Newmarket will be the site of Great Britain's final two Breeders' Cup Challenge races of the 2019 season, beginning with Friday's seven-furlong $128,000 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes (GII), which will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, followed by Saturday's one-mile $160,000 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (GII), with a berth into the Breeders' Juvenile Turf up for grabs.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 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 Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on Nov. 1-2. As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the winners to start in their respective World Championships' races. Breeders' Cup also will provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
The Rockfel drew nine 2-year-old fillies, with Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa's Daahyeh (GB) as the 6-5 favorite, followed by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's Festival Day (GB) at 9-2. Daahyeh, a bay daughter of Bated Breath (GB), has won 2-of-4 races, and was most recently second in the “Win and You're In” Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) at The Curragh on Sept. 15. Daahyeh, trained by Roger Varian, finished second in the Moyglare to Love (IRE) by three-quarters of a length as the 13-8 favorite. She was most impressive winning the Albany Stakes (G3) over 24 rivals at Royal Ascot, scoring by 1 ½ lengths. This will be Daahyeh's second start at Newmarket. She was runner-up in the six-furlong Duke of Cambridge Stakes on July 12.
Festival Day made her first start on Sept. 3, when finishing second in an EBF Fillies' Novice Stakes at Goodwood as the 6-4 favorite, but found her form next time out at Chepstow in Wales in a seven-furlong fillies novice event, which she won by six lengths. A bay daughter of Dubawi (IRE) out of the Storm Cat mare Ama, Festival Day is trained by Mark Johnston.
Saeed Manana's Under the Stars (IRE) won her first two starts for trainer James Tate, including the six-furlong Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (G3) on July 27. But since then the bay daughter of Night of Thunder (IRE) has lost twice, most recently a fifth-place finish in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien has saddled three winners of the Shadwell Rockfel, and captured last year's race with Just Wonderful. This year, he has entered Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Blissful (IRE), who has won her last two starts. A bay daughter of Galileo (IRE), Blissful broke her maiden in her third try, winning a seven-furlong race at Tipperary on Aug. 29, and followed up that victory by capturing the seven-furlong Ingabelle Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 14, making up two lengths in the final furlong to win by a nose.
Kameko Leads Royal Lodge
The Royal Lodge has eight runners entered, and it's Qatar Racing Limited's Kameko, bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, who is the 6-4 favorite off his second-place finish in the Solario (G3) at Sandown Aug. 31. The bay son of Kitten's Joy launched a huge rally at 14-1 in the final furlong, but was just a nose short at the wire. Kameko won on debut at Sandown on July 25 for trainer Andrew Balding.
Mrs. Friti Hay's Highland Chief (IRE) has not raced since June 22 when he finished third to juvenile sensation Pinatubo (IRE) in the listed seven-furlong Chesam Stakes at Royal Ascot. Trained by Paul Cole, Highland Chief, a bay son of Gleneagles (IRE) out of Pink Symphony (GB) by Montjeu (IRE), broke his maiden at Newbury on April 12.
Knox & Wells Limited and R.W. Devlin's Pyledriver (GB) has won two of three starts for trainer William Muir. A bay son of Harbour Watch (IRE), Pyledriver took the listed one-mile Ascendant Stakes at Haydock by 1 ¼ lengths on Sept. 7 over Centurion Thoroughbreds' Sound of Cannons (GB). The latter, a son of Nathaniel (IRE), trained by Brian Meehan, was making just his second start, having broken his maiden at Newmarket on Aug. 16.
Aidan O'Brien has entered three runners in the Royal Lodge: Year of the Tiger (IRE) and longshots Iberia (IRE) and Royal Dornoch (IRE). Year of the Tiger, a bay son of Galileo (IRE), owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Flaxman Holdings Ltd., broke his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths in a seven-furlong race at Naas on July 6, but disappointed the next time out, finishing 7th of 8 in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket on July 13 as the 5-2 favorite. Both Iberia and Royal Dornoch also are maiden winners but did not move forward in their last two starts. Iberia, another son of Galileo, finished fifth in the Vincent O'Brien and Royal Dornoch trailed a five-horse field in the seven-furlong Pommery Champagne Stakes (G2) at Doncaster on Sept. 14.
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