HALLANDALE BEACH, June 18, 2023 – It’s been 16 years–a recent press release reminds us–since the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series was launched and unquestionably it has been loyal to its stated mission.
This year’s series consists of 80 stakes races whose winners receive automatic berths with fees paid into a corresponding race at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, scheduled for the weekend of NOV 3-4 at Santa Anita Park.
The Breeders’ Cup win-and-in races begin later today in South America with the Grande Premio Brasil, an 18-horse contest but billed as a two horse match between Raptor’s and multiple Group stakes winning mare, High Wire.
And North America has nothing on southern hemisphere horsemen as both runners hail from one barn, that of Luis Estevez, who has three other runners in here. The winner of today’s mile and a half gains entrée into the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at the same 12-furlong trip.
While they will be rockin’ and rollin’ in Rio this afternoon, it’s Tuesday in Berkshire England that’s more familiar to U.S. horseplayers as the Royal Ascot meet begins its prestigious 5-day meet.
Ascot runners ship over for our championship series each fall, and one such champion runs in the Group 1 Queen Anne, dual Breeders’ Cup winner Modern Games. The Kings Stand, the other headline grabber on the initial program, is always a hotly contested five-furlong sprint.
In all, four Royal Meet races this week will qualify as Breeders’ Cup win-and-in events. Tuesday’s winners will gain entry into the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, respectively.
Prior to placing in Keeneland’s Maker’s Mark this season, Modern Games was undefeated over America’s firmer courses thrice, but made amends back home by taking the Group 1 Lockringe Stakes at Newbury last month. He will be joined in the Queen Anne by stablemate Native Trail.
Said trainer Charlie Appleby of his duo: “Modern Games has already done it this year … and I’m a strong believer Native Trail won’t be too far behind him in getting his Group 1. Native Trail had wind surgery over the winter and has definitely come forward for his first run this season.”
Meanwhile, the Frankie Dettori road show rolls on. The redoubtable Frankie will be looking for his 78th Ascot win aboard Inspiral, who won the Coronation Stakes at Ascot at 3 at the direct expense of Graham Motion’s talented New York-bred, Spendarella.
Said John Gosden of Inspiral: “She has taken her time to come to hand due to a cold, wet spring. Last year we were just taking on three-year-old fillies. This year we are taking on proven older horses … so it is a much bigger test. I’ve been very pleased with her lately,” added Gosden.
One of the more hotly contested events will be the King’s Stand sprint where the Euros and the home team will need to contend with Australian sprinters. The sprint specialists from Down Under are widely known for their speed and toughness.
Highland Princess, a multiple Group 1 winner last summer, arguably is the most accomplished Aussie. Said trainer John Quinn: “She is a tough, durable mare who has been great for us. It’s a spicy King’s Stand but we’re hoping for a big run.”
Australia’s Coolangatta is another female sprinter with a big chance and will attempt the join the ranks of prior King’s Stand winners from Down Under, including Choisir, Takeover Target, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast, Black Caviar and last year’s uber impressive Nature Strip.
America’s Wesley Ward, who won the King’s Stand in 2017 with Lady Aurelia, will saddle Breeders’ Cup winner Twilight Gleaming, who was second in the Queen Mary at this meet two years ago. Irad Ortiz Jr. is flying over there to partner her.
Speaking of Americans, George Weaver, who won a pair of win-and-in Ascot races at Gulfstream Park last month, is shipping over a colt and a filly to join several Ward juveniles in races later in the week.
Free past performances will be available for all Ascot races. Check your favorite Advance Wagering provider for details