Aidan O'Brien, Europe's leading trainer as caretaker of the horses from the Coolmore operation at Ballydoyle, has seven horses entered for the World Thoroughbred Championships. His standout for the day lies in the form of Rock of Gibraltar in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) -- the best "rock" to come out of Ireland since U2.
Rock of Gibraltar, the winner of a record seven consecutive group I races in Europe, has been installed the even-money favorite for the Mile and will be asked to break from post 10 in the field of 14. Rock of Gibraltar is a 3-year-old son of Danehill, the sire of 200 stakes winners, out of the Be My Guest mare Offshore Boom. He is co-owned by Alex Ferguson.
O'Brien, who gave an impromptu press conference outside the quarantine barn on the Arlington Park backstretch, discussed the post postion draw and the chances of making Rock of Gibraltar a star on this side of the Atlantic.
"It hasn't affected him before," O'Brien said of drawing the outer post. "He can set forward, or he can relax. He doesn't mind if he sits close or lays back -- I just hope he gets his run."
Five-for-five this year, all group I races at a mile, Rock of Gibraltar has rattled off wins in the English Two Thousand Guineas, the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, and the NetJets Prix Moulin de Longchamp in Paris.
"He's had a long season," O'Brien said. "Every race he has run has been a group I. He is an amazing horse. Each race has been easier than the other. If he gets beat, you have to accept that -- he's been racing at the top level and at that level, any set of circumstances can happen."
Prior to drawing into the Mile, there had been plenty of speculation that Rock of Gibraltar would run in the 1¼-mile Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). However, on Wednesday morning, it was decided he would go for the Mile.
"He has run at a mile all year," O'Brien said. "So maybe it would unfair to go into the total unknown with him." That unknown would be the 3-year-old Rock of Gibraltar facing the top 3-year-olds in the U.S. in the form of War Emblem, Came Home, Medaglia d'Oro, and Harlan's Holiday. However, O'Brien won't be without representation in the Classic, with fellow 3-yaer-old Hawk Wing.
Receiving much less attention in the Mile is the O'Brien-trained Landseer, who has run behind Rock of Gibraltar in Europe, but shipped over to win one of the top Breeders' Cup Mile preps, the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile (gr. IT). Landseer, however, received a brutal draw, pulling post 13.
"Landseer has a very difficult draw," O'Brien said on Wednesday. "It's nigh on impossible to win from there."
However, he pointed out that he wouldn't be shocked if Landseer beat the "Big Horse."
"Both are good milers," he said. "He's (Landseer) never disappointed -- he's a very good colt also."
O'Brien said that there was a "big chance" that Landseer would run in the Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) before heading to a career at stud. Landseer, a 3-year-old, is also a son of Danehill, but is out of the Miswaki mare Sabria.