Aidan O’Brien believes Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck possesses the necessary tools to provide him with a record seventh victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Saturday.
It is 17 years since the Ballydoyle handler first landed the prize with that season’s Derby hero High Chaparral. The same horse dead-heated in 2003, and O’Brien has since added to his tally with St Nicholas Abbey (2011), Magician (2013), Found (2015) and Highland Reel (2016).
Following his Epsom triumph in early June, Anthony Van Dyck failed to reel in stablemate Sovereign when bidding to complete the Derby double at the Curragh and disappointed in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
However, his third-placed finish behind esteemed stablemate Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes was a definite step in the right direction and O’Brien is delighted with how his charge has acclimatised to his new surroundings.
He said: “I’m very happy with him and the way he has come over here. If you look at his record this year, he just had one little blip on bad ground in the King George, when I shouldn’t have run him.
“But he put in a great run, I thought, in the Irish Champion, and has been for a racecourse gallop at Dundalk since.
“I think the trip, ground and track are all good for him here at Santa Anita. The Turf was always a race that we thought would suit him as he likes nice ground, he has the pace for a mile and a quarter and he gets a mile and a half.
“He’s a lovely horse with a lovely mind and he’s a great mover.”
O’Brien has a second string to his bow in Mount Everest, while British hopes are carried by the Charlie Appleby-trained Old Persian.
Winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, the four-year-old son of Dubawi has run only three times since — disappointing in the Coronation Cup at Epsom before finishing third in Germany and winning the Northern Dancer Stakes in Canada last month.
Appleby said: “It was always my plan to come straight here after Canada. He has a great spring in his step and is full of beans.
“He’s by Dubawi, and as we all know, he’s capable of anything. I respect the claims of Bricks And Mortar greatly, as well as Aidan O’Brien’s horse, but Old Persian certainly won’t look out of place in the field and I’m happy with gate 10.
“Obviously we have lost horses from the Turf that will make our task more straightforward, but I’m not counting my chickens as it’s always a very tough race to win.”
William Buick partners Old Persian and is similarly hopeful ahead of the Sky Sports Racing-televised feature.
“He couldn’t have done it any better at Woodbine. It wasn’t the toughest of Group Ones, but it gave him a lovely confidence boost,” said the jockey.
“He looks great, he’s been a model of consistency and has tactical speed over that trip, which will be a big help to him.
“Bricks And Mortar was hugely impressive in the Arlington Million, but he’s stepping up a quarter of a mile in what is a fairly open affair. The race isn’t as strong as it looked like it was going to be, so hopefully we will go close.”
Bricks And Mortar very much heads the home team for trainer Chad Brown.
The son of Giant’s Causeway was winning his sixth race in succession when beating O’Brien’s Magic Wand by little under a length in the Arlington Million on his latest outing, and now tests the water over a mile and a half for the first time.
“If he gets the mile and a half I think he’s going to be tough (to beat). He’s training great and he’s really settled in his work, so I think he’ll stay the mile and a half no problem,” Brown told Sky Sports Racing.
“I think when you look at previous editions of this race, it definitely could be argued there’s been much stronger fields, but nevertheless it’s a full field and there’s some really nice horses in there.
“You’re going to have to run a really good race to win.”