The 7-year-old Alpha Delphini (GB) edged out Mabs Cross (GB) by the shortest of noses, scoring a 40-1 upset under jockey Graham Lee in winning Friday's five-furlong Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) at York Racecourse, and earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 85 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 2-3.
As part of the benefits of the Breeders 'Cup Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for Alpha Delphini to start in the Turf Sprint, which will be run at 5 ½ furlongs at Churchill Downs, and also will provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes was the fourth Breeders' Cup Challenge series race in the Turf Sprint Division this year. The first three to qualify were Disco Partner, who won the Jaipur Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park in New York; Merchant Navy (AUS), who won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, and has since been retired; and Long On Value, who won the Highlander Stakes (G1) at Woodbine in Canada.
Owned by the Alpha Delphini Partnership and trained by Bryan Smart, Alpha Delphini had been in the money in four previous races this year before winning today's Coolmore Nunthorpe, and his first career Group 1.
Racing in the center of the course in the 15-horse field, Alpha Delphini, a bay gelding by Captain Gerard (GB) by Easy to Imagine by 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Cozzene, began his serious drive to the wire about a furlong out, and was joined to his inside by the 14-1, 4-year-old filly Mabs Cross. Both of them passed the 4-5 favorite Battaash (IRE), who faded along the rail, and the pair raced head to head to the line in a thrilling photo finish. It took about five anxious minutes to come to the decision, but Alpha Delphini was declared the winner.
“That was the longest five minutes of my life!” said a jubilant Smart to the Yorkshire Post. “I backed him this morning, I had a tenner each way at 80-1 because I thought that was an insulting price. I knew I had him the best he'd ever been. I'd trained him for this race as it was one I'd obviously wanted to win.”
Alpha Delphini completed the five furlongs in 57.18 over course listed as good to firm. Blue Point (IRE), the 7-2 second choice, finished third, followed by Battaash in fourth and Havana Grey (GB) in fifth.
Alpha Delphini won his 8th race in 26 starts. He came into the Coolmore Nunthorpe off a second-place finish in York's listed 5-furlong John Smith City of Walls Stakes on July 14, losing by just a head. Prior to that he lost by a short head at Haydock on June 9 in the listed 5-furlong Betway Achilles Stakes. He was third behind Mabs Cross in Newmarket' s Longholes Palace House Stakes (G3) on May 5, beaten three-quarters of a length.
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