All set for the ‘best race of the meeting’ at Royal Ascot

Still friends after the battle: Frankie Dettori (pink cap) and Ryan Moore acknowledge each other’s part in the epic battle for last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Dettori’s mount, Enable, misses Wednesday’s Royal Ascot highlight, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, but Moore’s, Magical, is the likely favourite. Photo: Mary Meek/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM/Breeders’ Cup

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes, described by Frankie Dettori as “the best race of the meeting”, is the second of four Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge races at Royal Ascot.

The winner of Wednesday’s £750,000 ($950,000) highlight will earn a fees-paid berth to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on November 2 – and the mile-and-a-quarter contest has attracted a star-studded international field, in which the likely favourite is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Magical.

According to official ratings, the 4-year-old daughter of Galileo broke into the world’s top five on the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings for 2019 with her latest seven-length romp in last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, where she landed her second G1.

Beaten just three-quarters of a length by Enable in an epic battle for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, Magical arrives in prime form looking to complete a four-timer already for 2019. She is bidding to become her trainer’s fourth Prince of Wales’s winner after Duke Of Marmalade (2008), So You Think (2012) and Highland Reel (2017). Duke Of Marmalade finished down the field when tried on synthetics in the BC Classic, while Highland Reel was third to Talismanic in the Turf at Del Mar; he had won the $4 million event 12 months previously at Santa Anita.

Last year’s Epsom Derby winner, Masar, has been switched to Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes, allowing Godolphin rider James Doyle to maintain his association with star filly Sea Of Class, making her seasonal debut after her fast-finishing effort behind Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A minor setback prevented an earlier reappearance. 

“I’d have loved to have had a run beforehand but that’s not to be and she’s got to start somewhere,” said trainer William Haggas. “It’s the first run of the year and it is not a life-changing run. I’ve done as much as I want to do with her and she is now ready to roll back in again. We want to go for the Arc and work backwards.”

With Enable absent, a scheduled Royal Ascot comeback postponed until later in the summer, Dettori rides Crystal Ocean for Sir Michael Stoute. “He has to go for Group 1 races now, and he has won plenty of Group 2 and Group 3 races,” said the trainer, who won last year’s race with Poet’s Word. “He has run creditably in G1 race and has decent ten-furlong form. It is a very tough race, but he goes there in great form.”

Of the others, the Andre Fabre-trained Waldgeist produced arguably the best performance of his career last time when dropped back to this sort of distance for a four-length victory in the G1 Prix Ganay, while Japan fields a rare Royal-meeting runner in much travelled Deirdre, a classic winner at home in the Shuka Sho (fillies’ St Leger) two seasons ago. The domestic team also features Zabeel Prince, on a hat-trick after winning the G1 Prix d'Ispahan at ParisLongchamp last month.

As part of the benefits from the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside North America to compete in the two-day event at Santa Anita on November 1-2.

Two horses have so far gained automatic places in this year’s Turf after winning Breeders’ Cup Challenge races in South America: Il Mercato (who won the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini at San Isidro in Argentina) and Brazilian-bred George Washington, winner of last weekend’s Grande Premio Brasil at the Hipodromo de Gavea in Rio.

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