The Breeders’ Cup meeting at Santa Anita lost three of its European team members on Monday – including —Magical, the Champion Stakes winner – but there is still likely to be a total of 33 runners from the continent’s stables in California on Friday and Saturday, on a par with recent years and including representatives in all but one of the seven turf events.
All but three of those are from Britain and Ireland, with two generations of the O’Brien racing dynasty – Aidan and his son Joseph – accounting for the bulk of Irish runners. The British team, though, are spread between a much wider range of stables, with no fewer than 13 trainers sending horses to Los Angeles, most of whom have a single runner.
Charlie Appleby’s challenge at the meeting was reduced from two to one in desperate circumstances on Saturday when Line Of Duty, who took the Juvenile Turf last year and was due to contest the Mile on Saturday, suffered a fatal injury on the gallops. Appleby will now rely on Old Persian, a leading contender for the Turf, as he attempts to improve an already remarkable strike rate at the Breeders’ Cup, where he has had three winners and a second from six starters.
“It was six years ago that we were here with Outstrip, bless him,” Appleby said on Tuesday, looking back to his first Breeders’ Cup runner, and winner, in the 2013 Juvenile Turf. “It’s great to be here but it’s not a holiday, as much as it’s lovely to have the [mountainous] backdrop we see out there. We try to bring the right horses out, with the experience we’ve had through the years.
“I was always looking [for a juvenile to run] but didn’t want to put one on the wagon just to have a spin around. The great thing about a horse like him [Old Persian] is that shipping is second nature to him. He went to Dubai, he went to Canada [to win the Grade One Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine last time] and he’s shipped well here.
“This race was our target from Dubai [in March, where he won the Group One Sheema Classic]. I was confident he’d take all the beating [in Canada], he was the class horse in the race and he showed it. We wanted to keep the dream alive and we were always going to come straight here.
“Sometimes going into these big races, you look at the challenge and don’t know with some horses how they’re going to adapt. But for me he ticks a good few boxes, going into it: quick ground won’t worry him, the tight turns, the travelling, the day-to-day work going into the race, he’s unfazed by it all.”Old Persian, currently top-priced at 7-2, is one of three horses that dominate the betting for the Turf, with Aidan O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyck, the Derby winner at Epsom in June, the narrow favourite at 9-4 and US-trained Bricks And Mortar available at 9-2.
Magical’s last-minute departure from the weekend’s cast list means that European horses head the market for four races: the Turf, the Juvenile Turf (Arizona), the Mile (Circus Maximus), and the Juveniles Fillies Turf, where Albigna and Daahyeh, trained by Jessica Harrington and Roger Varian respectively, are locked together at 7-2.
O’Brien’s two entries for the Turf Sprint – So Perfect and Fairyland – were withdrawn on Monday leaving it as the only turf event without a runner from Europe, despite it seemingly being an obvious one for European turf sprinters to target.
And the dirt events too are, once again, effectively being left to the Americans. Jane Chapple-Hyam is the only European trainer with a runner on the dirt, as Ambassadorial, who finished third in a race in Seoul in early September, has made it into the Dirt Mile with Jamie Spencer booked to ride.