It looks as though Found might forego defending her title in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and, instead, take on the best dirt horses in training in the $6 million Classic. And the question on everybody’s mind is does she stand a chance?
Well, perhaps I’m being too pessimistic. I mean, outside of Ricks Natural Star — remember that debacle? — every horse in the Breeders’ Cup has at least a puncher’s chance of winning. Still, the odds don’t look great for trainer Aidan O’Brien’s champion filly.
One of the reasons for that is O’Brien himself.
Look, there’s not much the 47-year-old conditioner hasn’t accomplished on the racetrack. His list of prestigious wins across the globe is as long as Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” (I’m exaggerating — but just a little). O’Brien has won the Irish 2,000 Guineas 10 times, the Irish Champion Stakes seven times, the Epsom Derby five times, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice, as well as the Hong Kong Vase and Cox Plate. He’s even won 10 Breeders’ Cup races.
But he hasn’t won the Breeders’ Cup Classic — despite a 14 previous cracks at it.
In fact, O’Brien hasn’t fared well with Breeders’ Cup runners on the main track, period. In 41 tries, he has visited the winner’s circle just twice and one of those scores came with Man of Iron over Santa Anita’s since-removed Pro-Ride surface. On natural soil, O’Brien has posed for pictures only once — with Johannesburg in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Johannesburg returned to America the following year and finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, another race O’Brien has failed to win (in five attempts).
Note: The Predicted Form rating is projected on the basis of a horse’s final odds. The Actual Form rating is based on the horse’s finish and is the same rating seen in my Pace Profile Reports.
Then, of course, there is Found’s running style.
Traditionally, the Classic has favored horses with tactical speed, as evidenced by American Pharoah’s wire-to-wire romp last year. Since 1997, horses with five Quirin speed points or more have won 14 of 19 Classic renewals and produced a 27.2 percent ROI; horses with fewer than five Quirin speed points (or an unknown point total, like Found) are just 5-of-19 with a -57.9 percent ROI over the same time period.
Worse, last year, the daughter of Galileo earned a +14 early speed ration (ESR) in winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The average early speed ration (ESR) for Classic winners is a -2, meaning Found will have to run about 16 lengths faster just to meet the par.
Granted, O’Brien’s charge certainly has the class to compete in the BC’s main event, as she has placed in seven consecutive Group 1 affairs. However, facing top competition hasn’t been as big a factor as one might think. Over the past 19 years, 73 Classic entrants last competed for a purse of $1 million or more — and only four won (0.44 odds-based impact value).