With their first domestic titles wrapped up, the opening skirmishes of the 29th Breeders' Cup tonight provide the opportunity for John Gosden and Richard Hughes to amplify their new status as respectively champion trainer and jockey-elect.
The Fugue has arguably profited from the most purposeful preparation of any European raider this year. Gosden has had the Filly and Mare Turf in mind since the spring, believing her ideally suited by the all-action demands of this environment.
Unlucky not to win the Oaks, she showed all the necessary dash in the Nassau Stakes, and travelled strongly before idling when set a different type of challenge at York. After a busy first half of the season, The Fugue (10.48pm) arrives fresh today and can beat the last two winners of the Prix de l'Opéra: Nahrain having just run dry close home in this contest when it was staged in Louisville last year, and Ridasiyna needing Izzi Top to burst clear in heavy ground in order to run her down at Longchamp.
Hughes seeks a maiden Breeders' Cup success on Sky Lantern in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. It is hard to have any reliable sense of how even her Group One success in Ireland might measure up against the home team, and conceivably a fellow traveller might yet narrow the gap anyway. The Gold Cheongsam (9.28 pm) could set up a big day for The Fugue's jockey, William Buick, having the benefit of plenty of experience while retaining the right to improve for the extra furlong.
Though the preliminary card focuses on fillies, it opens with a curious challenge for punters in the Marathon. Most of the indigenous runners will soon be gasping for air, asked to gallop for 14 furlongs, and Fame And Glory could both outclass and outstay them. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, confesses to reservations about the six-year-old's attitude nowadays, however, and has fitted him with blinkers.
He will probably finish either first or last, but the odds need to make allowance for a potential distaste for the new surface. Atigun (8.46 pm) has, in contrast, been rubbing shoulders with the best dirt runners of the Classic generation, running well in top races such as the Belmont and Travers Stakes.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Blue Zealot (6.45 Wolverhampton) Always going best when raised in trip and bolting eight lengths clear round this course last time; up 7lb but that will not stop her if repeating that form.
Tatting (6.15 Wolverhampton) Given a break and showed improvement in his first handicap round here the other day, doing well to make inroads from off a steady pace.