MALTON trainer Richard Fahey reports Birchwood to be in prime shape for his assault on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland today, Friday.
The Dark Angel colt, owned by Godolphin will be the Malton handler’s first-ever runner at America’s world championships and he could not be happier with the condition of the Group Two Superlative Stakes winner.
Though there are doubts about Birchwood staying the mile, Fahey believes the track should suit him.
“Birchwood travelled over to Keeneland well and has settled in nicely,” said Fahey.
“There has to be a question mark over whether he’ll stay a mile at this stage of his career but he would have a chance of doing so around two turns.
“He’s a very good two-year-old and looks to be in really good form.”
Godolphin have a second string to their bow in the John Gosden-trained Cymric, who ran a tremendous race when only beaten a neck in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp earlier this month.
Aidan O’Brien is two-handed with Dundalk Listed winner Hit It A Bomb and the Lagardere sixth Shogun.
Hit It A Bomb is unbeaten in two starts, most recently winning a Listed race on Polytrack having made his debut in a Curragh maiden.
Speaking after the Dundalk race, O’Brien said: “He’s a very nice horse. He’s come on well from his run at the Curragh and this race was important as he’ll learn from it as well.
“He has plenty of speed and you need to be quick around there (Keeneland).”
Richard Hannon feels Keeneland’s turning track will also help Illuminate last out the mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
She has yet to race beyond six furlongs but has shown herself to be one of the top of her generation with Group-race victories at Royal Ascot and Newmarket and was only half a length behind Lumiere in the Cheveley Park Stakes on her latest start.
There is a second British presence in the shape of Jeremy Noseda’s Nemoralia, who warmed up for this test with a second place on the dirt at Belmont Park four weeks ago. Alice Springs represents the O’Brien stable while Michael Tabor, best known for his connection with the Ballydoyle operation, will have his colours worn by the Todd Pletcher-trained Thrilled.
Race fitness could give Dynaste the edge in a wide-open renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby tomorrow.
While recent fixtures at Chepstow and Cheltenham have got the juices flowing, for many National Hunt enthusiasts this weekend’s meeting at West Yorkshire is when the new campaign really gets under way.
The main event has lost some of its lustre since the likes of One Man and See More Business were taking top honours, but this year’s offering is nonetheless intriguing.
The David Pipe-trained Dynaste undoubtedly has the talent to triumph.
A crack novice and a brilliant winner of the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham a couple of seasons ago, the flying grey endured a frustrating run last term, placing in Haydock’s Betfair Chase, the King George at Kempton and the BetBright Cup back at Prestbury Park in January.
An injury suffered that day curtailed his season, but he will head to Wetherby ready to roll after a pipe-opener over hurdles in France three weeks ago. An in-form Cue Card would be a major threat, but it is nearly two years since he last won a race, while Grand National hero Many Clouds is also respected, but he must concede 10lb to some of his major rivals and may not be fully tuned so early in the season.
With Dynaste, on the other hand, you get the feeling this might be his big day.
Rock On Ruby belatedly tackles three miles for the first time in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle.
Harry Fry’s stable star was due to face the longer distance in Cheltenham’s World Hurdle in March, only for a bad scope to rule him out of the Festival.
The 10-year-old was a clear second to Jezki in the two-and-a-half-mile Aintree Hurdle, but it is clear the 2012 Champion Hurdle winner has lost some of his old pace.
With the gallop likely to be less frenetic at Wetherby, there is every chance he can set his own fractions out in front and prove too good for his rivals.
WETHERBY: 12.50 Ennistown, 1.25 Killala Quay, 2.00 Rock On Ruby (next best), 2.30 Stephanie Frances, 3.05 DYNASTE (NAP), 3.40 Oliver’s Gold, 4.10 For Two.
NEWMARKET: 12.30 Kakashan, 1.00 Swiss Range, 1.35 Banksea (treble), 2.05 Haggle, 2.35 Ghinia, 3.10 Fire Ship, 3.45 Dancetrack, 4.20 Foolaad.
ASCOT: 12.40 Bekkensfirth, 1.10 Descartes, 1.45 Relic Rock, 2.15 Ulck Du Lin, 2.50 Nabucco, 3.25 Ned Stark, 3.55 Call To Order.
AYR: 1.15 Another Bill, 1.50 Glacial Rock, 2.20 Newspage, 2.55 Imjoeking, 3.30 Oliver’s Gold, 4.00 Glingerburn, 4.30 Busy Street.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 4.35 Perennial, 5.10 Hope Cove, 5.45 Daqeeq, 6.15 Lucky Di, 6.45 Red Cardinal, 7.15 Break Free, 7.45 Your Gifted, 8.20 Quantum Dot.