Led by Lockinge Stakes (G1) winner Rhododendron (IRE), Dubai Turf (G1) winner Benbatl (GB,) and American-based Yoshida (JPN), 16 horses have been entered for Tuesday's one-mile $600,000 Queen Anne Stakes (G1) for an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile, and the first of four international Breeders' Cup Challenge races to be held the Royal Ascot meeting.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 82 stakes races, whose winners receive automatic starting positons 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.
This is the first year that there will be Breeders' Cup Challenge series races at Royal Ascot. In addition to the Queen Anne, three others races will be automatic qualifiers: The Prince of Wales's Stakes (G1) on Wednesday, June 20 for an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1); the Norfolk Stakes (G2) on Thursday, June 21, for an automatic berth into the new Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) on Saturday, June 23 for an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Tuesday's Queen Anne is also the first Breeders' Cup Challenge race to be run in Europe this year. “Win and You're In” qualifying races for the 2018 Breeders' Cup have already been held in South Africa, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and in the United States.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Queen Anne to start in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Breeders' Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. If not Breeders' Cup eligible, the Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of October 22 to receive the rewards.
The 4-year-old filly Rhododendron, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, and trained by Aidan O'Brien, earned her third career Group 1 win in the one-mile Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 19, holding off the fast-closing Lightning Spear (GB) to prevail by a short head as the 3-1 favorite. The victory was the fifth career score for the bay daughter of Galileo (IRE), which also includes a win in the Prix de l'Opera Longines (G1) on Oct. 1 of last year at Chantilly. Following the Prix de l'Opera, Rhododendron appeared next in the 1 1/8-mile Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar, where she finished second by a length to Wuheida (GB). As a 2-year-old Rhododendron won the Group 1 Dubai Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor has won the Queen Anne seven times for Godolphin, and has an excellent chance to add another trophy with the formidable 4-year-old Benbatl, winner of 3 of 4 starts in 2018. Benbatl was a dominant 3 ¾-length winner in capturing the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Turf on March 31 at Meydan, easily drawing away from the field in the stretch. A bay son of Dubawi (IRE), Benbatl opened the year with stakes wins at Meydan in the 1 1/8-mile Singspiel (G3) on Jan. 11 and the 1 1/8-mile Al Rashidiya (G2) on Feb. 1. He followed up those performances with a second-place finish as the even money favorite to Blair House (IRE) in the Jebba Hatta Stakes (G1) at Meydan on March 10. Benbatl returns to Royal Ascot, where he won last year's 1 ¼ mile Hampton Court Stakes (G3) by three-quarters of a length. Christophe Soumillion has the mount, breaking from post position 3.
Also getting strong consideration is Sarl Darpat France's Recoletos (FR), winner of both his starts this year, including a Group 1 score in the 1 1/8-mile Churchill Coolmore Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp on May 27 as the 4-5 favorite. Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias and ridden from post 10 by Oliver Peslier, Recoletos also won the May 1, one-mile Prix du Muguet (G2) at Saint-Cloud. A 4-year-old bay son of Whipper, Recoletos has won six times in 10 starts, which includes taking the Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange at Maison-Laffit last October. He concluded 2017 with a fourth-place finish in the 1 ¼ -mile QIPCO Champions Stakes (G1) at Ascot on Oct. 21 behind Cracksman (GB), Poet's Word (IRE) and Highland Reel (IRE).
The veteran Lightning Spear made a valiant effort to catch Rhododendron in the Lockinge Stakes, falling just a short head behind the winner. Owned by Qatar Racing and trained by David Simcock, Lightning Spear, a 7-year-old chestnut son of Pivotal (GB), is seeking his seventh career win, and his first since taking the Grosvenor Sport Celebration Mile Stakes (G2) at Goodwood last August. Oisin Murphy has the mount breaking from post 6.
WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Racing and Head of Plains's Yoshida comes from the U.S. off an impressive victory in the 1 1/8-mile Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 5 in his first start in nearly seven months. Trained by Bill Mott, Yoshida held off the favored Beach Patrol in the stretch by three-quarters-of length over a yielding turf course. Yoshida, a 4-year-old chestnut son of Heart's Cry (JPN), as won 4 of 8 career starts including last October's 1 1/8- mile Hill Prince (G3) at Belmont Park. Yoshida was bred in Japan by Northern Farm.
The Queen Anne Stakes is the sixth Breeders' Cup Mile qualifier thus far in 2018. Earlier this month, Mozu Ascot, won the Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse. Legal Eagle (SAF), winner of the L'Oramins Queen's Plate (G1) at Kenilworth in South Africa; Happy Clapper (AUS), who captured the Star Doncaster Mile (G1) at Royal Randwick in Australia; Nuevo Maestro (CHI), who won the Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella (G1) at Club Hipico in Santiago, Chile and Hunt (IRE), winner of the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California are the other qualifiers.
Queen Anne winners Barathea (IRE) (1994) and Goldikova (IRE) (2010) both won the Breeders' Cup Mile. Tepin won the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile and the 2016 Queen Anne. Kalanisi (IRE) won the 2000 Queen Anne and the Breeders' Cup Turf that fall.
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