GLOBETROTTING superstar HIGHLAND REEL lit up Santa Anita in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (11.37pm), and Ryan Moore will be hoping he can repeat the feat tomorrow night.
However, you can be certain Highland Reel won’t get the same uncontested lead this year, and I fancy the Sir Michael Stoute-trained ULYSSES to knock him off his perch.
Ulysses has had a cracking season so far, with two of his three wins coming in Group One races.
He was talked up when running in last year’s Breeders’ Cup as a three-year-old, where he ran green and finished fourth behind Highland Reel.
Stoute likes to give his horses time to mature and has said that Ulysses’ last trip to the US made a man of him.
Now a four-year-old, he heads to Del Mar as the real deal.
Stoute struck at the meeting last year with Queen’s Trust, and Ulysses has every chance of adding a third Breeders’ Cup Turf success to his trainer’s glittering CV.
He put in a top effort to finish second to Enable in the King George at Ascot, where he travelled like a dream before getting found out by the testing ground.
Del Mar’s firm surface won’t be a problem for Ulysses tomorrow.
Stoute has given him four weeks off since the Arc, and he heads to the Breeders’ Cup fresher than Highland Reel.
I have always felt that a tight track like Del Mar suits a strong travelling horse, and Ulysses fits the bill.
We haven’t seen the best of him yet and he looks the standout horse in the race.
Frankie Dettori is the man to follow at these big meetings, and he can surely work his magic on Ulysses.
Take the 11/4 with Ladbrokes.
Aidan O’Brien fields three runners, and the Ballydoyle handler’s attack is spearheaded by the aforementioned Highland Reel, who is likely to chase Ulysses home.
He is a six-time Group One winner and has earned over £6 million in prize money.
It is rare for Coolmore to keep a colt in training at five, and connections must feel he has a bit more to offer yet.
Tomorrow’s rivals will be hot on his hooves the whole way round at Del Mar, ensuring that they don’t get caught out like last year.
O’Brien gave Highland Reel a three-month break prior to his recent Ascot run, but I think connections would have been wise to hang on for Del Mar’s better ground, on which he thrives.
His run at Ascot on soft ground could just take the sting out of his tail tomorrow.
Highland Reel has also been heavily campaigned over his last few seasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is starting to come to the end of his tether.
SEVENTH HEAVEN is O’Brien’s second-string here, and the only filly set to run in the race.
She was marvellous last season when winning back-to-back Group One races, but her luck ran out after she picked up an injury back in May.
On her last two starts she has shown little spark, albeit on unsuitably soft ground.
A return to a quicker surface at Del Mar could see Seventh Heaven reproduce some of that cracking form from last year, which would put her right in the picture at a tempting 12/1 with Coral.
Seamie Heffernan successfully pulled off a positive ride last year on board Highland Reel, and the chances are that he will employ similar tactics again on Seventh Heaven.
Of the US contingency, Chad Brown’s Beach Patrol looks the main threat.
He heads to Del Mar off the back of two Group One wins.
However, I am opposing him based on his draw, as starting from stall 12 of 14 will make life very difficult, no matter how good the horse is.
Of the rest, Decorated Knight deserves a mention.
Roger Charlton’s colt rarely runs a bad race and was a ready winner of the Irish Champions Stakes last time out.
There is a big question mark about him seeing out the 1m4f trip, though, and he has come up short against Ulysses twice already this season.