Led by the 4-year-old multiple Group 1 winning Ribchester (GB) and English 2000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) star Churchill (IRE), a field of nine horses is set for Wednesday's one mile Qatar Sussex Stakes (G1) at Glorious Goodwood, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 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 for the first time at the Del Mar racetrack near San Diego, California, on November 3-4.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the Sussex Stakes winner to start in the Mile at Del Mar. Breeders' Cup will also provide a $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 Championships' pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.
Godolphin's Ribchester, third in last year's Sussex Stakes, has won two of three starts this year for trainer Richard Fahey, most recently capturing the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes (G1) by 1¼ lengths over Mutakayyef (GB) at Royal Ascot on June 20, A bay son of Iffraaj (GB), Ribchester, earned his first Group 1 of the year when he won the one-mile Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newberry on May 20. Ribchester began 2017 with a third-place finish in the 1 1/8 mile Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan, beaten just a half-length for the top prize. Ribchester won his first career Group 1 last year when he took the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.
Two races after Ribchester won the Queen Anne at Ascot, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier's Churchill had his seven-race winning streak stopped when the bay son of Galileo (IRE) came up flat and finished fourth as the 1-2 favorite in the one mile St. James's Palace Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds at Royal Ascot. Prior to that Churchill, trained by Aidan O'Brien, had reeled off a glorious campaign which included four Group 1 wins, notably back-to-back scores in the Investec 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 6 and then to the Curragh, where he captured the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas by 2¼ lengths on May 27. As a 2-year-old, Churchill showed his brilliance winning the Vincent O'Brien Stakes (G1) at the Curragh and the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at Newmarket in consecutive races last fall.
The Coolmore connections have also entered the front-running 3-year-old Lancaster Bomber (IRE), runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, and a recent second-place finisher to Barney Roy (GB) in the St. James's Palace.
Al Shaqab Racing's 4-year-old Zelzal (GB), a winner four times in seven career starts, will be making just his second start of the year in the Sussex Stakes. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Zelzal opened his season finishing second in the one-mile Prix Bertrand de Breuil (G3) at Chantilly on June 18, 1¼ lengths behind Taareef. Last year, Zelzal, a bay son of Sea the Stars (IRE) won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat and the Prix Paul de Moussac (G3), both at Chantilly. He was third in the one-mile Prix de Moulin de Longchamp (G1) last September.
Qatar Racing's 6-year-old Lightning Spear (GB), second to Ribchester in the Lockinge, will be trying to win his first race since taking the Celebration Mile (G2) at Goodwood last August for trainer David Simcock.
The Qatar Sussex Stakes is the sixth Breeders' Cup Challenge race to be run in the Mile Division this year. The first five Breeders' Cup Mile qualifiers are Legal Eagle (SAF), winner of the L'Oramins Queen's Plate (G1) at Kenilworth in South Africa; Somewhat, who captured the Doncaster Mile (G1) at Royal Randwick in Australia; Top Casablanca (CHI), who won the Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella (G1) at Club Hipico in Santiago, Chile; Satono Aladdin (JPN), winner of the Yasunda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse and Bal a Bali, who won the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California.
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