By Jon Lees
The European challenge at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup lost one of its high-profile challengers when Crystal Ocean was ruled out of the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Trainer Sir Michael Stoute said the Hardwicke Stakes winner and King George runner-up had suffered “a niggle” which had prevented Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s colt joining the flight which shipped a group of 22 horses from England to the United States.
“We had to take him out yesterday,” said Stoute. “He wasn’t quite right. It was coming a little soon, just two weeks [after the Champion Stakes]. We felt he had taken the race well enough but then he had a niggle so we’re out.”
He added: “We are going to leave him for the year now. We are keeping him on for another season.”
Crystal Ocean was a 10-1 chance for the Turf, in which Stoute has gained four of his seven Breeders’ Cup wins, for what would have been his second clash with double Arc de Triomphe winner Enable.
The pair met in the September Stakes at Kempton which the filly won by three and a half lengths. On his latest start Crystal Ocean finished second to Cracksman in the Champion Stakes.
In his absence Liam The Charmer, winner of the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita last time out, is promoted into the field, which will be finalised on Monday.
Stoute is still set be represented at the Breeders’ Cup by Expert Eye and Mustashry who are both engaged in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Expert Eye was third in the 1m Group 1 Prix du Moulin on his last start, having won the Group 3 City Of York Stakes over 7f in August. Mustashry has won three out of four this year, most recently in the Group 2 Joel Stakes at Newmarket.
“Expert Eye travelled yesterday, and he has landed,” said Stoute. “Touch wood he will be all right in the next 24 to 48 hours, which is still important, but the journey went well. Mustashry would be en route now. He has gone under Sheikh Hamdan’s jurisdiction in a different plane.
“I think they are both good candidates. Expert Eye seems to be in very good form. Frankie Dettori rode him at York and he is on him again, which is good, as he knows him now.
“With the Mile you just hope you get a reasonable draw. Everything has got to go right in the Mile, it all happens so quickly. There will be 14 runners and you need the rub of the green.
“I was pleased when Sheikh Hamdan agreed to let Mustashry go because I think he is a very suitable candidate for a Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“Jim Crowley will be in Australia [to ride Muntahaa in the Melbourne Cup] so William Buick is riding Mustashry. Jim has gone to prepare for the Melbourne Cup. You can do the two but I think they wanted him there in good time to have a look at the place.”