Jeff Smith’s Alcohol Free (IRE) was the toast of Goodwood after she downed favored Poetic Flare (IRE) to claim the prestigious Qatar Sussex Stakes (G1) and earn an automatic starting position into this year’s US$2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 84 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 Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California on Nov. 5-6.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Alcohol Free to start in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile, which will be run at 1 mile over the Del Mar turf course. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance of US$40,000 for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Alcohol Free, a 3-year-old filly by No Nay Never out of the Hard Spun mare Plying, had proved herself among the best of her gender with success in the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Ascot and a third-place finish in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes (G1), won by one of her Sussex opponents Snow Lantern (GB).
First Trip Versus Males for Alcohol Free
Alcohol Free had never raced against males in her seven previous starts, but she outshone her eight opponents to run down Poetic Flare, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas (G1) winner, inside the final furlong and score by a length and three quarters under champion jockey Oisin Murphy. Snow Lantern, the only other filly in the field, finished third. Last year’s FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order of Australia (IRE) finished fifth. Alcohol Free completed the mile in 1:42.83 on a course rated soft, good to soft in places.
Murphy, who felt he had been denied victory in the same race 12 months ago when Kameko had to settle for fourth after a troubled trip, said: “Anyone who follows me on Instagram will see that when I go to tack her up, she looks like she is going to bite or kick me. Then when you get near her, she is quite the opposite. She is a special character.
“Alcohol Free is so, so talented and what a thrill I got from that. I’ve won this race before on Lightning Spear (GB) and last year it all went wrong on Kameko. Day to day, you have to just keep kicking.
“Alcohol Free thrives on racing, and she felt super on Saturday; we only went four furlongs, but I was full of confidence to be honest, particularly when the rain came.”
Sussex Stakes Replay
The Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free joins Jet Dark (SAF), winner of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1); Succeso (CHI), who captured the Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella (G1); Smooth Like Strait, winner of the Shoemaker Mile (G1); Danon Kingly (JPN), who won the Yasuda Kinen (G1); and Palace Pier (GB), who took the Queen Anne Stakes (G1), as the sixth automatic qualifier for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Smith, 75, has raced a number of Britain’s most popular Flat horses, among them the champion sprinter Lochsong (GB), top stayer Persian Punch (IRE) and 2015 Juddmonte International (G1) winner Arabian Queen (IRE), since he gained his first big race triumph with Chief Singer (GB) in the 1984 Sussex Stakes.
“It was 37 years ago when I had jet black hair and no worries in the world,” Smith said. “I thought it would be very easy and I would come back and do it again. But this filly is something else. The way she won that is just incredible. I am thrilled to pieces. She is a champion. There is absolutely no question in my mind.”
Balding’s father Ian trained Lochsong (GB), one of the top sprinters of the 1990s. Lochsong’s 15 wins include the 1993 Nunthorpe Stakes (G1), Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) twice (1993 & 1994), and the King’s Stand Stakes (G2) (1994). Like many of Smith’s horses, she was homebred.
Andrew Balding, who first won the Qatar Sussex Stakes in 2017 with Here Comes When (IRE), said: “It’s a privilege to train her. Watching her work is demoralizing for the other horses. We have to keep swapping the lead horse because she is so good. You can see afterwards; she is hardly blowing. It was effortless.”
The trainer thought things weren’t going to plan early in the race as Murphy tried to cross over from her wide draw.
“I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I am sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day. It was lovely to see her do that because we have always believed in her. It’s no easy task taking on colts and older horses and to do it in that style was fantastic.”