An early look at Breeders’ Cup implications from Royal Ascot

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.

Lagniappe

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

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Selections for Friday’s card at Royal Ascot 2019

Frankie Dettori stole the show Thursday at Royal Ascot, winning all four Group events and leaving the overseas bookmakers reeling. We might be overestimating his chances in a couple races, but the Italian riding great could be in line to win as many as three more pattern events on Day 4 of the Royal meeting on Friday. Here’s how things look to us going in.

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Race 1, The Albany (G3)

#6 DAAHEYEH (6-1) has an excellent piece of form as she looked very professional for her age in winning a May 18 Newmarket maiden by 1 3/4 lengths over Raffle Prize, who landed the Queen Mary (G2) on Wednesday. From all appearances, this daughter of Bated Breath should relish the step up to six furlongs.

#9 EXCLUSIVELY (20-1) was very early to race with a couple starts in April. The first was a decent-looking maiden win at Redcar, and last time she was wore down late at Salisbury by Good Vibes, subsequently a stakes winner at York. Enters fresh with plenty of upside, and price should be right with rising star Oisin Murphy up.

#16 LAST SURPRISE (15-1) is the first mount of the day for Dettori. She wheels back on relatively short rest after a sharp 3 1/2-length debut score over the all-weather at Lingfield, rating very close to the pace before asserting her superiority in the stretch going this distance. Remains to be seen whether she transfers her form to turf, but she is by Prix Morny (G1) and Norfolk (G2) winner No Nay Never. She’s trained by Simon Crisford, who teamed up with Dettori to take the Norfolk on Thursday.

#20 NAYIBETH (4-1) looks best of the two Wesley Ward runners. We’ll see how far she can stretch her speed after dominating her Keeneland debut going 4 1/2 furlongs. A flyer for the exotics is #19 MOON OF LOVE (30-1), who was badly hampered in her June 8 debut at Beverley in a relatively lucrative conditions race. She was in contention for the win at the time of trouble, and might move forward from that despite the quick turnaround.

Race 2, The King Edward VII (G2)

#8 PRIVATE SECRETARY (3-1) appeared as if he could have given a lot more when taking the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood by a measured head last time at just short of this distance. Second twice as a juvenile, he’s now won three straight and is reunited here with Dettori, who was aboard for his most authoritative win over a stiff 10 furlongs at Sandown. Like Star Chaser in Thursday’s Ribblesdale (G2), this has probably been the goal from early in the season.

#5 JAPAN (6-5) exceeded expectations in the Epsom Derby (G1), narrowly losing as a 20-1 chance by a half-length to stable companion Anthony Van Dyck. Obviously much improved off his season-opening fourth in the Dante (G2), but he’s now going from overlay-in-retrospect to likely underlay here at 7-5 or less.

#3 HUMANITARIAN (15-1) also outran expectations at Epsom, finishing seventh as a 33-1 chance after a slow start. Like #1 BANGKOK (10-1), he might not have been entirely suited to the Surrey course, which is not to everyone’s taste.

#6 PABLO ESCOBARR (8-1) was a clear second to Anthony Van Dyck in the Lingfield Derby Trial and wisely passed on the Epsom classic to aim for this more reasonable goal. A worthy inclusion in Trifecta plans. #7 PONDUS (5-1) is an intriguing stakes newcomer who’s reeled off two straight after dropping his debut in April. Relative lack of seasoning a concern.

Race 3, The Commonwealth Cup (G1)

Can Dettori help lift #1 ADVERTISE (10-1) into the winner’s circle? Given his juvenile form, the support for this colt was a tad cool heading into the 2000 Guineas (G1), and things panned out that way as he finished 15th of 19. It certainly could have been him not getting the mile, but the effort was below par all around. This trip should suit much better; after finishing a length second to the sadly-missed Calyx in the course-and-distance Coventry (G2), he ripped off wins in the July (G2) and Phoenix (G1) before splitting Too Darn Hot and Anthony Van Dyck in the Dewhurst (G1). Although not expecting double digits now with Frankie in the saddle, he’s capable of much better and seems worth taking a shot with at the price.

