Some Breeders’ Cup Q and A with Oisin Murphy, Aidan O’ Brien, John Gosden, Ken McPeek, and Bob Baffert

November 2, 2020

There is a lot to take in when an event like the Breeders’ Cup is looming. At Past the Wire we love some good horse racing Q and A and we thought we’d bring you some to get you a leg up on this year’s event.

To start things off, we caught up with Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy who is looking forward to coming and competing in this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

Oisin has taken a short time to develop into a world class champion jockey winning major races all over the world.

Jonathan Stettin

It has been a crazy year in racing but we have managed to keep things going through the pandemic. How has it been different for you as a rider with no fans in the stands?

Oisin Murphy:

It’s been really really strange having no fans, especially at the big meetings like Ascot, Goodwood and York.

Jonathan Stettin:

Do you think the absence of fans has had any effect on the horses? Are they calmer? Is it an advantage for high strung horses?

Oisin Murphy:

Obviously the horses are much quieter and it has had a positive effect on most of them.From an adrenaline point of view though no, it’s not the same. It’s an advantage for highly strung horses, no doubt about it, no doubt.

Jonathan Stettin:

When you learned Kameko was skipping Champions Day in favor of the Breeders’ Cup what was your first thought?

OIsin Murphy:

I was on Kameko the other morning before a final decision was made but after hearing he was going to the Breeders’ Cup I was extremely pleased. Had he stayed at Ascot he would have faced a few horses who absolutely love the mud or boggy turf courses and I firmly believe Kameko is better on a sound or firm surface.

Jonathan Stettin:

Do you think Kameko will be well suited to US racing and if yes why?

Oisin Murphy:

I feel he should be fine in America because he has gate speed and he is a fast horse. Hopefully with a good draw he can get into a good position into the first turn, then travel down the back and turn into the straight in a perfect position to attack.

Jonathan Stettin:

You are a Champion Jockey with success in major races in different parts of the world, where does the Breeders’ Cup rank on the world stage as far as prestige and importance?

Oisin Murphy:

Oh, I’d love to win a Breeders’ Cup race. It would mean so much to get it on my CV. All the top riders have Breeders’ Cup victories to their name and it would just be massive. There is no better, it’s a great festival and gets such recognition. In other years so many stars from other sports and industries would go to the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a massive event.

Jonathan Stettin:

At this early point, who in addition to Kameko are you booked to ride and you can tell me a bit them?

Oisin Murphy:

At this point I’m booked to ride Kameko and The Lir Jet. The Lir Jet was second in a Group 1and he won the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. He is going to step up in trip and go in the Mile turf race. He’s obviously a two-year old who has been on the go all season but we really like the horse and think he’ll get a mile. He’s very easy to ride so the track and US racing shouldn’t be an issue.

Jonathan Stettin:

Do you feel more or less pressure at this point in your career being a Champion Rider who is well known all over the world as opposed to an up and coming rider? How if at all is it different?

Oisin Murphy:

I suppose I feel the pressure to keep riding winners, you know that has never changed. I never look at myself as a Champion Jockey, that’s never crossed my mind, even now. Yeah, I like winning big races all over the world, I haven’t won one yet in America but have won a Group 1 in Canada so a Breeders’ Cup victory would really be massive!

The following is from the Breeders’ Cup teleconference.

Jonathan Stettin:

Hello, Aidan. How are you?

Aidan O’Brien:

Hey, Jonathan. How are you? Good, thanks.

Jonathan Stettin:

You had said earlier that Mogul had had a busy year, and I know that you intended to run him in the Arc. Do you think that the extra time off in coming here will be a benefit to him? And, if yes, why?

Aidan O’Brien:

Yeah, I think I definitely won’t be any harm to Mogul, but he is a big horse, a powerful horse that takes his races very well and is always very happy to race. We were looking forward to the acquisition because his trail was very good. And he won the [Grand] Prix de Paris but obviously none of our horses got to run that day. The ground was very bad that day, so that wouldn’t have been ideal for him or maybe that wasn’t too much of a disadvantage, especially coming forward, looking to this race. But we are of course – like this track would suit him. He’s a pacey horse. He loves nice ground, and a flat track suits him. So I suppose to answer your question, I don’t think it isn’t, and we’re happy with what he’s doing that at home at the moment.

Jonathan Stettin:

Has a decision on rider been made they’ve been made with him yet?

