Breeders' Cup 2016 Turf Transcript

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TwinSpires Staff

November 5th, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Michael Tabor
Derrick Smith
Aidan O'Brien
Seamus Heffernan

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the second biggest prize on the afternoon, the $4 million dollars Longines Breeders' Cup Turf is Highland Reel, and we're joined now by the winning jockey, Seamus Heffernan, who will undoubtedly be the story of this race. Seamus, congratulations to you. Thanks for joining us here. If you would, could you just talk to us about the strategy of going out as quickly as you did and opening up as early as you did?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: Ryan Moore told me it was his best chance on this track the way the ground was. I wasn't sure if I was given the chance, I'd want it to be firm, but Ryan was right. And I was happy to make him run, unless I wasn't comfortable, and I just stretched out the race, and I kicked when I should kick her, and it went very well.

THE MODERATOR: You probably stretched it out a little more than a lot of us would have expected. Were you aware how much you had opened up, say, down the backstretch?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: Yeah, well he's the type of horse that's brave in front. And when he wants to go, you let him go and he turns it on. I thought there were a few horses that were going to come from the back and come quick. So if I was going, I wanted to go early.

Q. I saw you the other day at Clocker's Corner breakfast time deep in conversation with Jerry Bailey. Did he have any advice on how to ride this race?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: I listen to everything Jerry Bailey said. It was a help, yep.

Q. What did he say?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: I forget (laughing). He said if I was comfortable in front, it would be the place to be on a good steer.

Q. For so long you've labored in the shadows of Ryan Moore and of Joey to a certain degree. How does it feel now to be up here on this particular stage now, getting a Breeders' Cup victory?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: Yeah, I've been there a long time, and I went there as second jockey walk/rider, and I get very, very well looked after. More recently my name is coming out of the hat for the rides, and I'm happy with my position. There's no pressure. I'm never really on the first string, though the first and third string can be equal, never mind the second string.

Q. Did you anticipate you were first string today?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: Well, Ryan said I was, and I was happy enough going along with my thoughts and his thoughts.

Q. You seemed to ride more forcibly than before today, was that the plan in your head?

SEAMUS HEFFERNAN: I was always confident of where I was and I was always happy sitting where I was. I didn't feel like I was forcing him. Maybe he's getting a little quicker with age and racing.

THE MODERATOR: We're also joined now by Michael Tabor on the left, trainer, Aidan O'Brien, and Derrick Smith on the right. Congratulations to all of you, gentlemen. Aidan, perhaps we could get your impressions of the race, and especially the strategy as quickly as you all went out today?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: Yes, Seamus knows him very well. We know he gets a mile and a half very well. We know that he handles fast ground. He doesn't mind dictating. He doesn't mind sitting in. So it was straightforward, really. But Seamus executed it brilliant. He was very happy to make the run, and when he did, he controlled the race perfectly. He kicked at the right time, and really the race was over from a long ways out. Ryan, who rode Found, said he knew there was no catching him for a long ways when Seamus left the way he was in front. And when he kicked it was over, because he doesn't stop. So we couldn't be happier, really. The plan was always to come here after The Arc, obviously Found went to the Champions Stakes along the way. But, listen, delighted for the lads, really. Had faith in what we were doing all the time with found and himself, and looking forward to coming here. Over the moon. David, who rides him every day, does a great job with him. Andrew Murphy, who is in charge with him. David Hickey, who looks after him. So it's a big team effort. And there are an awful lot of people I won't be able to mention here, but they're all the people that made it happen. Like I said, Seamus executed it brilliant today.

Q. Aidan, going back to The Arc, and I talked to you about this a couple days ago, the way Highland Reel helped to set the pace. Coming out of that race, how soon was it before you guys thought this would be the spot for him?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: No, well, the lads decided that themselves. They thought after The Arc that they'd like to come here straightaway. Like obviously, Michael, John and Derrick, this is where they'd like to come with him next. So we only kind of went along with the plan, really. I should have mentioned John, John Halle (phonetic) and Jeff Henderson, John and all his team and Jeff and all his team. There's an awful lot of people that make it happen. But the lads made the plan that this is the place to come with him. And obviously Found went on to Ascot along the way. And we were debating the fact whether we'd run Found in the Classic. So, obviously the safe option was because she was going to be very important that she didn't get injured. She was to come here and let the other horse come here as well. So couldn't be happier, really.