#7 TEN SOVEREIGNS (6-5) captured the Middle Park (G1) against a couple of these last fall and perhaps would have been closer when well-backed in the 2000 Guineas if not racing on the wrong part of the course which, based on the result, favored horses racing closer to the stands. Will take some beating dropping back in trip.

#3 JASH (4-1) has just suffered the one loss — to Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park — and didn’t need to be fully cranked to win the King Charles II Stakes in his May 19 comeback at Newmarket. Should improve from that run.

#4 KHAADEM (7-1) enters with three wins from four starts, including a respectable half-length triumph in the Carnarvon Stakes over a straight six at Newbury. Likely to be overlooked a tad with no Group form to go by, but certainly acts like one who will make an impact at this level going forward. #2 HELLO YOUMZAIN (9-2) benefited from quick ground when handing the exciting (and subsequently injured) Calyx a first career loss in the Sandy Lane (G2) at Haydock. Waters are deeper this time around.

Race 4, The Coronation (G1)

She concedes relative seasoning with just the two runs since her career commenced on April 25, but #4 JUBILOSO (4-1) aggressively and confidently spotted here by Sir Michael Stoute after demolishing male rivals by seven lengths in her turf debut at Newbury last time. Bred to be any kind as she’s by Shamardal and out of a half-sister to the legendary Frankel and multiple Group 1 winner Noble Mission, who’s own status is rising at stud.

#3 HERMOSA (1-1) obviously the one to beat after back-to-back victories in the 1000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 1000 Guineas (G1). Her stature has certainly risen in the past seven weeks or so when she was a modest 10-1 for the Newmarket classic. Perhaps has enjoyed favorable trips to an extent thus far and we’ll see if more early pressure will be applied this time.

#2 HAPPEN (15-1) is a somewhat intriguing second stringer from Coolmore who needed every last bit of seven furlongs to win a Group 3 at The Curragh last time. Has probably been begging for more distance for awhile.

French invader #1 CASTLE LADY (7-1) puts her undefeated mark on the line after reeling off three wins early in the year, including the French 1000 Guineas (G1) narrowly over Commes, who just missed in the French Oaks (G1) last weekend. How the French form stacks up with the English/Irish form is anyone’s guess beforehand. #8 PRETTY POLLYANNA (7-1) a solid second to Hermosa in the Irish Guineas in what was her season debut, but feeling is she’s still better at distances short of this.

Watch and wager on all Royal Ascot races at TwinSpires.com. Daily television coverage is also available on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) or NBC.

More analysis is available on the Royal Ascot news and notes page.

PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth in the Royal Procession on June 19, 2019, at Ascot Race Course during Royal Ascot (c) Horsephotos.com

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Legend of Galileo grows after weekend at Epsom

The legend of Galileo grew even more last Saturday in the Epsom Derby (G1) in England. Six of the 13 starters were sired by the 2001 Derby winner and most of the others were his sons or grandsons. Usually, the most competition for a top sire comes from their own sons, but Galileo has withstood the likes of Frankel, New Approach, and Australia to maintain his spot at the top.

In Saturday’s renewal, the hot favorite was Sir Dragonet, a son of Camelot, that looked sensational when winning the Chester Vase (G3) in only his second career start; and here he was 23 days later trying to win the “Blue Riband of Turf.” He drew post 13 and raced wide throughout with Ryan Moore. Coming out of Tattenham Corner and heading uphill to the finish, there was a wall of horses across the track and Seamie Heffernan had no room with Anthony Van Dyck.

Heffernan, who has ridden the likes of Highland Reel for Aidan O’Brien, patiently waited for room to develop and resisted the temptation to go outside. When the four leaders stayed in the middle of the track, Heffernan made his commitment to the inside and had Anthony Van Dyck in full stride. The winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield three weeks earlier when ridden by Ryan Moore was plenty fit for the race to the wire and surged to a half-length win as the fourth choice in the wagering.

The place photo was impossibly close as Madhmoon was a nose ahead of Japan, who was a short head in front of Broome, himself a short head in front of Sir Dragonet. The final tally showed five of the top six trained by Aidan O’Brien and two of the top three sired by Galileo.

