Dermot Weld has no illusions about the task Tarnawa faces as she tries to become the third consecutive winner of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The Rosewell House manager is no stranger to international success, making his mark in the United States by becoming the first European to win a Triple Crown race with Go And Go at the 1990 Belmont Stakes.
Weld also has two Melbourne Cups and a host of other races on the world stage on his illustrious resume, but a Breeders’ Cup victory had eluded him until Tarnawa’s brilliant display with Colin Keane at Keeneland 12 months ago.
The coach himself did not make the trip to Kentucky due to coronavirus restrictions, but nonetheless enjoyed the success from his home in County Kildare.
“It was a special occasion. My son Mark was there and I watched the race with my wife Mary and my second son Kris,” said Weld, who has traveled to California this year.
“We were hoping for a hot streak, but winning was an added bonus. It was exciting, it was late at night and we enjoyed it immensely.”
“I always liked the challenge (of traveling with horses); in the early days, I was probably one of the first to travel with horses around the world. We won the first international race in Hong Kong and then we were very lucky and won two Cups. from Melbourne “.
Tarnawa was completing a high-level hat-trick at Keeneland last season, following a pair of Group One wins at ParisLongchamp.
A year later, Shamardal’s daughter will defend her crown after successive defeats, although she has lost little in finishing second in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, only being denied by Torquator Tasso in the latter.
Weld added: “She is a very brave, very tough and genuine filly and gives 110 percent every time she runs. She was tired for a week after Paris, so we let her have a good time and freshen her up.
“A victory at the Arch would have been special. She fought like a lioness and sadly we fell short.
“I don’t think the ground beat us at the Arch. He did an excellent race. I just think he had very little room to maneuver, and a very, very good horse beat us that day. But he got a clearer race on the outside than U.S.
“I think she is just as good (as last season). In fact, I think she could be a little better mare this year; she has developed every year and is training a couple of kilos more than last year.”
Tarnawa will start from 11th place as he tries to follow in the footsteps of the previous two winners High Chaparral and Conduit, with Weld admitting that the prospect of a very fast surface is a concern.
He said: “I am very aware that (the terrain) that we are going to face is going to be much faster (than last year), and it is a concern.
“I think it’s what makes a true champion, if they can defend their crown on different surfaces a year apart.
“It will be a great challenge, a greater challenge than last year, I think. But she is still a really very good racing mare who responds to all the challenges that come her way.
“She is a very professional racehorse with a wonderful build, and that is what allows me to travel with her to different countries: her strong mental attitude and great build.
“In fact, I think race luck will decide this race – if Colin can maneuver from where he is, that will be our biggest challenge.
“We just have to be lucky, have breaks and things go the way she wants.”
Tarnawa leads a European challenge that also includes Roger Varian’s Teona, who missed the Arc due to testing conditions in Paris.
As a result, Sea The Stars’ daughter, who is listed at No. 10, will be making her first competitive appearance since inflicting a defeat on Snowfall at the Prix Vermeille in September.
“Their races didn’t go as planned at the beginning of the year,” Varian said.
“She ran on heavy terrain and had traffic problems, but we left her alone, and she has come back strong.
“She is in very good shape and comes here at her best at this time of year, she didn’t have a busy summer. She is a cool filly, she hasn’t raced since Vermeille and she proved to be a very good filly there.”
“Everything is a bit unknown after they got to the gates, but the good thing about her is that she is a natural athlete and travels. She is able to stay in the bridle, and that counts for a lot.
“La Turf is obviously a very strong race, but I think she fully deserves her place and we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully she can get a good position, and we’ll take it from there.”
Aidan O’Brien has won the turf a record six times, with successive victories for High Chaparral followed by victories for St Nicholas Abbey, Magician, Found and Highland Reel.
The Ballydoyle manager declared four for this year’s renovation, with Japan and Broome making the initial cut and the first reserve Bolshoi Ballet getting a run after well-imagined internal spending was withdrawn. Mogul remains on the reserve list.
Japan’s last two starts have been in the United States, with a second place finish in the Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga followed by a sixth place finish at the Belmont Turf Classic.
O’Brien said: “We are delighted with him. His last two races were very good, and he just got cut in his last two races.”
“He is very good, we are very happy with him and we hope to see him race.”
“Broome won their Group One in France and it has been very consistent throughout the season.
“He needs to break down well, because we would be very happy to lead.
“The thing about the Bolshoi Ballet is that they have a lot of experience here.”
Charlie Appleby also rides two riders who are experienced in North American racing, with Jockey Club Derby winner Yibir, along with Canadian International winner Walton Street, his stablemate.
“Walton Street is now seven years old and is a garden favorite,” said the Moulton Paddocks manager.
“He put in a good performance in Germany in his first outing after a break, finishing just behind eventual Arc Torquator winner Tasso, and then he had a dominant performance in Canada.
“He deserves to be there; he may not be good enough to win it, but he will not look out of place.
“Yibir started the season racing in classic events and running well, but not running the simpler races you would like to see.
“He was gelding before the summer and he won the Bahrain Trophy. Then he disappointed us again at Goodwood, so we changed our tactics and left the hood at York where the Great Voltigeur won.”
“The plan after that was always to go to New York for the Jockey Club Derby, and he won it well.
“That was a ‘Win and you’re in’ race onto the Breeders’ Cup turf. He goes there as one of the youngsters, but if he brings his A game, it’ll be very competitive.”