Aidan O’Brien, still in search of his first win in the Beverly D. (G1), could be double-handed as he tries to halt the Chad Brown winning streak. Brown has won four straight (and five overall) editions, and his defending champion Sistercharlie will be difficult to dethrone in this sister race to the Arlington Million (G1). O’Brien has Magic Wand, who is cross-entered to the Million, and Fleeting, who might be left to shoulder Ballydoyle hopes alone in the Beverly D. Before Brown’s reign began, British shippers had taken three in a row (2012-14), and would have made it four if Secret Gesture hadn’t been demoted in 2015. There’s one British hopeful this time around, in the tactical Awesometank.
MAGIC WANDWhich Brown behemoth should Magic Wand take on? Bricks and Mortar, who comfortably beat her in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), looms large in the Million. Sistercharlie likewise defeated her in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), but on paper, Magic Wand has less of a deficit to make up on her main distaff rival. As discussed in the Million scouting report (see her replays and analysis at the link), Magic Wand didn’t get her preferred quick surface when trying either one of the Brown stars. Gulfstream Park was yielding for the Pegasus, and Churchill Downs was officially “good” but with plenty of residual moisture that blunted her kick in the Breeders’ Cup. So she’s capable of better than the bare results in both. Although her beaten margin was about the same when runner-up to Bricks and Mortar (2 1/2 lengths) and fourth to Sistercharlie (2 3/4 lengths), the respective weight assignments must be included. Bricks and Mortar gave her 12 pounds and a comfortable beating, while Sistercharlie carried four more (as an older filly versus then-sophomore Magic Wand). At Arlington, Magic Wand would receive only three pounds from Bricks and Mortar, and meet Sistercharlie on level terms. By those calculations, the Beverly D. is the better spot. The counterpoint is that Sistercharlie is a fresh champion making just the second start of her campaign. As dominant as Bricks and Mortar has been, it’s not easy to remain at a peak from wintertime straight through the summer. And if he regresses at all, the Million is up for grabs. Even knowing that no mare has captured the Million besides Estrapade (1986), the big prize is tempting. The Coolmore brain trust is presumably assessing every angle, especially as Magic Wand comes off a career-worst last in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). That strikes me as a draw-a-line-through-it loss, but still a factor in the decision-making.
FLEETINGStablemate Fleeting enters in the form of her life, with the proviso that three-year-olds have generally found it tough to cope with elders in this spot. Euro Charline (2014) is the lone winner from this demographic, and she was already proven over older distaffers (admittedly of lesser caliber). By Zoffany, a scion of the Danehill line, Fleeting inherits her abundant stamina from her dam, Spanish champion Azafata. That daughter of Motivator (the same sire as Treve) romped in the 2012 Premio Villamejor (Spanish St Leger) going 1 3/4 miles at Madrid’s La Zarzuela. Fleeting won at first asking as a juvenile – a good sign for an O’Brien runner even in a small field at Limerick. She must have been showing something at home to go off as the 9-4 second choice, and needed every yard of the seven furlongs to get up. Shortening up to six furlongs for the Grangecon Stud (G3) figured to be too sharp, but she had the pace to lead before dropping back to last, in too poor a display just to chalk up to the distance. Indeed, Fleeting wasn’t seen again for two months until the September 1 Flame of Tara (G3) at the Curragh, where she placed a solid third to Just Wonderful (who recently was second to Concrete Rose in the Belmont Oaks Invitational [G1]). She didn’t have Just Wonderful’s turn of foot but kept on dourly. Fleeting improved for that tightener when wheeling back 12 days later to upset the May Hill (G2) at Doncaster at 12-1. In a change of running style, she relaxed at the rear of the field, hit top gear in the final furlong of the mile, and won going away. Runner-up Star Terms came right back to finish a near-miss third in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on Arc Day. Royal Ascot, but ran into John Gosden’s rapidly progressing Star Catcher. The decisive point came in upper stretch when Fleeting tried to follow Star Catcher through, but the winner