By William Hill
Last Updated: 6th November 2019
We might have finished the British Flat season, but the top-quality action keeps on coming as we head Stateside on Friday and Saturday as Santa Anita plays host to the Breeders’ Cup. We preview three races from the American extravaganza.
Juvenile Turf Sprint looks right up Alligator’s Alley
Many were surprised when Joseph O’Brien announced he would be stepping down from race-riding in 2016 to pursue a career as a trainer. Numerous Group One victories all over the world showed how well the Irishman did in the saddle, but given he has already trained over 500 winners, it looks a more than worthy decision. On Friday evening, the 26-year-old will attempt to emulate Freddy Head by recording victories as a rider and a trainer at the Breeders’ Cup, having guided his father Aidan’s St Nicholas Abbey to a famous win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2011 when just 18, becoming the youngest ever jockey to ride a Breeders’ Cup winner.
He runs Alligator Alley in the Juvenile Turf Sprint who boasts the credentials to suggest he could be the one to etch his trainer’s name into the history books. The son of Kingman didn’t show much in his first couple of starts, but his five-length demolition job in a Navan maiden in July put his name firmly on the map. That performance saw him run in the Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood where had it not been for an interrupted journey, he would almost certainly have won. O’Brien’s runner showed that was no fluke when, despite being hampered at the start and during the final furlong, he won the Listed Rose Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival.
The two-year-old was disappointing at Doncaster last time, though he became upset in the stalls. Wesley Ward’s Kimari and Simon Crisford’s A’Ali are clearly dangers, but bar that Doncaster run, Alligator Alley has done nothing but improve and providing he handles the stalls better, he should go well at 9/1.
Arizona can make it five wins in Juvenile Turf for that man O’Brien
Since its inception in 2007, British and Irish trainers have dominated the Juvenile Turf. In the 12 runnings of the race, there have only been four non-UK or Irish winners and of those eight winners, four have been trained by the Ballydoyle supremo Aidan O’Brien. He saddles Arizona this time around who looks a strong candidate to extend his handler’s record of having the most winners in the race.
Ever since winning a Curragh maiden by eight lengths in May, the Son of No Nay Never has been touted as yet another high-class recruit to the O’Brien stable. That victory saw him go off a well-fancied favourite for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and he duly obliged, despite encountering a few traffic problems. Since then, he has run in three Group One contests at Deauville, the Curragh and Newmarket where he finished fourth, third and most recently a two-length second to the hugely exciting Pinatubo in the Dewhurst.
While those were all very solid runs, it’s hard to think that he got his ideal conditions in any of them with his breeding suggesting a sounder surface would be much more to his liking, particularly as that impressive eight-length victory came on good-to-firm ground. We’ve all seen how good Pinatubo is, so to get within two lengths of him on ground that wouldn’t have suited was a mighty effort and providing that hasn’t left his mark, he must surely go close as he seeks a first Group One victory.
He can give his trainer a 13th Breeders’ Cup winner at 9/4.
Fleeting to be given one last chance at Group One success
Held out the back, meets problems in running and finishes like a train. Sound familiar? Well, once again that was the same old story for Fleeting in the Fillies & Mares Stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot. The daughter of Zoffany is becoming an expensive filly to follow, particularly as in almost every race she shows she has genuine Group One ability, but for whatever reason struggles to get her head in front.
Since her win in the May Hill at Doncaster last season, she has finished second in a Group Two and twice in Group Ones. The fact Aidan O’Brien is sending her to California despite running eight times already this season means she must be showing all the right signs to suggest this might be the time she finally wins that elusive Group One.
Magical was scheduled to be the stable’s number one and on the back of her success in the Champion Stakes, she would have been a tough nut to crack. Unfortunately a temperature has forced connections to retire her to stud and that has left Sistercharlie as the even-money favourite. She’s won her last six, including this race last year, and is clearly the one to beat. However, at 9/1, it’s very hard to ignore Fleeting each-way and she gets the vote.