Activity inside and outside the quarantine barn at Monmouth Park intensified significantly Thursday morning.
The trainers of Europe’s 12-strong raiding party arrived at last to supervise horses and conclude the licensing process, while Frankie Dettori and Mick Kinane had their first experience riding at Monmouth.
The rain dominated conversation and movement. Henry Cecil, seeking his first Breeders’ Cup winner with his sixth runner Passage Of Time in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, welcomed the rain, which was falling for the second successive day.
But Jeremy Noseda, successful with Wilko in the Breeders’s Cup Juvenile in 2004, expressed a fervent wish that the rain should stop, as Strike The Deal in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf wants fast going.
Brian Meehan spoke positively about Red Rocks, who is going for his second successive Breeders’ Cup Turf victory, while John Oxx revealed that his Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf hope Timarwa suffered a touch of colic on Monday, the day after arriving in America.
Aidan O’Brien hardly emerged from the quarantine barn gates before he was swamped by eager media. The 15-minute interview process, with O’Brien surrounded, was interrupted by the opening of the gates, but the Irish trainer hardly faltered as the scrum shuffled to one side.
He kept his five horses in the quarantine barn, preferring to have them walked for 40 minutes, but they will go out on the track Friday morning.
Kinane and Dettori described the turf course being on the soft side of good after the rain, which is forecast to continue Friday and Saturday.
Said Cecil: "Passage Of Time likes give in the ground; she doesn’t like it firm. I was praying for a bit of rain. She has come on a lot for her recent race, and she deserves to be here."
The filly’s work rider, Shane Fetherstonhaugh -- who performed the same role on Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Motivator when with Michael Bell -- was pushed forward by Cecil to get his moment in the limelight again. "I have been very happy with her this week,” he said. “She traveled over good and is moving well. The more rain, the better for her."
Brian Meehan will be taking advantage of the more liberal medication rules in America. "We are here to win. There is no point being all pious about it,” he said. “The Turf has been the aim since he won the race last year. He has been laid out for Saturday’s race.
"The most important part is the shipping, and that has gone really well. He has made the running before and done well, but we don’t really want to do that. Frankie (Dettori) knows him really well, and I wouldn’t want to have anybody else on the horse."
Red Rocks cantered for three miles under Dettori on Thursday morning. The trainer added, "It is nice to be with the horse. We were only going to do two circuits of the main track, and I then I decided to do another circuit.
"He is fit and well and ready. I don’t think the ground matters for him, and he will handle the tight track. The horse has grown up a lot this year. He was a bit of a baby when he went to Churchill Downs last year. This time he is full of confidence. He always calls out, but that is a habit he has had since his yearling days.
"Red Rocks looks a million dollars. Dylan Thomas is coming from the Arc, and there is an issue there (none of the four previous Arc winners to try the Turf subsequently have won)."
O’Brien said there was nothing to lose by running the failed stallion and last year’s Champion European turf miler George Washington again in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday,
Ireland’s champion trainer said, "He will be tried at stud again at the end of this year. We were delighted with his run in the Classic last year (when sixth). He might be better in himself this year, as he had an easy time.
"I think it will be a fast pace, but he travels well in his races. George is in great shape, and he handles the dirt. It is going to be exciting to see what happens."
Excellent Art represents O’Brien in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on grass Saturday. The trainer described the 3-year-old as being unlucky in his last two races. "I know he has a very bad draw, but he is in very good form,” he said. “We were very happy with his last two pieces of work.
"He doesn’t mind coming from the back. I think he will be fine with a bit of cut, even though he is a very good mover."
O’Brien called Achill Island, going for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday, a "sharp kind of Sadler’s Wells" and described him as a progressive horse.
All My Loving will be visored in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf because she was "very idle" in her recent race at the Curragh. She is going to be retired to breeding after this race.
Noseda, talking about Strike The Deal, said, "He would be better on quick ground. If it was on the yielding side, I would be worried."
He also will saddle Simply Perfect in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. "She is pretty adaptable and has shown form on soft through to very firm. Hopefully, she will stay the 11 furlongs," he said.
Dettori, who gave the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Jeremy a workout on the turf over four furlongs Thursday morning, said the going was on the "slow side of good." He called the bends sharp but added that they were well cambered.
"Jeremy seems in good order, and we will give it a go. I’m on Red Rocks in the Turf, but Dylan Thomas will be very hard to beat," he said.
Kinane, the rider of George Washington and Timarwa, said, "It is decent ground - there won’t be any firm in it - and I appreciated getting a canter on the turf course this morning.
"George Washington ran a hell of a race last time. I know the American 3-year-olds are very good this year, but whether they are as good as Invasor and Bernardini last year is another matter. I think a mile-and-a-quarter will be ideal."
Oxx, Timarwa’s trainer, confirmed she has recovered from her touch of colic. "She had her food restricted for 24 hours, so it is a setback we could have done without. But she has been in good form since,” he said. “She has been a consistent filly, and this will be her last race."