Ulysses won the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Tom Kerr at Santa Anita 7:29AM 3 NOV 2016
SIR MICHAEL STOUTE has won the Breeders’ Cup Turf four times but admits his runner in this year’s race represents a major punt.
Ulysses was a talking horse for the Derby but finished well down the field at Epsom and met with defeat last time out in the Group 3 Winter Hill at Windsor. On Saturday he will face an Arc winner in Found, a King George winner in Highland Reel, and a five-time top-tier winner in Flintshire.
“Do you think I should have stayed at home?” joked Stoute as he was asked to assess his colt’s chances against such august opposition.
“People might think I’ve gone crazy, that I’m getting reckless,” he added. “We’re taking a punt with Ulysses but he’s beautifully bred horse and the experience is going to do him an awful lot of good for the future as well.”
Ulysses, a 12-1 shot for the Turf, won the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and, by Galileo out of Light Shift, has a pedigree to die for.
“He’s got a reasonable level of form although he’s certainly got to improve,” Stoute said. “I hope he’ll be competitive and I always had this race in mind for him.”
Ulysses worked with stablemate Queen’s Trust, who is 7-1 for the Filly & Mare Turf, on Wednesday morning.
Stoute said: “Queen’s Trust was unlucky at Newbury, where she got trapped on the fence, then she got messed about at the start in the Ribblesdale at Ascot. She got interference soon after the start in the Filly & Mare race [on Champions Day], it just hasn’t gone her way this year.
“She ran a beautiful race in the Nassau over a mile and a quarter [when second to Minding] and I think she’s entitled to be here.”
O’Brien enjoying life as a trainer
While Stoute is an old hand at the Breeders’ Cup, Joseph O’Brien is preparing Intricately to be his first runner as a trainer at the meeting, with the Moyglare winner 9-2 second favourite for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
O’Brien, who reported his filly in fine form, has of course been here before as a jockey for his father Aidan, but said he is relishing his new role as he reflected on the pressure he faced to make weight in his last months as a rider in 2015.
“When you’re a jockey you just turn up on the day and ride your race while training is a completely different aspect, but I wouldn’t change it,” he said. “I much prefer this side of it now. I don’t miss riding at all.
“The weight was tough and the last year I was riding it was kind of getting to me a bit, I was making stupid mistakes and the last couple of months I was looking forward to giving up. I got heavier and heavier as I went on and the last six to eight months it wasn’t great.
“I loved riding and I was very lucky to ride some unbelievable horses. I had some great days riding but I was never going to be riding when I was 40.
“Initially when I started riding I was going to ride up until I got 20 winners and then take three months off to get an amateur licence. That was my plan, but then I got going a bit quicker than I expected.”