Having looked rather feeble a few days ago, the European challenge at the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park on Saturday week has been transformed by late reinforcements.
George Washington and Passage Of Time have been diverted from the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, respectively to the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Filly & Mare Turf. And yesterday Godolphin pulled a rabbit out of their hat by nominating Ibn Khaldun for the Juvenile Turf race.
When included among three additions to the series – all run tomorrow week, on the eve of the main event – this race looked an ideal target for the Europeans. But it has conspicuously failed to dilute the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, unmistakably the best juvenile race of the season. With Rio De La Plata engaged at Newmarket, Godolphin have confirmed their renewal as a force in two-year-old racing by fast-tracking Ibn Khaldun to New Jersey.
It is less than a month after he won an Ascot nursery off a rating of just 85. But he has since returned to the same course and beaten Group Three rivals with no less contempt than he showed his inferiors that day. Bookmakers certainly like his chances, with William Hill making him 7-2 favourite.
But there is no mistaking the standard-bearer for the overseas raiders. Dylan Thomas is as short as 4-5 with Coral for the Turf, his ninth race in what is surely as searching a campaign as has been embraced by any champion of recent years.
Aidan O'Brien yesterday praised his "unique" resilience. "He has a super constitution, is very tough and never loses much weight from his races," the Ballydoyle trainer said. "It seems to be that the harder his races, the better he seems to come out of it and he improves all the time."
Dylan Thomas will be joined by two rivals from Europe, namely Champs Elysees (trained by André Fabre) and last year's winner, Red Rocks (Brian Meehan). O'Brien also has the favourite in the Mile, Excellent Art being nowhere bigger than 7-2 with Totesport, and saddles Achill Island, second in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Scot last month, against Ibn Khaldun. And George Washington will be back, having finished sixth in the Classic at Louisville last time.
"He's a very fresh horse this time," O'Brien noted. "Last year, he'd had a tough season and was probably a little bit washy-looking. He ran a good race last year, when he had a little bump in the straight and lost his balance, otherwise he could have been placed. We hope there is a lot in his favour."