Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Battleground

December 31st, 2020

As the first foal of Found, who won the 2015 Turf (G1) on this very Keeneland course, Battleground can put his dam in exclusive company as a Breeders’ Cup winner to produce one. He’s the sole Ballydoyle entrant in a race that trainer Aidan O’Brien has won four times.

Found, a daughter of Galileo and multiple Group 1-winning highweight Red Evie, was a top-rated juvenile thanks to her victory in the 2014 Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). But that was just the beginning as she excelled at 3 and 4, her career climaxing in the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

Although Battleground has also hinted that his best days lie ahead, he’s entitled to have more zip thanks to sire War Front. Debuting on Irish racing’s June 8 comeback day at Naas, the 7-1 chance was expected to need an educational run. His staying-on fifth of 18 – in a maiden won by future Phoenix (G1) winner Lucky Vega from Lipizzaner (Juvenile Turf Sprint) – marked him out for next time.

Battleground wheeled back for Royal Ascot and broke his maiden in the Chesham. No secret as the 11-4 favorite, he showed the benefit of his first run as well as the step up to 7 furlongs, coping with the soft ground just fine to power clear. The Chesham form hasn’t worked out, though. Wayward third Seattle Rock is the only one to do much, and she’s still a maiden after thirds in the Sweet Solera (G3) and Prestige (G3).

It’s a similar story with Battleground’s subsequent victory in the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood – a good-looking performance that speaks well of him, but lacking any useful form pointers in the aftermath. Shrugging off a bump at the start and taking up a midpack perch on the outside, Battleground easily covered the move of Devious Company and dispatched him with authority. Devious Company has lost four in a row since, and he’s been well-beaten in two major 7-furlong events including the Dewhurst (G1).

The glimmer of hope is Devious Company’s race immediately preceding the Vintage, when he was runner-up to Master of the Seas in the July 11 Superlative (G2). Master of the Seas was later fourth in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) on Sept. 13. If you want to lean heavily on that piece of collateral form via Devious Company, then Battleground would have factored in an incredibly key race. The National produced not only the top three in the Dewhurst, but also the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) winner and the Middle Park (G1) second (Lucky Vega).

Battleground could have supplied his own form enhancement in the National, but he was scratched. Thus he arrives off a three-month layoff, since the Vintage. O’Brien’s Juvenile Turf winners all had recency, although he did train Magician up to his 2013 Turf win off a four-month break.

When asked about the lack of a race since July 28, O’Brien emphasized that Battleground was always in full training. He was ready to run not only in the National, which he missed when coughing on raceday, but he prepared also for the Dewhurst, which they opted to pass in light of the ground. So the colt’s absence from the racecourse is no knock on his physical fitness.

As a blueblood with an encouraging resume and great hopes for the future, Battleground is easy to like. The question is whether he can hit the heights in these particular circumstances, or if this will end up being more of a beneficial experience toward next year.