Though he saddles an unbeaten colt in the final Group One race of the domestic Flat season at Doncaster tomorrow, the real climax of Brian Meehan's campaign may yet be another fortnight away. At the same time, the complexion of the four-horse raiding party he unveiled yesterday for the Breeders' Cup – three of them being two-year-olds – testifies to the strength in depth sustaining his hopes for Titus Mills in the Racing Post Trophy.
Mantoba, who beat two impressive maiden winners in a brisk time at Newmarket last Friday, is now being aimed at the Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs. Quiet Oasis will tackle the fillies' equivalent, while Theyskens' Theory will switch to dirt for the Fillies' Juvenile. The Manton team in Louisville is completed by a rather later bloom, Dangerous Midge, in the Turf.
Though Mantoba is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, his owners are agreed in principle to pay the supplementary fee. As a daughter of Bernadini, that is not an issue for Theyskens' Theory, whose genes make her similarly eligible to relish the change of surface. Even though she was placed in Group One company at Ascot last month, Meehan reckons her capable of better yet. "It was a good run, just not her best," he says. As for Quiet Oasis, she pulled clear of the pack when a close fourth on her Group debut at the Curragh last time, and should appreciate an extra furlong in Kentucky.
In the continued absence of Martin Dwyer, Meehan has booked Frankie Dettori to partner Dangerous Midge, provided he is not claimed by Godolphin. Dettori rode Red Rocks when he won the Turf for Meehan in 2006, his first year at Manton. Dangerous Midge proved a revelation at Newbury last month and the four-length runner-up, Rainbow Peak, has since won a Group One in Italy. "We've been very patient with this horse," Meehan said. "We haven't been at all surprised by him, it was just a case of waiting for him. His form has improved again now, and he's doing great."
Meehan meanwhile rates Titus Mills a match for any of the colts that gave him a prominent role in the last four runnings of the Racing Post Trophy – notably Crowded House, the 2008 winner. "He'd be a similar type to Mantoba, lazy, the sort that will pick off the pace," he said. "To go on at Goodwood last time wouldn't have been the ideal, but it was the right thing on the day because there was little pace. He had a bad scope when we were thinking about giving him another run, at Newmarket last month, but he's in great form and the timing couldn't be better."
It could be argued that Meehan's Breeders' Cup squad this year is at least a match for that of Aidan O'Brien, whose prospects of improving a disappointing recent record in the series now depend on a team shorn of stars. Rip Van Winkle has been retired, following the final setback of a career riddled with fits and starts, while both Cape Blanco and Fame And Glory sit out the trip to regroup for next year. That leaves the Ballydoyle trainer depending on Beethoven in the Mile, with Bright Horizon (Marathon), Together (Juvenile Fillies' Turf) and Treasure Beach (Juvenile Turf) confined to the meeting's shallower waters.
O'Brien has long been the trainer to fear in the Racing Post Trophy, of course, and tomorrow saddles Master Of Hounds and Seville in his quest for a sixth success. The market is dominated this time, however, by two compatriots in Mick Halford, with Casamento, and Kevin Prendergast, with Dunboyne Express.
Another big British prize being targeted by the Irish is the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury next month. Noel Meade hopes that Pandorama, beaten only once in his life and quickly established as one of the best novice chasers around in a curtailed campaign last winter, can get a light weight with Denman once again being targeted at the race. If he shapes with any promise in his comeback, possibly at Down Royal a fortnight tomorrow, Pandorama will certainly look a very tempting bet.
Anyone still immune to the increasing momentum of the jumps campaign will perhaps be surprised to discover that Tony McCoy yesterday rode his 99th and 100th winners of the campaign at Ludlow. The 15-times champion will himself be pretty disgusted, however, having once reached that landmark as early as 17 September.
Kiama Bay (4.40 Ayr) Very few miles on the clock and made an encouraging return from injury at Redcar last month, knuckling down to chase home a flourishing rival.
Descaro (4.30 Doncaster) Disappointing he could not complete hat-trick at York last time, but palpably still on a competitive mark.
One to watch
Quiz Mistress (G A Butler) Is bred to stay and laid promising foundations for the long term on her debut in an 8f maiden at Newmarket last Friday.
Where the money's going
Chosen ahead of Seville by the Ballydoyle stable jockey, Johnny Murtagh, Master Of Hounds is 6-1 from 8-1 with Totesport for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. tomorrow.