x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Workforce ready to strike

So You Think trainer O'Brien expects plenty of improvement from his horse.

Ryan Moore and Workforce, right, lead the field on the way to winning on Derby Day at Epsom last year.
Ryan Moore and Workforce, right, lead the field on the way to winning on Derby Day at Epsom last year.

LONDON // It was the idea of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to pitch Rewilding, a true 2,400m horse, into battle over 2,000m with So You Think at Royal Ascot.

So You Think, the Australian import now trained by Aidan O'Brien, had won half of his eight victories in Australia over the distance, but in a race run at a decent pace, Rewilding simply ran down his rival in the dying strides.

It is a tactic that Sir Michael Stoute hopes will work today when Workforce, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, takes on So You Think in the Group 1 Eclipse at Sandown over 2,000m.

O'Brien blamed himself for So You Think's defeat two weeks ago, declaring afterwards that he had not put enough work into the horse since his victory over Godolphin's Campanologist in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in May.

So You Think is a giant thoroughbred, and dwarfed Rewilding as they entered the pre-parade ring at Ascot.

He clearly needs regular racecourse appearances to keep his girth in check. Last year he raced six times in just over a two-month period, and his second Cox Plate victory came only three days before his third in the Melbourne Cup.

"I would expect plenty of improvement from him," O'Brien said.

"He got tired and was just caught by Frankie [Dettori] in the last half-furlong and was beaten by a horse that gets a mile and a half well."

"Because he won his first two races so easily I didn't want to change things at home.

"His work has always been incredibly good, he does a demolition job at home and I think that maybe he needed to have done a bit extra because he has such a capacity for work."

If there is improvement to come in So You Think, who has raced 15 times during his career, there is a stack to come from the Britain-bred Workforce, who is not only a year younger, but has raced just six times.

Last season's Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner proved his effectiveness over today's distance at Sandown when beating Poet, owned by Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, by a length in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes in May.

It is a performance that has been thoroughly overlooked, considering Jan Vermeer and Cavalryman trailed in 11 lengths behind the pair. Both of those horses have Group 1 victories to their name, and Workforce gave them 4kgs due to his Group 1 penalty.

Workforce is similar to Rewilding in that he needs a fast pace over 2,000m if he is going to be fully effective.

The four-year-old has a lightning turn of foot and his Derby success 13 months ago knocked the best part of a second off Lammtarra's 1995 course record. That day at Epsom, Workforce had Rewilding almost eight lengths back in third.

The challenge to So You Think does not stop at Workforce.

The race may be billed as a match-up between the two best colts of either hemisphere, but lurking in the five-runner field is Snow Fairy, the globe-trotting filly with Group 1 successes in England, Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong.

If Rewilding's performance at Royal Ascot marks him as the best middle-distance colt in the world, today's race threatens to throw up a performance that will eclipse the Dubai Sheema Classic winner.

The gauntlet has been thrown down. It just needs Workforce, So You Think or even Snow Fairy to pick it up.