September 26, 2009

Do Not Sleep on Rip Van Winkle

Before his win two starts ago in the Sussex Stakes, Rip Van Winkle was in the midst of a four race losing streak. He was not living up to the enormous expectations people in the know had placed on him from a very early age. As if waking up from a twenty year slumber, things have all changed now. With his win today in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at the venerable Ascot Racecourse, the striking bay son of Galileo is squarely back on track. Rip Van Winkle has now won two consecutive Group 1’s and is now very much deserving of his claim to being one of the best horses in the world. In the QE II, favored Rip Van Winkle stalked the early pace of the older Group 1 winner, Aqlaam and easily put that runner away when asked three furlongs out. The race was soon taken up though as first Delegator, the second choice, and then Zacinto would make strong moves toward the favorite. Delegator was quickly dispatched and it was the unheralded Zacinto who would make it a race as he ranged right up within a half a length. Rip Van Winkle’s confident rider, Johnny Murtagh put down the pedal once more and his horse showed his class, as he won going away again to score by a length and a quarter. Zacinto, Delegator, and Aqlaam completed the order of finish in the four horse race. The top class, Mastercraftsman had been scratched Friday night in favor of his preferred stablemate, Rip Van Winkle.

What’s next for Rip Van Winkle? Much like last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, Raven’s Pass, he will use the QE II as a direct springboard to Santa Anita Park and the Classic.

Immensely successful trainer Aidan O’Brien has made little secret of his belief in the talent of Rip Van Winkle. The conditioner has twice been second in the BC Classic, first with Giant’s Causeway in 2000 and last year with Henrythenavigator. He would like nothing more than to add a Classic win to his impressive list of accomplishments. In Rip Van Winkle, O’Brien has a horse who is currently healthy after dealing with some nagging sore feet and is now putting it all together in the afternoon. The QE II score was his fourth win in eight starts, a record that becomes more impressive when you consider that all three of his losses this year were to European Superhorse, Sea the Stars. In fact in his last loss to Sea the Stars in the Group 1 Coral Eclipse, it was Rip Van Winkle who gave the champion his toughest race this year according to his trainer John Oxx. In that race, Rip Van Winkle gave every indication that the 1 ¼ mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic should be right in his wheelhouse and judging by how well turf horses have adapted to Santa Anita’s synthetic surface, he could well be one of the main horses to beat come November 7.


LDP said...

I would not dare sleep on this horse. If he keeps improving he'll be a major threat to the Classic.