The turf course at Churchill Downs was the center of attention for some European trainers and jockeys of horses entered in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
On Nov. 3, Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Workforce, accompanied by Ryan Moore, who rides the top European middle distance 3-year-old, and Lord Grimthorpe, owner Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager, walked around the entire seven-furlong course.
This followed Workforce jogging twice around the turf course which is officially described as firm.
Workforce, the 7-5 morning line favorite for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), plus Midday, favored at 6-5 morning line for the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT, could be pulled out of their races because of this fast ground.
Sir Michael came over to talk to waiting media but kept it short and diplomatic but there is no doubt that the horse could be scratched.
He said: "The track is in wonderful shape with a nice cover (of grass). There has been no rain here and the ground is a bit faster than we would like.
"We just have to hope they put a bit more water on as I don’t believe the rain is going to come. That is the score so we will monitor the going each day. The horse is in great form."
Lord Grimthorpe walked off in the opposite direction without speaking to the media. His is the key role and there will be discussions involving Prince Khalid on Thursday, Nov. 4, about both Workforce and Midday who is trained by Henry Cecil for the Saudi Arabian owner.
Shortly after the Stoute party exited the course, Cecil and Midday’s jockey, Tom Queally, finished their circuit of the much-debated grass course.
Cecil said: "It’s fast isn’t it. It is on the firm side with a good covering of grass and I would have thought there be would be some jar in it
"All we can hope is they make sure the course has no jar. We want to run Midday but I am not going to commit yet. Hopefully, they will continue to put water on."
There are other European-based trainers, notably Freddy Head and Saeed bin Suroor, who would prefer the present conditions to prevail.
Johnny Murtagh, retained rider of Coolmore who will ride the Aidan O’Brien-trained Breeders’ Cup horses, summed up ground situation. He said: "There has been no rain here for months--I suppose they are doing their best--they are putting water on it.
"The grass is much greener than the surrounding areas but it is probably hard to keep it. People who want the ground firm will be delighted and people who want it soft will be saying it is too firm.
"I suppose the management will try and get fair ground for everybody."
Meanwhile, Japanese trainer Akio Adachi expressed pleasure about the progress being made by Espoir City who goes for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The 5-year-old Gold Allure horse, winner of the Japan Cup Dirt (Jap-I) last year over nine furlongs and this year’s February Stakes (Jap-I) at a mile, worked over four furlongs in 49.3 seconds under his jockey Tetsuzo Sato.
The trainer, speaking through an interpreter, said: "Today was the final catch-up. We had the jockey on him.
"I am quite satisfied. Espoir City is quite versatile in his races and no instructions will be given to the jockey. We will leave it up to him.
"In his recent races, Espoir City has been up with the leaders. He has the speed to keep up with the pace here but he has not yet run at a mile and a quarter but I am quite confident he will handle the distance.
"I actually like his draw of 11 and I hope to win. We would not have come this far, with all the expenses involved, if we did not think we had a good chance."