Aidan O’Brien:

No, no. Obviously the plan is for Magical to go there as well. And then what we always do then is we have a discussion with Ryan to see why he’s wanting to ride first. And then, and then we go from there, really.

Jonathan Stettin:

Thank you, Aidan. Always a pleasure. Thank you.

Aidan O’Brien:

Pleasure. Thank you very much

John Gosden on Lord North:

John Gosden:

Well, his last race unfortunately was run on a quagmire, which wasn’t a lot of help to him nor to who was in the same race was Magical. She also found the track far too deep. We’d have record rain here in October. So both with the Arc in Paris, and then with our Champion still[?] here, you were running in the deepest ground I’ve ever seen, and it was that drying out ground, which becomes very sticky, very gluey. It’s better, maybe when it rains and it’s looser and wetter, but he couldn’t handle that. Prior to that, he ran a lovely race. Third in the Juddmonte international at York, and obviously won the Prince of Wales, but we’re looking forward to running him here. We worked nicely this morning with Frankie Dettori on him. And so planning to … the plane leaves, Stansted Airport here which is just North of London, between us and London leaving on Friday.

John Gosden on Terrebellum:

John Gosden:

Again, we had this record rainfall and it was very, very soft ground for Newmarket. They seldom called it heavy and that was the description they were giving on the day. So she found that a little bit testing. Her, probably, you know, her she’s obviously won the grade two this year. Her best run was probably in Queen Anne against the colts, against the boys over the straight mile of Ascot, Royal Ascot when she went down ahead to a very good colt that Aidan trained. So, you know, she’s in top form, ready for this race and she’ll be then heading to the breeding sheds afterwards.

She’s like most horses on tertiary?, likes what we call good ground. I mean, good, good to firm. I think Keeneland, you know, would be like that. We have to be a touch careful because it’s, you’ve had the full meet there. Then you, I know they bring the rail out a bit, but then you, you do have a lot of rain season in
the breeding program. And obviously see when we were there five years ago with Golden Horn, we had a massive amount of rain and unfortunately the track slightly fell apart and it was very loose. So I hope that doesn’t happen this year. I think your weather forecast seems a whole lot better and she’d be very happy on the surface if it doesn’t ride in any way loose or false, but that can sometimes happen if a sand base track gets an awful lot of wear.

John Gosden on Mehdaayih

John Gosden:

Actually she ran in the Prince of Wales’s and she ran really nice well into it. And then the race that day, she ripped her back in the race. So probably leaving the gate and she didn’t run that great. And we had whole time off with us. So only just managed to get her back to the races the other day. She ran valiantly on very testing ground over the mile and a half and ran a really good race, just basically struggled for fitness on it. It was so deep and having not run for such a long time, but she’s coming out of the race in great order. She’s a little bit of a wild card if you like, but she has plenty of ability. And she comes to the race remarkably fresh with only two races in the whole year.

On traveling to Keeneland:

John Gosden:

No, I’m not going to be traveling to Keeneland. No. I have a full team going, but I won’t be there myself sadly this year. I just, at the moment with everything going on, I’ve got an awful lot to run here and I got fabulous people going, so I’ll leave it to them. And Mr. Dettori, he likes to play trainers too, so he can do both jobs.

Thank you. Our next question comes from Jonathan Stettin with Past the Wire, please go ahead.

Jonathan Stettin:

Hello, Ken, how are you?

Ken McPeek:

Great, thanks.

Jonathan Stettin:

You know, so Swiss Skydiver has had an unbelievable campaign this year and she’s going into her tenth start. Obviously she’s doing great and not showing any signs, but, but despite that, is there ever any concern in a situation like this that it could be, you know, that one too many races where they just kind of regress a little bit or no concerns about that at all with her?

Ken McPeek:

No, I don’t have any concerns at all. She – we watch her feeds really close. We watch all our horses feeds. I think the better they eat, the better they run. She’s been so consistent with that. And we have a relatively uncomplicated routine with her and I think she’s into a nice patterns and I think she can hold it. I don’t think there’s a concern at all. If she were to ever back out of the feed tub, or if I thought that she was showing some fatigue, then we would certainly skip a race and choose to wait if we needed to. But she dragged us to these races to be honest. And so many times I’ve said, well, I’ll skip one and then I’ll wait. And then you can’t hold her down in the barn. And my staff say you better run her again, boss, because she wants to go. So here we are.

Jonathan Stettin:

That sounds good. Thanks Ken and best of luck in the cup.

