It doesn't take long for trainer Brian Meehan to disabuse one of any notion that John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) candidate Red Rocks will arrive at Churchill Downs as a mere traveling companion for his more heralded, Classic-bound stablemate David Junior.
Irishman Meehan is by nature a bullish character but even so it is striking how adamant Meehan is that Red Rocks has a "fantastic chance" of becoming the first 3-year-old to win the Turf since High Chapparal took Arlington in 2002.
Put it to him that, even though the son of Galileo has not won since Newmarket in May, his form is proving 'not too bad at all', and the reply quickly follows: "I wouldn't say it was not too bad at all, I'd say he had the best form of anything in the race."
Here's why Meehan might say that: even though 14 furlongs ultimately proved too far for Red Rocks when third to Sixties Icon in the Ladbrokes St Leger (Eng-I), he had prior to that finished a neck second to Youmzain in the Ladbrokes Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II) at York in August. After finishing second to subsequent Arc winner Rail Link in the Prix Niel Casino Barriere (Fr-II), Youmzain went on to win at Group 1 level in Germany. Red Rocks himself had previously been beaten only 2 lengths by Rail Link when second in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I) in July.
"Obviously you have to respect Hurricance Run," Meehan added. "Andre Fabre is a master trainer and he wouldn't be wasting his time running him if he didn't think he had a great chance, but my horse is in great shape. We're very confident. I'd be delighted if we did win for his owner J Paul Reddam, who is a real supporter of the sport, and also for his racing manager in Europe, Jamie McCalmont, who is a fantastic guy."
If somehow Meehan does pull off an audacious double with Red Rocks and David Junior – "you never know, they both go there with every chance" – it will mark an incredible conclusion to what was always going to be a seminal year for him.
In March he took over from John Gosden at the huge Manton training complex in Wiltshire, south west England. Since it was developed by Robert Sangster in the 1990s, Manton has proved a restless place with Michael Dickinson, Barry Hills, Peter Chapple-Hyam, Gosden and now Meehan all trying their luck there.
Meehan's tenure at least got off to a flyer thanks to David Junior's victory in the lucrative Dubai Duty Free at Nad al Sheba in March, one of only three starts for the 4-year-old son of Pleasant Tap this season.
And who knows – the best could be yet to come?