No Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner has ever won a Breeders' Cup World Championships race. The mighty Dylan Thomas will be trying to end that losing streak Oct. 27 in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park.
The bay 4-year-old son of Danehill will be the fifth Arc winner to attempt to capture both the Turf and the prestigious French race in the same year. Those who failed were Dancing Brave (1986), Trempolino (1987), Saumarez (1990), and Subotica (1992). Of those four, Trempolino had the best Turf finish, a second.
"That statistic worries us," admitted Coolmore managing partner John Magnier, whose wife, Susan, races Dylan Thomas in partnership with Michael Tabor. "But if you asked me would I prefer to be third in the Arc or win the Arc, I'd prefer to win and come here to try and get the double-up. As you know, High Chaparral was third in the Arc two times and he was lucky here (winning the Turf in 2002 and finishing in a dead heat for first with Johar in 2003), but I'd prefer the (winning) combination."
Dylan Thomas has had a busy year so far, starting eight times and winning five races. Besides the Arc, in which he defeated Youmzain by a head, Dylan Thomas also scored in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I), Prix Ganay (Fr-I), Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I), and the Ascon Rohcon Alleged Stakes.
"You can't say, in Dylan's case, that he was peaking for the Arc," Magnier said. "He has been going since April, so I don't think you could say he was at his best in the Arc. He's been pretty consistent all year.
"He's one of the toughest horses that we've ever had. His record shows that he has kind of never run a bad race this year (finishing no worse than second). In the early part of the year, some people said he was 'ungenuine.' If that's how you describe 'ungenuine,' I wish we could have a few more like him."
Last year, Dylan Thomas was an Irish champion, taking the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I), Bailey's Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I), and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes (Ire-II). His other efforts included a third in the Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-III).
"He's probably as good a horse as we’ve ever had," said Coolmore's ace bloodstock agent, Demi O'Byrne. "It has been a long time since a horse has done what he has done this year. He has run eight times since April, every race a group I except the first one, and he has never been less than second."
According to O'Byrne, the rain during the week leading up to the Breeders' Cup and the high probability of more showers on race day could make the condition of Monmouth's turf course less than ideal for Dylan Thomas.
"He loves it really fast," O'Byrne said. "(Soft turf) won't help him. It's not his kind of ground. He likes to hear his feet rattle."
When asked how Dylan Thomas would adapt to the tight turns at Monmouth, his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, replied, "He's a big, strong horse with a big, massive stride. But he has a lot of tactical speed usually, so we're hoping (for the best). Obviously, we know it's a sharp track, but he's used to working on left-hand bends at home, so we're hoping that won't be a problem."
O'Brien also said Dylan Thomas differs from previous Arc winners that have attempted the Arc-Turf double because of his versatility.
"He's not a horse that has to have a mile-and-a-half, whereas most Arc winners are horses that need a-mile-and-a-half," O'Brien said. "To win the Arc, you need to have a lot of stamina. But this is a very classy Arc horse; he's comfortable in a group I at a mile or a mile and a furlong. He's very unusual for an Arc winner. I can't remember an Arc winner that had that kind of class."
Dylan Thomas also has other positive qualities that make him such a tough competitor, according to his trainer.
"He's a big, strong, willing horse,"O'Brien said. "Mentally, he's very strong and physically, he's very strong. Things don't fluster him. He's like those good Danehills; he doesn’t go empty easily. He's a fighter. He doesn't mind eyeballing a horse if he has to eyeball him. If you saw him in the Champion Stakes last year, he was passed at a furlong to go, and he came back and won. He's not a softy. He's hardy customer."
Four other horses failed in an attempt to win the Turf the year after capturing the Arc. They were Carnegie (1994/1995), Montjeu (1999/2000), Bago (2004/2005), and Hurricane Run (2005/2006).