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Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #10: Declaration of War

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Basics:

(War Front x Tempo West, by Rahy)

  • Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
  • Jockey: Joseph O’Brien
  • Owned by: Mrs.J. Magnier/M. Tabor/D. Smith/J. Allen
  • Career Record: 12:7-1-1
  • Earnings: $1,347,489

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 7:3-1-1
  • 2013 accomplishments: G1 winner at Royal Ascot
  • Santa Anita record: 0:0-0-0
  • TrueNicks rating: A Variant 3.69
  • Dosage Index: 2.27
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: N/A
  • Won last prep - Juddmonte International (I) on turf by about 1 1/2 lengths

Summary: American-bred and Euro trained and raced, Declaration of War isn’t a true “invader” but possibly the most dangerous one to have shipped into the Breeders’ Cup Classic in some time. While lightly raced heading in, he has been dynamite in tackling top-tier fields overseas and while a turf horse, he has the genetic makeup to race over dirt. Possibly. The O’Briens team up for another go at the Classic, a race they long to win and nearly had it with Giant’s Causeway in 2000.

Prep Schedule: After a pretty nice three-year-old year, Declaration of War got his four-year-old season kickstarted nicely with a win in a Leopardstown stake in April, storming home late under a vigorous hand ride to win by about 2 1/2 lengths. A month later, he stalled in Newbury’s JLT Lockinge Stakes against high-class company and cutting back in distance, finishing a distant 5th to Farhh. Stretching back out for the Queen Anne (I) at Ascot, DoW made a sterling run against top company again (including Animal Kingdom) and prevailed, winning by about a length while displaying a great turn of foot. He fell short of a win in the Coral Eclipse (I) at Sandown next out, finishing 2nd to Al Kazeem by 2 lengths. Again cutting back for the Sussex (I), he finished 3rd behind Toronado and Dawn Approach before being 4th in the Prix du Haras. Regaining form, he closed summer out with a bang, turning back 10 days after his Prix du Haras defeat to win the Juddmonte International (I), exacting revenge on Al Kazeem and other top horses.

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Physique: Do handsome horses win big races? DoW doesn’t have the characteristic spread-eagle way of running like many good turf horses do, and appears to dig downward when making his late move in the stretch of his grass races. Paired with a great shoulder and really magnificent build, he could be a dirt horse after all.

Pedigree: Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky, and Northern Dancer are all mentioned twice in the first 4 generations in a well-balanced pedigree marked by speed on top and proven distance on the bottom. Sire War Front has been on fire this year in particular, siring fleet-footed horses, many of whom are able to stay a ways either on grass or dirt. Dam Tempo West, also the dam of G2-placed turf runner Vertiformer, is a half sister to Belmont winner Union Rags.

Running Style: Pacesetter or just behind the pace

Pros: He has the pedigree to potentially switch to dirt and is reportedly receiving very similar training to that of Giant’s Causeway— also trained by O’Brien— by getting a workout in at Southwell before shipping. A G1 winner in Europe, he’s beaten some real classy horses there, many of whom are better than some in this field.

Cons: Can a first-timer dirt horse beat some really tough foes on their home surface? How can he do off a layoff since August 21. The Euro shipper record isn’t that great, even for grass races. Even if this race was on Santa Anita’s old poly, it might still present a test.

Final Word: The most intriguing “longshot” of the field, Declaration of War is playable from a class perspective, and my overall opinion of his chances rest on how he moves on the dirt. His grandsire is Giant’s Causeway, who could do dirt and almost won this race, and War Front has been able to throw some good dirt horses. With that in mind, he moves into at least the upper half of the field.

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