Three horses, two owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s powerful Godolphin, gained automatic berths to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 2-3 at Churchill Downs by winning international Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on the prestigious Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe card at the new ParisLongchamp Racecourse.
Wild Illusion (GB) won the Prix de l’Opera Longines (G1) to earn a starting spot into the Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf and Royal Marine (IRE) captured the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Legardere (G1) for an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, both for Godophin, while Lily’s Candle (FR) took the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches (G1) for an automatic qualifying position in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
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.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for each of the three winners to continue on to their respective Breeders’ Cup races. The $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, run at 1 3/8 miles, is a Grade 1 race set for Nov. 3, while the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Turf, both $1 million Grade 1 races at one mile on the grass, is slated for Nov. 2.
Breeders’ Cup also is providing all starters based outside of North America with a $40,000 travel allowance to compete in the World Championships.
Wild Illusion starred on Arc day for the second year when claiming the Prix de l’Opera Longines by one length from Aidan O’Brien-trained Magic Wand (IRE) after her triumph in last year’s Prix Marcel Boussac.
Prix de l’Opera Longines Replay
A homebred daughter of Dubawi, Wild Illusion was well positioned in fifth through the early stages before jockey William Buick asked her to pick up the pace entering the stretch. She reponded with a brilliant turn of foot to lead inside the final quarter and held hard-trying Magic Wand at bay.
Wild Illusion finished 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.32 as the 13-5 favorite on good turf dampened by rain.
“She’s a filly that’s always liked a bit of cut in the ground, so I was pleased to see the rain come,” Buick told England’s Press Association. “She’s been a great filly to ride at the top level throughout the season and I was delighted with the way she buckled down at the finish.”
Kentucky-bred Homerique finished a good third, just a nose behind Magic Wand after guided to clear running room in the stretch.
Sunday’s win was Wild Illusion’s second Group 1 of 2018, and third overall, following her victory in the Qatar Nassau Stakes (G1) August 2 at Goodwood in her previous start. Her record this year also includes a fourth in the 1,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket and seconds in the Epsom Oaks (G1) and the Ribblesdale Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot. She has won half of her eight career starts.
Last year, Appleby teamed with Buick to win the Filly & Mare Turf with Godolphin’s Wuheida (GB).
Wild Illusion joins Oh Susanna (Aus), Alizee (Aus), Smart Choice (ARG), Sistercharlie (IRE), Sea of Class (IRE), Laurens (FR), and Vasilika as other Filly & Mare Turf “Win and You’re In” contenders, while the one remaining automatic berth into the race is up for grabs in today’s Flower Bowl (G1) at Belmont Park.
In the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Legardere (G1), Godolphin’s homebred Royal Marine went from maiden winner to Group I victor after edging past runner-up Broome (IRE) in the final furlong and holding on to win by a neck. Previously unbeaten Anodor (FR) and Boitron (FR) finished a respective third and fourth.
Royal Marine stalked pacesetter Broome little more than a length back early before red-hot jockey Oisin Murphy pressed him to engage the leader a quarter mile out. From there, the son of 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass dug in, edged ahead, and got the narrow victory in 1:39.10 for one mile on the turf. Murphy notched his ninth Group 1 win of the year.
Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Legardere Replay
Anodor ran evenly for third, finishing three-quarters of a length behind Broome.
Royal Marine is trained Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin, which leads all Breeders’ Cup owners, with more than $15 million in purse earnings, and which has nine winners at the event. The colt has two wins from three starts, including his last-out victory to break his maiden September 14 at Doncaster.
In today’s opening race, the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches, U.S.-based owner Martin Schwartz Racing’s brand new purchase Lily’s Candle came from the back of the pack and wore down rivals with a sustained outside drive for a 27-1 upset.
Lily’s Candle, a daughter of Style Vendome ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, scored by a short neck from maiden Matematica (GER) with Star Terms (GB) another another short neck back in third in the field of eight two-year-old fillies. Previously unbeaten favorite Rocques (FR) was a non-threatening sixth.
Lily’s Candle covered one mile in 1:38.98 on turf rated as good for trainer Fabrice Vermeulen.
“We rode her for a place,” said Vermeulen, who enjoyed his first Group 1 win. “We wanted to be placed in a Group 1, but she surprised us. She had a good run and finished with style.”
Star Terms was keen to race in second early on the rail and Matematica rated near the back before hitting the front from a furlong out. Neither was a match for the winner, who eagerly responded when asked to get the victory.
Schwartz, who purchased Lily’s Candle at the Arqana Arc sale on the eve of the Boussac, won the 2012 Filly & Mare Turf with Zagora and has campaigned a number of other Grade 1-winning mares in the U.S. and Europe.
Bred by Mrs. Pierre Lepeudry, Lily’s Candle won for the third time in five career starts, including a listed win at Vichy August 4 before finishing fourth against colts in the Prix La Rochette (G3) September 9 at ParisLongchamp.