David Junior, rated by Timeform as the best 1 1/4-mile horse in Europe, will skip his intended date in the Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 9 and instead head directly to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup Classic off a four-month layoff.
Trainer Brian Meehan revealed his unorthodox plans for David Junior on Wednesday, taking care to note that the horse is healthy and "cantering every day." The Classic would be his first race on dirt for David Junior, a 4-year-old son of Pleasant Tap.
"David Junior won in Dubai off five-month absence and has a dirt pedigree," Meehan said. "The Breeders' Cup Classic has been the plan all the time, and since he got such an early start to the year, we want to have him fresh for that race."
Meehan also said that David Junior would remain at his training base near Newbury Racecourse in England until shortly before the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup.
The winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket last Oct. 15 in his final outing as a 3-year-old, David Junior handed last Saturday's Arlington Million winner The Tin Man a 3 1/2-length thrashing in the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba, on March 25. David Junior was then rested until June 21 when he came home two lengths fourth behind Ouija Board and Electrocutionist in the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A 1 1/2-length victory on July 8 in the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park signaled a return to form for David Junior, who was installed the antepost favorite for the Irish Champion Stakes. His withdrawal from that 1 1/4-mile Leopardstown Group 1 follows by a week the withdrawal of Godolphin's Breeders' Cup Classic-bound Electrocutionist from the same race. The Dubai World Cup winner, Electrocutionist suffered a minor setback when finishing second to Hurricane Run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on July 29 and will go next in the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 14.
The defections of both David Junior and Electrocutionist leave Irish Derby winner Dylan Thomas as William Hills's 13-8 favorite for the Irish Champion, for which Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf candidate Ouija Board is 11-4 and Alexander Goldrun 9-2.