Breeders’ Cup Roundup: Oct. 23, 2023

October 23rd, 2023

Each week, J. Keeler Johnson reviews the latest news and results on the road to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

King of Steel, Big Rock win final qualifiers

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series came to an end last Saturday with two final qualifiers on British Champions Day at Ascot in England.

First up was the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II (G1), a prestigious steppingstone to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Over a rain-soaked course labeled soft, the three-year-old Christopher Head trainee Big Rock sprang an upset on the front end, leading all the way to obliterate a deep field by six lengths in 1:44.58.

Four-time Group 1 winner Paddington started as the favorite in the Queen Elizabeth II, but failed to fire and finished a distant ninth. Afterward, trainer Aidan O’Brien indicated a Breeders’ Cup Mile bid could be in the cards for the talented three-year-old colt.

The feature event on British Champions Day was the 1 1/4-mile Champion (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) qualifier in which three-year-old King of Steel proved best. Under a patient ride from renowned jockey Frankie Dettori, King of Steel trailed early before rallying strongly down the homestretch to beat the older mare Via Sistina by three-quarters of a length in 2:08.42.

Roger Varian conditions King of Steel, who secured his first top-level win after finishing second in Epsom’s Derby (G1) and third in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1). He’s been listed as a Breeders’ Cup candidate in the past and remains under consideration for the 1 1/2-mile race.

Mostahdaf is Breeders’ Cup bound

After scratching from the Champion due to the soft ground, Prince of Wales’s (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1) winner Mostahdaf is taking aim at the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The expected firm turf at Santa Anita should suit the five-year-old John and Thady Gosden trainee.

Champion Forte retires

Forte, the champion two-year-old male of 2022 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), has been retired from racing. A quarter crack interrupted his training and made impossible an intended start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Nest skips the Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Last year’s champion three-year-old filly Nest is slated to skip the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) after running below expectations when third in the Personal Ensign (G1) and fourth in the Spinster (G1).