Aug. 26 (UPI) -- While a lot of attention was focused on Saratoga's bonanza of graded stakes, there was no shortage of important weekend horse racing action on the international front, either.
Stradivarius picked up his second straight million-quid bonus by winning the Lonsdale Cup at York while Battaash won the Nunthorpe Stakes, another of those Annie Oakleys for the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
With the Ebor Handicap purse elevated to another million-quid pile, it's no wonder the winner is headed for the big races in Australia's springtime. And, speaking of Australia, the first Group 1 of the season Down Under was the Winx-less Winx Stakes.
How international are we? A Sunday affair in France could send its winner to Hong Kong in December.
My goodness, Stradivarius is every bit a good one on the track as his namesake is in the concert hall. The 5-year-old son of Sea the Stars picked up his second straight Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Bonus -- 1 million pounds sterling -- while scoring his ninth straight win as he triumphed in Friday's Group 2 Lonsdale Cup.
With the seemingly ubiquitous Frankie Dettori aboard for John Gosden and owner/breeder Bjorn Nielsen, Stradivarius raced comfortably behind the leading pair of Dee Ex Bee and Il Paradiso into the final two furlongs. Neither of the leaders was about giving up but Dettori swung Stradivarius to the stands side, slid by them and won by 1 1/4 lengths. Dee Ex Bee held second in a gutsy performance, finishing second to Stradivarius for the third race in a row. Il Paradiso was just edged for third and the only other runner, Falcon Eight, was never involved.
"People get attached to horses like him," Dettori told Racing Post so it's nice the same publication quoted Nielsen saying the public likely hasn't seen his last action. "As long as he can stay sound and enthusiastic there's no reason why we can't keep going," he said.
The champion stayer's 2019 campaign so far has mimicked the 2018 record with victories in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup, the Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, Group 1 Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup. Last year, he capped the season with a win in the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup.
Friday's Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, is written for 2-year-olds and up but was billed as a showdown between 5-year-old Battaash and 3-year-old Ten Sovereigns. It didn't quite work out that way. Instead, it was the old guy Battaash, taking the lead 2 furlongs out under Jim Crowley and romping home a winner by 3 3/4 lengths. Soldiers Call was best of the rest with So Perfect third. Ten Sovereigns weakened late and reported sixth at the end of the 5 furlongs.
Battaash, a Dark Angel gelding racing for Sheik Hamdan and trainer Charlie Hills, now is 3-for-4 this year with his only loss a second to the now-retired Blue Point at Royal Ascot. He finished fourth in the Nunthorpe in both 2017 and 2018.
Trainer Charlie Hills on Sunday told Racing Post Battaash is headed to The Derrinstown Stud Flying Five at the Curragh on September 15 -- then farther afield for the Prix de l'Abbaye "and then the Breeders' Cup is something we'll have to talk to Sheikh Hamdan about."
"Dayjur went there and jumped the shadow, but there is a 5-furlong turf race for Battaash. I'd love to see him go around there," Hills continued. "I'd have thought he'd turn very well as he's such an agile and well-balanced horse."
Another history lesson: Dayjur, also owned by Sheikh Hamden, jumped a shadow while battling Safely Kept for the lead in deep stretch in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Sprint, losing the race with the mistake. That was at Belmont Park. This year's World Championships are at Santa Anita.
There were no 2-year-olds among the 11 starters in the Nunthorpe. There were, however, a dozen of them in Friday's Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes with the favorite, Threat, getting the job done for jockey Oisin Murphy. The Footstepsinthesand colt, out of the Birdstone mare Flare of Firelight, came to the Gimcrack after finishing second to Arizona in the Group 2 Coventry at Royal Ascot and second to Golden Horde in the Group 2 Richmond at Goodwood.
York's Ebor meeting has a rich history and its historic centerpiece historically has not been the "big name" races but, rather, the namesake Ebor Handicap. Sponsored now by Skybet and with the purse inflated this year to 1 million pounds sterling, there was some grumbling the cozy feel of the event was overwhelmed. No complaints, though, from the connections of the winner, Mustajeer, who improved over last year's fourth-place showing and now is headed for the big spring races in Australia.
Mustajeer, a 6-year-old Medicean gelding, is from the Dynaformer mare Qulaan. The previous highlight of his season for trainer Ger Lyons was a third behind Magical and Flag of Honor in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. His new owners, Australian Bloodstock, presumably see him as a major threat for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.
A very sad note: Roaring Lion, winner last year of the Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and QE II Stakes at Ascot, was euthanized Friday in New Zealand, where he was intended to start the second half of his first year at stud. The Kitten's Joy colt, already recovering from two colic surgeries, suffered a relapse and attending veterinarians judged it too much to operate again. Roaring Lion, who raced for Qatar Racing, won eight of 12 starts.
A correction chasing a mistake: This year's Group 1 Juddmonte International was, as noted here earlier, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup. However, this year, the race that winner Japan is "In" for is not the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, as we alleged, but the big one, the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic. Let's hope we see him there. Or in the Turf.
It was a Winx Stakes with no Winx. Saturday's Group 1 event at Royal Randwick had a bit of a bittersweet feel about it -- except, of course for the connections and backers of Samadoubt, who led most of the way and got there first, 1/2 length ahead of the rallying Happy Clapper. The latter, ironically, was ridden by Winx's regular partner, Hugh Bowman. Invincible Gem was third and the favorite, Avilius, could only manage fourth.
Samadoubt, a 6-year-old gelding by Not a Single Doubt, won for the ninth time in his 35th start and there's not a single doubt he wouldn't have been much threat to Winx.
If there's a lesson here, it's that excitement and fan-building for racing stems from the bond that grows through an extended racing career. It's no wonder the stars of the first two decades of this century have been mares. They do tend to stick around whilst the most talented males head off to chase skirts. Well, they don't have to chase them, exactly, but the point remains ...
Sunday's Prix de Meautry at Deauville was "only" a Group 3 event but the result could be felt around the globe before year's end. Spinning Memories drew off impressively under Christophe Soumillon, winning by 3 1/2 lengths, going away from runner-up Stake Acclaim. The effort was a significant upgrade from the 4-year-old, Irish-bred Arcano filly's fourth-place showing in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest earlier in the month and sparked hope in the breast of trainer Pascal Bary.
"We'll look at the Prix de l'Abbaye first and then she looks like she could be a filly for the Hong Kong Sprint, because she showed a lot of speed today and impressed me," said Bary.
The Group 1 Abbaye is 1,000 meters on Arc Day, Oct. 6. The Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint is 1,200 meters Dec. 8 at Sha Tin.