Now that another outstanding Royal Ascot is in the books, it’s time to evaluate the Breeders’ Cup implications from the British summer spectacle. The four “Win and You’re In” contests are the obvious places to start, but last week’s Royal festivities promise to have a bearing in other divisions as well.
Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)
The “Win and You’re In” Prince of Wales’s (G1) pitting Crystal Ocean, Magical, and Sea of Class unfortunately took place on the miserably rainy Wednesday when the ground was soft. The first two coped with conditions, while Sea of Class never gained traction. Indeed, her trainer, William Haggas, almost scratched her, and he later expressed appreciation to jockey James Doyle for taking care of her in fifth. This comeback proved to be no more than a day out for Sea of Class – draw the proverbial line through it.
Crystal Ocean prevailed over Magical thanks to a tactically brilliant piece of riding by Frankie Dettori, on his way to champion jockey honors. If Dettori allowed Magical to get first run, Crystal Ocean likely wouldn’t have outkicked her on a rain-affected track. So Dettori made maximum use of Crystal Ocean’s abundant stamina. Effectively commandeering Magical’s pacemaker, Hunting Horn, for his own use, Crystal Ocean tracked him and made his move leaving the turn. Magical tried her heart out, having to alter course as Dettori craftily employed an acceptable degree of race riding. But in these circumstances, she was never going to reel in Crystal Ocean as he stayed on relentlessly to the line.
Crystal Ocean’s first Group 1 laurel earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Sir Michael Stoute figures to keep that objective in mind. Magical, a gallant runner-up to Enable at Churchill Downs last November, is a logical contender to try again for Aidan O’Brien.
The master of Ballydoyle might have another proper Turf contender in Japan, who dismantled the field in Friday’s King Edward VII (G2). Despite taking the overland route as Bangkok whipped up the rail and got a split, Japan stormed 4 1/2 lengths clear. And his time for 1 1/2 miles on good-to-soft, 2:29.16, was considerably faster than older handicappers went in the Duke of Edinburgh (2:30.57) later on the card.
Japan was moving forward off his near-miss third in the Derby (G1), and if he’d had time for a second prep for Epsom, perhaps that result would have been different. Bangkok has New York’s turf triple in his sights, according to trainer Andrew Balding, so we’ll get an early stateside indicator of the strength of his form.
While Japan has the option of the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) versus fellow sophomores, O’Brien significantly mentioned that he could go for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), back over the King Edward course and distance, on July 26. That Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” is expected to lure Crystal Ocean, Sea of Class, possibly Magical, and ideally Enable (if she comes through her July 6 Eclipse [G1] comeback in order).
Also in the King George picture is Defoe, successful in Saturday’s Hardwicke (G2) over a troubled Nagano Gold, and in the form of his life at the moment for Roger Varian. Godolphin’s Masar, who stumbled badly at the start of his Hardwicke comeback, seeks to turn the page in the July 11 Princess of Wales’s (G2) at Newmarket.
Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)
Tuesday’s “Win and You’re In” Queen Anne (G1) reinforced the view that the mile division is still in search of a star. Lord Glitters, last year’s unlucky second, edged Beat the Bank. Trainer David O’Meara is game for North American challenges, so he could turn up at Santa Anita. Although Lord Glitters didn’t get the right pace set-up in the Woodbine Mile (G1), the Breeders’ Cup ought to unfold more to his liking.
Arguably the one to take from the race from a Breeders’ Cup perspective, however, was third-placer One Master. The Haggas mare threw down a bold challenge, in what appeared a winning move, only to lose steam in the stiff finish. A mile on a flat track fits her better. Indeed, One Master wasn’t beaten far when fifth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, checking in just a length behind the victorious Expert Eye.
Later on the card, the three-year-old mile picture was not clarified when O’Brien’s Circus Maximus, a non-staying sixth in the Derby, shortened up for the St James’s Palace (G1) and sprang the upset. Under a perfectly judged Ryan Moore ride, he stalked, pounced, rebuffed the tame Too Darn Hot, and just held from the flying King of Comedy.
Upwardly mobile for John Gosden, King of Comedy should be more streetwise next time. The Kingman colt was stepping up in class from his good-looking score in the Heron, and he received a form boost when Heron third Sangarius came back to take Thursday’s Hampton Court (G3) convincingly. Sangarius was stretching out to 1 1/4 miles in that spot. It would be no surprise if Circus Maximus, opportunistically supplemented to the St James’s Palace after the defection of stablemate Magna Grecia, goes back up to that trip.
Hence the suspicion that the best sophomore miler might not have been here. Magna Grecia, the 2000 Guineas (G1) hero, will be heard from again – as will his French counterpart, Persian King, who could turn out to top the division eventually.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)
French prowess came as a surprise in the companion Coronation (G1) for three-year-old fillies, where Watch Me overturned O’Brien’s hot favorite Hermosa. Although Watch Me had trouble when sixth in the French 1000 Guineas (G1), few would have thought that form would carry the day over English/Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) star Hermosa.
