Steve Bradley’s The Ridler (GB) confounded the betting market to pull off a surprise victory in the 5-furlong Norfolk Stakes (G2) for 2-year-olds at odds of 50-1 and earned a guaranteed start in the US$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 82 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 4-5.
Just two weeks ago Paul Hanagan, the two-time champion jockey, revealed he would no longer ride as first jockey for trainer Richard Fahey with whom he has a 24-year association. Oisin Orr has since been appointed stable number one.
But Fahey’s decision to keep Hanagan on The Ridler paid off when the son of Brazen Beau (AUS) denied the favorite Walbank (IRE), following up the same trainer-jockey triumph with Perfect Power (IRE) in the 2021 Norfolk Stakes.
The connections had to survive a stewards’ inquiry as The Ridler, who after challenging widest of the 10 runners in the field, had veered left, impeding Crispy Cat (GB), Brave Nation (IRE) and crossing Walbank on the way to recording a victory by a margin of 1 ¾ lengths. The stewards were satisfied the interference had not improved the winner’s placing as Walbank was confirmed runner-up by a neck from Crispy Cat, with Brave Nation finishing fourth.
Norfolk Stakes Replay
The Ridler completed the 5 furlongs in 1:05.05 on a course rated good to firm. He also became the highest-priced winner in the history of the Norfolk Stakes.
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“It’s a worry when you hear the stewards’ inquiry klaxon [announcement bell] go but I thought he won so well and pulling up the other lads said I was well clear,” said Hanagan. “When you hit the front there is a lot for a horse to look at here.
“There has been a lot going on but I am just going to enjoy the moment. I’ve had a few setbacks with injuries and whatsoever but I am here again in the winners’ enclosure at Royal Ascot.
“I have to say this is a bit of a surprise,” said winning trainer Fahey. “I would have been happy with a place. He’s a good hardy horse and you need a good 6 furlong horse to win this. It was a good performance. It’s great for Paul.”
Of the new stable riding arrangements, he added: “It wasn’t really a change around, it was about bringing a young guy in and Paul would still ride for us, which he has today.”
The Ridler is named after the Batman supervillain, the Riddler, because he has a birthmark in the shape of a reversed question mark on his face.
“As soon as he was born it was a no-brainer,” said Bradley. “Weatherbys [racing administrators] didn’t like the name with two ‘ds’, I think for copyright reasons, so we settled for one. The fact we bred him as well, you can’t describe what this is like. He wasn’t hard-pressed to win that and there are loads of other races to come.
“The normal progression, if you look at Perfect Power last year, is to go from here to Goodwood, maybe something in France. I would like to go to the Gimcrack Stakes (G2) at York (Aug. 19) and yes, the Breeders’ Cup has got to figure highly in it absolutely.”
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for The Ridler to start in the US$1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which will be run at 5 ½ furlongs. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 24 to receive the rewards.