Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
The prospect of Goldikova enthralling her audience with a display of utmost perfection was the one moment I anticipated the most as the Breeders' Cup drew ever closer each year. A three-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile whom captured the hearts of racefans across the world, it seemed that we would have to wait some time before another great would grace the racetrack to compete in the event.
Now, just two years after Goldikova's final soiree in the Breeders' Cup Mile, we are blessed with the presence of Wise Dan who bids for his second successive victory in the race as he enters the Breeders' Cup as the Horse of The Year Elect.
It's fair to say that Wise Dan's campaign this season has not met with the approval of the majority, and prior to his last outing I was among those who became disappointed by the seemingly lack of ambition from the connections of Wise Dan, but an easy scintillating victory in the Woodbine Mile in a new track record time did enough to suggest that it most certainly would not be wise to oppose Dan right now.
Admittedly, Wise Dan entered this season as the reigning Horse of The Year - a title he earnt through a season of continued success accumulating with the defeat of Animal Kingdom, Excelebration et al in the Breeders Cup - and my personal preference would've been for the horse to go on to take American racing by the scruff of the neck and bid for Breeders Cup Classic honours en route to a second Horse of the Year title. That hasn't been the case, with connections making it their target to keep the son of Wiseman's Ferry undefeated this term, but there can be no disputing the way that he breezed to victory making a Grade I contest look like nothing more than a work canter.
At Santa Anita, Wise Dan will face his toughest bunch of rivals yet with a strong European contingent taking dead aim on dethroning the American champion.
Toronado has competed with the crème de la crème of European racing this season with an ongoing rivalry with Dawn Approach forming the epicentre of the excitement of British racing this season. Fourth in the English 2,000 Guineas, after which he was found to have a pallet issue, Toronado bounced back to form with a narrow defeat at the hands of Dawn Approach in the GI St James' Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot before finally turning away the challege of his rival in the GI Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Toronado's stablemate Olympic Glory is also under consideration for the race with Richard Hannon Jr. seemingly looking for a one-rather-than-both approach when finalising plans.
Whether Declaration of War enters this race or the Breeders' Cup Classic is still open for discussion as the powerhouse owners of Coolmore plot their squad for the weekend. The winner of the Juddmonte International on his last start, Declaration of War looked to be pushing towards his peak when defeating the likes of Trading Leather and Al Kazeem in that contest - with Toronado struggling to land a blow at the back of the field due to a recurrance of his pallet issue - and his entry here would further enhance the quality of opposition that Wise Dan must defeat to defend his title.
However, there is still concern as to whether Declaration of War is able to show his class as much over this trip, with all of his best form admittedly coming over further and there is no doubting that Declaration of War is a shadow of the prospect that Excelebration was coming into this race last season. The Breeders' Cup Classic may yet prove to be the perfect race for this one.
Moonlight Cloud, unable to perform her best in this race last season, will target the GI Prix de la Foret next and remains unlikely to ship to the Breeders' Cup despite winning the 'Win and You're In' race - the Prix Jacques le Marois.
From America there can be no doubting that there is likely to be very little on offer that Wise Dan cannot defeat, but the home team of Obviously, Suggestive Boy and Jeranimo have performed suitably well over the Santa Anita track to at least give the Horse of The Year something to consider.
America's best shout to dethrone its own champion may yet come from Silver Max. Impressive in victory in the Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, Silver Max has held considerable potential for some time and is expected to put up a bold bid if allowed to enter the race.