All the latest from Churchill Downs as the European big guns gear up for the first day of the 2018 meeting on Friday where the juveniles will take centre stage.
Euro big guns check out conditions
John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien were interested observers of conditions at Churchill Downs on Thursday.
Plenty of rain has hit the Louisville circuit, where Gosden is set to saddle Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Roaring Lion in the Classic.
Gosden watched as Enable went out for exercise under Frankie Dettori, and said: “The condition of the course is sodden, and it’s pretty loose on the top.
“I would say that on any other day’s racing here they wouldn’t be racing on the turf on Saturday.
“For all horses it will be a question of how they cope with it.”
However, the forecast is for the rain to die down on Friday and for Saturday to be dry.
That scenario heartens O’Brien, who expects the ground to quickly improve due to excellent drainage.
He said: “We’re pleased that the bulk of the rain came yesterday and today. I don’t think there will be as much tomorrow and it is forecast to be dry on Saturday.
“The turf course has an unbelievable drainage under it here, similar to the one at Adare Golf Club, and if any track will drain well, it’s this one.”
O’Brien’s 15-horse team cleared quarantine on Thursday morning and jogged around the main dirt track on their first visit in quite heavy rain.
“The horses have been in the barn the last few days and I couldn’t be happier with them,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“They came out just now and trotted round once the opposite way, then turned round and did a gentle canter back to the winning post.”
Mendelssohn was among the squad as he prepares for the Classic and the chance to redeem himself for an unfortunate experience in the Kentucky Derby.
“Donnacha (O’Brien) rode him this morning and was pleased. He has a very good constitution, this horse, and Ryan (Moore) is looking forward to him. It will be interesting,” said O’Brien.
“The horse is by Scat Daddy, who himself is by Johannesburg (Juvenile Dirt winner in 2001), and Ryan (Moore) is planning to talk to Jerry Bailey (Hall of Fame jockey) and come up with a plan, which we will leave to him.
“I’m pretty sure he will go forward and see how the race develops.”
O’Brien happy with Anthony Van Dyck
O’Brien is anticipating a big run from Anthony Van Dyck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs on Friday, as he seeks what would be a deserved big-race victory.
The Galileo colt has kept top company since winning the Group Two Futurity Stakes in August, finding only Quorto too good in the National Stakes at the Curragh and finishing a highly-creditable third to Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.
O’Brien – seeking his fifth win in the race, most recently striking with Mendelssohn 12 months ago – said: “Anthony Van Dyck came out of the Dewhurst so well.
“He will stay middle distances, but it’s no problem running over a mile and he’s in very good form.
“This is a tough race at the end of a tough campaign, but will stand him in good stead for next year.”
Appleby: Duty has the right profile
Quorto’s trainer Charlie Appleby has been delighted with the improvement shown by Line Of Duty, who was last seen landing a Group Three at Chantilly.
The Godolphin trainer saw subsequent Derby hero Masar beaten in this contest 12 months ago, and said of this year’s representative: “Line Of Duty has come out of his Group Three at Chantilly well.
“He has gained plenty of experience, although this is a step up in class.
“We feel he has got the right sort of profile for the race.”
Tom Dascombe’s Chesham Stakes scorer Arthur Kitt and Mark Johnston’s Marie’s Diamond are other UK raiders.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby
Experience can help La Pelosa
Appleby has high hopes for La Pelosa in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, with the experienced filly arriving in Kentucky on the back of a win in the Grade One Natalma Stakes at Woodbine.
He said: “The only disappointing run she had was at Newmarket in the Duchess of Cambridge when she nearly got knocked over – but up until then, she had been very consistent.
“I feel with these races at this time of year, sometimes it is horses that have the experience like she has have a potential advantage.”
Bullet ready to shoot down rivals
Her rivals include Brian Ellison’s tough filly The Mackem Bullet, who pushed Fairyland all the way in the Lowther Stakes and Cheveley Park Stakes. Her North Yorkshire-based trainer expects her to improve for the step up to a mile.
“Every run she has improved. She is a really nice filly,” Ellison told At The Races.
“Her run in the Cheveley Park was massive. The winner is obviously one of the best six-furlong fillies around and we’ve run her close twice.
“Oisin (Murphy) has ridden her twice and both times said she wants further and Ben (Robinson) who rode her in the Lowther said the same.
“If you watch the races she’s always running after the line. At York it took a long time to pull her up. She wants a trip.”
O’Brien saddles Rockfel Stakes victor Just Wonderful, while another North Yorkshire handler, Kevin Ryan, runs the unbeaten East, winner of a Group Three at Saint-Cloud.
O’Brien said of Just Wonderful: “Just Wonderful has a good draw and probably doesn’t want to be in front too soon.
“She has an awful lot of ability.”
Sergei Prokofiev and So Perfect give O’Brien two chances in the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
O’Brien said: “I always thought he (Sergei Prokofiev) was a very quick horse and I think five and half furlongs is his limit and he definitely doesn’t get six furlongs. He’s a big, powerful horse.
“So Perfect is very fast and progressive and will get the five and a half furlongs.
“She has a good draw and is in a good place.”
There are are four British challengers – the Archie Watson-trained Soldier’s Call, Richard Hannon’s Well Done Fox, William Haggas’ Queen Of Bermuda and Pocket Dynamo from Robert Cowell’s stable.
Wesley Ward is four-handed with Norfolk Stakes hero Shang Shang Shang, Moonlight Romance, Chelsea Cloisters and Stillwater Cove and another leading American hope is Strike Silver, trained by Mark Casse.
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