Racing: Classic option is still open for Rock Of Gibraltar
Friday 18 October 2002
The day job will get in the way when Sir Alex Ferguson's Rock Of Gibraltar attempts to crown his perfect season at the Breeders' Cup meeting in Chicago a week on Saturday.
Ferguson will, for once, not be on site to witness his champion miler attempt to add to his record seven consecutive Group One victories. He will rush home from Manchester United's home game with Aston Villa, which will probably not feature as much extra time as normal at Old Trafford, to watch the race with his family at home in Wilmslow.
It will be something of a surreal moment for the son of the Govan shipyard, just as they have all been with Rock Of Gibraltar. "I think we are living a dream at the moment," Ferguson said from Old Trafford yesterday. "From a year ago to the stage we are now is quite remarkable. I never thought the horse would get to this level. I don't think anyone did."
It may even be that Ferguson will not have to hurry at all, for while Rock Of Gibraltar is still more likely to run in the Mile race at Arlington Park (BST 7.35), there is also the possibility he could run in the crowning event, the Classic (BST 10.35).
At yesterday's announcement of the Breeders' Cup fields, it was the Rock's Ballydoyle yard which had the major input. Ferguson's horse aside, the Co Tipperary stable is initially scheduled to be represented in the Mile by the French 2,000 Guineas winner Landseer.
Hawk Wing has the Classic, over 10 furlongs on dirt, as his No 1 preference, while High Chaparral is earmarked for the Turf over a mile and a half. The last two-named are expected to atone for recent defeats as they continue recuperation from the sickness which swept into Ballydoyle in the high summer.
Rock Of Gibraltar is simply expected to continue on his remorseless way. "When we had Giants Causeway we thought we would never get another one like him, but now we have," Aidan O'Brien, the trainer, said. "If any horse did what he did as a two-year-old that would be enough to make him a stallion. It is amazing that he has come out and done it at three as well. Now I don't know where we're going to get another Rock Of Gibraltar.
"He is in good form and has done nothing but go forward as the year has gone on. He seems to be able to quicken from nearly anywhere. The draw [and the run to the first bend at Arlington is just 125 yards] has never worried us before because you can ride him handy or from behind. He has that killer kick."
Even more intriguing are O'Brien's arrangements for the Juvenile, for which the Grand Criterium winner Hold That Tiger and Van Nistelrooy are already inked in.
They, however, could be joined by either Tomahawk, Marino Marini or Ontario, combatants in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow who, if performing encouragingly, could also find themselves shipped out to the United States on Tuesday.
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