal Ascot form potentially being right to the fore.
Simon Crisford’s A’Ali is one of a number with chances in the Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday, a best-priced 5/1 shot, while Jessie Harrington’s Albigna (4/1) and Roger Varian’s Daahyeh (9/2) are high up on the Juvenile Fillies Turf list.
Coventry winner Arizona (Aidan O’Brien) is a strong 2/1 favourite for the Juvenile Turf, a race sponsored by Coolmore, while his Fleeting (9/1) is ranked just behind son Joseph O’Brien’s Iridessa (8/1 second-favourite) for the Filly & Mare Turf. Although she is a 16/1 shot, don’t rule out John Gosden’s Fanny Logan for that race either.
Circus Maximus is 3/1 favourite for the TVG Mile for Aidan O’Brien, while his Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck at 9/4 is the main challenger to home runner Bricks And Mortar in the Turf. Old Persian is next on that list at 9/2 for Charlie Appleby, with the race eminently more winnable than last year when Enable showed up.