Galileo’s best son at stud is Frankel, but he did not have a classic winner in his first three crops to race. Frankel’s offspring have not had his brilliance but seem to have even more stamina so they seem to be more like Galileo than Frankel himself. Finally, in Friday’s Epsom Oaks (G1), Frankel sired his first classic winner when Frankie Dettori gave Anapurna a brilliant ride to hold off Pink Dogwood.

Willing to sacrifice getting bottled up on the inside, he saved ground with her and it looked like it was a fatal mistake when Ryan Moore produced Pink Dogwood on the outside. Dettori found room for Anapurna and the race was on in the Oaks. We’ve seen this match many times and you rarely see Ryan Moore get outfinished heading to the wire, but here was Frankie coming back on the inside to prevail by a neck. It was the typical training job from John Gosden as she began her career with two races on synthetic tracks, had a win in her turf debut and was fit and ready for the Oaks. Being out of a dam by Montjeu, she is truly bred to run all day.

Not that there was a track bias in Friday and Saturday’s races at Epsom, but in the Coronation Cup (G1), run at the same distance as the Oaks and Derby, Andrea Atzeni came up the inside aboard Defoe to win by a half-length over O’Brien/Moore/Galileo’s Kew Gardens. I know that a lot of the riders say they do not want to draw inside for fear of having traffic, but all three Group 1s going the classic distance were won by riders that saved ground.

 

(c) Alan Wright-focusonracing.com

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Almond Eye wins the 2018 Japan Cup

Girls will be Girls

By DICK POWELL

It’s a big deal when females beat males in American horse racing but barely noticeable around the world. Enable won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and Magical was right behind her with a huge gap back to the boys. Coming off her win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Enable beating the boys is like me eating chocolate candy. Hardly newsworthy anymore. And, Winx beats the boys in Australia so many times that she should be giving them weight.

Well, another filly has crushed the hopes of male rivals and she did it in world-record time. In Sunday’s Japan Cup (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse, 14 rivals raced over the firm turf and Filly Triple Crown winner ALMOND EYE drew post 1. Christophe Lemaire had to sweat to get down to 53 kilograms (117 pounds) but she was worth every ounce.

Kiseki went to the front and set a demanding pace. Instead of making the front and then dropping anchor, Yuga Kawada put the field to the test. He covered the first 400 meters in 48.2 seconds but the next 400 meters in 46.6 seconds as he stretched the field out.  Lemaire had Almond Eye in behind and was content to sit second around the far turn.

Usually, the horse setting this kind of pace would have been softened up and ready to be passed but Kiseki kept on going. They straightened out in the run home and Lemaire still hadn’t moved a muscle on Almond Eye. With 400 meters to go, it was still a two-horse race but with just over 200 meters to go, Lemaire asked Almond Eye for her best and she ground down Kiseki to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths. Kiseki was a gallant second over Suave Richard.

The final time for the 2400 meters was a record 2:20.6. The last 400 meters were run in 45.8 seconds and this was after an impossible pace. The sectional times for each 400 meters was 48.2 seconds (from a standing start), 46.6 seconds and 45.8 seconds. 2400 meters is just over 15 yards short of 1 ½ miles. But keep in mind that these races are automatically timed with no runup to the timing pole. The fastest 1 ½ miles ever run on turf was 2:22.63 by Twilight Eclipse when winning the Pan American (G1) at Gulfstream Park around three turns while the Japan Cup is run around two turns. It’s not quite an apple-to-apple comparison but Almond Eye ran as fast as anyone ever has at the classic distance.

Here is where it gets real interesting. Her connections are considering the Sheema Classic (G1) in Dubai at Meydan in March and eventually, the Arc de Triomphe. The Japanese have never won the Arc despite some close calls and there will be immense pressure on Almond Eye to bring home her nation’s first Arc triumph.

Awaiting her, if all goes well, will be Enable, the winner of the past two Arcs. Nobody has ever won three Arcs in a row although Treve came close with two straights wins and a gallant fourth in 2015 behind Golden Horn. By the way, Treve, was a female. Enough said.

(Tomoya Moriuchi/Horsephotos.com)

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