McPeek on Classic or Distaff:

Ken McPeek:

Well, I really like her at a mile and a quarter would be the pro for the Classic. But also know it’s a deeper race on paper. And I don’t think that – well, another pro would be that she’s going to get a bit of weight off in the Classic as well. And actually, I’m not even sure what those numbers are right now. So that’s a couple of reasons to go that direction. You know, Monomoy Girl will definitely be the horse to beat in the Distaff and we know that and if we can, you know, step up our game and she’s certainly a top filly and you wouldn’t think that that race is going to be easy either and it’s not supposed to be. So like I said, we got to, we’ve got to study it and we’ll come to a conclusion soon here.

Brad Cox on Monomoy Girl:

Brad Cox:

Well, as far as getting her back to the races, I mean, it’s been – it was a long road. You know, we had a couple of setbacks at 2019 and it’s been a lot to us, our staff and everyone that’s involved with her to get her back to the races. And you know, for her to be able to compete as a grade one level one, when a grade one was you know, really amazing for us as a team to be able to give back – for her to be able to get back to that point. And honestly, we feel like she’s a better this year than she was at 2018. So you know, just it means a lot to us and our staff and obviously the owners for her to be able to not only make it back, but be able to compete at the grade one level means it means a lot.

On Essential Quality:

Essential Quality, obviously has a race over the Keeneland track; he trained there had been in the summer. So he’s familiar with Keeneland. He’s back at Churchill since his Breeders’ Futurity victory. He’s had two very nice works since his last race. And we think the sky’s the limit with this horse. He’s a very talented cult. He showed us a lot from day one and, you know, hoping everything goes well, gets a good trip. And you know, he’ll be in the mix. He’s a very nice colt.

On Aunt Pearl:

Aunt Pearl, a very fast filly, able to carry her speed around her turns. Another one that has experience at Keeneland. Obviously won there last time, and she was another one that trained there in the spring and summer. She’s had a really, really nice work last weekend, she’s doing well. And you know, she’s very, very, very talented filly.

Bob Baffert on having three, two with speed in the Classic:

Our first question is coming from JonathanStettin with Past the Wire. Please go ahead.

Jonathan Stettin:

Hello, Bob, how are you?

Bob Baffert:

Fine, thanks.

Jonathan Stettin:

When you have three horses in the Classic, and two of them appear to be early pace type horses, what insight can you give us into the rider instructions before the race and how you look for that to play out?

Bob Baffert:

Yeah, that’s a good question.

You have Maximum Security, I think last time we were sort of chasing some really speed that was, we knew was not really solid, real class [inaudible]. And I think post position and the break is going – that’ll tell the story. And so I’m going to – these riders are going to be on their own. They know their horses well. Saez knows Maximum Security better than anybody. And he told me last, when he rode him last time, he just wasn’t – the man, he left there and he was chasing and struggling, and we
would’ve been, you know, if it could have been it over, we would have just taken it back a little bit. And but it was, it was a crazy pace and Improbable you know, Drayden saw what was happening, he just let them go, and then he came and got him. So, you know, I think it’s going to be these jockeys, they know their horse and they’re going to ride the way they feel, play the break.

Jonathan Stettin:

Thanks, Bob. Good luck.

On Authentic:

Bob Baffert:

Well, I mean, I would’ve, you know, you prefer to give them more time, but I don’t think it’s going to affect him very much. I think he’s a horse that … the thing about my horses they have before they even run, they have a pretty good foundation on them. And so he’s got a great foundation. When the pandemic started in Santa Anita, when the racing stopped, I stopped on him and I think it affected him for the Santa Anita Derby. And so, but then we got him going again, and so he’s a very talented horse. He’s quirky, he’s a little quirky, you know. He looks at things and hears things, but you know, coming into this race, he’s doing really well. I mean, and my three-year-olds have won this race and, but he’s up, you know, he’s up against horses like Improbable and Maximum Security. They’re serious horses too. And so but he can run. I, you know, it’s harder to separate them right now. But I think, you know, if they have to bring their A game. There’s a lot of, you know, what I love about the Breeders’ Cup is that it’s all about the best horses, the best jockeys, and there’s good horses in there. I’m not just, I have my three, they’re very tough, but there’s some other good horses in there. So you’ve got Tiz the Law and, you know, he’s, I have a lot of respect for him. And so, but, you know, I really think that, they’re going to be passing out the championships that day and this is going to be a key race.

For more extensive Breeders’ Cup coverage check out our Breeders’ Cup page!

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