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O'Brien Has Plenty of Options

Trainer has 10 of 104 horses pre-entered for Breeders' Cup. Rock of Gibraltar, Hawk Wing could run in Classic.

October 18, 2002|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

In late August, his Ballydoyle training complex near Dublin devastated by a virus that had most of the horses coughing, Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien figured his year was ruined.

But a month later, most of the horses got well, O'Brien force-fed them into some of the toughest races in Europe and now the young conditioner is armed with a solid group that could win one or more of the eight Breeders' Cup races at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago on Oct. 26.

Of the 104 horses pre-entered Thursday for the 19th Breeders' Cup, 10 are trained by O'Brien, whose most difficult problem seems to be picking the right races in which to run Rock Of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing, the 3-year-old stable standouts who are eligible for more than one race.

By Wednesday, when entries are made and post positions drawn, O'Brien must decide whether to mix or match. The races under consideration are the $4-million Classic on dirt and the $1-million Mile on grass.

"The Classic is a big pot," said O'Brien, "although it would be a different distance and surface for Rock Of Gibraltar. Nothing is written in stone. It's possible that both of them could line up in the Classic. I definitely think Rock Of Gibraltar would have a chance if he ran in the Classic. But we'll see how they travel [early next week] and then make the decisions."

Rock Of Gibraltar has won a record seven consecutive Group One races in England, Ireland and France, but has never run farther than a mile. The Classic is 1 1/4 miles, a race that O'Brien, who turned 33 Wednesday, almost won in 2000, when his Giant's Causeway lost by a neck to Tiznow at Churchill Downs. O'Brien got his only Breeders' Cup victory last year, with Johannesburg in the Juvenile.

British bookmakers list Rock Of Gibraltar as the favorite in the Mile and another O'Brien colt, High Chaparral, as the favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf. O'Brien pre-entered five 2-year-olds in the Juvenile, although he is likely to run only Hold That Tiger and Van Nistelrooy, who was bought for $6.4 million as a yearling in Kentucky. O'Brien's three other Juvenile eligibles are expected to run Saturday in Newmarket, England.

Hawk Wing has won four of nine starts and earned $1.4 million, about $200,000 less than Rock of Gibraltar, but he's won only once this year, finishing second four times. Having run three times at 1 1/4 miles or farther, Hawk Wing would appear to be better equipped for a dirt debut in the Classic. Susan Magnier owns Hawk Wing and runs Rock Of Gibraltar in a partnership with Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of the renowned Manchester United soccer team.

High Chaparral had won six consecutive races before his third-place finish in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 6. The Arc winner, Godolphin Racing's Marienbard, has been retired to stud and will begin his career as a stallion next year in Japan.

Fourteen horses, the maximum, have been pre-entered in the Classic. Besides the O'Brien pair, the others are Medaglia d'Oro, Came Home, War Emblem, Evening Attire, Harlan's Holiday, Macho Uno, Momentum, Perfect Drift, Milwaukee Brew, Volponi, E Dubai and Dollar Bill. In a race that lacks a standout favorite, Medaglia d'Oro might draw the most support by post time. The 3-year-old colt hasn't run since his Travers win on Aug. 24 and will be facing older horses for the first time.


Also heading for stud service in Japan is Charismatic, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1999. Charismatic spent his first three breeding seasons at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky.... The forecast for the Chicago area next week is for no rain until Friday, when there is a 30% chance of scattered showers. There is a 20% chance of rain on Breeders' Cup day, with temperatures in the 50s.... The California Horse Racing Board has approved 271 days of thoroughbred racing in Southern California, starting with the Santa Anita meet that opens Dec. 26 and runs through April 20. Other dates for 2003 are Hollywood Park, April 23-July 20; Del Mar, July 23-Sept. 10; Fairplex Park, Sept. 12-28; Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Oct. 1-Nov. 9, and Hollywood Park, Nov. 12-Dec. 21.




Horses pre-entered for the eight-race, $13-million Breeders' Cup card to be held Oct. 26 at Arlington Park. Horses not selected are listed in the order of preference. The post position draw will be Wednesday. Pre-entry odds are provided by Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker.

*--* Purse: $2 million DISTAFF 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up



Take Charge Lady...3-1

Summer Colony...5-1

Farda Amiga...6-1

Imperial Gesture...6-1

Mandy's Gold...12-1

Starrer ...30-1

Two Item Limit...30-1

*--* Purse: $1 million MILE Turf, 3-year-olds and up


Rock Of Gibraltar ... 8-5

Hawk Wing ...5-1

Beat Hollow ... 8-1

Landseer ... 8-1

Good Journey ...12-1

Forbidden Apple ...15-1

Gossamer ... 15-1

Aldebaran ... 20-1

Domedriver ...20-1

Medecis ... 20-1

The Tin Man ...20-1

Touch Of The Blues ...20-1

Del Mar Show ...30-1

Boston Common ... 50-1

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