Led by multiple Group 1 winner Poet’s Word (IRE) and Coral-Eclipse (G1) winner Roaring Lion, a field of eight horses is scheduled to start in Wednesday’s about 1 1/4-mile Juddmonte International (G1) at York, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (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, Kentucky on Nov. 2-3.
The Juddmonte International is the first of three Breeders’ Cup Challenge races to be held at York this week. On Thursday, an automatic berth into the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) will be on the line in the 1 ½-mile Darley Yorkshire Oaks (G1). On Friday, the winner of the five-furlong Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) will earn a “Win and You’re In” position into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Saeed Suhail’s Poet’s Word, a 5-year-old horse, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, has ascended to the top of the middle distance European ranks with back-to-back Group 1 wins in Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, scoring in the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot on June 20, and in the 1 ½-mile King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, also at Ascot, on July 29.
The King George win was the sixth win and first Group 1 tally for Poet’s Word, who will be ridden on Wednesday by James Doyle from post 2. Poet’s Word won the Group 3 Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown on May 24 prior to his Royal Ascot victory. Poet’s World also was second to Hawkbill in the 1 ½-mile Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan in March.
Taking on older horses for the first time, Roaring Lion, trained by John Gosden for Qatar Racing Limited, steadily wore down Saxon Warrior (JPN) in the final 100 yards of the thrilling Coral-Eclipse to prevail by a neck as the 7-4 favorite. It was the fifth win in nine starts for Roaring Lion, a 3-year-old roan/gray son of Kitten’s Joy, bred in Kentucky by RanJan Racing, Inc. His first win of the year came at York, when he captured the 1 5/16-mile Betfred Dante Stakes (G2) on May 17 by 4 ½ lengths.
Roaring Lion started next in the 1 ½-mile Investec Derby (G1) at Epsom and held a short lead a furlong from home, but could not sustain his stretch drive and wound up third beaten two lengths. Roaring Lion will be ridden by Oisin Murphy from post 6.
Saxon Warrior was unbeaten in four starts and came into the Derby as the 4/5 favorite off a commanding win in the Qipco 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket. But it was not to be his day, as the Aidan O’Brien-trained 3-year-old son of Deep Impact (JPN) had a troubled trip and did not figure in the decision, winding up fourth, beaten 4 ½ lengths.
Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, Saxon Warrior (Ryan Moore, post 7) could do no better than third place as the even-money favorite in the 1 ½-mile Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (G1) at The Curragh, beaten three-quarters of a length in his next start on June 30. He looked like a winner in the Coral-Eclipse as he took the lead near the rail at Sandown, but could not hold off Roaring Lion at the wire.
The Juddmonte International field has four other starters who have won Group 1 races this year. Godolphin’s 4-year-old Benbatl (GB) (Jim Crowley, post 1), has won both the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Turf (G1) in March and the 1 ¼-mile Grosser Dalmayr Preis – Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich on July 29 for trainer Saeed Bin Suroor.
Gosden also has entered St. James’s Palace (G1) winner Without Parole (GB), who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori from post 8. Owned by John and Tanya Gunther, the 3-year-old Without Parole was a disappointing seventh of eight in the one-mile “Win and You’re In” Qatar Sussex Stakes (G1) at Goodwood (G1) Aug. 1 as the odds-on favorite.
Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Thunder Snow (IRE) (Christophe Soumillon, post 4) makes his return to the races on Wednesday, 4 ½ months from his stunning 5 ¾ length win over 2017 3-year-old Eclipse Award winner West Coast at Meydan. Lloyd Williams’s 3-year-old Latrobe (IRE), trained by Joseph O’Brein, upset the Irish Derby at 14-1, after breaking his maiden just three weeks before. Wayne Lordan will ride from post 5.
Completing the field is Clive Washbourn’s 5-year-old gray Kentucky-bred gelding Thundering Blue(Fran Berry, post 3), who has won twice at York for trainer David Menuisier. A son of Exchange Rate, Thundering Blue won the Group 2, 1 5/16-mile Sky Bet York Stakes on July 28.
The Juddmonte International is the eighth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race in the Longines Turf Division this year. The first seven to qualify were the filly La Extrana Dama (ARG), who won the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Buenos Aires; Quarteto de Cordas (BRZ), who captured the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Gavea in Rio de Janeiro; Mikki Rocket (JPN), who captured the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in June, Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (and the King George); Robert Bruce (CHI) in the Arlington Million and Fashion Business (GB) in last Saturday’s Del Mar Handicap (G2) at Del Mar.