Top-class 2-year-old action provides the obvious highlights on Saturday’s Cambridgeshire card on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, and one of the juvenile contests, the Royal Lodge Stakes, has extra significance as it is Britain’s final qualifying event for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge.
The prestigious one-mile contest, offering a guaranteed fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on November 1, is the first race on a card also featuring a pair of 2-year-old G1s in the shape of a starry renewal of the Middle Park Stakes, plus the Cheveley Park Stakes for fillies – and not forgetting the historic Cambridgeshire Handicap.
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, back when the G2 contest was still run at its former venue, Ascot.
Subsequent Derby heroes St Paddy, Royal Palace, Shirley Heights and Benny The Dip won the Royal Lodge in their 2-year-old seasons, as did the 2000 Guineas victor Mister Baileys.
Dual Canadian International winner Joshua Tree also features on the roll of honour after winning in 2009, while the 2017 victor was the late Roaring Lion, named Cartier Horse of the Year after his brilliant 3-year-old campaign.
Roaring Lion carried the silks of Qatar Racing, who will be hoping for another success via Kameko (Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy), who was touched off last time out by Positive in the Solario Stakes at Sandown. A son of top U.S. turf stallion Kitten’s Joy, he rallied strongly that day and looks nailed on to appreciate the extra furlong at Newmarket.
That said, he will have to withstand the usual mob-handed approach from Irish behemoth Ballydoyle, who enjoyed a 1-2-3 in last year’s Royal Lodge led home by Mohawk. Most likely of Aidan O’Brien’s three contenders this time around looks to be Year Of The Tiger, the mount of stable number one Ryan Moore. A four-length winner of a Naas maiden in early July, the Galileo colt has been given a break since disappointing next time only seven days later in a G2 at the Newmarket July meeting.
Stablemate Iberia (Donnacha O’Brien), fifth behind the brilliant Pinatubo last time at the Curragh, is another son of Galileo. Royal Dornoch (Wayne Lordon) completes the O’Brien trio.
However, certain form lines, of both the direct and indirect variety, suggest the main Ballydoyle players may have a bit to find with Highland Chief (Paul Cole/PJ McDonald). Not only did he have Year of The Tiger well behind when he was third in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, despite a troubled passage he got much closer to Pinatubo that day than Iberia did in the National Stakes. Three months have passed since the son of Gleneagles was last seen, and things do change as the season progresses.
Pyledriver (William Muir/Martin Dwyer) and Sound Of Commons (Brian Meehan/Frankie Dettori) clash again after being separated by a length and a quarter in a soft-ground listed race over this trip at Haydock three weeks ago. Dual winner Surf Dancer (William Haggas/James Doyle) also steps up in class.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races whose winners receive automatic fees-paid entries to designated races at the two-day event at Santa Anita on November 1-2.
As part of the benefits from the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete. This year’s European qualifiers conclude at the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting at ParisLongchamp on Sunday, October 6.