Trainer Wesley Ward is confident Royal Ascot hero Hootenanny is “cranked to the maximum” ahead of his bid for Breeders’ Cup glory in the Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita tonight.
Ward has become well known to British racegoers in recent years thanks to his exploits at the Royal meeting, and Hootenanny was regarded by many as one of the bankers of the week in the Windsor Castle Stakes in June.
The American challenger did not let his supporters down, showing blistering pace over the straight five furlongs to seal a runaway success.
The Coolmore-owned juvenile then headed to France to fill the runner-up spot behind The Wow Signal in the Prix Morny at Deauville. That fine effort over six furlongs in testing French conditions has given connections hope that the two-turn mile at the California circuit is within reach in the hands of Frankie Dettori.
Ward, who also runs course-and- distance winner Luck Of The Kitten, said: “He came back from Deauville absolutely fantastic and I think he’s going into the Breeders’ Cup really smoking. He’s as sound as new money and I think I’ve got him as cranked to the maximum going to Santa Anita.
“It’s up to Frankie to come through for us now, but I don’t think he feels the pressure. Both Hootenanny and Luck Of The Kitten are drawn good and I think Luck Of The Kitten will probably go forward and be the speed horse. Frankie should be able to place Hootenanny where he wants to. Hopefully, the best horse wins and, hopefully, we have the one-two!”
Hootenanny features in a 16-runner field for the first Group 1 event of the two-day Breeders’ Cup meeting, a race that has been won by European challengers five times since the first renewal seven years ago.
Aidan O’Brien saddled Wrote to victory in 2011 and George Vancouver to glory 12 months later. This year’s Ballydoyle representative is War Envoy, who has failed to win since making a winning debut at Naas in April, but has run well in defeat at Pattern level.
“War Envoy has a nice draw and has progressed from his run at Doncaster to his run in Paris. I think the fast ground will suit him,” said O’Brien.
Charlie Hills enjoyed Breeders’ Cup success for the first time with the ill-fated Chriselliam in last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf and has an interesting contender in Commemorative, who won the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket last time. Jockey James Doyle said: “I’m pleased with my draw. I gave him a good practice session when I let him dip down to the rail and scoot round the bends. That should help him quite a lot.”
Hugo Palmer saddles Aktabantay, who claimed the Solario Stakes at Sandown on his penultimate start before failing to get the breaks at Longchamp.
In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Richard Hannon says a good start is imperative if Osaila is to cap a memorable first season for the trainer with a Breeders’ Cup win. She won the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot in July and was a close fifth in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. She also turned in a dominant display to take top honours in a Newmarket sales race earlier this month.
The Al Shaqab Racing-owned filly will be partnered by Dettori. “American racing is all about speed, so Osaila will need to break well from stall two, otherwise she will get stuck in traffic on the inside rail,” the trainer said.
Jamie Osborne’s Prize Exhibit also takes her chance, while other domestic contenders include Chad Brown’s unbeaten filly Lady Eli and the Graham Motion-trained Rainha Da Bateria.