- When Big Brown was retired earlier this week, with Curlin still uncertain at the time, and amidst all of the uncertainty in the wake of the financial crisis and the turbulent year for the sport, the Breeders' Cup Classic moved into low expectations of Governor Tinafelyin proportions. At that point, you figured that if some horses showed up, nobody broke down (not a certainty given the four fatal injuries on the Pro-Ride surface thus far), somebody actually won, and we got a couple of winks out of Jeannine Edwards, than it would be considered a success.
However, as you know, Curlin is in, after his fine workout, and as announced by Jess Jackson during his rather bizarre press conference the other day.
And now, just as Prime Minister Gordon Brown helped to lift the markets - well, for a day and a half anyway - here come the Brits to help save the day. Aidan O'Brian will send both Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator for the race. I'll let the inimitable Chris McGrath pick up the story from there.
In the United States, the racing public remains deflated by the cruel end to their hopes of a showdown between Big Brown and the older champion, Curlin. To the European audience, however, this stand-off between two horses from the same stable is every bit as intriguing.Well, hate to bring this up, but that sounds similar to the way that George Washington's ill-fated Classic sojourn was framed last year. So here's hoping that things work out a hell of a lot better. In any event, and despite the disappointing recent performances of each, this certainly adds some more intrigue to what is turning out to be a pretty interesting affair despite it all.
True, a season of relentless achievement for Ballydoyle has seemed to take its toll this autumn, and both these colts have shed the aura of invincibility they shared in high summer. Duke Of Marmalade's spree of five consecutive Group One wins came to an end in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, when he could finish only seventh to Zarkava, while Henrythenavigator has been beaten in his last two starts, most recently by Raven's Pass, himself a candidate for the Classic.
Henrythenavigator must also prove his stamina for the extra two furlongs at Santa Anita, while a new surface also raises a question for both colts. At the same time it is the switch from dirt to a synthetic track, for the first time ever, that has made the gamble imperative for their owners at Coolmore Stud. John Magnier and his partners know that the stallion careers of both will be immune to failure, at the end of a gruelling campaign. Conversely, the potential dividends are enormous should either crown their careers with a new peak in the Americans' backyard. In effect, it is a bet to nothing. No wonder Magnier and O'Brien have resolved to double the stakes. [Guardian UK]