‘It’s important for the industry’ – Press Enterprise
Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden, two of the most respected trainers in the world, have been sending horses from Europe to the Breeders’ Cup for years, and they didn’t let the coronavirus stop them from competing in the 37th edition of the World Championships at Keeneland Race Course this weekend.
Thirty-seven horses from overseas were among the 184 entered Monday to run in Friday’s and Saturday’s 14 Breeders’ Cup races totaling $31 million in purse money. O’Brien, an Irishman, has entered 10, and Gosden three, all on the turf.
For both, it was an easy decision to put their horses on a plane despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
“We have been (seeing surges in Ireland) and all over the world, and I think we’re the same as well, in most countries in England, France and Europe, it’s the same,” said O’Brien, who has won 12 Breeders’ Cup races and will saddle the magnificent mare Magical in Saturday’s $4 million Turf.
“The Breeders’ Cup in America allowed it to happen and made it possible to happen, but obviously everybody has to be careful and very respectful of each other’s space and have their own space. And there’s the most important thing that everybody stays healthy. And we just felt it’s important for the industry and racing and everybody in the business … it’s very important for everyone to keep making (the effort) and do their best.”
Gosden has won five Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2008 Classic with Raven’s Pass. He was based in the U.S. early in his career, training 1983 Santa Anita Handicap winner Bates Motel, before eventually relocating to England, where he was born in 1951.
He won’t be at Keeneland this weekend, preferring to remain home while his more than capable team of horsemen handles matters in Kentucky.
“I have a full team going, but I won’t be there myself sadly this year,” said Gosden, an avid music buff who has saddled more than 3,000 winners worldwide, including more than 600 in the U.S. while stationed in Southern California. “I just, at the moment with everything going on, I’ve got an awful lot to run here and I got fabulous people going. I’ll leave it to them. And Mr. Dettori (jockey Frankie Dettori), he likes to play trainer too, so he can do both jobs.”
Gosden said everyone associated with the Breeders’ Cup has made it an easy decision to send horses to the U.S. this year.
“Everyone’s gone out of their way to make it feasible for us,” he said. “I’ve been most impressed with the protocols put in place and how helpful everyone’s been. And it’s not easy, but my staff had all COVID-19 tests … they were all negative. So look, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of protocols there on the ground. I know that jockeys aren’t allowed into the barn, so that’ll stop Mr. Dettori (from) trying to train them all from in the barn.”
Gosden has been a major proponent of the Breeders’ Cup since its inaugural running in 1984 at Hollywood Park when he saddled Royal Heroine to win the Mile.
“I’ve been a passionate believer in it, obviously, since we started at Hollywood Park,” he said. “I remember so many people turned up, we ran out of programs and we ran out of food, but it was a great day and phenomenal racing that day. It’s such a wonderful, wonderful international event. And if you ever have a horse capable of going there and belonging in a race, there’s nothing more than to run in a Breeders’ Cup.”
O’Brien has four horses entered Friday, including an also-eligible in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and six on Saturday. He’s also scheduled to send out Magical’s stablemate, Mogul, in the Turf.
Gosden, a fan of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Neil Young, has the Irish-bred Terebellum running in Saturday’s $2 million Filly and Mare Turf and will take on O’Brien’s tandem in the Turf with his own duo of Mehdaayih and Lord North.
What: 14 championship races worth $31 million in purses.
When: Friday and Saturday.
Where: Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
International horses: 37, including Magical, the 8-5 favorite in the Turf who’s won three Grade I races in Ireland this year and seven overall.
Biggest race: Saturday’s $6 million Classic, which includes a field of 10.
TV times: 11 a.m. Friday (NBC Sports Network); 9 a.m. Saturday (NBCSN); 11:30 a.m. Saturday (NBC).