John Magnier's high regard for the Breeders' Cup should guarantee Ballydoyle is well represented in California in November, with Saturday's QEII winner Rip Van Winkle leading the troops.
“Our dream is to have a bunch of runners at Santa Anita,” Magnier said after another successful Ascot raid. “The Breeders' Cup is an international event with a lot of prize money — we enjoy being there.”
Clearly, Rip Van Winkle is worthy of leading their team. He will head for the Classic — run on Polytrack — for which he is currently a 5/2 chance to emulate Raven's Pass, which completed the QEII-Classic double last season.
Rip Van Winkle's second Group One victory came after trainer Aidan O'Brien had spent several frustrating weeks trying to get him fully fit. An infection that spread to all four feet has been lingering, making the talented colt a day-to-day proposition as far as racing is concerned.
But on Saturday, he really made his mark. For, while Richard Hills played into his hands in setting a fast pace on Aqlaam, he then looked an easy target for Zacinto, as the inexperienced challenger got within a head of Johnny Murtagh's mount a furlong out. What was required was an extra surge of power, which ‘Rip' duly produced. Only exceptional horses quicken again, and this colt is that.
All season, Rip Van Winkle has lived in the shadow of stellar racehorse Sea The Stars, who beat him in the English 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Eclipse, but there's no doubt he is a top-class performer in his own right.
O'Brien's other scorer at Ascot, Joshua Tree, staked an early claim for the 2010 Derby with triumph in the Royal Lodge Stakes.
The Montjeu colt usurped stablemate Mikhail Glinka, which could never get in a blow, as he triumphed over Waseet and Vale Of York.
Under Colm O'Donoghue, the 12/1 chance survived a stewards' inquiry as the officials looked into interference with the third-home.
O'Brien commented: “He's a lovely colt which was very green on his previous start at Listowel where the line came too soon for him.
“He got a clear run, and showed what he can do with a good passage off a strong pace. Colm gave him a lovely ride and said the ground was beautiful.
“He's a good moving horse, with bags of speed.”
Meanwhile, Authorized's Derby-winning colours were back in the winner's enclosure as Richard Hills rounded off a near 202-1 Ascot treble aboard Sayif in the John Guest Diadem Stakes yesterday.