Once again, trainer Aidan O'Brien has brought a strong contingent of horses from across the pond to compete in the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs Nov. 4. As always, the European invaders are most feared in the turf events, and O'Brien will saddle Aussie Rules and Ad Valorem in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and Scorpion in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
However, the most interesting decision made by O'Brien and the Coolmore team was entering their star miler, George Washington, in the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) instead of the Mile, a race in which the Danehill colt surely would have been favored. All four of O'brien's contenders race as part of the Coolmore operation.
"They want to push them to their boundaries and see exactly how far they can go," O'Brien said at a Nov. 2 press conference at Churchill Downs. "We all know what he (George Washington) can do on the mile. It's his last run. We are going to learn a lot more about him.
"It is probably a little bit unfair to him to be doing this. He is going into a dirt race, and he has never had a prep race on it. I can see why American trainers and most of the American people will disregard him, and you couldn't disagree with that. But, it is a brave decision; it is an exciting decision."
"Gorgeous George" was injured in the Boylesport Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) earlier in the season after he tore muscles in his back, and O'Brien feels the horse grew up after that experience.
"I think the majority of people would have retired him because they had an awful lot to lose by bringing him back," he said. "The horse grew up a lot. I think maybe the pain of the injury grounded him mentally. He was inclined to be very arrogant, and he didn't like to be told what to do. It might have worked in his favor in the long run."
The Coolmore contenders in the Mile will bookend the field in the starting gate as Ad Valorem breaks from the one spot and Aussie Rules will come from the 14 position. O'Brien likes his chances, especially if the turf dries from the rain Louisville received Nov. 1.
"We consider them to be two very live contenders for the Mile," he said. "Ad Valorem is a fast ground horse, and Aussie Rules is the same. All three turf horses, it couldn't get quick enough for them."
Scorpion is expected to be at the front of the pack in the 1 1/2 mile Turf, which could set the race up for his competition. However, O'Brien is just looking for him to run his race.
"I think he'll set a nice even pace, and I think by doing that he'll set it up for all horses behind him, including Hurricane Run," the trainer said. "If you get an honestly good run race, and you get beat, so be it. The hard part is when you get beat by a tactical, falsely run race."