forged clear. To be fair, Fleeting did quicken while having to thread through the field. Yet Star Catcher’s better position gave her the upper hand, and she found more in the final furlong to keep Fleeting at bay. Star Catcher again prevailed in their rematch in the Irish Oaks (G1). Fleeting narrowed the gap to a half-length, but the tactical virtuosity of her rival once more made the difference. On the plus side, Fleeting reversed Epsom form with stablemate Pink Dogwood, who was left 4 1/2 lengths back in third. After placings in two classics and a Royal Ascot feature, Fleeting’s form must be respected. The concern, aside from her tender age, is the sharp cutback in trip. Fleeting’s doing her best work in the 11th and 12th furlongs, and she’ll need to pick up a lot sooner here. AWESOMETANK Multiple Group 3 placings might not be good enough in theory at the Grade 1 level, but the gritty speed type can punch above her weight for William Haggas. The British trainer, who recently suffered the heartbreaking loss of superstar Sea of Class, had three notable runners in the United States last season. The Queen’s Call to Mind rolled in a course-record Belmont Gold Cup (G2), and both of his Breeders’ Cup starters performed creditably, Queen of Bermuda finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and One Master a close fifth in the Mile (G1). Awesometank has already overachieved as a bargain 25,000 guineas ($39,561) Tattersalls December weanling. The daughter of Intense Focus (a Giant’s Causeway stallion) hails from the family of reigning Irish St Leger (G1) hero Flag of Honour but apparently doesn’t share his distance capacity. As a juvenile, Awesometank bumped into future French classic winner Teppal when trying to break her maiden in her third start. She then took the nursery (two-year-old handicap) route and scored determinedly in a three-way photo at Newmarket. (Scratched from that same “Jersey Lily” nursery was Simply Breathless, the Wilshire [G3] winner who was third in the Modesty [G3]). Awesometank made it a double in a nearly one-mile nursery over the boys at York, where she kept her neck in front in juvenile course-record time. She attempted stakes company back at Newmarket in the Montrose Fillies’ S., checking in a couple of lengths astern in fourth. Plans called for Awesometank to open her sophomore campaign in another listed event, the Michael Seely Memorial at York, but she refused to load into the gate. So the dark bay was rerouted to a Chelmsford handicap to start 2018, and there was no miscue this time. Finding her preferred style as a front runner, she held sway by daylight in the Polytrack mile. Awesometank was ready for a stakes test now, and she wired last summer’s Coral Distaff at Sandown.
Stepping up to a Group 3 event over the same track and mile trip in the Atalanta (G3), she was runner-up to class-dropping Veracious, who was coming off Group 1 placings to Alpha Centauri and Wild Illusion. (Veracious recently earned a top-level win in the Falmouth [G1] at Newmarket’s July Festival).
Awesometank repels a multitude of challengers as the William Haggas trained daughter of Intense Focus wins her fourth race from her last five runs to land her first pattern-class prize pic.twitter.com/rEMRXKeyy5— Racing TV (@RacingTV) July 7, 2018
The two renewed rivalry in the Princess Elizabeth (G3) at Epsom on Derby Day, June 1, and Anna Nerium – with experience over that unique track – got the better of her. Awesometank salvaged second from old foe Veracious, who looked all at sea on the camber.
Awesometank gamely holds off Anna Nerium in the Conqueror Stakes.What lies ahead for this horse for the rest of the season? 🐎 pic.twitter.com/JPOwwfpREo — Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) May 4, 2019
Pitched in against males in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2) last out, Awesometank set a rollicking pace and paid the price when retreating to seventh of eight. Awesometank’s tactical speed can be a plus, if she avoids a costly battle with Sistercharlie’s pacemaker, Thais. The Beverly D. distance is also a question mark, but American conditions don’t put as much of a premium on stamina, and her second at ParisLongchamp last year is encouraging. Arlington Park scenic (c) Coady Photography
1000 and counting…Anna Nerium provides trainer Richard Hannon with a landmark success in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by @Investec)#TheSupremeTest #DerbyDay pic.twitter.com/OJvFJjBhVJ — EpsomDownsRacecourse (@EpsomRacecourse) June 1, 2019