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After posting a record five Breeders’ Cup victories in the Californian sun last year, the European invasion of Santa Anita looks set to start even earlier this season with Newmarket-based trainer Marco Botti shipping over Gitano Hernando for Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes (G1) at Oak Tree, where he will be facing Gade One winners Colonel John, Mine That Bird, Tiago and Richard’s Kid.
The 9-furlong contest is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, an international series of 63 races whose winners earn qualifying positions into a corresponding race at the World Championships, following the payment of applicable entry fees on October 26. Saturday’s winner automatically receives a berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, highlight of the second day of the World Championships on Saturday, November 7.
Gitano Hernando, who runs in the colours of international owners Team Valor, boasts a perfect two from two record on a synthetic surface, having enjoyed easy wins over nine furlongs on Wolverhampton’s Polytrack in a nine-furlong maiden in November, 2008, and a conditions race over the same course and distance on September 17 this year. The three-year-old also comfortably landed a 10-furlong turf handicap at Doncaster on his seasonal return at the end of March and was beaten a head in the Group Three Dee Stakes over similar trip at Chester in May, when he was denied a clear run.
A slight setback following that race ruled him out of a crack at the Belmont Stakes but Italian-born Botti, who had a spell looking after the likes of Cigar at Bill Mott’s stable in the 1990s, reports his stable star to be in good order ahead of his weekend assignment.
Speaking from Santa Anita, Botti reported: “Gitano Hernando seems to have travelled over fine and everything is in place for Saturday’s race now. He came out of his two-day quarantine on Thursday and he will head to Santa Anita to work under Kieren Fallon today. He hasn’t lost any weight on the journey over and he’s ready to go.
“I was pleased with his latest run at Wolverhampton - he won nicely after a three-month break and I am sure that he has come on a lot since that race. He had a big blow afterwards and we are expecting him to improve quite a lot.
“This race is a completely different scenario for him, being a Grade One, but he is in good form and is a progressive horse. Ideally, we would have preferred to run him over the 10 furlong distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic - I think his best form is over a mile and a quarter - but I hope that he has the pace to go with the field over an extended mile.
“We know that he handles the surface and he is going into the race as a fresh horse. He hasn’t had that much racing this year and we are hoping that he can run well on Saturday.
“The owners would like to see how he runs on Saturday but the Breeders’ Cup Classic is his intended target at the moment. We will make a final decision after the Goodwood Stakes but he won’t be coming back to Britain afterwards.”
Top four, Goodwood Stakes
123 – MINE THAT BIRD (Birdstone)
122 – TIAGO (Pleasant Tap)
122 – RICHARD’S KID (Lemon Drop Kid)
119 – COLONEL JOHN (Tiznow)
MUHANNAK TO RETURN
One of the five European victors at the 2008 Breeders’ Cup was Muhannak in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Marathon and the Chester House gelding could attempt to defend his crown at Santa Anita on November 7. Run over 12 furlongs in 2008, this year the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, which is takes place on Pro-Ride, rises in distance to 14 furlongs.
Muhannak has not been seen at his best during the 2009 season but posted his best effort of the campaign so far when a staying-on fifth, beaten under four lengths, in the Group Three Cumberland Lodge Stakes over 12 furlongs on turf at Ascot on September 27. His trainer Ralph Beckett reported: “"Hopefully, we’ll now be going to Santa Anita.
“At the moment I’d say that it’s 70/30 that he’d head over for the race.
"It was a good effort last time and there I was whingeing about the fact that they’d upped the distance to a mile and six furlongs but it’s just what he wants now!"
Edited Breeders’ Cup press release
Last update: 2009-10-09 07:15:15 (First published: 2009-10-09 07:12:15 )
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