Donn's Articles » Breeders’ Cup report

Breeders’ Cup report

The Aidan O’Brien-trained filly Found got the better of old sparring partner Golden Horn in a pulsating finish to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland yesterday evening, in a race that was dominated from preamble to finishing line by the two European raiders.

Twice before had these two adversaries met, once in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September and once in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October.  On both occasions, it was the John Gosden-trained colt who had come out on top.

Indeed, before last night, 2015 had been a frustrating year for Found, one win from seven attempts a poor return for such a talented filly.  But all that frustration dissipated on Keeneland’s turf track last night.

The tactics were fascinating, Golden Horn and Frankie Dettori from stall one, Found and Ryan Moore from stall nine.  Shining Copper burst forward from the gates and set up such a commanding lead that he was effectively not a factor in the race.  The body of the field was led by Cage Fighter, with Golden Horn stalking him and Found stalking the stalker.

It wasn’t until the run to the home turn that Dettori asked his horse to move up on the outside of Cage Fighter.  When he did, Moore gave his filly a squeeze in behind and also moved forward.

Just before they straightened up for home, Dettori went for his horse, asked him to go and win his race.  Moore asked his filly to pick up, and she did.  Golden Horn stole a half a length at least, but Found arrested the deficit, inched closer.

And just when you thought that she was getting the colt’s measure, it looked for just a stride as though Big Blue Kitten was going to spoil the European party.  But Found is as tough as she is talented, and she stretched her willing neck out as Big Blue Kitten wilted, went a neck up on Golden Horn with 100 yards to run and maintained that advantage all the way to the line to record a famous victory.

For Aidan O’Brien, it was a 10th Breeders’ Cup, 24 hours after he had recorded his ninth when Hit It A Bomb won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday evening.

“That ranks up there with the best,” said Found’s part-owner Michael Tabor.  “To see that race, the way Ryan rode her, Aidan’s great training feat to get her here at the end of a long season.  It’s very special.  To beat a very, very good colt who has won everything in Europe.  It’s a great performance.”

The evening had started disappointingly when a strong European challenge for the Filly and Mare Turf was thwarted by the Chad Brown-trained Stephanie’s Kitten.

There was drama at the start of the race as Legatissimo – the David Wachman-trained filly who was sent off as odds-on favourite – stumbled on emerging from the stalls.  There was never a danger that she would unship Ryan Moore, who sat tight and allowed his filly the time to recover her equilibrium, but it meant that she lost momentum and valuable ground at the start, a crucial stage of the race on this tight circuit.

Even with that, Legatissimo occupied a nice position as the field rolled down the back straight.  When they straightened up for home with Secret Gesture still in front, and Moore asked his filly for her effort, she shaped as though she was going to produce one of those race-winning runs that we had seen so often earlier this season.

But the filly’s wheels spun on the holding ground.  She did make progress on the near side towards the leaders, but it wasn’t that instant acceleration that we are used to seeing, and Stephanie’s Kitten made progress too towards the far side.  The American filly burst through between runners to hit the front inside the final furlong and, while Legatissimo continued to progress into second place behind her, it never really looked like she was going to catch the winner.

“It has just been a long year for her,” said David Wachman.  “But there are no excuses.”

There was to be no fairytale ending to the evening either for Aidan O’Brien, as Gleneagles’ bold bid to land the Classic came up short.  It was always going to be a big ask for the Galileo colt on his first run on dirt and his first attempt at a distance in excess of a mile.

It was still a fairytale ending, however, with the Triple Crown hero American Pharoah making all the running under Victor Espinoza.  The Bob Baffert-trained colt had the race in the bag from the top of the home straight, and he powered clear to post an emphatic victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, thereby etching his name indelibly into racing’s history books.

© The Sunday Times, 1st November 2015