Winners of Four Races this Week to Receive Automatic Starting Positions and Fees Paid into World Championships at Keeneland
ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND — Britain will host the first four races of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In to be run in Europe when the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting opens at Ascot Racecourse on Tuesday.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 82 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 4-5.
The first day of the five-day meeting will feature two Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, the 1- mile Queen Anne Stakes (G1), a Win and You’re In qualifier for the US$2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and the 5-furlong King’s Stand Stakes (G1), a Win and You’re In qualifier for the US$1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). The Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1), which will give the winner an invitation to the US$4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), will be held on Wednesday, June 15, and the Norfolk Stakes (G2) on Thursday, June 16, will give the winner a free spot in the US$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
The Queen Anne Stakes features Shadwell Estate Company Ltd’s Baaeed (GB), the undefeated 4-year-old colt trained by William Haggas, who currently tops the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.
Baaeed heads a field of seven, which includes Godolphin’s Real World (IRE) and Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magner, Michael Tabor, and Mrs. Anne Marie O’Brien’s Order of Australia (IRE), upset winner of the 2020 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Baeed has won seven out of seven, three of which have been at the Group 1 level, the latest coming when he defeated Real World in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (G1) at Newbury in May. That victory earned him comparison with the great Frankel (GB), who won 14 out of 14, including the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes in 2012.
“I thought he might be a bit fresh in the Lockinge and possibly rusty, but he wasn’t,” said Newmarket trainer Haggas. “He settled well and traveled well and won all right. I’ve always thought he would enjoy racing on a faster surface than he was getting last year, and he’s in good form. His new position in the rankings is a bigger deal for the media than it is for me, but he’s obviously good.”
At Newbury, Baaeed delivered the first defeat on turf to the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Real World, easing home by 3 1⁄4 lengths over the 1 mile. However, Suroor believes Real World, who has won five of his six starts on turf and once at 1 1⁄4 miles, can close the gap on his opponent over Ascot’s stiffer straight 1-mile course. Last year, Real World, a 5-year-old son of Dark Angel (GB), won the 1-mile Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.
“Real World had his last piece of work on Friday, and he is ready to go,” said Suroor. “He is in good form and came back well from the Lockinge. Baaeed is a good horse, but Real World won on the same racetrack last year. It will be a stiff mile and that suits him much better than Newbury, which is flat. A strong pace will suit him as well so he might even lead if there is no pace.”
Order of Australia has won only once since leading home a stable 1-2-3 in the 2020 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland, finishing fifth in last year’s Queen Anne and second to Baaeed in the Prix du Moulin (G1) at Longchamp last September. The Queen Anne will be his first run since he finished last of 12 in the 2021 Keeneland Turf Mile (G1).
“He was injured at Keeneland on his last run, which is why he’s been off so long, but the time before he’d been second to Baaeed at Longchamp,” O’Brien said.
The King’s Stand Stakes has produced a field of 18 runners among which are two outstanding sprinters: two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Golden Pal, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Westerberg, who will meet Rod Lyons, Patrick Harrison, Peter Kean, et al’s Australian star Nature Strip (AUS) in a clash of hemispheres on neutral territory.
Golden Pal is trained by Wesley Ward, who is the most successful U.S. trainer at Royal Ascot with 12 victories, including saddling Lady Aurelia to victory in the 2017 King’s Stand. Winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar, Golden Pal has been beaten on his two previous visits to Britain, finishing second in the Norfolk Stakes (G2) in 2020 and seventh in the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York in 2021, which was won by King Power Racing’s Winter Power (IRE).
Ward has assigned the mount on Golden Pal to Ascot-debutant Irad Ortiz Jr., off the back of a dominant win in the 5 1⁄2-furlong Shakertown Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on April 9.
“He’s a very special horse and he’s shown that in his races,” said Ward. “I think what separates this guy is that he is very quick out of the gate, goes fast early, and just keeps going. Most sprinters that go as fast as him can’t sustain that speed.
“He’s been beaten twice in England, but I’m excited to have another try. In the Norfolk Stakes, I think he ran very well and it was a little bit of jockey error in that he made his move way too soon.
“We found no physical issues after the Nunthorpe but he was coming off a resounding win at Saratoga, and York might have been too close to such a powerful performance.”
The 7-year-old gelding Nature Strip, an eight-time Group 1 winner, is the world’s top-rated sprinter. He is trained in Sydney by Chris Waller, best known internationally for his handling of the great Winx (AUS), who won 33 consecutive races and 28 at the Group 1 level.
Australian sprinters have won four editions of the King’s Stand Stakes this century but because of pandemic restrictions, Waller’s opportunities to compete at Royal Ascot have been hampered. His only previous runner, Brazen Beau, (AUS) was beaten a half-length by the Ward-trained Undrafted in the 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1).
“What I learned from that experience was that it would be achievable to win a race at Ascot one day,” said Waller.
“Golden Pal is very good and very quick. I am sure the English, French, and Irish will have a few hidden cards as well. Royal Ascot is something unique and it will all be about which horse copes with the occasion and the pressure of the race. I doubt Golden Pal will have been under the pressure he is about to be under, with the same applying to our horses as well.
“What Nature Strip has to his advantage is that he is a good straight track horse who only needs to replicate his Australian form to be capable of fighting out the finish with the best in the world. He has really matured into a foolproof horse. Earlier in his career, he used to be a bit ‘hit and miss’ because he would charge and race very fiercely. Now he is more relaxed and tractable. I do not see his age as an issue at all. I don’t see him as a rising 8-year-old, I just see him as a mature racehorse.”
Winter Power, trained by Tim Easterby, is winless since taking last year’s Coolmore Nunthorpe. Ninth last year in this race, he finished eighth as the 7-2 favorite in the Cazoo Temple Stakes (G2) at Haydock on May 21 in his seasonal debut.
Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes, a Win and You’re In for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, is set to produce another international line-up with Sunday Racing Co. Ltd.’s Shahryar (JPN) representing Japan.
The 4-year-old son of Deep Impact (JPN), who won the Group 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) last year, has already made his mark on foreign soil by landing the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) in March in which he narrowly beat Yibir (GB), winner of last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Among his likely opponents are James Wigan and Ballylinch Stud’s Bay Bridge (GB), trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the State of Rest partnership’s State of Rest (IRE), who has been campaigned by trainer Joseph O’Brien to win at the Group 1 level in the U.S., Australia, and France, plus 2020 race winner HH Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed Racing’s Lord North (IRE), trained by John and Thady Gosden.
The only 2-year-old race in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series at Ascot is the Norfolk Stakes (G2), which will open the card on June 16. The Magnier, Smith, Tabor, Westerberg, Brant- owned The Antarctic (IRE), trained by Aidan O’Brien, is the probable favorite for the 5- furlong race, which is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).
The colt, who cost US$969,000 at the 2021 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, is the full brother of former champion sprinter Battaash (IRE), who won the King’s Stand Stakes in 2020. He has begun his career with wins at Tipperary and Naas.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winners of the four races at Royal Ascot to start in the corresponding races of the World Championships. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 24 to receive the rewards.
Breeders’ Cup Press Release