Breeders' Cup - At The Races


  • Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
  • Likely Jockey: Ryan Moore
  • Owner: Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith
  • Age & Breeding: 3-year-old filly; Galileo – Halfway To Heaven
  • Season Form Figures: 22P71
  • Career Highlight: Overcoming adversity grind out victory in the Prix de L'Opera.

The subject of medication in American racing is one that still divides, prompting fervid and passionate debate. When Breeders' Cup Ltd prohibited the use of anti-bleeding drug Lasix on juveniles in the 2013 Breeders' Cup, it looked as though a line had been drawn in the dirt. Yet a lack of support from American racetracks prompted an embarrassing volte face, with the ban repealed after just a year.

For all the rhetoric - and whilst acknowledging that there are undoubtedly some highly dubious practices carried out via the administration of drugs on American thoroughbreds - there are undoubtedly some horses that genuinely benefit from the application of race day medication. And this year, it could be a European runner who is set to gain the most.

This time last year, Rhododendron was fresh off the back of an emphatic victory in the Fillies' Mile, storming clear of stablemate Hydrangea and catapulting herself to the head of the market for both the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks. Despite remaining there until the start of both contests, Rhododendron was only able to manage two second places. Disappointing, initially, but no small feat in light of the subsequent achievements of her conquerors - Winter and Enable.

These runs represented the high points of a season that took a dramatic negative turn. Aidan O'Brien's filly was pulled up, when again well fancied, in the French Oaks having bled badly.

Having missed the main part of the season due to the effects of this, she returned at Leopardstown when the stable third choice and ran respectably in the circumstances despite managing only seventh of ten, looking sure to benefit from the run.

She duly stepped forward from that run in the Prix de L'Opera, grinding out a victory from her stablemate, and regular foe, Hydrangea. Rhododendron was caught a bit wider than ideal there, and the ground looked soft enough, so it was a particularly meritorious effort given the fact she will likely come on again fitness-wise.

It is testament to the genius of her trainer that he has managed to salvage anything from this season following the catastrophe at Chantilly. And there's a strong suspicion that she may be capable of achieving greater heights still.

With the conditions of the Filly & Mare Turf – a tight, firm nine furlongs likely to suit her ideally, it's hard not to see Rhododendron playing a significant role in the finish. She has the best form on show and, thanks to American racing legislation, her sole weakness, the propensity to bleed, is nothing that a prod of a vet's needle cannot resolve. In light of this, she looks the one to beat.