Promising juveniles close out UK’s ‘Win and You’re In’ series
Photo courtesy of Mark Cranham/focusonracing.com
Courtesy of Nicholas Godfrey for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary
The British contribution to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge for 2020 concludes behind closed doors at Newmarket on Saturday with the Royal Lodge Stakes, one of the main supporting events as 2-year-olds provide the class focus on the Cambridgeshire card.
Although the historic handicap is the nominated feature, it vies for attention with a pair of G1s in the shape of the Cheveley Park and Middle Park Stakes, plus the G2 Royal Lodge, a one-mile contest offering the winner a ‘Win and You’re In’ berth at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte organisation sponsor all three juvenile contests, and they were responsible for the most revered Royal Lodge winner of them all in the great Frankel, who smashed his opponents in a stunning ten-length victory in the 2010 edition at its former venue Ascot.
This, though, must be one of Aidan O’Brien’s favourite races on the British calendar as the Ballydoyle maestro has won it seven times in the past – and seemingly never with one of his proper top-notchers, either.
Looking to complete a hat-trick in a potentially substandard edition after Mohawk and Royal Dornoch is the Galileo colt Ontario.
This year’s European Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifiers conclude with five races at the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting at ParisLongchamp on Sunday, October 4.
Royal Lodge Stakes: a bit of context
History: A bit of an anomaly in the title here, as the Royal Lodge is a royal residence located in Windsor Great Park, reflecting the race’s original venue, Ascot, where it was established in 1946. First staged at Newmarket in 2005, when Ascot was closed for redevelopment, the Royal Lodge was moved permanently to the Rowley Mile in 2011 amid the shake-up to Britain’s autumn programme engendered in the creation of British Champions Day. Either way, it remains a major target for potential Classic performers.
Star turn: Frankel (2010) – The final Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot produced something special. Tackling Group company for the first time on the third start of his young life, the colt destined to become a legend made odds of 30/100 look a shade generous with a breathtaking ten-length victory as he completely overwhelmed his opponents, sweeping past and powering clear under hands and heels. Among those beaten was subsequent Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach. Greatness, as they say, beckoned.
Most wins (trainer): Noel Murless (8) Pinched (1957), St Paddy (1959), Casabianca (1963), Soft Angels (1965), Royal Palace (1966), Domineering (1969), Yaroslav (1971), Adios (1972).
Most wins – jockey: Lester Piggott (8) Pinched (1957), St Paddy (1959), Casabianca (1963), Soft Angels (1965), Royal Palace (1966), Remand (1967), Sir Wimborne (1975), Dunbeath (1982).
Breeders’ Cup Challenge
The winner of the Royal Lodge will receive an automatic fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at the two-day championships at Keeneland on November 6-7. A minimum travel allowance of $40,000 will also be provided for all starters based outside North America.
Already qualified (2): Cadillac (Champions Juvenile Stakes, Leopardstown), Gretzky The Great (Summer Stakes, Woodbine).
Breeders’ Cup past performance
With Frankel topping the list, a series of top 2-year-olds have won the Royal Lodge down the years, among them a multitude of horses who have gone on to higher estate in later life, such as Classic winners like Mister Baileys (1993) and Benny The Dip (1996), three-time Canadian International scorer Joshua Tree (2009) and subsequent horse of the year Roaring Lion (2018), while 2000 Guineas winner Kameko was beaten 12 months ago by outsider Royal Dornoch.
However, it would be idle to suggest the race has ever had any great bearing on the Breeders’ Cup in recent years, though the 1994 winner Eltish was beaten only two lengths by Timber Country in the Juvenile on dirt at Churchill Downs.
Top contenders for 2020
Cobh (Clive Cox/Adam Kirby) – The China Horse Club colt’s sole defeat in three outings came at hands of leading 2-year-old Chindit, who won Champagne Stakes next time out; value for more than one-length margin when scoring at this distance last time at Salisbury.
Ontario (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) – Gradually worn down last time after trying to make all in G2 company over 7f on soft ground at the Curragh; doesn’t look one of his stable’s superstars on all known evidence, but that hasn’t stopped similar types from winning here.
Gear Up (Mark Johnston/Franny Norton) – Won both starts (both over 7f at York) and joint top (with Ontario) on Racing Post Ratings by virtue of game victory in G3 Acomb Stakes; son of Teofilo should like this extra furlong.
New Mandate (Ralph Beckett/Frankie Dettori) – Progressive form in four starts, winning last two, latterly in a listed race at the Doncaster St Leger meeting; Dettori, who has won this race five times, keeps the ride on this tough sort.
Pleasant Man (Roger Charlton/Jason Watson) – Well fancied for winning debut at Haydock and steps straight into G2 company; son of Galileo should be suited by a test of stamina.
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