Glorious Goodwood, the five-day festival that provides the British racing calendar’s high-summer showpiece, offers a splendid setting for the latest leg of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge with a fees-paid berth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile on the table for the winner of the Qatar Sussex Stakes.
Wednesday’s £1 million ($1.23m) feature proved a pivotal contest when it came to the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year as Goodwood runner-up Expert Eye became only the second British-trained horse ever to land the turf highlight, where Sussex Stakes winner Lightning Spear was seventh. Britain’s only previous winner, Barathea, was also second in the Sussex Stakes, in 1994.
After Enable’s stunning weekend victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, trainer John Gosden and Expert Eye’s jockey, Frankie Dettori, are again in pole position with last year’s 2-year-old champion Too Darn Hot, who is bidding to reassert his top-dog status in the mile division.
After a stuttering start to his 3-year-old campaign, Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber’s Dubawi colt finally rediscovered his G1-winning touch when dropped back to seven furlongs in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on July 7. Now he faces a rematch with old rivals Circus Maximus and Phoenix Of Spain, who have both beaten him already in 2019.
"Too Darn Hot showed last time in the Jean Prat what he is good at,” reported Gosden. “He is a very quick horse and stupidly we tried to stretch him out earlier in the year after an interrupted prep when he had to miss the Guineas.
"I think we have got him back in the right place now, and I was most impressed with the way he hit the line at Deauville over seven furlongs. I know a lot of people were doubting him, but we were very confident going there because his work had been brilliant beforehand. He showed us that he had come back to himself after a hellish spring.
"His ideal distance is probably somewhere between seven furlongs and an easy mile, I doubt we will be trying to go further than that. He is an extremely fast horse with bundles of natural speed.”
Further down the line, Gosden is keen on a crack at America. "I think we have plenty of options with him later in the year,” he explained. “I am not frightened of looking at a Prix du Moulin and then there is the possibility of a Breeders' Cup at the end of year over a two-turn mile.”
Too Darn Hot’s task was made to look substantially more difficult last week, when his Royal Ascot conqueror Circus Maximus was supplemented to the race at a cost of £70,000 ($86,000). After the son of Galileo had finished sixth in the Investec Derby, the Coolmore team made a similar move before dropping him back fully half a mile for the St James’s Palace Stakes, where Too Darn Hot was only third.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien is seeking his sixth winner of the Sussex Stakes – and it is worth noting that four of the previous five ended up at the Breeders’ Cup, albeit more often in the Classic than the Mile.
After winning the Sussex Stakes in 2000, GIant’s Causeway was so narrowly beaten by Tiznow in a epic Classic on the dirt at Churchill Downs, while 2008 victor Henrythenavigator also finished second, to Raven’s Pass, on synthetics at Santa Anita, where Rip Van Winkle (2009) was down the field behind the great Zenyatta. Rock Of Gibraltar, the 2002 Sussex Stakes winner, was second in the Mile at Arlington that year after a luckless passage.
Phoenix Of Spain (Charlie Hills/Jamie Spencer) had Too Darn Hot nearly four lengths behind in the Irish 2000 Guineas before a lacklustre showing in the St James’s Palace, while Lord Glitters (David O’Meara/Daniel Tudhope) – a fast-finishing third 12 months ago – looks best of the older brigade. The Breeders’ Cup Mile is very much on the 6-year-old’s agenda after his victory at Royal Ascot in the Queen Anne Stakes, which means he has already secured a place in the field for Santa Anita.
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.
Among other Sussex Stakes winners to have appeared in the Mile in recent years are Toronado and Ribchester, who finished eighth and fifth respectively.
Five horses from five continents have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Mile via the 2019 Challenge series. Alongside Lord Glitters in Europe, they are Do It Again (Africa), Tamburo Di Oro (South America), Bolo (North America) and Indy Champ (Asia).