I’m mentioning the Coronation in a Filly & Mare Turf, rather than Mile, context because Hermosa probably wants a step up in trip. O’Brien himself noted afterward that she’s a full sister to Hydrangea, who won Group 1s over a mile and 1 1/2 miles. If we see Hermosa at Santa Anita, chances are it will be in her own divisional turf contest rather than a hectic two-turn mile.
Another Ballydoyle filly to note, Fleeting, followed up her fast-finishing third in the Oaks (G1) with a second in Thursday’s Ribblesdale (G2) to Star Catcher from the Gosden yard. Since O’Brien commented that Fleeting needs better ground, you’d have to think she’s on the long-range list for the Breeders’ Cup.
Stablemate Magic Wand has an immediate U.S. interest after her gritty second in Tuesday’s Wolferton versus males. Not seen to best effect in the deteriorating conditions, she did well to snare the place spot behind Addeybb, nipping Elarqam and Latrobe. O’Brien was quick to say she’d be on another transatlantic venture, as you’d expect for a filly who’s become a familiar face on this side of the pond. Fourth in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, Magic Wand was runner-up to our top turfiste, Bricks and Mortar, in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), and recently third to Channel Maker in the Man o’ War (G1).
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1)
The star of Royal Ascot 2019, Blue Point, has been retired to stud as he basks in the glory of his historic King’s Stand (G1)/Diamond Jubilee (G1) double. Trainer Charlie Appleby had already all but ruled him out of the Breeders’ Cup, citing his preference for a straight course, so his ticket from the “Win and You’re In” Diamond Jubilee was going unused anyway.
American shippers Imprimis (sixth in the King’s Stand for Joe Orseno) and Wesley Ward’s Bound for Nowhere (13th in the Diamond Jubilee) can rebound back on home soil.
Among the Europeans who couldn’t topple Blue Point at Royal Ascot, a few could be better suited to a turning five furlongs (according to Blood-Horse the distance of this year’s Turf Sprint at Santa Anita). The speedy Battaash has been second to Blue Point in the past two runnings of the five-furlong King’s Stand, and Kachy did well to place third after setting a rollicking pace in the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee. Dream of Dreams, who nearly caught Blue Point on the line in the Diamond Jubilee, might have preferred using the about 6 1/2-furlong downhill.
But the three-year-old sprinters are not to be overlooked. Aside from Soldier’s Call and Fairyland, the respective third and fifth in the King’s Stand, the newly blinkered Advertise reached a new career high in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup (G1). Given the international profile of his owner, Phoenix Thoroughbred Ltd., Advertise might be one to give Santa Anita a whirl – but in which race? If the Turf Sprint is a bit sharp, maybe the Mile, in American conditions, would be within reach.
Breeders’ Cup two-year-olds
Godolphin’s Pinatubo, like Blue Point a son of Shamardal, turned in the most impressive performance by a juvenile when blitzing Saturday’s Chesham in record time (for his age group). Brushing aside O’Brien’s vaunted Lope Y Fernandez, the Appleby pupil drew off with authority. He’d be an exciting candidate for the Juvenile Turf (G1).
In contrast, O’Brien’s Arizona was more workmanlike when justifying favoritism from Threat and Guildsman in Tuesday’s Coventry (G2). O’Brien said the No Nay Never colt is still a baby. Indeed, being out of an English Channel mare, he shaped as though he’ll stay farther than his sire. Stablemate Southern Hills, from the first crop of Gleneagles, broke his maiden in Wednesday’s Windsor Castle.
The Simon Crisford-trained A’Ali secured his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) spot in the “Win and You’re In” Norfolk (G2) on Thursday. Just mugged in a highly rated Ripon novice on debut, A’Ali learned plenty and denied Ventura Rebel here.
The Norfolk result must have been gutting to Wesley Ward. Ventura Rebel was the one who’d run down his Lady Pauline, Lady Aurelia’s half-sister, in their Ascot prep when she didn’t put her best foot forward. Lady Pauline subsequently met with a setback that ruled her out of the Royal meeting. In her absence, stablemate Kimari ran a mighty race in Wednesday’s Queen Mary (G2), only to be outstayed by Mark Johnston’s Raffle Prize on the rain-softened ground. On a firmer course, Kimari might have been gone.
Raffle Prize had been second on debut to Daahyeh, who turned out to be the heroine of Friday’s Albany (G3). If I had to guess now, I’d expect Varian to give her a traditional juvenile campaign, but Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) possibles could emerge among the rest.
I’ll throw in a “little something extra” and include the replay of Stradivarius’s Gold Cup (G1). The 2 1/2-mile marathon is doubtful to have any bearing on the Breeders’ Cup at all, but no review of Royal Ascot can be complete without his historic repeat.
Top photo credit: Crystal Ocean winning the Prince of Wales’s (G1) (c) Horsephotos.com