After the tremendous success of European horses in the last two Breeders’Cup World Championships at Santa Anita in California, it is back to the stark reality of racing in America at Churchill Downs in 2010.
A few brave European horses are taking their chances on the dirt at Churchill Downs this year but there would have been far more on an artificial surface. They won’t even get such a great surface any more if the Breeders’Cup returns to Santa Anita with the Pro-Ride there having been dumped in a giant garbage can and old-fashioned dirt brought back.
As far as the turf course at Churchill is concerned, there are persistent mutterings that star British horses will miss their races unless there is rain or more watering.
The prolonged dry spell since June has meant the turf course is officially firm. Both Midday, favored at 6-5 morning line for the Emirates Airline Breeders’Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and Workforce, the 7-5 morning line favorite for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), could be pulled out later in the week if conditions don’t improve.
Even the arrival of the main group of Europan horses on Saturday inspired controversy, with the 19 horses on the official Breeders’Cup charter from Stansted airport in England undergoing a journey of at least 18 hours, of which only 8 were spent in the air. Delays caused by heightened security measures at Louisville airport and then at the track from lengthy vetting procedures meant that the horses remained on vans much longer than usual and produced unhappy personnel who contrasted the situation unfavourably with what happens in Hong Kong for the international meeting in December.
To compound matters, Goldikova, the brilliant French mare who is going for a record-breaking third Breeders’ Cup victory in the TGV Breeders’Cup Mile ahead of Zenyatta, was allocated post positionl 10 among the 11 runners. Her trainer Freddy Head’s main fear had been an outside draw and that is what his star duly received.
Some believe this may not be just coincidence, but rather a giant conspiracy against raiders from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Ryan Moore, who is meant to ride Workforce, impressive winner of the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs (Eng-I) and the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) on Saturday, partnered the colt for a spin on the Churchill Downs turf course the morning of Nov. 2.
He gave his impressions afterwards: "Workforce moved well and was fine around there this morning. We will just see what happens in the week. Good to firm or firm would be about right (description) in British terms.
"We will see what the boss (trainer Sir Michael Stoute) says when he gets here and make a decision then. If it was safe good to firm then fine--if it was deemed to be too fast then he won’t run. It will be a decision that will be made between Teddy (Lord Grimthorpe - racing manager to owner Prince Khalid Abdullah) and Michael. Michael is hoping to be here today (Nov. 2). I believe he has had a few problems because there was an accident on the M25 (the freeway circling London) and he will be getting here a bit late.
"I have advised to leave Workforce in the race and then go from there. We are just hoping at this time of year that they will get a shower of rain --it has been really dry for a month and just hasn’t quite happened yet. There is nothing wrong with the track. It rides fine, there is a nearly two-furlong straight and it looks a lovely racecourse to ride at.
"I would say Workforce was probably in slightly better form (than before the Arc). After all, he is improving and hopefully there is more to come from him. He is still going the right way.
"We will see how everything shapes up but the horse is fine. It would be nice to run him."
The decision by Richard Hughes, regular jockey of Paco Boy, to miss the Breeders’ Cup and stay at home for the last day of the British jockeys’championship instead --he is now just three behind the leader Paul Hanagan --means that Moore takes the ride on the colt in the TGV Breeders’Cup Mile for trainer Richard Hannon.
Asked whether this was a nice spare ride to pick up, Moore replied: "Yeah, it is obviously a shame for Hughesie."
Earlier in the day trainer Henry Cecil had watched Midday exercising out on the dirt course and walked on the turf course.
In good form himself, Cecil said: "There is plenty of grass cover but it does not want to have any jar on Saturday. They have had a very dry spell which does not make the preparation of the turf course any easier. You cannot risk horses of this caliber on a road, can you. I am relying on them to make sure there is no jar in the ground.
"Midday may train just on the dirt before the race rather than risking her on the turf. The Breeders’ Cup has always been the target after she won three Group Ones in quick succession. We wanted to give her a break after that which is why she did not go to the Arc.
"At the start of this season, she jarred herself up on firm ground at York and it took me three and a half months to get her back. I don’t want to jar her up again and I am sure they will take the sting out of the ground - they are very sensible here.
"Midday is very happy and in good order. She has eaten everything and travelling does not seem to bother her."