Highland Reel set himself up for the defense of his Breeders' Cup Turf crown with a meritorious run in defeat in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. Aidan O'Brien's globetrotter finished third to Cracksman on unsuitably soft ground, but conditions are expected to be far more in his favor at Del Mar on November 4.
O'Brien was satisfied with the run, particularly as Highland Reel covered more ground than his rivals as jockey Ryan Moore looked for better ground down the far side.
“We were delighted with his run. He has been off a long time and he is not a soft-ground horse, but we were over the moon with his run,” said O'Brien. “That (America) is what we would be thinking about.
“It was the only place we could get a little bit better ground, by going over the far side.”
Highland Reel will head a typically strong Breeders' Cup squad from Ballydoyle.
“I'm not sure about Hydrangea, but Rhododendron will go for the fillies' race and Roly Poly will either go for that or the Mile,” said O'Brien.
“We will see how Churchill is in the next few days and the lads will make a decision on what they want to do with him. It will be the same with Caravaggio. He could go up in trip, but I don't think he needs to.
“Yesterday (British Champions Sprint) he was coming along grand and he had to move out and met a bad bit of ground up the middle. Then when he got in off it he got going again, but it was just too late.
“September was second in the Fillies' Mile and could go (to Del Mar), and Happily didn't run at Newmarket so we will see how she is and she could go there. Clemmie is finished for the year.
“U S Navy Flag is a possible, as are the other horses that ran in the Dewhurst.
“Declarationofpeace is going for a five-furlong race out there on grass. War Decree could go for the Classic or the Mile.”
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