Watch this race carefully: it has a strong Breeders’ Cup pedigree
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Courtesy of Nicholas Godfrey for Thoroughbred Racing Commentary
With only six weeks to go until the Breeders’ Cup, the ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge series makes its final visit to Britain for 2020 with a pair of juvenile contests at Newmarket featuring among 11 qualifying races spread across three continents over the weekend.
Eight of those will be staged in North America, the majority at Santa Anita, while Sunday’s Grande Premio Brasil, the country’s number one race, offers a fees-paid berth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf to the winner.
Before then, the winners of the Rockfel Stakes and Royal Lodge Stakes, a pair of G2s on Newmarket’s historic Rowley Mile, will have earned the spot at Keeneland.
First up on a Friday card featuring three Group contests is the Shadwell Rockfel Stakes, a race that can have a distinct bearing on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. Though it is yet to produce a winner of the U.S. highlight, the last four Rockfel winners have all tried their luck, with varying degrees of success.
Best of them was last year’s winner Daahyeh, second to Sharing at Santa Anita. Her trainer. Roger Varian, runs Nazuna in the Rockfel but others in the five-runner line-up offer more obvious appeal.
Rockfel Stakes: a bit of context
History: Established as recently as 1981 and named in honour of Britain’s champion 3-year-old of 1938, the dual Classic-winning filly Rockfel, this 7-furlong event was raised to its current G2 status in 1998. Formerly run during Newmarket’s Champions Day in mid-October, it swapped places in 2014 with Ascot’s G1 Fillies’ Mile (now also staged at Newmarket). Four fillies have tasted 1000 Guineas success the following spring after winning here, the most recent being Finsceal Beo (2006-07)
Star turn: Speciosa (2005) – sent off a 20/1 chance under Micky Fenton, the Pam Sly-trained filly was regarded as a surprise winner as she made all to score by a neck. Her connections reportedly turned down a £1 million bid for the daughter of Danehill Dancer over the winter – and Speciosa’s Rockfel triumph didn’t look so much of an upset when she won the 1000 Guineas for her popular trainer, small-scale and locally based, who described the win as being “for all the little people”.
Most wins (trainer): Barry Hills (4) Negligent (1989), Yawl (1992), Hula Angel (1998), Maids Causeway (2004)
Most wins (jockey): Michael Hills (4) Negligent (1989), Hula Angel (1998), Maids Causeway (2004), Just The Judge (2012)
Frankie Dettori (4): Crystal Gazing (1990), Moonlight Paradise (1996), Spain Burg (2016), Juliet Capulet (2017)
Breeders’ Cup Challenge
The winner of the Rockfel will receive an automatic fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ 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): Shale (Moyglare Stud Stakes, the Curragh), Lady Speightspeare (Natalma Stakes, (Woodbine).
Breeders’ Cup past performance
Well worth watching with the Breeders’ Cup in mind as each of the last four winners have gone on to the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. Last year’s winner, Daahyeh, was sent off 7/2 favourite for the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf before a sound runner-up effort, beaten just a length and a quarter by Sharing, while the 2018 Rockfel winner Just Wonderful was fourth at Churchill Downs. Spain Burg was tenth at Santa Anita after being transferred to U.S.-based Kathy Ritvo from France in 2016; 12 months later, Juliet Capulet was 11th at Del Mar.
Curiously, both Lahaleeb (2008) and Just The Judge (2012) did go on to North American G1 success in later life – in the same race, the EP Taylor Stakes on the Canadian International card at Woodbine.
Top contenders for 2020
Monday (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) – first foal of G1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Ballydoyle; much to like about Fastnet Rock filly’s recent listed win at Leopardstown, where she stepped up on debut by making all and comfortably holding a previous six-length winner; likely favourite.
Isabella Giles (Clive Cox/Adam Kirby) – Belardo filly has won three out of four, including seven-length victory of a G3 at Goodwood; soft ground that day suggests form may require degree of caution but this race was nominated straight away by her trainer; behind today’s rival Santosha on faster ground at Ascot and rain would be a bonus.
Santosha (David Loughnane/Thomas Greatrex) – blew the start in Lowther Stakes at York but excellent form before, notably when winning G3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot over 6f (Isabella Giles behind).
Alba Rose (Mark Johnston/Joe Fanning) – steps up in grade after eyecatching victory in minor Thirsk novice event; needs to find even more to figure here but looks to have a bright future.
What they say
• David Loughnane (Santosha's trainer): “The Lowther was just one race too many for her. She got very wound up in the paddock before and then fell asleep a bit in the stalls and missed the kick. She has had a nice break since York. We feel that she has every right to be here and hopefully we can get her season back on track. Every race is on the table for her but we’ll take it one race at a time. We certainly wouldn’t turn our noses up at the Breeders’ Cup if it was the right option for her.”
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