It's taken more than 10 months, but Hold That Tiger, who finished a fast-closing third in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), finally has returned to the U.S. to run in Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I).
After his excellent performance at Arlington Park, in which he broke badly, it was assumed the son of Storm Cat would be returned to America for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) by owners Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier.
But it was decided to keep the colt in Ireland and point instead for the English Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I). Sent off as the 4-1 favorite, Hold That Tiger never ran a lick, finishing 17th of 20 runners. Following a solid fourth in the group I St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, he finished ninth in the Coral Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I) at Sandown, a race O'Brien said was not as bad as it appeared.
"He made a long gradual run and got into bits of trouble," O'Brien said Tuesday on a national teleconference. "Mick (Kinane) came back and said it looked a lot worse than it was. We had made some changes in his work routine earlier in the year and it didn't suit him. We've gone back to his old routine and he's been working as good as he ever did.
"We're being realistic. With this being his first start back since the Eclipse (on July 5), we'd be delighted if he just broke respectably this time and ran well, so we could look ahead to bringing him back for the (Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge, gr. I)."
O'Brien said they have worked with Hold That Tiger in the starting gate, and he doesn't anticipate the kind of start he had in the Juvenile, in which he broke dead-last and had to circle the entire field.
"He's been good in the gate," O'Brien said. "We've been working with him to try to wake him up a little bit, and hopefully he'll be quicker out of there than he was last year."
O'Brien also has brought the lightly raced 3-year-old Carpanetto over for Saturday's Man o'War Stakes (gr. IT). The son of Peintre Celebre, owned by Tabor, has won two of his four career starts, and was beaten a head in his last start in the 1 1/2-mile Ballyroan Stakes against older horses.
"He had a few problems in the spring, and after he won easily (in a weight-for-age event at Naas), we stepped him up to a mile and a half. With Hold That Tiger going over, it looked like this race would suit him, so we decided to send him along and take our chances."
Edgar Prado will ride both colts on Saturday. The following week, O'Brien will be represented in Belmont's Futurity Stakes (gr. I) by Tumblebrutas, a full-brother to Giant's Causeway who recently finished second in the EBF Futurity Stakes (Ire-II).
On the European front, O'Brien will run last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner and Eclipse champion High Chaparral in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) if the ground is safe, and the classic-winning Yesterday in the Prix Vermeille (Fr-I) at Longchamp.