With all the talk about the wide-open, competitive field being assembled for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), there is still one other element to the race and that is the presence of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Declaration of War, who may skip Ascot this weekend and head directly to the Classic.
The son of War Front had scratched from the Sept. 7 Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) because of soft ground, and O'Brien said he would not run him again on soft going, which is expected for this weekend.
Declaration of War has not run since his victory in the Juddmonte International (Eng-I), run over 1 5/16 miles at York Aug. 21.
O'Brien has the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred in both the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at a mile and the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at 1 1/4 miles, but the Racing Post reported Oct. 14, "Those with a preference for a sound surface underfoot will almost certainly be sent elsewhere, as illustrated by Aidan O'Brien's decision to divert Declaration of War from the Champion Stakes to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park next month."
They further reported that there are two dry days and two days of rain forecast between now and Saturday, and that the ground is already listed as "good to soft" and "soft" in places. So the chances of getting ground that will suit Declaration of War seem extremely unlikely at this point.
The big question now is, can O'Brien have the colt ready off a 2 1/2-month layoff, especially considering he is a horse who, because of his "unbelievable constitution" and tendency to get "very heavy," needs conditioning to stay fit?
But, as O'Brien pointed out, he is a powerful mover with a high cruising speed who just wants to keep going. It is possible that sending a fresh horse this time could be beneficial, having the Classic as the targeted finale as opposed to wheeling right back off a run in the QATAR Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) or Champion Stakes or Queen Elizabeth.
O'Brien no doubt will give Declaration of War some serious works at Ballydoyle to have him sharp and fit for the Classic, which promises to have a strong pace this year.
"Your speed is quick in comparison to ours, so we're hoping if he gets speed in front of him he'll be happy with it," O'Brien said.
If the ground does turn out satisfactory and he runs, O'Brien said, because of the horse's strong constitution, he has no concerns at all bringing him back off only two weeks.
As for his ability to handle dirt, that should not be a problem, considering he won the group III Diamond Stakes over the all-weather surface at Dundalk, and his dam, Tempo West, is a half sister to Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags .