Breeders’ Cup berth on the line as star milers clash at Goodwood

Ribchester, favorite for today’s Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. Photo:

Led by the 4-year-old multiple G1-winning Ribchester and English 2000 Guineas and Irish 2000 Guineas star Churchill, a field of nine is set for today’s one-mile G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

This is an international series of Group and Graded races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held for the first time at the Del Mar racetrack near San Diego, California, on November 3-4.

As a part of the benefits of the series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the Sussex Stakes winner to start in the Mile at Del Mar. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.

The ground at Goodwood was riding slow yesterday, and more rain is forecast today, but both Ribchester and Churchill have shown reasonable form on softer going in the past.

Bookmakers seem to think the pair have the race between them, with Ribchester favorite at around even money, and Churchill closer to 2-1.

Godolphin’s Ribchester, third in last year’s Sussex Stakes, has won two of three starts this year for trainer Richard Fahey, most recently capturing the one-mile G1 Queen Anne Stakes by 1¼ lengths over Mutakayyef  at Royal Ascot on June 20. A bay son of Iffraaj, Ribchester, earned his first G1 of the year when he won the one-mile G1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 20.

Ribchester began 2017 with a third-place finish in the 1⅛-mile G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan, beaten just a half-length. He won his first career G1 last year when he took the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.

Glorious campaign

Two races after Ribchester won the Queen Anne at Ascot, Coolmore Partners’ Churchill had his seven-race winning streak stopped when the bay son of Galileo came up flat and finished fourth as the 1-2 favorite in the one-mile G1 St. James’s Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds at Royal Ascot.

Prior to that Churchill, trained by Aidan O’Brien, had reeled off a glorious campaign that included four G1 wins, notably back-to-back scores in the two Guineas at Newmarket and the Curragh. As a 2-year-old, Churchill showed his brilliance winning the G1 Vincent O’Brien Stakes at the Curragh and the G1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in consecutive races.

The Coolmore connections have also entered the front-running 3-year-old Lancaster Bomber, runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, and second to Barney Roy in the St. James’s Palace.

Al Shaqab Racing’s 4-year-old Zelzal, a winner four times in seven career starts, will be making just his second start of the year in the Sussex.

Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget in France, Zelzal opened his season finishing second in the one-mile G3 Prix Bertrand de Breuil at Chantilly on June 18, 1¼ lengths behind Taareef. Last year, Zelzal, a bay son of Sea The Stars won the G1 Prix Jean Prat and the G3 Prix Paul de Moussac, both at Chantilly. He was third in the one-mile G1 Prix de Moulin de Longchamp last September.

Qatar Racing’s 6-year-old Lightning Spear, second to Ribchester in the Lockinge, will be trying to win his first race since taking the G2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood last August for trainer David Simcock.

Other BC Mile qualifiers so far

The Sussex is the sixth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race to be run in the Mile division this year. The first five Breeders’ Cup Mile qualifiers are Legal Eagle, winner of the G1 L’Oramins Queen’s Plate at Kenilworth in South Africa; Somewhat, who captured the G1 Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick in Australia; Top Casablanca, who won the G1 Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella at Club Hipico in Santiago, Chile; Satono Aladdin, winner of the G1 Yasunda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse; and Bal A Bali, who won the G1 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita Park in California.

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