x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hannon Jr angry as Strong Suit denied Churchill Downs run

Preparation of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Breeders' Cup horse suffer after organisers close track following rain.

Strong Suit, right, seen here winning the Coventry Stakes, has had his Breeders' Cup preparations hampered.
Strong Suit, right, seen here winning the Coventry Stakes, has had his Breeders' Cup preparations hampered.

Richard Hannon Jr was relying on a sprinkle of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's luck to help Strong Suit on his way to victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile on Saturday, but a dose of anger was added to the mix on Thursday after European trainers were banned from training on the Churchill Downs turf track.

It was raining in Kentucky on Thursday and, as a precaution, the Churchill Downs executive prevented Strong Suit, as well as John Gosden's Elusive Kate and Sir Michael Stoute's Sea Moon, from training on the surface.

Hannon Jr, who was hoping Strong Suit could add to Sheikh Fahad's fortuitous win in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, launched a tirade. "It is an absolute disgrace, and I now know why my dad won't come to America," he said. "It has cost us £120,000 (Dh760,000) to bring Strong Suit to America, and we have been treated like second-class citizens.

"They had a bit of rain this morning, but it was nothing major and I could not believe it when we were told that we would not be able to work on the grass track.

"Our plan had been to give Strong Suit a good blow-out around two bends on the track, but that will not be possible now. There is no way we would gallop tomorrow, 24 hours before the race, so they have completely ruined our routine."

The argument has cast a shadow over the two-day Breeders' Cup meeting, which starts on Friday.

It is not as if Strong Suit's task was hard enough, with record-breaking three-time winner Goldikova standing in his way. The Qatari sheikh's colt was given one of the worst post positions in Tuesday's draw, starting from gate 11 of 13 on the tight track. Earlier on Thursday's card Meeznah, owned in part by Saeed Al Tayer, and Farraaj, owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, could get UAE-based owners off to a bright start in the opening two races, the Marathon and the Juvenile Turf. Nahrain, like Faraaj trained by Roger Varian, runs on Friday in the Filly & Mare Turf.

Godolphin has It's Tricky in Friday's Ladies' Classic, while Alpha, the only America-based horse to not run on the drug Lasix, lines up in the Juvenile on Saturday.

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