Q. In terms of your success in this race, what is this now, five or six? Six times to win this race, I mean, can you just speak to that and just what the secret of the success has been?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: Yeah, the secret of the success is, like everyone knows, we're a very small part of a very big team of people, and we're only a small little chain on the way. And, obviously, Galileo is an incredible stallion, obviously. He's the most unbelievable horse that we'll probably ever see or have anything to do with. They stay forever. They're super genuine, and they never know when to stop. So there are other things, but we're very privileged to be a small part of the team that we are really.

Q. What is the next race this year? Are you aiming to Japan Cup?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: He has two options. He has the Japan Cup and the race in Hong Kong. So obviously the lads will think and talk about what they want to do. Obviously the Japan Cup is only three weeks away, and Hong Kong is then obviously three weeks after that. So, listen, I don't know whether he'll be able to take in the two or whether he can take in one, but we'll see how he is. The plan would be that he'll probably go home tomorrow or the next day and we'll see how he is. But he's an incredibly versatile horse that loves traveling.

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to get some impressions from Michael and Derrick. Michael, your thoughts on this race and how it all came together for you today?

MICHAEL TABOR: Well, basically, it's very simple because we really thought this track would suit Highland Reel, and the fast ground would suit him. The plan was that he, hopefully in an ideal world, would go to the front and dictate, and that's exactly what happened. Sometimes it works out.

THE MODERATOR: Derrick, maybe you can give us a comment on Found's efforts as well?

DERRICK SMITH: Yeah, I understand Ryan said she knackered coming out of the stalls, which didn't help her case. But she ran a super race. I think just today, nothing was going to beat Highland Reel, and that's the way it was. She ran a super race, very, very pleased with her.

Q. To Derrick or Michael, we understand this is Found's last race. What is the future next year for Highland Reel?

MICHAEL TABOR: The future for Highland Reel I think is very rosy. I think he'll carry on racing and hopefully keeping the same form as he's been this year. I don't know what Aidan would echo my thoughts, but that would be my thoughts initially is that we'd continue to race him.

Q. Derrick and Michael, this has been an enormous year, but you're the best people to judge. Is this Aidan O'Brien's best season? He's well over 20 Group 1 winners, not too far from Bobby Frankel's record.

MICHAEL TABOR: He's a baby still. He's got plenty more to come. It's me and Derrick we're worried about.

Q. Aidan, you've had the number one jockeys come and go. Seamus has been with you for a lot of years. How much satisfaction does it give you to see him win on this big stage? Can you put into words what he means to your operation and how important he is?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: Everyone knows Seamus is a very special fellow. I can tell you, I think we're together for 20 years, and nobody knows all the big horses better than Seamus. He's an absolute master of his craft. He's a world-class jockey, always has been. He rides the majority of all the horses walk, so Stephen would have been partners with this horse all the time. But nobody deserves it more than Seamus. Like I said, Seamus is in his early 40s, and every single year he's gotten better. He's still getting better. So I think in about ten years time he might stop improving (smiling). But he's a vital cog in our wheel, and we feel privileged to be working with him every day.

Q. Highland Reel and Found both have had very long, busy seasons. I think it's 8 races and 10 now. It's an incredible performance to maintain the form throughout the season. Can you tell us a little bit about their constitution and how you manage to keep them at such a high level for so long?

AIDAN O'BRIEN: Yeah, that's all, obviously, the team at home, the people working with them. There are so many. Like I said, all the people that are closely involved with him, and they all have their own teams as well. So if you only knew the amount of people that are around Highland Reel every day keeping him the way he is and keeping him progressing, it's a complete team effort.

But obviously he's an extremely special horse, and he's obviously by Galileo. So today was probably his heaviest day ever raced, and physically in the paddock he looked super special today. I can't tell you how delighted we are and grateful we are to the people that are around him that make it happen, really. It's a big team effort to keep doing the things he wants and keeping him safe every day.

Obviously, David rides him every day. It's a massive part of the two and he canters. And obviously Seamus rides him and always walked the whole time. So, yeah, that's why.

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