Tag Archives: Highland Reel

Breeders Cup Night Preview

Recommendation:

Breeders Cup Juvenile: US Navy Flag 9/1 win

Breeders Cup Turf: Decorated Knight 9/1 ew 

Breeders Cup Classic: War Decree 40/1 ew

Churchill returns after The Irish Champion Stakes

The Classic is the richest race on the card and it is one in which Aidan O’Brien hopes to create a surprise to cap on his monumental season.

He runs two, War Decree and Churchill.

Churchill is on somewhat of a retrieval mission having been champion two year old and a dual Guineas winner however the latter part of the season has gone somewhat downhill. Aidan has said the run in the Champion Stakes has given him the encouragement to come here and have a crack on dirt against America’s best. In his trainers mind he retains all the ability he sees at home.

War Decree’s road to Del Mar has been very different. As a two-year old he beat Thunder Snow in the G2 Vintage Stakes and a lot was expected of him at the start of his three-year old season. He began it in April going off favourite for the Craven Stakes but he didn’t fire and was well beaten.

He then went to Chantilly for the French Derby where again he got beat when fifth behind Brametot. Ryan Moore described it as a much better effort than it seemed to the eye. He didn’t get a clear run and never got a chance to impose himself on the race but Ryan was satisfied the engine was there. Aidan has since said that is when the plan for Del Mar was hatched.

He was put away until the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk in late September. It’s a race Aidan has identified as good preparation for his aspiring Breeders Cup candidates whom he thinks will like a dirt surface. His past winners include Mastercraftsman in 2009 and Declaration Of War in 2012. The latter went on to contest this race in 2013 just getting beaten in a three-way finish.

The Classic is a race that has eluded Ballydoyle, War Decree and Churchill will try to put that right. Churchill has been on the go throughout a long season, it’s the fresh War Decree who could spring the surprise and outrun his odds.

He might just land it.

Decorated Knight has a look round after winning the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown

In the Breeders Cup Turf unfortunately Ulysses is declared a non runner on veterinary advise and Highland Reel is now a short price to defend his crown. Like last year you expect him to be ridden prominently and to boss the race. He might find Roger Charlton’s Decorated Knight coming late to pip him on the line just as he did to Poets Word in the Irish Champion Stakes.

US Navy Flag on Debut at Naas

US Navy Flag has come a long way since making his debut at Naas on the 1st of May. He runs here in the Breeders Cup Juvenile on dirt. He won his maiden at the fifth attempt but has since won the G1 Middle Park Stakes and G1 Dewhurst Stakes where he beat Mendelssohn comfortably . The Dewhurst form was given a considerable boost last night with Mendelssohn’s win in the Juvenile Turf. He’s got to have a great chance here if he handles the dirt.

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Irish Champion Stakes (G1)

Picture courtesy of Getty Images and Koji Hirano

Don’t be surprised if the description of Leopardstown ground this morning, good to firm, turns to soft or even heavy by tomorrow morning. The rain in Dublin began to fall around mid afternoon on Friday. By tea time it was enough to turn the ground yielding at Leopardstown. If it continues as predicted by race time we might have had 50mm fall on the track.

Ballydoyle have been consistent in not running Gleneagles on bad ground and although push has come to shove its most likely he’ll be withdrawn. The participation of Golden Horn is also very questionable as his trainer John Gosden has said he’d let him take his chance on a surface no worse than good to soft but if the heavens opened he would walk the course before making a final committment.

If John’s gives the thumbs up after his stroll then Golden Horn will go off an even shorter favourite. His aura of invincibility was blown away at York when going down to Arabian Queen and surely it was the give in the ground that was his downfall. The Derby and Eclipse winner gave his all but that exceptional turn of foot we’d seen at Epsom and Sandown was blunted by the rain-sodden surface.

Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle could well handle it however that is still an unknown. He ran well to be third in the Champion Stakes last year on heavy ground and although it was a very good effort he couldn’t run down Nobel Mission or Al Kazeem.

If Gleneagles come out Coolmore are reliant on Found and Highland Reel. The predicament here is both of them are also fast ground horses.

Found missed the 1000 Guineas because of the ground and was sent to the Curragh to race in lesser company on heavy ground the next day (Aidan was desperate to get a run into her). She was beaten 2L by Iveagh Gardens (not seen since but due to contest the Matron Stakes later on) and then ran second to Pleascach in the Irish 1000 Guineas. She followed up with another second to Ervedya in the Coronation Stakes and a couple of weeks ago beat Answered impressively on a horrible day at the Curragh. It rained as much that day however the rain came late and didn’t get into the ground as it will here.

Highland Reel prospects of handling the surface must be as questionable as Gleneagles. We’ve seen the best of him in his last two runs. At Goodwood in the Gordan Stakes he relished the quick surface and was even happier when rattling home in the Secretariat on Arlington Million day on a rock hard track in Chicago.

Pleascach likewise restored her credentials in the Yorkshire Oaks. Her win in the 1000 Guineas was followed by a defeat by Curvy in the Ribblesdale and a below par run in the Pretty Poly a week later. At York she put that right when getting the better of Covert Love on a good to soft surface.

Last years winner The Grey Gatsby is capable of doing it again. Circumstances have not fallen his way this year however he refuses to throw in a bad run. Third at York in the International, second in the Eclipse and very unlucky not to collar Free Eagle in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes he could once again grind it out as he did last year against Australia.

The forgotten horse is the seven time G1 winner Cirrus Des Aigles. Tough as teak he added the last to his collection when he beat Al Kazeem 2L in the Prix Ganay on very soft ground in early May. He’s run once since when coming last of four in the Prix D’Ispahan (beaten 5 1/2L by Solow) on good ground in late May. He’s a horse who comes into his own in Autumn.

With no sign of an ease in the rain there really can only be one trainer enjoying wine with dinner tonight thinking I’m glad I came. If Corine Barande-Barbe has her star right, and she will, then Cirrus Des Aigles can add an Irish Champion Stakes to accompany the English one he already has. Granted he has to overcome age to make it G1 number eight but his toughness, durability and most importantly his love of the ground give him a shout here way beyond his current price. Don’t expect it to last if the top two defect.

Recommendation: Cirrus Des Aigles 11/1 win 

 

 

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The money has come for Highland Reel all week and it’s not surprising.

As a two-year old at Gowran Park last July he was a 12 L winner of his maiden on good to firm. He followed up in the Vintage Stakes on a similar surface at Goodwood in August. Having done enough Aidan put him away for the winter.

As a three year old he contested the French Guineas going off favourite but could only manage to run sixth to Make Believe. He stepped up to 10 F for the French Derby where he went down 1 1/2 L to New Bay at Chantilly. The second run was a nice improvement of the first run of the season however both runs were on good to soft.

This fella likes to hear his feet rattle and last time in Paris he was doing his best work in the closing stages. It’s probable he’ll improve further for the extra step up in trip to the mile and a half.

The Derby second Jack Hobbs like have his work cut out to deny him at the death.

Recommendation : Highland Reel 4/1 win