York’s Juddmonte International Stakes has been afforded ‘Win and You’re In’ status for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The 10-furlong Group One feature on August 21 is set to be the only European race that guarantees the winner a spot in the Santa Anita showpiece in November.
The successful horse in the £1m contest on Knavesmire will receive a range of benefits ahead of any tilt at the $6m prize in the United States, including the entry fee of $150,000 and $40,000 to assist with travel expenses.
Roaring Lion triumphed at York 12 months ago and went on to Churchill Downs for the Classic, while International runners Thunder Snow and Churchill have also taken in the Knavesmire and the Breeders’ Cup.
York chief executive William Derby said: “Our continuing partnership with Breeders’ Cup further demonstrates the global reach and appeal of the top races at York.
“The Juddmonte International was ranked in the top five races in the world in 2018 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the highest-rated race in North America.
“It is an honour to be selected by our friends at Breeders’ Cup as the first, and indeed only, European contest to offer the ‘Win and You’re In’ benefits to their feature race.
“Our aim is to attract the best horses and jockeys to York and I hope initiatives such as these continue to add to the appeal of racing at York.”
Speaking on behalf of the Breeders’ Cup, president and CEO Craig Fravel said: “As Group One stars from the Juddmonte International have been pointed to the Classic over the years, it is a natural decision to bolster that opportunity and reward horsemen with the Challenge Series’ incentives of a free berth, and no entry fees for the Juddmonte International winner to be entered into this year’s Classic.”
Lady Buttons will not run again this season, owners Jayne and Keith Sivills have confirmed.
Phil Kirby’s stable star won four races before being placed at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
The Catterick trainer was considering running the mare at this month’s Punchestown Festival in Ireland.
However, connections have decided to end the season on a positive note – Lady Buttons was second a week ago in Aintree’s Red Rum Chase when conceding 10lb to the winner.
Vintage Clouds, a first-fence faller at Aintree last week, will bid for redemption in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr tomorrow.
Trained by Sue Smith, the grey was a popular choice for the Grand National, but he met the initial obstacle all wrong and unfortunately brought down Up For Review – with fatal consequences for the latter. Vintage Clouds had previously chased home the Nicky Henderson-trained Beware The Bear in a Grade Three at Cheltenham last month, and the pair will renew rivalry in Scotland on Saturday – with the Festival victor shouldering top weight.
Silvestre de Sousa gave his new partnership with King Power Racing an early-season boost after steering Bye Bye Hong Kong to glory in the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford.
All eyes were on U S S Michigan, one of two runners in the race for Aidan O’Brien, as he attempted to book his ticket in next month’s Kentucky Derby, but it was not to be for the son of War Front, sent off the 15-8 favourite.
But it was Bye Bye Hong Kong (7-2) who held off the late rally of Antilles to win, with Dark Vision a further head back in third.
De Sousa said: “He is a really nice horse and Andrew really likes him. He has got a long future ahead of him. I think he is a Group horse, whether a Group One, I don’t know, but he will win Group races.
“It was nice prize-money and the team will be happy. It is just nice to keep the ball rolling.”
An outing in the Qipco 2000 Guineas has not been ruled out by trainer Mark Johnston for Dark Vision, who was making his first start since finishing down the field in last year’s Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Johnston said: “I was a lot happier than last time. He was struggling early on and flew late.
“James said it was a bit sharp for him and that the Guineas might be a bit sharp for him, but he has only sat on him once, around this track.
“It is all positives really, as it is not his track. That is him back to how he was. We certainly won’t be ruling out the 2000 Guineas.”
While the dream of an outing at Churchill Downs may be over for U S S Michigan, connections were still satisfied with the performance.
Kevin Buckley, representing O’Brien, who was having his first runners at the Essex circuit, said: “Ryan was happy enough with him. It was only his third run and he is still learning, plus it was his first time over a mile, so we were going into the unknown.
“He will come on from that.”
Lion Hearted put himself in pole position to collect a £10,000 bonus after registering a seventh win since the turn of the year with victory in the Bet totetrifecta At totesport.com Handicap.
The Mick Appleby-trained five year old moved one ahead of both Matterhorn and Executive Force at the top of the winning-most horse leaderboard in the All-Weather Championships after defeating favourite Quick Breath by half a length in the seven-furlong contest.
Appleby said of the 3-1 winner: “I thought he had a definite chance, but I thought the favourite would take a bit of beating if fully wound up.
“We got him from Tracey Collins and he started off for us rated 45. The Dixon brothers (Chris and Martin) picked him out as he looked like an all-weather horse and was bred to be one.
“There is a 0-90 handicap here next week we could go for or we might try to run him in the apprentice race at Lingfield on Good Friday.
“To be fair he should have won another two or three times. He missed two races because of the equine flu shutdown, then once here when it was called off because of fog and once at Newcastle when it was called off because of snow.”
Sir Michael Stoute got off the mark for 2019 after Derevo (8-13) went one better than on his debut at Doncaster when defeating Kempton scorer Kimblewick by a length and a quarter in the Bet toteexacta At totesport.com Novice Stakes.
Stoute’s representative Steve Eastwood said: “He ran a nice race at Doncaster last year, he was a little bit green but he was running on at the end. It was a slow start last year, so it is nice to get one on the board.”
Robyn Brisland gave Seamus Cronin a glowing endorsement after Compass Point (9-4) completed a hat-trick when holding the late rally of Attain by half a length in the Transparent Recruitment Solutions Ltd Apprentice Handicap.
Brisland said: “The race panned out lovely for him. This kid will be champion apprentice this year. I spotted him three weeks ago. He can ride mine all year.
“I did my time riding with Gary Moore and Ryan Moore was there - I think this lad rides as well as him at this stage.”
Charlie Wallis has plenty to thank former trainer Chris Dwyer for and Rose Berry repaid some of that gratitude when landing the Bet totequadpot At totesport.com Fillies’ Handicap to form the first leg of a double for De Sousa.
Wallis said of the 11-4 winner: “It was very kind of Chris to send her to me. She came to me in great nick and I’ve just kept her fresh and happy. Chris has done all the work with her.
“Chris gave me my first ride as an amateur at Wolverhampton. I think I was about fifth or sixth and he told me to cruise to the two pole and then kick and that’s what I did.”