By Jon Lees
Royal Ascot winner A’Ali will head to the Breeders’ Cup seeking a victory in the Juvenile Turf Sprint that would “stamp him as the best five-furlong two-year-old there is around”.
Ed Crisford, son and assistant to trainer Simon Crisford, said the colt, who broke his maiden in the Norfolk Stakes, had been to Wolverhampton to train round the bend as part of his preparation for the opening race of the Breeders’ Cup, in which he will be joined by stablemate Al Raya.
A’Ali has won three times at Group Two level, with the latest victory coming in the Flying Childers at Doncaster in September, and qualified for the Breeders’ Cup through his Norfolk Stakes success.
“He’s been an incredibly consistent colt over five furlongs,” said Crisford jnr. “His only real disappointment was in the Prix Morny in which he was fifth. That was on testing ground over six furlongs, but he still ran all right.
“In the Morny he was up against horses like Earthlight and Golden Horde, who were first and second in the Middle Park Stakes. Over six furlongs, he just found it a bit too much on that ground.”
He continued: “He won the Norfolk, beating some proper horses, so we have had this race in the back of our minds and once he won the Flying Childers, we decided to get him ready for this race.
“There aren’t many five-furlong Group One races for two-year-olds, but if he were to win a Breeders’ Cup, it would really stamp him as the best five-furlong two-year-old there is around.
“He’s a compact horse and the Flying Childers was the obvious next race, and after dropping him back to five, he did it easily in the end.
“Santa Anita is a tight track and the draw will be key. He’s never raced round a bend, but we took him to Wolverhampton for a racecourse gallop, and got him to switch leads round that bend and he did it really well.”
Frankie Dettori will ride A’Ali with William Buick set to partner the filly Al Raya, winner of the Group Three Prix d’Arenberg last time.
“California should suit Al Raya a lot,” said Crisford. “She will love the ground and the bend. In her own right she deserves to be in the race as well.
“She ran really well in the Queen Mary and Kimari, who is also in this race for Wesley Ward, only beat her by a few lengths.
“We tried her in a few Listed races before putting her in a maiden. She then won the Group Three in France pretty easily in August, but there wasn’t really anything else suitable for her in Europe.”