Incoming Darley shuttler Medaglia d’Oro is poised to start the northern summer with a feature double on either side of the Atlantic this weekend.
On Friday, his USA Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra faces her moment of truth in the G2 La Troienne Stakes (1700m) at Churchill Downs. Then, 24 hours later, Sheikh Mohammed’s Medaglia d’Oro colt Al Zir faces Coolmore star St Nicholas Abbey in the G1 English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Medaglia d’Oro has sired 14 black-type winners in his first two crops and he will stand at Darley’s Kelvinside base in NSW for a $88,000 (inc. gst) service fee this year. “We are delighted Sheikh Mohammed has decided to bring Medaglia d’Oro out here,” Darley’s Australia’s managing director Henry Plumptre said. “He is, quite simply, one of the best and most exciting stallions in the world.”
Medaglia d’Oro is a son of Champion Kentucky sire El Prado (Sadler’s Wells) and was a G1 winner of the Travers Stakes, Whitney Handicap and Donn Handicap.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has been pleased with Rachel Alexandra’s progress since her last-start loss in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes. “I’m very anxious for Friday,” Asmussen said. “We’re very happy with how well she’s travelling and we’re hoping this Friday’s race puts us back in the direction of where she was last summer.”
The $400,000 La Troienne Stakes is the main support on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. Last year, Rachel Alexandra set the standard by which all other Kentucky Oaks will be measured with her record winning margin of 20 lengths. She went on to win the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell and Woodward en route to being crowned Horse of the Year.
Eclipse award winner Blind Luck (Pollard’s Vision) has been installed an even-money favourite for this year’s Kentucky Oaks, nevertheless, trainer Eric Guillot warned racegoers not to discount his runner Champagne d’Oro.
The Medaglia d’Oro filly was runner-up in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks and will go out a $31 outsider. “I gave her a leisurely 1200m work-out (1.16.40s) last Saturday,” Guillot said. “Times don’t mean much; what does matter is having your horse right on race day.”
AL ZIR was beaten six lengths by St Nicholas Abbey in the G1 Racing Post Trophy late last year but he has been backed to turn the tables in the G1 English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
Al Zir (3c Medaglia d’Oro – Bayou Plans by Bayou Hebert) has been a major market mover this week although Coolmore colt St Nicholas Abbey remains a firm 6/4 favourite to win the opening classic of the English season.
“Al Zir is improving all the time and we’ve been very happy with his preparation,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said on Wednesday. “He pleased Frankie Dettori in a main piece of work last week and again on Monday.
At the same time, bin Suroor made it clear he believed the colt will be an even more potent force when stepped up in distances beyond 1600m later in the year.
Al Zir was a US$1.60 million buy for Sheikh Mohammed at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2yo Sale in March last year. He was a four-length winner on debut at Newmarket in August and then made all the pace to win by five lengths at Doncaster in September.
He was raised to 1600m for the Racing Post Trophy in October and, although well beaten, pleased his connections. “We’ve liked him from day one,” bin Suroor said after his win at the St Leger meeting. “He’s a horse for next year.”
Al Zir is a half brother to Midas Eyes (Touch Gold) who was a G1 winner of the 2004 Forego Hcp at Saratoga. He stands at Empire Stud in New York and his first crop juveniles last year included the Listed winning fillies Precious Song and Deposit Record.
Stablemate and fellow Medaglia D´Oro colt Passion For Gold has been sidelined after straining back muscles this week. He was a 10/1 second favourite for the English Derby on June 5 behind St Nicholas Abbey who is best priced at 7/4.
Passion For Gold (2c Medaglia D´Oro – C’Est l’Amour by Thunder Gulch) was placed behind St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu) in the G2 Beresford Stakes in September before scoring a convincing victory in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in November.