Merchant Navy (AUS) edged City Light (FR) by a short head at the wire to win the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot and earned an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
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.
The Diamond Jubilee was the fourth Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re in” qualifier to be held during the Royal Ascot meeting.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Merchant Navy, owned by the Merchant Navy Syndicate of Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Mangier and Michael Tabor, and trained by Aidan O’Brien, to start in the Turf Sprint, which will be run at 5.5 furlongs. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Merchant Navy becomes the second horse to earn an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint this year, joining the 6-year-old Disco Partner, who won the Jaipur Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park on June 9.
Moore Rides Navy to Win
Ridden by Ryan Moore, Merchant Navy defeated 11 rivals in today’s Diamond Jubilee as the 4-1 second choice behind the favored Harry Angel (IRE), who missed the break after acting up in the gate at the start and wound up 11th. Bound for Nowhere finished third followed by The Tin Man (GB) in fourth. Merchant Navy covered the six furlongs in 1:12.09.
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O’Brien, registering his fourth winner at Royal Ascot 2018, said: “Merchant Navy made lovely progress from the Curragh to here, but we thought that it was an impossible task for him. We knew that he was meeting the field 12-pound wrong than he was in Australia and it was a big worry for him. He was only a three-year-old being treated as a four-year-old.
“Merchant Navy was travelling very well and we knew looking at him that Ryan was very happy. I think he was hoping he would not have to get there too early on him. He got a little bit of a bump and Ryan said it took a bit of time to rebalance. We are over the moon with him.”
2018 Diamond Jubilee Replay
Merchant Navy came from Australia earlier this year from the yard of trainer Aaron Purcell to O’Brien at Ballydoyle. In Australia, Merchant Navy, a 3-year-old Southern Hemisphere bay son of Fastnet Rock (AUS), won the Coolmore Stud Stakes (G1) at Flemington on Nov. 4 by a head at odds of 18-1. This year, after two third-place finishes in the Schweppes Rubiton Stakes (G2) at Caulfield Cup on Feb. 10, and in the Group 1 six-furlong Lexus Newmarket Handicap at Flemington on March 10, Merchant Navy was shipped to Ireland. He made his European debut there on May 26 at The Curragh in the six-furlong Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes (G2), winning it by a length over stablemate Spirit of Valor.
Future racing plans for Merchant Navy were unclear as O’Brien indicated that the colt may be sent back to Australia because of a potential stallion commitment.
“We were always told that he was only here for Royal Ascot because he has stallion commitments in Australia. That’s why we were so anxious to get a run into him at the Curragh, because we knew that we might not have him after Ascot. We will have to see what happens now, but that was the plan as far as I was told. The plan might change.”