Sometimes in this ‘new normal’ life it pays to just embrace the unexpected, writes James Toney.
Top Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon was due to take rides on Irish raiders Order of Australia and Tarnawa at the Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland.
But a late positive test for Covid-19 meant he watched from the quarantined sidelines as they delivered brilliant victories for Aidan O’Brien and Dermot Weld respectively.
Ireland’s new Champion Jockey Colin Keane picked up the spare ride on the Aga Khan’s four-year-old filly Tarnawa – and got his tactics spot on to secure her third group one of the season.
Roared on by assistant trainer Mark Weld, Keane delivered his charge to perfection to cap off a week to remember with his biggest win yet.
O’Brien’s ever-popular Magical, in the final race of her storied career, finished second again, just as she had to Enable two years ago at Churchill Downs.
“This is the icing on the cake after a brilliant year,” said Keane. “It’s just lovely to get this victory to take home with me. It’s very unfortunate circumstances for Christophe. Mr Weld rang me the other morning and told me what was happening and rang me again today.
“We said that we wouldn’t really make a plan, so I rode her as I felt her. He did say it’d be lovely if I’d sat on her before because she’s a filly who takes a bit of knowing. I spoke to Oisin Orr, who rides her at home, and he said she was very straightforward. She relaxes and you can put her where you want. Everything seemed to work perfectly.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile boasted a packed field of European raiders, including Ger Lyons’s Siskin and Kameko, the respective winners of the Irish and English 2000 Guineas this year.
O’Brien has won 12 times at racing’s World Championships but never in the Mile, while a winless streak in America had reached 57 races – a quite improbable stat for the world’s top trainer.
However, what better way to snap that run than with a 1-2-3, long shot Order of Australia, with Pierre-Charles Boudot in the saddle, edging out Ballydoyle stablemates Circus Maximus and Lope Y Fernandez.
Order of Australia was only in the race as a reserve after One Master had withdrawn and had won just once in seven starts, a victory for Seamie Heffernan at Dundalk in September.
But in the space of a mile he took his career earnings from €28,000 to €912,905.
“Aidan told me before the race that he was a special horse for the mile and he was confident of a good run on a small track,” said Boudot.
“He did very well and the trip was perfect. The draw was difficult, but I took a nice place behind the leaders and he had a nice turn of foot.”
Order of Australia was bred by O’Brien’s wife Annemarie and is a half-brother to Iridessa, who made Joseph O’Brien the youngest trainer to win at the Breeders’ Cup 12 months ago.
“It’s quite remarkable to have the first three home,” said O’Brien’s travelling head lad Pat Keating.
“They are good horses, had good jockeys and good people are involved all the way, so this is for everybody.
“We’re happy to be a cog in the wheel. It’s a remarkable experience to be a part of.”
After two O’Brien seconds on the first day of Breeders’ Cup action, this was certainly a day for the European challengers, with Tipperary-born and Yorkshire-based Kevin Ryan winning with Glass Slippers in the Turf Sprint and James Fanshawe’s Audarya taking the Filly and Mare Turf.