Dubawi Legend bids to secure the big-race victory he has long promised trainer Hugo Palmer in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
The Newmarket handler has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the youngster, who made a huge impression on his racecourse debut at Doncaster.
Palmer admitted to being bitterly disappointed after he could manage only third place in the the Acomb Stakes at York on his second start.
But having raised his game when finding only star juvenile Native Trail too strong in the Dewhurst last month, hopes are high he can go one better in California on Friday.
“Dubawi Legend is the favourite or second-favourite and has the highest rating of any of the horses coming from Europe,” said Palmer.
“He was a very good second to the European champion two-year-old, Native Trail, in the Dewhurst.
“He’s only had three starts, so he’s still quite a young, immature horse, but he’s shipped over great.”
The obvious negative is the fact Dubawi Legend is drawn widest of all in stall 14, but Palmer is taking comfort from the fact it has been done before.
He added: “The post position is what it is – if I got to choose I wouldn’t have chosen 14 of 14, but I think it’s probably preferable to one.
“I’ve had all the statistics. Karakontie won the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita from stall 14 and Hit It A Bomb won this race at Keeneland from 14.
“Arazi also won (the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) from 14, so it’s been done before and we’ll do our best to do it again.”
Charlie Appleby has already won the Juvenile Turf on two occasions, having struck gold with Outstrip in 2013 and Line Of Duty in 2018.
This year the Moulton Paddocks handler fires a formidable twin assault, with Tattersalls Stakes winner Modern Games (William Buick) joined by stablemate Albahr (Frankie Dettori), who was last seen bagging a Grade One prize at Woodbine.
“Albahr got his ‘Win and You’re In’ slot in Canada, but had a nice, progressive profile going into that race. He’s a gelded son of Dubawi and conditions will suit him,” said Appleby.
“He’s been to Canada, so he ticks a few boxes in that he’s travelled and done track training.
“He might not be the best horse in the race, but he’s one of those horses with experience – and if it gets a bit rough around those turns, he’ll be able to handle himself.”
He added: “Modern Games is another son of Dubawi who won the Tattersalls Stakes in good style.
“He takes experience into the race, but he’s got a bit of class about him as well. He can travel very well, so he won’t lack the pace to go round Del Mar.
“They’re two different types. I’d say Modern Games would be more like Outstrip and I’d put Albahr in the Line Of Duty bracket.
“If anything, Modern Games would be just in front (of Albahr).”
Aidan O’Brien has a record four Juvenile Turf wins to his name and saddles another leading contender in the shape of Glounthaune, who was only sixth in the Dewhurst but has since won the Killavullan Stakes in Ireland.
O’Brien said: “Glounthaune started very early, then he had a little bit of a setback and missed the middle of the year.
“It was a long run to the Dewhurst and he just got caught in the middle of them and he was very green. It didn’t work for him on the day, but he learnt a lot.
“He went to Leopardstown only a week after and won a Group Three and then he was to go to France, but he had a little setback and didn’t go there. Then this was a lovely option for him.
“He’s stepping up to a mile for the first time, but we always thought that was within his compass.”
One of the chief hopes for the hope team is the Kenny McPeek-trained Tiz The Bomb, who has won three of his four starts in the Phoenix Thoroughbred colours.
“He’s a very easy horse to be around and loves his work. He’s had a couple of maintenance breezes since his victory at Keeneland and shipped to California in good order, so it’s all systems go,” said McPeek.
“I think he’ll be very competitive. The last two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf races have been won by Americans and his sire (Hit It A Bomb, winner in 2015) was a European horse himself.
“It’s a great chance for me to get my first win in the Breeders’ Cup. The horse is coming into it really well and you have to get lucky in these races.
“I’ve had a long list of second and thirds, but our day will come and if it’s not this weekend, it will be with another one; I’m optimistic.”
Wesley Ward possesses a formidable hand in his bid for a third successive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Del Mar.
The Washington-born handler claimed the Grade Two prize with Four Wheel Drive at Santa Anita in 2019, while Golden Pal struck gold on his home track of Keeneland 12 months ago.
Ward appears intent on adding to his tally in the first of this year’s Breeders’ Cup races, with the unbeaten Averly Jane joined by stablemates Twilight Gleaming and Kaufymaker.
The latter pair were both seen in action at Royal Ascot earlier in the year, with Twilight Gleaming filling the runner-up spot in the Queen Mary and Kaufymaker finishing down the field in the Coventry.
Ward said: “We’re doing good and everything looks great.
“Averly Jane is going to be tough (to beat), but I like Twilight Gleaming too. She’s in there with a really good chance as well and I think Kaufymaker is coming into it in good shape too.
“All three have good chances and they all deserve to be there.”
The British challenge is made up of Dave Loughnane’s Go Bears Go, the Brian Meehan-trained Vertiginous, Hugo Palmer’s Hierarchy and Armor from Richard Hannon’s yard.
Railway Stakes winner Go Bears Go is fitted with blinkers for the first time as he bids to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Dewhurst at Newmarket last month.
“He’s been a star – he’s not missed a beat,” said Loughnane.
“Things didn’t go to plan in the Dewhurst and with hindsight we probably should have gone for the Middle Park and come straight here.
“We freshened him up since the Dewhurst, everything seems to be going to plan, he’s in good form and I couldn’t be happier with him.
“He’s had a long year, but the owners were quite keen to come and there aren’t many opportunities to have a crack at a pot like this.
“He’s danced every dance so far and if it works, great, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”
Vertiginous was last seen winning the Listed Harry Rosebery Stakes at Ayr and Meehan could not be happier with how she has settled in since arriving in America.
He said: “She’s travelled really well and she looks fantastic. She’s tip-top.
“I got on a pony myself to get alongside her the other day, doing that it means you can just change your plans when you want to. I think this course could be perfect.
“I think she’s a serious sprinter and it’s great to get Javier (Castellano) on her.
“I think she’s got something special, but whatever we see, we’ll see more from her next year.”
Palmer expects a drop in distance to bring the best out of Mill Reef runner-up Hierarchy, saying: “He’s been doing great and has been Group-placed twice in England.
“He was just touched off a head over six furlongs in the Mill Reef and I think coming back a furlong to five should really suit him.
“We’re hopeful, but that’s all we can be at this stage.”
Irish hopes are carried by the Michael O’Callaghan-trained Twilight Jet, who successfully reverted to the minimum distance in Newmarket’s Cornwallis Stakes four weeks ago.
“It’s nice to have a horse good enough to come and compete – we feel,” said O’Callaghan.
“He’s getting better, his ratings show that. He takes his travelling so well, he’s got a great constitution as he can take so much racing and get better with it.
“With every run he’s just got stronger, developed and got bulkier – he’s thriving.
“He’s a very balanced horse and handles the dip at Newmarket like it’s not there, so that bodes well – and he’s been around the turn at Dundalk to teach him to quicken around the bend and he managed that.
“Most horses don’t run 10 times as a two-year-old, but he’s a little bit different.”