The Darley-sponsored Prix Morny, the latest leg of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge, will forever be woven into the tapestry of North America’s two-day championship owing to the identity of the winner of the 1991 edition.
That year’s Morny victor, the fourth in a row for the great Francois Boutin, was a little chestnut with a crooked white blaze and a habitual come-from-behind running style that served him well during a 2-year-old campaign in which he won six of his seven races.
You may have heard of him. His name was Arazi, and three months after his victory at Deauville he went on to stun the entire racing world with what is still regarded as the most spectacular performance in Breeders’ Cup history on his dirt debut beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs in the Juvenile (see video below).
Arazi wasn’t the only Prix Morny winner to leave his mark in the U.S., as in 2001 Johannesburg bucked every trend to thwart America’s top juveniles and become the only Breeders’ Cup winner Aidan O’Brien has ever saddled on dirt (not to be confused with the Pro-Ride surface on which Man Of Iron won the listed BC Marathon at Santa Anita in 2009) .
While it remains to be seen if this weekend’s renewal has anything like another Arazi or Johannesburg in its midst, the G1 looks ultra-competitive, bringing together top European 2-year-old form from Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.
The €350,000 contest offers a fees-paid berth to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, set to be run for the second time at Santa Anita on ‘Future Stars Friday’ on November 1, featuring the five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds.
Established in 1865, the 1,200-metre (6f) race is named in honour of Auguste de Morny, the founder of Deauville racecourse. If more recent history counts for anything, then the prize will not be staying at home – despite the presence of the Andre Fabre-trained Earthlight, probably the best 2-year-old seen in France this term.
Be that as it may, visiting horses have been enjoying an eyecatching run of success in France in 2019, and the Morny has long been the happiest of hunting grounds, with only one of the last 14 falling to a domestic runner.
Last year’s winner, Pretty Pollyanna, was the fourth in the last five runnings to represent Britain after Unfortunately, Shalaa and The Wow Signal. Among those bidding to embellish that record is A’Ali, who is already qualified for the Juvenile Turf Sprint thanks to his victory under Frankie Dettori in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The son of Society Rock is returning to Deauville after another cosy G2 success in the Prix Robert Papin nearly a month ago over a half-furlong shorter. “A’Ali is in tremendous form,” trainer Simon Crisford told the Racing Post.
With plenty of rain in the Normandy area, testing conditions seem likely for the Morny. “He’s been in good order since his Deauville win and has plenty of form on soft ground so it’s not too much of a concern,” added Godolphin’s former racing manager.
Royal Ascot form is well represented, with Queen Mary Stakes winner Raffle Prize set to run for record-breaking trainer Mark Johnston. She too is stepping up to G1 company after a second victory on the second tier, having broken the all-aged track record in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes (former Cherry Hinton) at Newmarket’s July meeting.
Aidan O’Brien’s trio is headed by Arizona, whose sire No Nay Never won this for Wesley Ward in 2013. The Ballydoyle colt hasn’t been sighted since a workmanlike victory in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he had Deauville rival Golden Horde back in fifth.
However, the latter improved markedly to claim the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood (in the process easily beating Coventry runner-up Threat) for trainer Clive Cox, who saddled Reckless Abandon to win the Morny in 2012.
“It was a very professional performance,” Cox told the Press Association. “He is only now just coming to the boil and it is still early days with him.”
For all that the visitors look formidable, the home team will surely not be giving up without a fight with the unbeaten Earthlight carrying the flag for the French branch of the Godolphin operation.
A son of Shamardal, he may even start favourite after an impressive course-and-distance victory three weeks ago in G3 company, where he needed only to be shaken up by Mickael Barzalona before scoring readily over listed winner Well Of Wisdom.
Earthlight is joined by soft-ground maiden winner Devil (Freddy Head) and Lady Galore, who took a listed race at Vichy for Christophe Ferland, who saddled 2011 Morny winner Dabirsim.
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.