O'Brien's War can break new ground
Neil Morrice previews Saturday's action from the Breeders' Cup Championships at Santa Anita.
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7.05 Sweet Reason, 7.43 Groupie Doll, 8.21 ROMANTICA (NAP), 9.05
Mizdirection, 9.43 New Year's Day, 10.22 Justin Phillip, 11.01 The Fugue, 11.40 Wise Dan, 12.35 Declaration Of War.
Declaration Of War, who has looked outstanding since his arrival and is described by Aidan O'Brien as "my best chance yet in the race", can provide the Ballydoyle trainer with a first Breeders' Cup Classic victory at Santa Anita.
O'Brien has experienced everything but the joy of plundering the
5million prize, having gone within a whisker of taking the race with Giant's Causeway and seeing his Classic winner George Washington tragically killed in the Monmouth Park running.
But his plight is undiminished and, talking to him at the quarantine barn on Thursday, there was a sense of quiet confidence in O'Brien's assessment of the task facing the son of War Front.
Declaration Of War's trump card is his versatility regarding trip, with O'Brien pointing to the fact that the colt can be effective at all distances from six furlongs to an extended mile and a quarter.
After his Queen Anne Stakes triumph in June he briefly considered the July Cup, before sticking to a mile and seeing his charge finish third to Toronado in the Sussex Stakes, occupy a similar placing in the Prix Jacques le Marois and then win the Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
Since then all roads have led to the Classic, with a gallop with two stablemates at Southwell thought to have shown Declaration Of War what to expect in the way of kickback this weekend.
Interestingly the colt was more impressive in that workout than Giant's Causeway had been before his epic defeat by Tiznow.
Furthermore, Classic rookie Joseph O'Brien believes his mount can break sufficiently well to take full advantage of his excellent draw five off the rail. The jockey told me: "He has plenty of US blood in his pedigree and the pace for six furlongs at home. He'll travel and he'll get the trip."
The pick of the American contingent is Mucho Macho Man, whose season appears to be peaking at the right time for a massive run and who has looked impressive in his visits to the dirt course this week.
The Fugue has gone about her business on the track with a lean and hungry look this week, lending weight to the view she will be very hard to beat in her match-up with males in the Turf.
John Gosden brings his Group One winner to his old stomping ground fresh and well after inclement weather in Europe thwarted possible runs in the Arc and Champion Stakes.
When last seen in the Irish Champion Stakes, Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber's filly produced a smart turn of foot to see off Al Kazeem, while she was even more impressive in landing the Yorkshire Oaks on her previous outing.
Having been trapped with nowhere to go and unlucky in running in last year's Filly & Mare, William Buick will be anxious to stay out of trouble and let The Fugue do the talking with her potent turn of foot at the business end.
Earlier the Filly & Mare Turf can come back to Europe by way of French-trained Romantica.
Throughout the week there has been increasing confidence behind the Andre Fabre-trained filly, who is a daughter of Banks Hill, winner of this race in 2001.
Romantica has looked confident on the training track and according to owner Prince Khalid's Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe should relish the fast underfoot conditions, having been inconvenienced by easy ground when out of the money in the Prix Vermeille.
Dank plundered the Beverly D at Arlington for Sir Michael Stoute and has had this race in her sights for several months. However, the balance of her form is almost equalled by Romantica, who represents better value in the betting market.
Olympic Glory has looked bright and breezy getting ready for the Mile, with Richard Hughes especially happy at how well the colt has handled the sharp bends.
But this comes very soon after his Queen Elizabeth II Stakes win at Ascot and the safer play is automatic favourite Wise Dan.
An even-money shot on the morning line, Wise Dan has shipped in from Kentucky as the banker for many of the two-day Breeders' Cup fixture and can follow up his 2012 success for trainer Charles LoPresti.
Groupie Doll should be another US victor with a repeat triumph in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Lightly-raced since her win here under Rajiv Maragh, the five-year-old mare has shown she retains much of her electric pace and although not quite as good she should have too many guns for her foes.