Change of plans for Highland Reel or Lucky Speed?
Following on from James Scully's "Five Takeaways from Arlington Million Day," here are a couple of additional postscripts.
Secretariat (G1) romper Highland Reel just might have run himself into consideration for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) rather than his initial goal, the Cox Plate (G1). Trainer Aidan O'Brien told ANZ Bloodstock news that the decision won't come until after his next start, the September 13 Prix Niel (G2) over the same Longchamp course and 1 1/2-mile distance as the Arc.
Of course, that furthers the parallel between Highland Reel and last year's Secretariat/Cox Plate hero, Adelaide. That former O'Brien star likewise took a detour through the Niel, where he finished a closing third. Although Adelaide didn't have the best of trips, he was more of a 10-furlong type anyway. The Cox Plate was therefore a more suitable target than taking a flyer at the Arc, for which Ballydoyle had other reasonable hopes.
Highland Reel presents a slightly different case. He's won at 1 1/2 miles, albeit versus lesser in the Gordon (G3) at Glorious Goodwood. And Ballydoyle isn't exactly awash in Arc contenders at the moment. The Niel will likely offer a rematch with New Bay, who'd beaten him in the 1 5/16-mile French Derby (G1). If Highland Reel turns the tables over the longer trip, connections might be tempted to try the Arc instead of an Australian venture for the Cox Plate. And even if it doesn't pan out for him versus a ferocious cast at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October, he would then have the chance to return stateside for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).
In the other enticing postscript from Arlington, Lucky Speed's course record-setting victory in the American St Leger (G3) has attracted the interest of prospective buyers. According to the Arlington barn notes from Sunday, a private sale could be pending.
Further details weren't mentioned, but you'd have to think that the party or parties in question would be Australian interests, who are not slow to snap up quality international stayers. His German pedigree is especially appealing, since the past two Melbourne Cup (G1) winners are by Monsun -- the broodmare sire of Lucky Speed.
Anyone who saw how effortlessly Lucky Speed traveled and quickened around Arlington would envision a similar scenario around Flemington in about 2 1/2 months' time. And unlike the top European stayers, I think he'd have a chance to get in at a halfway decent weight assignment (but would accept correction on that score!). Lucky Speed was actually nominated to the "race that stops a nation" last year, but didn't make the trip.
If the sale isn't finalized, Lucky Speed will remain on course for his fall targets at Woodbine, the September 13 Northern Dancer Turf (G1) and October 18 Canadian International (G1). But I wouldn't be shocked if come October, he's at Werribee gearing up for the Cup.
Highland Reel photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.