Thanks in part to a series of high-profile victories around the world this past month, Ryan Moore is the centre of attention ahead of Saturday night’s 31st Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, California, which is quite something when the competition includes such American riding legends as Mike Smith and Gary Stevens.
Those two veterans (with a combined age of 100) have accumulated 30 victories between them at this festival and are not finished yet, but Moore has a better strike rate (six wins from 27 rides) than any of the old faces following his double last year and, still only 31, has time on his side to join those Hall of Famers in Breeders’ Cup folklore.
One of the 2013 rides that so impressed the locals was aboard Dank (7.43 Santa Anita), who now defends her Filly and Mare Turf title. This has been her target again from the moment she crossed the winning line 12 months ago and, although she has been out of action since injuring a foot when fifth to The Fugue at Royal Ascot, her trainer Sir Michael Stoute’s upbeat bulletin this week provides plenty of encouragement.
Stoute and Moore are also looking for a big run from Telescope in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but the French raider Flintshire (10.22) beat everything bar Treve in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last month and there might be even better to come.
While Richard Hannon’s Toronado (11.40) is a form banker in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the chance of Wind Fire (11.01) in the Dirt Sprint, in a first foray to the meeting for Nottinghamshire trainer David Brown, is far less obvious (she can be backed at 40-1). But this speedy young filly beat G Force at Sandown last June and is a candidate for a turn-up under Jamie Spencer if she takes to the surface.
And it will indeed be a fairy tale if Toast Of New York, whirling around Wolverhampton on this day last year, can win the climax, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, for Spencer on what may be his final big-race ride before his retirement, but the last word may again lie with Smith aboard America’s latest rising star Shared Belief (12.35), who beat Jamie Osborne’s rags-to-riches colt comprehensively at Del Mar in August.
Back home, Silviniaco Conti, especially effective when fresh, should win the Charlie Hall Chase if at his best, but he became a bit quirky as last season wore on and perhaps is not one to take short odds about.
Menorah (3.15 Wetherby), top class on his day, is an appealing alternative, not least because he is trained by the in-form Philip Hobbs, whose Mountain King (3.00 Ascot) also catches the eye following a promising return to action.
Le Bec (3.35 Ascot) was one of the best staying novice chasers of last season and it will be disappointing if he isn’t soon mixing it with the big boys. In the meantime, he starts this campaign on an attractive handicap mark in the United House Gold Cup.
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