The Niarchos Family, which has won the Breeders’ Cup Mile a record six times, may have another star in its galaxy of future champions with its 3-year-old homebred super filly Alpha Centauri (IRE), who looms as the heavy favorite against male rivals for the first time in Sunday’s straight course, one-mile Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le Buffard – Jacques Le Marois (G1). The winner of Sunday’s race gains an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 85 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 Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 2-3.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the Jacques Le Marois winner to start in the Mile. Breeders’ Cup also 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 Oct. 22 to receive the rewards.
Over the past two months, Alpha Centauri, a gray daughter of Mastercraftsman (IRE), trained by Jessica Harrington, has developed into one of Europe’s top milers. Following her victory in the one-mile Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) against fillies on May 27 at the Curragh at 12-1, she unleashed her enormous talent at Royal Ascot on June 22, winning the one-mile Coronation Stakes (G1) by six lengths. She took on older fillies and mares for the first time in the one-mile Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes (G1) at Newmarket on July 1, securing the lead with a furlong remaining and powered to another six-length win.
The Niarchos Family won the Mile in 1987 with Miesque under the name of patriarch Stavros Niarchos. Miesque repeated as the Mile winner at Churchill Downs the following year. Spinning World captured the Mile at Hollywood Park in 1997. Domedriver (IRE) won it at Arlington Park in 2002; the filly Six Perfections (FR) in 2013; and with Karakontie (JPN) in 2014.
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Challengers in Jacques Le Marois
Among the challengers to Alpha Centauri in the 11-horse field is the Mrs. R.F. Houghton Johnson’s 4-year-old Accidental Agent (GB), who qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Mile by capturing the “Win and You’re In” Queen Anne Stakes (G1) by a half-length at 33-1 on June 19 during the Royal Ascot meeting. A bay son of Delegator (GB), trained by the owner’s daughter, Eve, Accidental Agent has won four of 12 starts, but will be attempting his first win outside Great Britain on Sunday.
Another contender who has an impressive win at Deauville last out is the George Strawbridge 3-year-old filly With You (GB). A bay daughter of Dansili (GB), trained by Freddy Head, With You has won 3 of 5 starts, and beat older fillies in the one-mile Prix Rothschild (G1) over a straight course on July 29 as the 8-5 favorite. The Rothschild was the first Group 1 win for With You, after three attempts. She was second in the one-mile Gurkha Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp on May 27, and was fifth in the 1 3/16-mile Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly on June 17. She won twice as a 2-year-old, including the one-mile Prix des Reservoirs (G3) at Deauville.
Sarl Darpat France’s 4-year-old Recoletos (FR), has won 6 of 10 starts for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias. After two victories in France in May, the bay son of Whipper was not himself at Royal Ascot in the Queen Anne, and finished a non-threatening seventh at 6-1. He came into the Queen Anne with wins in the one-mile Prix du Muguet (G2) at Saint-Cloud on May 1 and also captured the 1 1/8-mile Coolmore Prix D’Ispahan (G1) by 1 ¾ lengths as the 4-5 favorite at Longchamp on May 31. Also worthy of consideration are the first two finishers from the one-mile Qatar Prix Jean Prat (G1) on July 8 in which Fiona Carmichael’s 3-year-old Intellogent (IRE), trained by Fabrice Chappet, defeated Godolphin’s Cascadian (GB) by a short neck. Cascadian is trained by Andre Fabre, who has won the Prix Jacques le Marois seven times, including last year with Al Wukair (IRE).
The Prix Jacques Le Marois is the eighth Breeders’ Cup Mile qualifier thus far in 2018. The first seven to qualify are: 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; Hunt (IRE), winner of the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California; Mozu Ascot, who won the Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse; Accidental Agent (GB), winner of the Queen Anne and Lightening Spear (GB), who won the Qatar Sussex Stakes (G1) last week at Glorious Goodwood.