European jockeys and trainers who ventured onto the turf course at Monmouth Park the morning of Oct. 26 were surprised at its resilience. The lack of rain overnight, despite a two-day drenching, allowed the course to recover to good from yielding.
However, with rain expected Friday and Saturday, the ground could be soft by post time for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Jeremy Noseda, trainer of Strike the Deal, who is entered in the Oct. 26 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, is hoping the rain will not alter the good going because he believes soft ground would ruin his 2-year-old’s chances.
Aidan O’Brien reported the going as good after he rode a pony on the turf course to supervise his raiding party of five, all of which went out Oct. 26 for the first time after clearing quarantine.
Excellent Art (grade I NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile), Dylan Thomas (grade I John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf), All My Loving (grade I Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf), and Achill Island (Juvenile Turf) did a circuit of the turf course at a gentle pace.
George Washington, who came out slightly later on to enable Pat Lillis, who was on Dylan Thomas, to switch mounts, exercised on the muddy dirt course on which he will run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) with Mick Kinane up.
“It is good ground,” O’Brien said. “It is really like Ascot (which installed a new turf straight course two years ago); it drains very quick. It has taken the rain we have had very well, and it will take more rain very well. The course is a credit to Monmouth Park. It is some ground after so much rain. It is like a carpet out there.
“Dylan is a long, low mover, and soft ground is a disadvantage to him. We were lucky to overcome soft ground in the Arc, but everyone knows he is best on concrete. It is better than Longchamp at the moment.
“George just cantered on the dirt. He wasn’t doing much, just getting a feel of it. Pat Lillis was happy. He is an exceptional horse and very fit. He is the exciting one because who knows what is going to happen. Anything can happen with George. Arriving this close to race, you can do more harm than good by exercising too much.”
Kinane said the turf course had dried a bit from Oct. 25 and described the going as good after partnering with John Oxx’s Timarwa, who runs in the Filly & Mare Turf, in a canter.
“She seems in good shape, and I hope for the best,” Kinane said. “I would call the going good at the moment. It should be nicer ground than we have been running on all year.”
“I hope George will see more during the race than I am going to see,” the jockey said in reference to the likely kickback. “I will shut my eyes and hope for the best. He would have been a couple of lengths closer last year but for being squeezed. You could argue that he should have been three-for-three in his races this year. Maybe it wasn’t his fault.
“It is in the lap of the gods how he will handle an off track. I am looking forward to the ride because George is a very capable racehorse. The 3-year-olds in the race have had a busy time, and he is a fresh horse coming in. Who knows if he puts up his best run of the year?
“He did handle the dirt last year and the interference happened at a bad time. It was a big first run on the dirt, and if we had had a prep run, we would have had a bigger say in the race which was the best Breeders’ Cup Classic ever run.”