Trainer Aidan O'Brien spoke out about the chances of his star 3-year-old George Washington in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), calling him "possibly the best horse we've ever, ever had."
One of Europe's top milers, George Washington was pre-entered in the 10-furlong, Classic only. In his main track debut, the Irish-bred will be taking on fellow 3-year-old sensation Bernardini and Lava Man, the 5-year-old former claimer who is a perfect seven-for-seven this year.
O'Brien's comments were strong about Susan Magnier's runner considering the star power to come out of Coolmore's Ballydoyle yard in Ireland. In just the last few years, O'Brien has conditioned champions such as Giant's Causeway
, and High Chaparral.
"George Washington is possibly the best horse we've ever, ever had," O'Brien said during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup teleconference. "He has more speed than any horse we've ever had. His ability to cruise is second to none. We're obviously hoping he has the ability to overcome everything else. We've always felt when he runs, it's not the opposition that is dangerous, it's the circumstances."
George Washington, a son of Danehill--Bordighera, by Alysheba, was champion 2-year-old in Europe last year and this year has won two of four starts. He cruised to victory in the Stan James Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), then was toppled by Araafa over soft ground in the Boylesport Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I). Off from late May to late August, he was third in the Celebration Mile (Eng-I) before returning to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) over older horses at Ascot Sept. 23.
"In the Irish Guineas, he pulled a muscle in his back in the heavy going and in his next run, it was after a long break," O'Brien said. "It was the circumstances. It was a very slow race and he was very rusty and he finished third.
The decision was made last week to test him in the $5-million Classic instead of the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
"We felt George has proven all he can on the turf," O'Brien said. "He's run against all the best milers. He has nothing else really to prove running at a mile on the turf again. Everybody knows we've always thought the world of him and we've never had a horse like him before.
"We've always thought he was an unbelievably special horse. We know the odds are stacked against him, and it's a huge 'ask' from him, but we want to expose him more than anything else before he goes off to stud.
"Our job is to expose the horses as much as possible for the breeders," he said. "This horse, we feel, has answered all the questions and we feel he's the most brilliant horse we've ever had. It's to see what he can do. It will be interesting and exciting to see what he can do. We've never had a horse with such tactical pace as this horse or natural speed."
O'Brien said George Washington will be ridden by Mick Kinane, who has been aboard the Irish-bred in his last two starts.
"With George, it's just as important to know him and Mick learned a lesson when he rode him the first time and when he rode him the last time. We thought that was more important than anything. It's probably going to be his last run and we don't want to put somebody on him that has to get to know him."
George Washington was bred by Lael Stables, owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who bred and own Kentucky Derby - Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Barbaro.
This isn't the first time O'Brien and the Coolmore team have been down this road. They shipped Giant's Causeway
to Churchill Downs for his first start on dirt in 2000 and the son of Storm Cat
came within a head of toppling Tiznow
in a Classic for the ages.
"Giant's Causeway was a Storm Cat and was bred for the dirt," O'Brien said. "We've never had a horse with as much natural ability as this horse. He's a unique horse."
O'Brien has three wins, six seconds, and four fourths from 35 career Breeders' Cup starts. His Breeders' Cup earnings of $6,007,020 rank him eighth all-time by trainers. While the spotlight this is year is squarely on trainer Todd Pletcher who has a record crew of runners in this year's World Championships, O'Brien has felt the heat before, but is good at deflecting it.
"Everybody knows we do our best everyday," he said."There's pressure for everybody. That's the reality. Everybody knows we do our best and that's all we can do."