The Fugue wins the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) with William Buick up (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup included impressive lineups in the Turf and Filly and Mare Turf from all corners of the world. First, French-bred Zagora defeated an impressive field deep with formidable European fillies and mares. Twenty-four hours later, the 2011 Turf champion St Nicholas Abbey returned from Ireland to aim for a second consecutive win but none could defeat America’s Little Mike. This year, though Europe is less of a presence, their four contenders are no less a force.
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Dank made her season debut in the Group 3 Dahlia Stakes in May at Newmarket. She won the 1 1/8-mile event by a head over Chigun on good-to-firm turf. Next time out, Dank finished third to Duntle in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. Toward the end of July, she returned to winning form in the Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes. She won the 1 1/8-mile race at the Curragh by 1 ¾ lengths over the resilient 3-year-old filly Say.
Dank dominated the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes for England next time out stateside. Carrying James Wigan’s colors, she flew to a dominant 4 ¼-length romp over fellow Brit Gifted Girl. Making the Sir Michael Stoute trainee’s performance even more spectacular was her final time for the 1 3/16-mile event. She passed the final post in 1:53.38, only 0.18 off Reluctant Guest’s course record established in 1990.
Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms is represented by homebred Romantica in the Filly and Mare Turf. The Galileo filly hails from Andre Fabre’s yard in France and presents a formidable 2013 record. Romantica won her first start of the season, the Group 3 Prix Allez France, by a half-length. In her next start, the Group 2 Prix Corrida, she finished third on very soft ground. She subsequently was the victress of the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville with a 1 ¼-length score over the Aga Khan’s imposing fillies, Sarkiyla and Dalkala. Romantica, a daughter of 2001 Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill, aspires to improve upon her most recent race in which she was 10th to Treve in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille.
Breeders’ Cup Turf
Magician wins the Irish Two Thousand Guineas under Joseph O’Brien (Photo courtesy Jason Doyle)
Magician finished ninth and last in a strong edition of the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Owners Coolmore Stud and trainer Aidan O’Brien nearly opted out of the storied one-mile race due to bruising several days prior, and that setback probably prevented him from giving a better effort.
At three, Magician had only started twice before the St. James’s Palace. He became a factor in the 2013 3-year-old division by winning his first two outings by a combined margin 7 ½ lengths. His season debut in the Group 3 Dee Stakes (GIII) was a 1 5/16-mile contest on good-to-soft turf. Magician, with jockey Ryan Moore aboard, won by four lengths over Contributor.
Fifteen days later, he entered the gates for the Irish Two Thousand Guineas at the Curragh. In this one-mile event on good-to-firm footing, he strode well into third and moved into second with nearly three furlongs remaining. He quickened immediately upon rider Joseph O’Brien’s urging and gained the lead with ease to draw away by 3 ½ lengths. Aidan O’Brien chose not to enter Magician in the Epsom Derby due to the race’s additional half-mile. Now, however, his connections have cross-entered him in the Turf and the Mile (with a first preference in the Turf).
The Fugue is among the most anticipated of Europe’s Breeders’ Cup entrants. Out of four starts all in Group 1 races in 2013, she has won twice and finished third once. In her season debut, she was third to Al Kazeem and Mukhadram in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and then was seventh and last in the Eclipse Stakes. She realized her first win of 2013 in the Yorkshire Oaks when she posted a 4-length score over Venus de Milo. The Fugue made her most recent start in early September when she entered the Irish Champion Stakes. On good ground, she won the 1 ¼-mile contest by 1 ¼ lengths over Al Kazeem and Trading Leather.
Owner Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and trainer John Gosden have the exceptional filly cross-entered in the Turf and the Filly and Mare Turf (with a first preference in the Turf). She is proven on Santa Anita’s grass course, having finished third to Zagora in last year’s Filly and Mare Turf, and has faced males in three of her four races this season.