June 19, 2024

Breeders’ Cup WAYI Sussex serves up Glorious clash of star milers

Circus Maximus winning the 2019 St James's Palace (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

This week’s Glorious Goodwood meeting promises to live up to its traditional moniker, as the British festival offers terrific intergenerational clashes. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated is Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes (G1), where Guineas heroes Siskin and Kameko take on leading older milers Circus Maximus and Mohaather with a Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) berth on the line.

Undefeated Siskin answered a couple of questions with his rousing Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) victory. The Ger Lyons colt had yet to race beyond 6 furlongs, so the mile was an unknown. More concerning, the last time he’d been seen on a racecourse, the Juddmonte homebred had a meltdown in the starting gate that forced his withdrawal from the Sept. 28 Middle Park (G1). Siskin left that bad memory well behind at the Curragh June 12, bulling his way through traffic to remain perfect in five starts.

The Sussex presents a fresh set of challenges – the task of representing his Irish form versus that of Kameko’s arguably deeper 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, along with tackling elders.

Kameko outstayed Pinatubo and Wichita in a Guineas with such a fast pace that it set up a stakes-record time of 1:34.72. The race dynamics suited the son of Kitten’s Joy, who had already proven his aptitude at a mile in his emphatic Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) last fall. A step up in trip for the Derby (G1) didn’t pan out, where he ended up fourth, and reverting in trip makes sense for the Andrew Balding pupil. The question is whether Kameko can beat specialist milers in this spot, or if 1 1/4 miles would now be his ideal.

If the Guineas were more of a perfect storm for Kameko, it’s plausible that Wichita could yet turn the tables as an Aidan O’Brien improver. The No Nay Never colt ran a massive race first up at Newmarket, winning the battle with Pinatubo only to lose the war late to Kameko. Although a close third to up-and-coming Palace Pier and Pinatubo next time in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, Wichita displayed his fighting spirit to come again nearing the wire.

Stablemate Vatican City likewise has a plausible case in his rematch with Siskin. The full brother to Gleneagles was an eye-catching second in the Irish Guineas despite a checkered trip, an especially notable effort considering he was coming off an Oct. 30 maiden score at Dundalk. Like Kameko, he was given a shot at Epsom and failed to see out the trip in eighth. Vatican City is entitled to be happier around a mile.

O’Brien’s top contender on ratings is 4-year-old Circus Maximus, who renewed his gladiatorial profile by prevailing in an all-out duel in the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot. The Galileo colt doesn’t have the panache of the typical mile celebrity, but that hasn’t stopped him from building quite a resume including last season’s St James’s Palace and Prix du Moulin (G1). Still, he thrives on courses that play more toward his stamina, and it could be significant that he was collared by the sharper Too Darn Hot here last summer. Ryan Moore has the mount on Circus Maximus, leaving Frankie Dettori to renew his acquaintance with Wichita and William Buick to pick up Vatican City.

Aside from the characteristics of Goodwood, Circus Maximus has to deal with a resurgent rival who didn’t have much luck in the Queen Anne – Mohaather. Sheikh Hamdan’s runner turned the page with a comprehensive victory in the Summer Mile (G2) on Ascot’s round course, leaving no doubt about his class at this trip. Highly regarded by trainer Marcus Tregoning, Mohaather was a leading classic contender of 2019 before being sidelined, and now he’s on a mission to fulfill his promise.

Not to be overlooked is Summer Mile runner-up San Donato, who was returning from a 14-month layoff that day. The Roger Varian trainee had been off since his third to Godolphin’s top-class Persian King in the 2019 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), and he too has upside.

The Sussex is carded as the 5TH race Wednesday, with a post time of 10:15 a.m. (ET). The preceding highlight of day two is the Molecomb Stakes (G3), a 5-furlong scramble for juveniles at 9:45 a.m. Marygate heroine Sardinia Sunset is vying for favoritism with Dragon near-misser Significantly, while smart Naas debut winner Steel Bull, Windsor romper Night on Earth, Mark Johnston’s Army of India, and O’Brien’s Chief Little Hawk are also in the reckoning.

Stradivarius wins the Ascot Gold Cup 2020
Stradivarius crushed his Gold Cup three-peat (Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse)

The Tuesday feature is a dandy, as powerhouse stayer Stradivarius is odds-on to score a record fourth Goodwood Cup (G1). Fresh off a three-peat in Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup (G1) by an astounding 10 lengths, the John Gosden veteran must concede 15 pounds to O’Brien’s recent Irish Derby (G1) hero Santiago.

Stradivarius himself had capitalized on a similar weight break in his first Goodwood Cup as a sophomore, when toppling two-time defending champion Big Orange in 2017. Santiago has one point in common with Stradivarius at the comparable point in his career – both won the 1 3/4-mile Queen’s Vase (G2) at Royal Ascot. Other contenders include Gold Cup runner-up Nayef Road, Spanish Mission, the progressive Eagles By Day, and sometime chaser Who Dares Wins who exits a Royal Ascot win in the Queen Alexandra.

The Goodwood Cup is set for 10:15 a.m. (ET) Tuesday. Earlier on the festival’s opening day, O’Brien’s Chesham star Battleground, the son of War Front and Found, headlines the Vintage Stakes (G2) for juveniles (9:15 a.m.). In the Lennox Stakes (G2) at the same 7-furlong distance (9:45 a.m.), Godolphin’s Space Blues is the early favorite to thwart Sir Dancealot’s three-peat bid, but course specialist Duke of Hazzard has appeal, and Pierre Lapin is an intriguing rebound candidate.

Magic Wand prepping for the 2019 Arlington Million (Coady Photography)

Thursday’s centerpiece is the Nassau Stakes (G1) (10:15 a.m.), a 1 1/4-mile test for fillies and mares, where Japanese expat Deirdre has a chore to defend her title from streaking Falmouth (G1) winner Nazeef, Ballydoyle globetrotter Magic Wand, and Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) vixen Fancy Blue.

The supporting features on day three are the 6-furlong Richmond Stakes (G2) for 2-year-olds (9:15 a.m. Thursday) and the 1 1/2-mile Gordon Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds (9:45 a.m.), expected to attract a few from the Derby including runner-up Khalifa Sat, better-than-appears fifth English King, and sixth Mogul, who’s just one of several O’Brien possibles. Other Ballydoyle pupils in the mix are Irish Derby near-misser Tiger Moth and the upwardly mobile Delphi, while William Haggas’ Al Aasy and Johnston’s Subjectivist are likewise worthy hopes.

Battaash finally won his King’s Stand (Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse)

On Friday, sprint star Battaash is heavily favored to collect his fourth straight King George Stakes (G2) (10:15 a.m.), since he recently beat principal rivals Liberty Beach and Glass Slippers in the King’s Stand (G1). The most Group-laden day of the meeting also offers the 7-furlong Oak Tree Stakes (G3) for distaffers (8:45 a.m.), the Thoroughbred Stakes (G3) for sophomores over a mile (9:15 a.m.), and the 1 1/2-mile Glorious Stakes (G3) (10:45 a.m.).

Saturday’s finale puts sprint handicappers on center stage in the Stewards’ Cup (10:35 a.m.), but the 1 3/4-mile Lillie Langtry Stakes (G2) (10 a.m.) warrants attention. Last year’s imperious winner Enbihaar could renew rivalry with runner-up Manuela de Vega, who is in the form of her life at present, with 3-year-olds Cabaletta and Snow possibly adding intergenerational interest.