Simon Clare on all Aidan O’Brien horses at the Breeders’ Cup 2016
Breeders’ Cup 2016 latest
On Tuesday the European horses emerged from the quarantine barn for the first time after 48 hours being stuck in their stables, and several of them had a spin on what is a new Santa Anita turf surface.
The old turf surface was a combination of Rye and Bermuda Grass but, after years of hot summers and wet winters, it had deteriorated to the point that it had to be replaced this summer.
The track decided to lay a new all Bermuda Grass surface and, while it is being described positively as “springy” and “spongey” by some of the work riders yesterday, it is also unanimously being described as very fast by the media who’ve been race-watching at Santa Anita over the last few months.
Limato looking good
That’s all good news for Limato, who looked fantastic yesterday and is taking everything in his stride aided by the most cheerful, relaxed rider imaginable in Amy Scott.
They had a nice spin around the turf track then strolled down to the parade ring before heading back to the barn to chill out for the rest of the day. Limato appeared super-relaxed and clearly has the temperament for this assignment.
Talking of relaxed, Aidan O’Brien surprised everyone by appearing at the track two days earlier than expected, and was in good form, first watching his son Joseph leading Intricately onto the track, with his other son Donnacha in the saddle, and then holding court with the media for twenty minutes outside the quarantine barn.
He seemed genuinely unfazed by some of the poor post positions that his horses had been given in Monday’s draw ceremony, but he said Ryan Moore seemed a bit more concerned.
Moore mounts picked by Ballydoyle handler
“I got a text from Ryan just before he got on the plane. ‘A lot to think about’ was what he said! That was his comment on the draw or something to that effect. Draws are what they are. We will have to go through them and see what’s what”, said O’Brien.
As O’Brien chatted away, he revealed a fascinating fact that I’d certainly never heard before, that he decides which horse Ryan rides whenever he has more than one horse in a race, not Ryan. So when people say ‘Ryan rarely gets it wrong’, it is in fact Aidan who has made the decision as to which horse Ryan will ride.
“Ryan Moore always leaves it to me in all fairness. So any time he gets it wrong, it’s not Ryan that gets it wrong, it’s me,” explained O’Brien. “He always says to me, ‘do whatever you think’. If he ever wanted to change we would but he’s never done that. He always understands the decision and that’s always been the way we’ve worked.”
On the decision to switch Found to the Turf and not the Classic, the name George Washington was never mentioned but clearly came to mind when Aidan said: “She’s a very important filly now, and just in case anything happened…” The sentence was left hanging without need for further clarification of what was meant.
Aidan O’Brien horses at Breeders’ Cup
A safety first approach, sticking with the known rather than taking on the unknown, had won the day. O’Brien went on to explain why they had initially consider a tilt at the Classic: “What was pushing us to the dirt was that she’s tactically fast, she stays very well, and she’s a quick breaker. That was what was leaning us towards the dirt, and we had Highland Reel for the Turf.”
But there was no doubt the affection that O’Brien has for this filly: “She’s probably the most genuine mare I’ve ever seen in my life. If you saw her in the Arc, she put every sinew of her body into going forward. It’s amazing. When you watch it in slow motion it’s the most incredible thing ever. She gives it all and gives it freely; very unusual that she’s so genuine.”
O’Brien can sometimes be accused as not giving much away, and always talking up his horses, to reflect the commercial strategies of the very successful operation he works for, but I always feel that if you really listen, and Aidan always repeatedly tells you to “listen”, you can glean some of his most strongly felt views.
So here is what O’Brien said of his chances this week and my interpretation of what he actually was telling us.
Found – Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “Found has run on fast ground a lot. When she was just beaten in the Coronation at Ascot it was fast ground. In Chantilly it wasn’t soft ground either. She’s come out of Ascot very well because there wasn’t a lot of pace and it was a slowly run race, so it was really only a sprint up the straight. It wasn’t a gruelling mile and a quarter by any means. She’s a hardy lady and she seems in good form.”
My translation: “I love this filly, she’s as tough as nails and I have no doubt she can run her race on Saturday, and make fool of all you doubters.”
Highland Reel – Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “Highland Reel, we are very happy with him. This was a race we always thought would really suit him. It will suit Found too having him in the race.”
My translation: “Highland Reel is going to go to the lead and ensure the race is a proper one and a half mile stamina test. Found will win and he may well come second.”
Alice Springs – Mile
Aidan O’Brien: “We always felt Alice Springs would be suited to the mile on fast ground. I don’t think her draw is bad. She goes forward and follows the pace. If she’s quick away it will be OK.”
My translation: “If she doesn’t break well she’s screwed. If she does break well she has a shot.”
Seventh Heaven – Filly & Mare Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “I’m very happy with Seventh Heaven. She will love the fast ground and the flat track will suit her as well. Ascot was a bit messy. It maybe just didn’t work out really well for her, but she’s in good order. We know she stays a mile and a half well but you’d hope that she’ll be ok over a mile and a quarter.”
My translation: “This is the logical race for her and she’s done us proud this summer but I’m not jumping up and down saying she’ll win.”
Pretty Perfect – Filly & Mare Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “Pretty Perfect is a grand, solid filly and she goes forward. If she gets left alone in front that’s when she runs her best races. She’s tactically quick enough too.”
My translation: “She’s going to bounce out of the gate and set a good pace, she might nick it from the front, but at least it will ensure a stamina test to suit Seventh Heaven.”
Washington Dc – Turf Sprint
Aidan O’Brien: “I’m looking forward to him running. There’s no pressure with him, he’s a really fast horse and he’s getting better. He’ll be coming from the back and so he’ll need luck but I’m really looking forward to seeing him run as he’s a hardy horse. He’s slowly progressing and he’s fast. It’s six and half furlongs but you have to have five furlong pace to survive around there.”
My translation: “Are you all listening to me, I keep telling you to listen for god’s sake, this is the horse I fancy most this week. He’s going to run a blinder.”
Roly Poly – Juvenile Fillies Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “We were always interested to see what she was going to do on the fast ground.”
My translation: “She’s got a chance.”
Hydrangea – Juvenile Fillies Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “Hopefully Hydrangea is quick enough, and she’s after being busy, but she’s in good order.”
My translation: “I don’t think she will win.”
Intelligence Cross – Juvenile Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “It will be interesting to see what Intelligence Cross will do on the fast ground. If he gets the mile he has a big shot. We always though he was happiest over six and could get seven. Whether he gets a mile we’ll see. He could get it because he’s relaxed.”
My translation: “I’ve got this race by the short and curlies, won it three times, and I’m going to win it again with this chap.”
Lancaster Bomber – Juvenile Turf
Aidan O’Brien: “He has a good enough draw if he gets out. He’ll get the trip well. His form is standing up. The only thing we’re not sure about with him, is that he’s had a busy enough time. We always thought this chap wanted a mile.”
My translation: “Yeah, he might run well, but were you paying attention when I said Intelligence Cross was the one?”
Cougar Mountain – Mile
Aidan O’Brien: “Cougar Mountain, off a fast pace on fast ground he can run a big race on his day. If the pace is slow and he’s coming from the back he doesn’t get into it.”
My translation: “I have a sneaky feeling this boy might run a huge race on Saturday, no promises or anything, but don’t be surprised if he pops up at a massive price.”
Hit It A Bomb – Mile
Aidan O’Brien: “Hit It A Bomb is on the way back we think.”
My translation: “We have no idea how he’s going to run.”
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