Alec Laird Racing’s Facebook feed has been full of wonderful photos of Smart Call and her groom Bangeli Mngeni (Moffatt) enjoying the sun, sea and beautiful scenery in Mauritius (who said export was all bad?). Alec paid them both a visit last week and reported back on Smart Call’s progress as well as their plans for the road to the Breeders’ Cup.
“Smart Call is a true professional and is taking it all in her stride. She has thrown a bit of a coat, but she did the same this time last year and some of the other horses out there with her are also looking like they need a clip. Other than that, she’s doing well and seems very content. She gave me a nuzzle when I got there, so she seemed to remember me. The quarantine station is on the less busy side of the island and is on the edge of a nature reserve, so it’s very quiet and tranquil. Moffat said he hasn’t heard a siren since he got there.”
“It’s been a pleasure. The horses get to go into paddocks during the day and Karoline who’s there with her Friesan mare “Lilly” put up a hammock in the trees next to the paddocks. It’s all working quite smoothly. There are exercise facilities, including a track, although it’s not very long – probably about 750m in circumference with a straight less than 300m, so you can’t get up much speed, but you can canter. We’ll probably have her about 50% fit by the time we leave.”
“When we originally worked it out after the Woolavington, the plan was to win the Paddock Stakes to get the Breeders Cup invite and automatic qualification and then get going. At this stage we’re expecting to leave Mauritius at the end of June and she’ll go straight to Abington Place in Newmarket. We’d love to run her in the Arc, but it’s impossible to be ready to take on the best in the world over a mile and a half in three months, particularly as it will be her first run after a rest. But we might consider the Prix de l’Opera, also a top race on Arc day over 2000m.”
“I did a bit of a fact finding mission last year – I went to the Arc for the first time and then went on to Chantilly and Newmarket because I hadn’t been for so long. Jessica (Slack) has a share in Covert Love, the filly who won the Prix de l’Opera last year and France Galop have expressed an interest in having Smart Call, so it might be worth entering – one can always scratch. The thing is if you run when not fit enough obviously it will hurt and send you backwards. We’re going to need all of the four months to get her ready for the Breeders Cup – and that first run may only be a prep run, not sure she will be ready for Arc day, but we’ll see where we are a month before,” he muses.
While he contemplates his French options, the race currently targeted as their prep run is the Gr1 Sun Chariot Stakes over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket on 1 October. “It’s a Group 1 over the undulating Newmarket course, but we will be able to train on the course and get her used to it. Then the Breeders Cup is 5 weeks later, which fits in with the second run after a rest. A guy who was a semi-pro punter once told me a theory that a horse needs at least 4 weeks before going successfully from one distance to a longer one. If you run them within 10 – 28 days, that’s your risk period. You can run them over the same distance or less during that time, but over further your chances of success are very slim.” Is that true? He laughs, then adds mischievously, “Look it up.”
“At this stage we will travel with the other European horses for the Breeders Cup. They all fly a week before the event and are stabled together at Santa Anita.”
Any nerves yet? “The closer you get, the worse it is. If the horse is in good shape, you’re less nervous. London News did everything right, so there wasn’t much to worry about in the build-up, but on the day I sure was nervous. You get stressed out and nervous if things go wrong.”