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Midnight Cloud looking to give Head further glory‏

Moonlight Cloud
Photo: Yuji Noda

A battle for the ages, so they say; a race which will tell America just how close Wise Dan could've gone to giving the unbeaten, unblemished Frankel a race. This years' Breeders' Cup Mile is the race which undoubtedly embraces the tag line of the World Championships, but it may not all be about Excelebration against Wise Dan.

Freddie Head is a familiar name on American shores, a trainer whom trained Goldikova to victory in three successive Breeders' Cup Miles and a third-placed finish in her attempt for a fourth. This year, with Goldikova absent having retired to the breeding sheds, Head sends his new stable star, Moonlight Cloud.

Having reportedly targeted this race with Moonlight Cloud since the exit of Goldikova, Head is exceptionally confident coming into the race, earmarking his filly as the one to beat. For Moonlight Cloud, everything has gone right this season. Victories in the Prix Maurice du Gheest have been perfectly complemented by a win in the Prix Jacques le Marois and an agonising second place to Black Caviar at Royal Ascot . With the hot front end pace likely to be set by Joe Talamo aboard Obviously, watch out for Thierry Jarnet an Moonlight Cloud slingshotting into the Santa Anita straight and heading towards the front of the pack at an alarming rate of knots.

Excelebration, a perennial bridesmaid to Frankel for the last two years, would be coming into this race as one of the winning most European milers of all time if it weren't for the Juddmonte Farms superstar. Instead, the three-time Group 1 winning four year old looks to end his career on a high with a fourth victory at the highest level. There are concerns on the colts ability to back up quickly off his exceptional Queen Elizabeth II Stakes victory at Ascot, and further concerns about his weight and composure in track work this week at Santa Anita, but Excelebration should still be the one to beat in this race.

St Nicholas Abbey, victorious in the Breeders Cup Turf twelve months ago, is again back to defend his crown. Sub-par performances have left much to be desired this season, yet a return to the Breeders Cup should bring out the best in this son of Montjeu who, arguably, desperately needs victory in this race. St Nicholas Abbey (right) is joined in the race by his stable mate, Treasure Beach, who was last seen in victory in the 2011 Irish Derby.

In Shareta, St Nicholas Abbey faces an improving rival who continues to thrive on firmer turf conditions. A mare who posted an astonishing final fime in her Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe trial, things didn't go to plan for the daughter of Sinndar when rain-softened conditions prevented her from producing her best in the main event. The Breeders Cup Turf is, admittedly, an afterthought, yet the firm turf should play perfectly into her favour and Shareta comes into the Breeders Cup Turf with an oustanding chance of victory.

A raiding party spearheaded by the Group 2 Acomb Stakes winner, Dundonelll, there are very few European juvenile form lines that are not accounted for in this years' European raiding party on the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. Dundonnell was impressive when holding off the thrusting effort of the subsequent Group 1-placed, Steeler, but could not match the exceptional ability of Richard Hannon's Toronado last time out.

Mahmood Al Zarooni send the only European based Godolphin runner to the Breeders Cup, the two year old Artigiano. Artigiano was last seen finishing a close second to the afore mentioned Steeler and was seen to best effect when taking up the running in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes. Al Zarooni confirms that he intends for Artigiano to be at the head of affairs again this weekend.

Fantastic Moon comes from the stable of Jeremy Nosdea, a yard which rarely fails to have their horses in the perfect condition to acclaim Group-race success during a raid. An impressive, surging winner of the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown PArk in August, Fantastic Moon was not seen at his best in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes. However, that race can be written off and a better account is sure to be given here from the horse I favour the most in this spot.

Aidan O'Brien's duo of George Vancouver and Lines of Battle, both of whom were humbled by Dawn Approach at various points this season, complete the raid.

A dual-hemisphere Group 1 winner, Starspangledbanner is the best turf sprinter to have ever shipped from Europe to the Breeders Cup, yet his performances since returning from an inconsistent foray into life as a stallion have been lacklustre at best. Starspangledbanner, when in top form, would readily account for most of these rivals in the Breeders up Turf Sprint, but whether the colt still retains his ability is a question which will be answered once and for all on Saturday. 

 

            Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin  (Goodtosoft.co.uk)   

 

What the Nation is saying about Midnight Cloud looking to give Head further glory‏...

another horsey statement based upon nothing but heresay: a horse leaves its best on the track. These are athletes. YOUNG ones at that. For a period of three years I studied charts of horses coming back from hard taxing stretch battles with comments like "all out, driving, etc," to see how they did next out. ONLY fillies showed any signs of "bounce" when the follow up was at least 7 to 10 days. Think hard: How did you respond when you were YOUNG at hard exercise after a few days rest? Fallacy that has been exposed. p. 95 Winning at the Races Dr. William Quirin. "suppose instead we study horses involved in a prolonged drive from the quarter pole to the wire...Maybe this woud be enough to tap a horse's energy reserves. BUT, as the following figures prove, the answer is an emphatic NO."
Excelebration would have been my top choice had there been more time between this and his stunning performance at QE2. I think Aidan is asking quite a bit of him to face the likes of this BC field. He's one of the best horses racing and will indeed be quite the legend (and training job) if he can pull this off. Same goes for Animal Kingdom. Heart wants him to win, heads says probably not.
They said Excelebration looked much better today, which is typical of Aiden's horses, for what it is worth
After hearing the reports concerning O'Brien's string, I am seriously reconsidering some of my picks.
I actually expect Moonlight Cloud to beat Excelebration tomorrow ... he just did not look good.

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