December 11, 2023

Breeders’ Cup-bound Porta Fortuna wins Cheveley Park; Vandeek excels in Middle Park; Ghostwriter takes WAYI Royal Lodge

Porta Fortuna, pictured at Royal Ascot, captured the Cheveley Park at Newmarket (Photo by Megan Ridgwell/Ascot)

The only Breeders’ Cup Challenge event at Newmarket Saturday was the Royal Lodge (G2), but the day’s top-level juvenile prizes, the Middle Park (G1) and Cheveley Park (G1) for fillies, also have implications for “Future Stars Friday” at Santa Anita.

Cheveley Park (G1)

Porta Fortuna has long had the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) as her target, and the Donnacha O’Brien pupil enhanced her resume with a 1 1/2-length decision in the Cheveley Park. Unbeaten through the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot, Porta Fortuna lost her perfect record when runner-up to the smashing colt Bucanero Fuerte in the Phoenix (G1). The Caravaggio filly sustained another reverse as the dead-heat third in the Moyglare Stud (G1), where seven furlongs on rain-affected ground didn’t suit.

The Cheveley Park offered conditions similar to the Albany – six furlongs in her own division on good-to-firm – and Porta Fortuna promptly regained the winning thread. Perched in a close tracking position by Oisin Murphy, the 9-2 chance swept past early pace factors Cherry Blossom and Sacred Angel in 1:10.66.

Pearls and Rubies, overlooked at 33-1 after being a Ballydoyle money-burner through the summer, quickened well from the rear to get up for second. The Aidan O’Brien runner delivered a field-best :33.81 final three furlongs, relishing the fast-ground opportunity that she hasn’t had since just missing in Royal Ascot’s Chesham S.

Sacred Angel bested the better-fancied Ballydoyle hope, Cherry Blossom, for third. Persian Dreamer, Jabaara, Soprano (who was arguably disadvantaged as part of the near-side trio), Symbology, 5-2 favorite Jasna’s Secret (a French shipper who didn’t cope with the track), She’s Quality, and Shuangxi rounded out the order of finish. The Cheveley Park was hit by the withdrawal of early favorite Relief Rally as well as Juniper Berries.

Sporting American connections, Porta Fortuna races for Medallion, S. Weston, B. Fowler, and Reeves Thoroughbreds. They swooped to acquire her privately in the wake of her debut victory at the Curragh for Anne-Marie O’Brien, who bred her in the name of Whisperview Trading. Porta Fortuna has proven to be an inspired purchase, winning the Naas Fillies’ Sprint (G3) en route to Royal Ascot.

The Irish-bred filly was produced by the Holy Roman Emperor mare Too Precious, who is herself a full sister to Australian Group 2 winner Numerian. This is the further family of Milan, star of the 2001 St Leger (G1) and second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Middle Park (G1)

The training team of Simon and Ed Crisford, whose Carla’s Way booked her Juvenile Fillies Turf ticket in Friday’s Rockfel (G2), continued in razor-sharp form as undefeated Vandeek flaunted his quality in the Middle Park.

The 5-4 favorite brought outstanding credentials from the Prix Morny (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1), and from his prior tally in the Richmond (G2). Both came on varieties of soft going, however, as did his Nottingham debut. Thus the question was whether Vandeek would duplicate those efforts on a much quicker surface, and the answer was unequivocal.

Off a beat slow as usual, the Havana Grey colt ended up drafting behind market rival River Tiber and biding his time for a gap. Then it was just a point-and-click as soon as the seam emerged between River Tiber and Givemethebeatboys. Vandeek responded instantly to James Doyle’s cue and surged to a 2 1/4-length victory. Comfortably best, the gray posted a field-best final sectional in :34.24 and an overall time of 1:10.76.

The inexperienced Task Force stamped himself as one to follow next season by rallying for second, heading the one-paced River Tiber. Givemethebeatboys outperformed his 20-1 odds in fourth, followed by Starlust, Sketch, Lake Forest, Elite Status, and Jasour.

KHK Racing’s Vadeek could make the relatively quick turnaround for the Oct. 15 Dewhurst (G1), which would mark his first attempt at seven furlongs. Sold for the co-highest price of about $815,386 at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up, the 4-for-4 colt is out of the Exceed and Excel mare Mosa Mine.

Royal Lodge (G2)

Ghostwriter likewise stayed unbeaten in the Royal Lodge, extending his record to 3-for-3 in his first stakes – and mile – test. Trained by Clive Cox and piloted by Richard Kingscote, the 10-3 second choice was reserved within striking range of the pace contested by Son and 7-4 favorite Capulet. Ghostwriter readily had them covered, but Al Musmak launched a bold bid himself to take control. His lead was brief, however, as Ghostwriter powered up the rising ground to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:37.06.

Capulet, apparently outpaced in the Dip, got reorganized and came again for third, just a half-length off runner-up Al Musmak. Macduff did his best work late to snatch fourth. Described as a similar type to Ralph Beckett stablemate and fellow Juddmonte homebred Westover, among the prime players in Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), Macduff is expected to blossom with maturity. Son tired to fifth, and Defiance, At Vimeiro, Aablan, and Caviar Heights concluded the order of finish.

Jeff Smith’s Ghostwriter has climbed the class ladder swiftly, from his Aug. 11 premier over the July Course to his Ascot novice coup in good time. Cox sounded inclined to put him away for the season, or make one more start in the Oct. 28 Futurity Trophy (G1) at Doncaster. Hence Ghostwriter is unlikely to avail himself of his fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

With the Royal Lodge serving as a scoring race on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, the top five earned points on the 10-5-3-2-1 scale. Ghostwriter is logically thinking about Epsom rather than Churchill Downs. The Invincible Spirit colt has a case to stay further since his dam is the Champs Elysees mare Moorside, runner-up in the 2016 Cheshire Oaks. Second dam Marching West, though, is a full sister to Zafonic and Zamindar.