I’m a huge fan of the Breeders’ Cup and was privileged enough to be at Churchill Downs to witness Enable beat Magical in an epic Filly & Mares clash in 2018.
It is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the international calendar and for many it is the highlight, but I can’t be the only one highly suspicious of the validity of some of this year’s results – primarily that of the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Saturday night.
The obvious news story is that Aidan O’Brien trained the first three home, led by a 40/1 chance (73/1 on the local tote) ridden by jockey of the moment Pierre-Charles Boudot. There is no doubt that it is a great story but take a closer look at the result of this race and an entirely more worrying story emerges.
Here are the facts: the first three home were all administered with Lasix on race day, despite none of the trio having any history of bleeding.
Fellow overseas challengers Kameko, who was sent off 4/1 favourite, Siskin – also a single-figure price, and Safe Voyage all raced without Lasix and were all stuffed.
Obviously, I get that we are dealing with just one race – a miniscule sample size in the grand scheme of things, but we also need to bear in mind that Glass Slippers and Audarya, the only two other British-trained horses to win on Saturday, both ran on Lasix.
Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, is banned in every other racing jurisdiction on the planet despite fervent denials in the US that it is performance enhancing.
‘If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them’
O’Brien himself has a bit of a chequered past when it comes to whether his runners use Lasix, but the 2009 Breeders’ Cup appears to have been quite pivotal in his thinking. Man Of Iron was the only member of his team to run on Lasix that year and guess what – Man Of Iron was his only winner.
Since then it’s pretty much been Lasix all the way, as far as I can see, for O’Brien runners, and the results speak for themselves – they have won the Breeders’ Cup Mile six times since 2002, the Juvenile Turf four times and tasted success in races like the marathon, the Juvenile and the Mile this year.
Coolmore earned just over $1.2m by training the first three home in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, which is almost a quarter of their entire prize money haul for the season back in blighty. That is how important this meeting can be for an operation like theirs.
So, for O’Brien, it’s been a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and most racing fans won’t have a problem with that.
But here’s the elephant in the room. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests horses racing on Lasix are at a significant advantage to those that aren’t, despite widespread claims that the medication is not ‘performance enhancing’.
Good luck finding a European winner from recent years that didn’t race on Lasix. Even the mighty Enable was given it ahead of her aforementioned 2018 success, which tells us that even John Gosden, who trained in the US for ten years, knows it would be disadvantageous not to do so.
The Breeders’ Cup is a level playing field so long as you use Lasix. If you don’t, you may as well stay at home.
Festival Clues Aplenty
Notebooks and trackers at the ready for what is always a hugely informative meeting at Prestbury Park this weekend.
I’m no aficionado of the cross-country scene but the rematch between Easysland and Tiger Roll in Friday’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase has really perked up my interest.
However, I’m more than a little bit surprised to see that the French raider is still officially rated 4lb inferior to the dual Grand National winner despite having lapped him off level weights in the Cross Country Chase at the festival in March.
So, if this were a handicap, Tiger Roll would have to give Easysland weight. That’s mad, isn’t it? I wouldn’t be in a rush to get involved from a betting point of view given it’s so early in the season for these horses, but on what we saw in March, Tiger Roll has no chance of reversing that form.
Saturday’s Triumph Hurdle Trial looks a corking renewal if they all stand their ground and it could be significant that Gordon Elliott relies on the unbeaten Duffle Coat in his bid to win this race for the first time. Elliott is spoilt for choice when it comes to young hurdlers but even at this early stage, it looks as though Duffle Coat is towards the top his group of juveniles.
The feature Paddy Power Gold Cup looks a red-hot renewal but the handicapper is asking serious questions of horses like Simply The Betts, who won at the festival in March, off an 8lb higher mark.
I’m not surprised by the ante-post support for Mister Fisher who was far from disgraced in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase in March, where he found only crack Irish novices Samcro, Melon and Faugheen too strong. A sound surface is key to this horse producing his best so conditions look likely to be his favour and there could be a lot more to come from this six-year-old.
One To Note
I generally try and avoid latching on to useful Flat horses when they switch to jumping but I was extremely taken with a horse called Severance at Carlisle on Monday.
Severance brings significant latent ability to the table with an official Flat rating of 90 and it’s hard to argue his worthiness of that mark given his second off 91 in a Windsor handicap in June.
A strong stayer on the level, he made a smooth transition to hurdles with an emphatic success in what looked a warmish Carlisle maiden, where he travelled all over some useful rivals before clearing right away after the last despite having raced quite freely up the hill on testing ground.
Now in the very capable hands of Ben Pauling, this unexposed four-year-old will stay further and looks just the type to excel in a stronger run contest. He could have a very exciting future over obstacles.