Breeders’ Cup implications in Diamond? War Decree, Long Island Sound return in Friday feature; Zenyatta’s brother De Coronado entered

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September 29th, 2017

Trainer Aidan O’Brien has used the Diamond (G3) at Dundalk as a Breeders’ Cup reconnaissance mission at least once before, so the fact that he has two high-profile runners in Friday’s renewal must at least pique curiosity as to intent.

War Decree, arguably the most compelling of the Ballydoyle nominees to the 2017 US Triple Crown, hasn’t been seen since his creditable fifth in the French Derby (G1). Defending Diamond champion Long Island Sound, whom American fans may remember for his neck loss in last summer’s Secretariat (G1), was sidelined after a forgettable effort in the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night. O’Brien’s third runner, De Coronado, is nowhere near their accomplishments (hence his double-digit odds). But he naturally draws attention as a full brother to Zenyatta who wheels back from a modest win over this Polytrack and extended 10 1/2-furlong trip.

Before going too far out on a limb here about potential Breeders’ Cup implications, the slight precedents in my mind are Mastercraftsman and Declaration of War. Mastercraftsman is the better example, since he romped in the 2009 Diamond en route to a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup “Dirt” Mile (G1) (on the Santa Anita synthetic). Declaration of War captured the Diamond as a three-year-old in 2012, the year prior to his terrific third to Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

And it must be noted that De Coronado isn’t in the same category as his stablemates. Aside from his being one of the lowest rated horses in the Diamond, the giant colt has been entered in the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale. Cataloged as Hip No. 551, De Coronado is set to tour the auction ring October 31. His tilt at the Diamond could be read as an attempt to advertise him to potential buyers, or a chance for him to prompt a rethink and earn a new lease of life with Coolmore – perhaps stateside?

His size more redolent of a medieval warhorse than a racing machine, De Coronado has shown little in five starts on turf. But he’s two-for-three on the Polytrack, and jockey Seamie Heffernan’s comments to emphasized the importance of surface to De Coronado:

“He needs a dead level surface - he's a dirt horse. He's probably still a bit immature. He was a wee bit green and immature.

“He has an amazing pedigree but has let us down a bit before.”

Indeed, that was a nice understatement. So poorly had De Coronado run in his previous outing on turf (19th of 20) that the stewards demanded an explanation of his form turnaround in last week’s win. O’Brien’s assistant Pat Keating cited the surface as the key to him.

Long Island Sound is De Coronado’s “nephew,” since he’s out of a Pulpit half-sister to Zenyatta. The $800,000 son of War Front has displayed the family’s affinity for synthetic, bringing a perfect three-for-three local mark into his title defense. Long Island Sound has been hit-or-miss on turf, but usually with a reason – e.g., inexperience when sixth in the 2016 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), soft ground when third in the Tercentenary (G3) and in the Dubai Turf. He proved himself capable in the right conditions when just getting outdueled by Beach Patrol in the aforementioned Secretariat.

Yet War Decree is the one I’ve been waiting for, and hopefully the Diamond will set him up for bigger and better things. Bred by co-owner Andrew Rosen, the son of War Front and a Street Cry mare concluded his juvenile campaign with a handsome victory in the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. A well-beaten second that day was none other than the classy Thunder Snow. While that rival went on to flatter him, War Decree hasn’t run up to that level in his two subsequent starts. He returned from a nine-month layoff to finish a disappointing sixth as the favorite in the April 20 Craven (G3). His slow-starting fifth of 12 in the French Derby was a step in the right direction, and he was briefly mentioned as a candidate for the Belmont Derby before staying home. Here’s hoping that he’s ready to go following a nearly four-month vacation.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Abingdon is a threat as a smart daughter of Street Cry who’s better than she showed when trailing behind Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1). The multiple listed winner was previously runner-up in the Lancashire Oaks (G2) and third in the Prix de Pomone (G2) to subsequent Prix Vermeille (G1) winner Bateel. Abingdon is 5-2 in the antepost market, so her 6-1 North American line won’t last. Absolute Blast sports a 10-4-4-2 mark on the all-weather, including in stakes company versus males. Of interest from a pedigree perspective is the Joseph O’Brien-trained Dilmun. Although she has class concerns judging from her turf outings, the daughter of War Front and synthetic-lover Pachattack broke her maiden impressively in her lone opportunity on this surface.

The Diamond, the 6TH race on Dundalk’s Friday evening card, is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EDT).

War Decree photo courtesy Goodwood via Twitter