The multiple Irish champion jockey, who collected the Melbourne Cup for the northern hemisphere for the first time when Vintage Crop was successful at Flemington three years ago, has persuaded owner Oliver Lehane to reinvest the third-place money Oscar Schindler gained in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday.
"It was Mick who persuaded me and he will ride Oscar Schindler in the race," Lehane said yesterday. "He thinks he could win even if he was 7lb worse off, while he would need to improve 7lb to win the Breeders' Cup Turf. I still think he has an enormous task but we'll give it a go."
By the time Oscar Schindler has burned it up on 5 November, the deeds of a greater beast on a different continent will be known. The equine celebrity Cigar is said to be in the sort of shape that has doctors applauding as he is prepared for the Breeders' Cup Classic two weeks tomorrow.
Yet the horse who earlier this year equalled Citation's record of 16 straight wins in the United States now has fallibility as a constant shadow. Cigar's quest for the unique foundered at Del Mar in August and his defeat at Belmont Park at the weekend meant that he had lost two of his last three races.
Whether he can scramble back on to the pedestal may be determined by the presence of his New York conqueror, Skip Away, in the Classic, for which he would have to be supplemented. The grey is trained by Sonny Hine and owned by his wife, Carolyn, and if they had the money hidden away under a bed to add him to the field their mattress would be close to the ceiling. The Hines will decide in the next few days whether they can collect the $480,000 it will take to participate in Toronto, and are considering partnership schemes to get their colt to post.
The word from Canada's business capital this week is that the globe's most valuable meeting may be disrupted by industrial problems. The rumblings from workers (they are still allowed to have union unrest in Canada) suggest the Friday before the big day is not the optimum moment to be landing in the dominion.
But if there are placards about they are just as likely to be demonising Skip Away as any conglomerate, as he made himself as popular in North America as John Wilkes Booth when he brought down the champion.
There is little more affection for Dare And Go, who was the first to bite into Cigar's ring of invincibility in the Pacific Classic earlier this year. He seems to have subsequently mislaid his slingshot, but will be a potent force in the Classic if he can return to his best. Dare And Go is just one of two possible runners in the race for the California trainer Richard Mandella (no relation). The West Coast man also prepares the ex-French-trained colt Atticus, who also has an engagement in the Mile. Atticus, formerly an inmate with Criquette Head, would probably switch to the longer event if the Woodbine surface received rain and developed a rice pudding texture.
Whatever turns up for the Breeders' Cup on 26 October, however, there is little doubt that Cigar will be favourite for the Classic. The six- year-old was so distraught when his winning run was brought to an end in August that for days afterwards he refused to eat the peppermints that are his favourite confection. Cigar was in front just yards after the post at the weekend, however, and no one has been man enough to tell him he did not actually win. Visitors with sweeties have been more worried about leaving his box with the same number of fingers as when they arrived.Reuse content