As places for “On The Spot” tips go, this surely beat the lot of them. Late yesterday morning the informed expert looked down at the wonders of sun scorched Meydan Racecourse and made a convincing case as to why Twice Over should turn the tables on Gio Ponti and give Henry Cecil the most spectacular success of his whole extraordinary, 10 championship, 24 classic career. There was a splash as he spoke. We were on the rooftop in the infinity pool.
Being part of these international build ups is like going to a big fight in Las Vegas except that there are not two contestants but 14. Every trainer always says his man (in this case horse) is in better shape than ever, that whatever blimp affected him previously has now gone, that he is looking for a big show but no he can’t really discuss tactics he will leave that to the jockey. This week Henry Cecil has said those usual things with his usual, diffident, chain smoking charm but the man on the roof was a bit more forthcoming. Trainer David Lanigan was Cecil’s assistant when Twice Over was an unbeaten two year old and has been a devotee of the horse ever since.
“I couldn’t believe, “ said Lanigan from our blue water eyrie, “how much the horse has thrived physically since I saw him win the Champion Stakes in October. Not many horses improve markedly from four to five, but I think he has.” Of course, on the Breeders Cup form when Gio Ponti and Twice Over were second and third to Zenyatta there is one and a quarter lengths to find, Cecil’s colt has one and a quarter lengths to find on last year’s American Turf Champion and the argument for him doing so is as much based on the rhythm of the race as on assertions from the clouds.
With the only natural front runner, the 100-1 Saudi trained outsider Amor de Propre, being drawn in stall 14 and the St Leger winner Mastery in 12, Twice Over’s 11 box may well prove more trouble free than his rival’s stall 4. If that is so, and if the admirable Vision d’Etat is affected by yesterday’s worries, Twice Over could get the run of the race which is likely to feature slingshot finishes from Crowded House, Allybar and the lovely, very feminine looking Japanese filly Red Desire.
Of that trio, the Japan Cup third is much the highest rated, and with the other American form and of Fallon’s ride Gitano Fernando not really cutting it, the chestnut Crowded House might at last be ready to deliver some of the limitless potential he showed in the Racing Post Trophy two seasons ago. Last time, his first effort on the Tapeta surface, he took time to get going and then ran into traffic in the straight. With his confidence growing, and with American ace John Velasquez very much at ease with his new partner these last two mornings, Crowded House has a lot in his favour.
So has the race and not just as the latest example of Dubai’s achieving the mind-bogglingly impossible. For it’s hard to think of anything that could steal the focus away from the most astonishing racing stadium that has ever or will ever be built beneath the skies. But if Henry Cecil and Twice Over walk into the Meydan winning circle, why, even that pool might run dry.