Magical Leads All-Star Cast In Search Of Breeders’ Cup Berth Via Royal Ascot

by | 06.17.2019 | 2:13pm
Magical on the track at Churchill Downs in 2018, prior to her runner-up finish in the Turf

Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's 4-year-old filly Magical (IRE), second to Enable (GB) in last year's Longines Breeders Cup Turf (G1), and unbeaten in three starts this year, headlines an all-star cast of eight runners in Wednesday's 1 1 ¼-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the this year's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.

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, Nov 1-2. As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders' Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.

Magical, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is best remembered for her dramatic battle against Enable in last year's Longines Turf at Churchill Downs, where she finished second by three-quarters of a length. This year, the bay daughter of Galileo (IRE) out of the Pivotal (GB) mare Halfway to Heaven (IRE), has raced three time to victory in Ireland. Magical, 7 of 15 lifetime, won the 1 ¼-mile Alleged Stakes (G3) at Naas on April 13 and the 1 ¼-mile Irish EBF Moorbridge Stakes (G2) at The Curragh on May 6. She stepped back into Group 1 class on May 26, winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh by seven lengths. Prior to last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, Magical won the 1 ½-mile QIPCO British Champion Stakes Fillies and Mares (G1) at Ascot.

Making her 2019 debut is another outstanding 4-year-old filly in Sunderland Holding Inc's Sea of Class (IRE), a chestnut daughter of Sea The Stars (IRE), trained by William Haggas. Suffering a similar fate as Magical, Sea of Class stormed home from far back in last year's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) at ParisLongchamp, falling just a neck short of Enable at the wire. A winner four of six races, Sea of Class won the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) and the Irish Oaks (G1) last year.

Sir Michael Stoute trained last year's Prince of Wales's Stakes winner Poet's Word (IRE). This year, Stoute returns with Sir Evelyn De Rothschild's 5-year-old Crystal Ocean (GB), who won the 2018 Hardwicke Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot and has won both his starts this year. Also sired by Sea the Stars, Crystal Ocean is still seeking his first Group 1 score, sporting a record of seven wins in 14 starts. Following the Hardwicke win, he finished second in his next three starts: Losing to Poet's Word in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) at Ascot in July; then to Enable in the September Stakes (G3) at Kempton, and finally taking the runner-up spot to Cracksman (GB) in the British Champion Stakes (G1). In his 2019 campaign, Crystal Ocean won the Group 3 Gordon Richards at Kempton on April 26 and 1 ½ mile Al Rayyan Stakes (G3) at Newbury on May 18. Frankie Dettori will ride Crystal Ocean.

From France comes the Andre Fabre-trained 5-year-old Waldgeist (GB), a bay son of Galileo, who comes into Wednesday's race off a 4 ½-length win in his seasonal debut, the Prix Ganay (G1) at Paris Longchamp. Owned by Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park, Waldgeist won four Group stakes last year, including the Grand Prix de Chantilly (G1) and the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. In the fall, he won the Prix Foy (G2) at Paris Longchamp and then finished fourth in the Arc de Triomphe, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. Waldgeist was the 9-2 second choice in the Breeders' Cup Turf but could not sustain a steady drive to the wire at Churchill Downs and wound of fifth.

Another runner with success in France this spring is Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum's 6-year-old chestnut gelding Zabeel Prince (FR). Trained by Roger Varian, Zabeel Prince came over from Varian's Newmarket yard in May to capture to 1 1/8-mile Prix d'Ispahan at ParisLongchamp by three-quarters of a length. A winner of 6 of 10, Zabeel Prince, by Lope de Vega (IRE) out of the Unbridled's Song mare Princess Serena, opened the season by winning the 1 1/8-mile Earl of Sefton Stakes (G3) at Newmarket on April 18.

The third female in the field is the globetrotting 5-year-old Japanese mare Deirdre (JPN), making her 24th career start. Owned by Toji Morita and trained by Mitsuru Hashida, Deirdre won last October's 1 1/8-mile Fucho Himba Stakes (G3) at Tokyo Racecourse. She was sent next to Hong Kong, where she finished second by a length to Glorious Forever (GB) in the Longines Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) in December. She has not hit the board this year, however, finishing sixth in the Nakayama Kinen (G2) on Feb. 24 as the 8-5 favorite; fourth in the Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan in March, and back in Hong Kong in April, finishing sixth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths in the 1 ¼-mile FWD QEII Cup (G1) at Sha Tin.

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