Led by Group 1 winners Barney Roy (GB), Churchill (IRE) and Ulysses (IRE), seven horses are expected to start in Wednesday's historic $1.23 million Juddmonte International (GI) headlining the prestigious Ebor Festival at York Racecourse, which will host a trio of Breeders' Cup Challenge races over three days. Run at 1¼ miles for 3-year-olds and up on the turf, the International will offer an automatic starting berth into the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) though the 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 Juddmonte International winner to start in the Longines Turf 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.
Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith's Churchill, a 3-year-old son of Galileo trained by Aidan O'Brien, had his air of invincibility broken when he was fourth at odds-in in Royal Ascot's St James's Palace (GI) when last seen June 20. He had won seven straight since losing his career debut, including the 2000 Guineas (GI) at Newmarket and Irish 2,000 Guineas (GI) at The Curragh.
Flaxman Stable's Ulysses and Godolphin's Barney Roy, the 1-2 finishers in Sandown's Coral-Eclipse (GI) in July, also are entered and are attracting plenty of support, both listed at 11-4 odds. Ulysses, a 4-year-old son of Galileo (IRE), was fourth in last year's Longines Turf at Santa Anita for trainer Sir Michael Stoute but has developed into a dependable Group I performer this year, while Barney Roy, a 3-year-old son of Excelebration (IRE), won the St James's Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot for trainer Richard Hannon, and has the benefit of a run against older horses.
O'Brien has also entered Cliffs of Moher (IRE) from the Coolmore contingent. A 3-year-old-son of Galileo, Cliffs of Moher finished second by three-quarters-of a length to stablemate Wings of Eagles (FR) in the Investec (Epsom) Derby on June 3, but finished fourth of nine starters as the 7-4 favorite in the Coral Eclipse. Shutter Speed (GB), owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah and trained by John Gosden, is the lone filly in Wednesday's race. A 3-year-old daughter of Dansili, Shutter Speed has won three of her four career starts, including about 1¼-mile Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (G3) at York on May 17. She finished fourth as the second choice in the Prix de Diane (G1) at Longchamp on June 18.
Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar's 5-year-old Decorated Knight (GB), trained by Roger Charlton, winner of the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) at The Curragh on May 28, and second to Highland Reel (IRE) in the Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, and Paul and Clare Rooney's 5-year-old My Dream Boat (IRE), winless in seven starts since taking the 2016 Prince of Wales's Stakes, complete the Juddmonte International field.
The Juddmonte International is the seventh Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier for the 1½-mile, $4 million Longines Turf (G1) this year. The first six to qualify are 5-year-old Hunt (IRE), who won last Saturday's Del Mar Handicap (G1); the 4-year-old Beach Patrol, winner of the Arlington Million (G1) on August 12; the 3-year-old filly Enable (GB), winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot on July 29; Satono Crown (JPN), who captured the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan on June 25; the 8-year-old Ordak Dan (ARG), who won the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Buenos Aires on May 25 and 3-year-old Voador Magee (BRZ), who earned a Turf bid by capturing the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Hipodromo Gavea in Rio de Janeiro on June 11.
On Thursday at York, older fillies and mares take the stage in the 1½-mile Darley Yorkshire Oaks (G1), with the winner gaining a free berth into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). On Friday, the winner of the 5-furlong Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1), for 2-year-olds and up, will earn an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
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