Hall of Fame conditioner Ron McAnally is taking a page out of the John Henry training manual in preparing Eclair de Lune for the Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). Because the race will be run under the lights of Churchill Downs, McAnally trained Eclair de Lune under lights in the early morning hours at Hollywood Park.
“We’ve purposely in California been training under lights,” said McAnally. “It doesn’t get daylight until 7:30, and we’ve been taking her out at 7.”
McAnally well recalled the first time he ran champion John Henry under lights. The gelding wasn’t used to it and finished fourth to Providential in the 1981 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT). Two years later in the same race under lights, John Henry was an old pro and defeated the mare Zalataia.
“She looked around a little the first time we took Eclair de Lune out under lights,” said McAnally. “It’s something different. I’m glad we did it.”
McAnally has considerable experience at the Breeders’ Cup. He won the 1989 and 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) with Bayakoa, the 1992 Distaff with Paseana, and the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) with Northern Spur. All three horses subsequently won Eclipse Awards as champions in their divisions.
Eclair de Lune, who arrived at Churchill Oct. 24, will be McAnally’s first Breeders’ Cup starter since Tout Charmant finished second in the 2000 Filly & Mare Turf. It was the first time McAnally started a horse in that race.
As the winner of the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park, Eclair de Lune has the credentials to perform well, but McAnally realizes that she has a tough task to defeat Midday, the 2009 Filly & Mare Turf winner. He also respects Martin, Pam, and Emily Wygod’s Harmonious, winner of the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
“She’s got a very good chance off that last race,” McAnally said of Harmonious.
McAnally has trained Eclair de Lune this year for owner Richard L. Duchossois. The 4-year-old German-bred is a daughter of Marchand de Sable, a son of 1987 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Theatrical. Out of the Acatenango mare Elegante, Eclair de Lune made her first six starts in France.
The filly won the Beverly D. sitting right off the pace. If jockey Junior Alvarado can have her in a similar position in the 1 3/8-mile Filly & Mare Turf, she should be in a good position as they turn for home.
“She’s classy; she does everything right,” McAnally said.