Irish Eyes: Intelligence a smart bet
Irish Eyes previews day one of the Breeders' Cup action and expects Aidan O'Brien to get off to a flying start.
Breeders' Cup 2016 has arrived and Ireland has 13 representatives over the next two days, with 12 coming from the mighty Ballydoyle and another filly representing Joseph O'Brien, which is an achievement to be proud of in his very first season training.
His father, Aidan, runs two colts in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday, a race he has dominated in recent times with three wins over the past five years.
Lancaster Bomber had won once in four starts before causing a surprise when finishing runner-up last time to Churchill in the Dewhurst Stakes. It's possible that improvement in form came as a result of the better ground, in which case it wouldn't be a major surprise if he again ran well at Santa Anita, but it's more likely that he got the run of the race and is flattered somewhat.
He is at least well drawn again today and if breaking well, could use that in a bid to dominate from the front. However, on balance, it is more likely that Intelligence Cross will be the horse to go close.
In six starts this season, he has yet to disappoint with two wins to his name and he is often slowly away so therefore the eight draw might be more of an advantage in his particular case.
Intelligence Cross has yet to race beyond six furlongs – today's race is over a mile – but on pedigree there is every chance he will get the trip, particularly on this speed-favouring track.
He impressed in his first appearance here at Santa Anita on Thursday morning and could well be the horse to bring O'Brien closer to Bobby Frankel's all-time Group/Grade One record of 25 wins in a year, at a track where the legendary US trainer shone from 1972 until his death 37 years later.
The only other race in which Irish horses are involved on Friday is the Juvenile Fillies' Turf and despite it being arguably even more competitive than the earlier Juvenile Turf for the colts, Roly Poly gets the nap vote.
There are dangers everywhere – from her stablemate Hydrangea, to Joseph's Intricately and the very impressive Rockfel winner Spain Burg – but the key piece of form might have come in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes at York in August where Roly Poly finished a staying on, close second to Queen Kindly with Fair Eva in third.
It was difficult not to come away from that race with the impression that Roly Poly was the one to take out of it, given she had to concede 3lb all around following her earlier Cherry Hinton success. With wins at Group Three and Group Three level to her name she failed by a mere short head to prevail in the Cheveley Park last time out and on the strength of both that and her York run, she must go close.
Although Spain Burg beat Fair Eva by a little further that Roly Poly did at York, the first-named pair ran off levels that day so Roly Poly should on form have the measure of the formerly French-trained filly, who is having her first start for Kathy Rivo having exchanged hands for €1.5million last month.
Joseph has expressed a doubt that this track might be a little tight for Intricately and, as in the first, the biggest danger to Aidan's first string is probably his second string drawn in one, namely Hydrangea.
However, there has been a certain enthusiasm here this week for Roly Poly and she is another who looked happy with herself on the track yesterday morning, albeit at least one of O'Brien's team looked even better – more of that in Saturday's preview.
For now,Roly Poly gets the nap and although all of her runs have been over five and six furlongs, as a War Front daughter of the Galileo mare Misty For Me she should have absolutely no problems with today's extra distance on pedigree. In fact, she should positively relish it.