ALBAHR capped a perfect Woodbine weekend for trainer Charlie Appleby and the powerful Godolphin outfit when he romped to a 2 1/4-length victory in Sunday’s Grade 1 $404,400 Summer Stakes.
The Summer, as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series, offers the winner an all-expenses paid berth for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
Albahr, part of a three-horse Godolphin contingent sent from England for the Woodbine Turf Festival weekend, followed Sunday’s Natalma Stakes winner Wild Beauty and Saturday’s Pattison Canadian International hero Walton Street in becoming Grade 1 winners.
Godolphin collected nearly $800,000 in purses from the three starters.
Frankie Dettori rode the three Godolphin winners and also finished third aboard Raging Bull in the Woodbine Mile.
“That’s really what it’s all about, winning these big races around the world,” said assistant trainer Alex Merriam, while paying tribute to the Godolphin patriarch Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “So just like him it’s for Charlie and all the team. It’s been a great effort.”
Albahr, despite breaking sluggishly, quickly settled into a tracking position as First Empire, one of four Mark Casse-trained horses in the Summer along with Grafton Street, Luckman and Souper Legacy, carved out a :23.95 quarter and a :47.93 half over good going on the E.P. Taylor turf course.
Locally-based Heat Merchant and Chicago shipper Degree of Risk were racing in closest attendance as First Empire’s lead dwindled to a head through six furlongs in 1:12.17.
Albahr was within easy striking in fourth place by this point and when Dettori popped the question in earnest the gelding burst to the front to lead by 1 ½ lengths at the eighth pole and to increase his margin to finish in 1:35.77 despite lugging from the middle to the track to the inside fence.
Grafton Street, making his local debut and second career start, raced toward the rear of the field before moving into contention and finishing well on the outside after experiencing some traffic issues.
Degree of Risk, invading from Chicago for a second time after finishing second to First Empire in the Soaring Free Stakes, stayed on for third as First Empire faded to fourth, another 2 ¼ lengths back.
Dripping Gold (the 7-2 second choice), Ready for the Lady, Luckman, Heat Merchant and Souper Legacy completed the order of finish.
Hammered down to 3-5, Albahr returned $3.30 and topped a $25.60 exacta over 9-1 Grafton Street.
Bred by Godolphin in England, Albahr is by Dubawi out of the Street Cry mare Falls of Lora and has now won four straight races since finishing a troubled third in his debut. The Summer was his first graded stakes try and by far his most lucrative engagement to date.
“Albahr had been in decent form, he’s tough,” said Merriam, adding that the Godolphin runners will be returning to England before decisions on the Breeders’ Cup or any other engagements are finalized.
In a pre- weekend interview, jockey Dettori suggested the tighter turns of the Del Mar turf course would not be ideal for European horses.
Wild Beauty Runs A Beauty In Natalma
Wild Beauty, under Frankie Dettori, punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup with an impressive win in Sunday’s Grade 1 $401,600 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine.
A victory in the one-mile turf race for rookie fillies earned the British-bred a fees-paid berth in the Grade 1 $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, which will be run at Del Mar this year on November 5.
Wild Beauty, owned and bred by Godolphin, arrived at the Natalma off a pair of runner-up performances in England, and was the 7-5 choice in the field of 10.
The start was less than ideal for the daughter of Frankel, but the finish was certainly pleasing for her connections.
Wild Beauty hopped coming out of the gate, was squeezed and then shuffled back to last as Cardio Princess took the lead, with 69-1 Guileful and 13-1 Ready Lady dueling in behind the pacesetter. Royal Engagement sat fourth and Pizza Bianca, second choice at 3-1, was fifth after a quarter in :23.35.
It was status quo for the top five through a half timed in :47.03, as Dettori and Wild Beauty began to make headway, moving into seventh spot.
When the field rounded the turn for the long stretch drive, Wild Beauty was full of run on the outside, methodically picking off her rivals, one by one.
At the stretch call, the Charlie Appleby trainee was 1 ½-lengths clear and rolling. By mid-stretch, she was firing on all cylinders, going on to notch a 2 ¼-length victory in a time of 1:35.08 over good going.
Pizza Bianca held for second, besting a late-charging Eminent Victor by 1 ¼-lengths, while Lady Barbara rallied stoutly to finish fourth.
Wild Beauty, now a winner of three of six starts, returned $4.90.
“Look, it was a bit of a worry,” said assistant trainer Alex Merriam, of the troubled start. “Seemed to me, when she broke on turns, she stumbled a bit. We’ll have to watch it again and see what Frankie says.”
“She just backed out of that pocket,” noted Dettori. “Then for my luck, they went way too fast, and by the time we got to the quarter pole, it all just fell into my lap and she picked up really well.”
The decision as to whether to step into the Breeders’ Cup spotlight in early November will be made once the filly returns to her home base.
“We’ll have to wait until they get her home,” offered Merriam. “See how she comes out of it. Look, she really was impressive there and we’ll have to get home to see what Charlie wants to do and make a plan from there. I’m sure he’ll have an idea of what he wants to do there anyway.”
If she does run, Dettori will hope for the luck of the draw. Literally.
“You rely very much on the draw, the straight is half of the size of this, so you need all the luck. She’s definitely good enough to take part, but you need to be lucky at Del Mar.”
It was the second Natalma crown for Appleby, who took the 2018 edition with Goldolphin silk bearer La Pelosa.
Diamond City Sparkles In Ontario Racing, Derrynane Dominates In Woodbine Cares
Diamond City, under Emma-Jayne Wilson, took the $130,750 Ontario Racing Stakes, while Derryane, with Joel Rosario in the irons, won the $126,750 Woodbine Cares Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
The Ontario Racing, for two-year-olds, and the Woodbine Cares, for two-year-old fillies, were each contested at five furlongs on the Inner Turf.
A chestnut son of Shackleford, Diamond City, trained by Mark Casse for D.J. Stable LLC, was the 4-5 choice in the Ontario Racing.
The Kentucky-settled just off the early pace before taking a narrow lead at the stretch call.
Diamond City, who came into the race off a pair of third place finishes to launch his career, drew away in the late going to win by 1 ¾-lengths in a time of :57.68 over firm ground.
Bred by Canvasback Thoroughbreds, he paid $3.60 for the win.
Derrynane, sent on her way as the 8-5 choice, powered by the leaders in mid-stretch to record an impressive 2 ¾-length triumph for trainer Christophe Clement and owner-breeder Waterville Lake Stable.
The daughter of Quality Road was patiently handled by Rosario as Fulminate set the early tone, but Derrynane loomed a major threat as the field made the turn for home.
Once the bay filly struck front, it was simply a question of what the margin of victory would be.
The final time over firm going was :57.04. Derrynane returned $5.50.
It was the second win from three starts for the New York-bred, who won her debut this July at Saratoga.
Former champion jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, who was feted early as the recipient of this year’s Avelino Gomez Memorial Award earlier in the afternoon, made the trophy presentation.