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Homeracing

Breeders’ Cup decision pending for Found

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

October 17th, 2016

In the aftermath of a blockbuster Champions Day at Ascot, Breeders’ Cup clues were few and far between, and largely revolving around Aidan O’Brien’s possible squad for Santa Anita.

The biggest question regards Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) heroine Found, who finished second in the Champion (G1) for the second straight year. Will the reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) champion make the trek to Santa Anita for a title defense, or won’t she?

O’Brien’s immediate postrace quotes revealed a clear disinclination. On Sunday, the Ballydoyle maestro sounded a more neutral tone:

“Don't rule any of them in or out of America, even Found, and we'll decide in seven or 10 days’ time,” O’Brien told the British Press Association.

Optimists will point out that Found competed in every big prize last fall, with the Breeders’ Cup being her fourth Grade/Group 1 race in seven weeks, so why couldn’t she touch all the bases again? After all, the daughter of Galileo and Red Evie is as tough as they come.

But that view minimizes the substantial differences between this year and last, and my hunch is that Found won’t be found at Santa Anita.

For starters, Found didn’t make her sophomore debut until May 2015, and she made only three starts (none past a mile) before going on her summer vacation. Resuming with a virtual paid workout over two rivals in the Royal Whip (G3), she was a closing second to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion (G1). Found never had a chance against him in the Arc, thanks to horrible traffic trouble that turned her race into a scenic stroll around Longchamp. Found’s had more searching gallops at home, so she was still fresh when wheeling right back for the 2015 Champion. Again, she didn’t have a clear passage, and her race was tantamount to a two-furlong blowout as she closed furiously to take second. Watching her carefully last fall, I had a strong suspicion that she had a lot more left in the tank for the Breeders’ Cup.

That was confirmed during my serendipitous run-in with O’Brien at Keeneland. As I rapidly mentioned the above points to him, his eyes lit up in recognition. He verified she was fresh and well, but his expression told even more than his words. (Of course, I still wasn’t clever enough to pick her to upset Golden Horn).

Now contrast all of that with Found’s 2016 campaign. She started off a month earlier, finishing third on heavy ground in the April 3 Alleged at the Curragh. She raced five times in the spring, at 1 1/4 miles or beyond, concluding with a heartbreaker in the Prince of Wales’s (G1). Off her summer holiday, Found came back in the 1 1/2-mile Yorkshire Oaks (G1) and finished second to younger stablemate Seventh Heaven. In her second attempt at the Irish Champion, she ran a winning race, only to be collared by the high-flying Almanzor.

Then came her magnificent Arc, where she banished bad memories with a brilliant display at Chantilly. Her time for the about 1 1/2-mile test, 2:23.61, illustrated how strongly the race was run. Last year, she never came off the bridle behind horses; this year, she had the chance to try her heart out.

If she were mine [insert derisive laughter], Found would have been retired on the spot. But her Coolmore ownership gave her a shot at revenge on Almanzor in Saturday’s Champion. Unlike last year, she had every chance, and did her best to make the most of it. But the star three-year-old, a 10-furlong specialist, quickened too well for her again. Found had to settle for an honorable runner-up to Almanzor, and she can hold her head high for yielding only to the continent’s top performer.

To sum up that laborious inventory: Found has had a longer, and more taxing, campaign than last year. She’s achieved the pinnacle by winning the Arc. She stands alone as an Arc winner with a Breeders’ Cup victory on her resume. And she’s also made Breeders’ Cup history as the only three-year-old filly to win the Turf. In the scheme of things, is it really all that important to try to become the first female to repeat in the Turf?

And as O’Brien said Saturday, Santa Anita brings warmer weather and faster ground than she encountered at Keeneland. You’d be asking Found an awful lot, with little appreciable gains.

Not only is there no incentive to go; in fact, Coolmore has a powerful disincentive, based upon their stallion-making business model. Highland Reel, their Arc runner-up, is already on course for the Turf, which would further enhance his profile at stud. It was one thing to pitch their top older horses by Galileo against each other in the Arc, producing an historic trifecta for sire and trainer, but there’s no comparable upside to renewing rivalry at Santa Anita.

***

O’Brien was similarly cool toward the idea of sending superstar sophomore filly Minding to the Breeders’ Cup, although he hasn’t ruled her out either.

On the go since her dazzling 1000 Guineas (G1) back on May 1, Minding made it seven career Group 1 tallies by defeating males in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II (G1). Galileo and Lillie Langtry’s daughter would loom large in either the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) or Filly & Mare Turf (G1), but the Coolmore team has others in mind for both.

Those are triple Group 1 winner Alice Springs, who skipped the QEII to focus on her likely tilt at the Mile, and Seventh Heaven, who finished fifth (with extenuating circumstances) as the favorite in Saturday’s British Champions Fillies and Mares (G1). Seventh Heaven has long been in the mix for the Filly & Mare Turf, but her proficiency at 1 1/2 miles – as the winner of the Irish Oaks and aforementioned Yorkshire Oaks over Found – makes her potentially vulnerable going 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita.

In other QEII postscripts, runner-up Ribchester and fifth Galileo Gold are both out of Breeders’ Cup consideration. Their respective trainers, Richard Fahey and Hugo Palmer, want to give them a well-deserved break ahead of 2017.

Minding is expected to come back next season too, when she'll take over Found's mantle as Coolmore's top older filly. By that point, Found will be basking in her paddock, likely in foal to a suitor deemed worthy of her.

Found photo by Frank Sorge/Horsephotos

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