2018 Secretariat international scouting reports: Hunting Horn and Lucius Tiberius

August 10th, 2018

Aidan O’Brien’s Hunting Horn, as a Royal Ascot winner and third-placer in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), ranks as the most accomplished of the five Irish shippers in the Secretariat (G1).

By the ascendant Camelot – the same sire as stablemate Athena in the Beverly D. (G1) – Hunting Horn is out of a half-sister to High Chaparral, who won his first Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Arlington in 2002. His progress through a couple of classic trials, sixth in the French Derby (G1), and stakes breakthrough in the Hampton Court (G3) were all explored in his Belmont Derby scouting report.

Hunting Horn ran about as well as he could at Belmont, given that his top two rivals had the run of the race. When Catholic Boy, tracked by Analyze It, got away with slow fractions before quickening in front of him, Hunting Horn had little chance of improving from his third position. It’s tough to close much faster than he did in a 10-furlong race (blitzing a :22.45 final quarter according to Trakus), and if unable to make a dent on the leaders, he pulled four lengths clear of fourth.

Probing for a reason why Hunting Horn could reverse form with Analyze It at Arlington, the Secretariat may offer a more genuine pace. Real Story has the potential to roll early, as in the American Derby (G3), but that scenario cuts both ways. Analyze It, unless he really is stamina-challenged and just not getting home at this trip, has powered off a strong pace before. Indeed, not having to play the cat-and-mouse game with Catholic Boy could make the difference for him. But others stand to benefit from a lively tempo as well, e.g., Untamed Domain and newly blinkered Captivating Moon.

Hunting Horn’s biggest complication, however, is the far outside post 13. Ryan Moore either has to sacrifice position to drop back and save ground, or use more energy early to secure a stalking position without getting parked out too wide.

Although not the most compelling Ballydoyle sophomore ever brought to Chicago, Hunting Horn has points in common with O’Brien’s four Secretariat winners. The chief similarity is participating in a European classic. Ciro (2000), already with two Group 1 scores on his resume, was sixth in the French Derby (when it was 1 1/2 miles) and third in the Irish Derby (G1). Treasure Beach (2011) captured the Irish Derby and just missed in the Derby (G1) at Epsom. Highland Reel (2015) raced in three classics, most notably taking second in the French Derby.

The outlier who did not contest a classic, Adelaide (2014), was like Hunting Horn in two other respects. He turned up at Royal Ascot, placing second in the King Edward VII (G2), and ran well in defeat in the Belmont Derby, where he was nailed by Mr Speaker. The vague parallel could continue Down Under. Adelaide famously won the Cox Plate (G1) later that season, and Hunting Horn is among O’Brien’s phalanx of nominees who might brave Winx at Moonee Valley in October.

Stablemate Lucius Tiberius, another Camelot colt with marquee entries including the Cox Plate, has not endured Hunting Horn’s class tests. The Secretariat serves as a graded debut for this upwardly mobile 1 1/4-mile specialist.

Lucius Tiberius raced twice as a juvenile, both on rain-affected tracks, and moved forward from an educational sixth at Gowran to a third at Tipperary. He resumed in a Navan maiden on May 19, his first opportunity on good-to-firm, and finished a strong second to Broad Street. The Juddmonte/Dermot Weld winner was regarded well enough to have Derby entries, and Lucius Tiberius gave him a head start while briefly waiting for room. That remains his only loss from four starts at this distance.

Lucius Tiberius broke his maiden eight days later in similar conditions at the Curragh. Drafting just behind the pace, he steadfastly maintained position between foes turning for home, and forged clear in the stretch.

Now on the fast track to stakes company, Lucius Tiberius lined up in the June 7 King George V Cup at Leopardstown. But the class hike coincided with a step up to 1 1/2 miles, and a change to on-pace tactics. Hence his retreat to third, behind useful stayers Giuseppe Garibaldi and Cimeara, is not necessarily a reflection of his talent level. He tried the same distance in a Royal Ascot handicap, the similarly named King George V, and never factored from well back in 13th of 18.

Upon the advice of Ryan Moore, Lucius Tiberius reverted to 1 1/4 miles and won two straight. Despite a troubled passage in a Curragh handicap, he had the gears to get out of an unpromising position, muscled his way through, and easily justified favoritism under top weight of 138 pounds.

Upped in class for a premier handicap versus older horses July 12, the Nasrullah, Lucius Tiberius rallied from well back to get up in blanket finish. He was actually carrying more weight than most of the field, including the first seven finishers, and still lagged at the rear straightening for home at Leopardstown. But the 7-2 favorite did not let his backers down.