Half-brother to Big Brown entered in Royal
Saturday’s Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, the first race on the new
“Road to the Kentucky Derby” scoring system, includes a half-brother to 2008
Kentucky Derby-winning champion Big Brown — Afonso de Sousa. The son of
Henrythenavigator is the lone entrant from the yard of Aidan O’Brien, who won
last year’s Royal Lodge with Daddy Long Legs and also finished third with Wrote.
The Royal Lodge is unique in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, as the
lone juvenile race outside North America and the only grass race on the
schedule. As with the other races during the first stage of the series, it will
award points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Although it’s far too soon to discern if this test down the Rowley Mile will
have any bearing on the 2013 Run for the Roses, the Royal Lodge could have a
more immediate impact for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a “Win and You’re
In” event. Those who place in the Royal Lodge could also have a Breeders’ Cup
date, for Wrote went on to upset the 2011 Juvenile Turf.
Afonso de Sousa, a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, romped by
nine lengths in a July 26 maiden at Leopardstown in his third try. Making his
stakes debut in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York August 22, he set the pace
before yielding to the well-regarded Dundonnell and Steeler.
Steeler once again looms as a dangerous opponent in the Royal Lodge. The Mark
Johnston trainee has since come back to take the September 4 Stardom Stakes at
Goodwood, over the same course and distance as his maiden win. Ironically,
Steeler is by 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass, the archrival of
Afonso de Sousa’s sire Henrythenavigator.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda sends out the unbeaten Fantastic Moon. A maiden winner
over Newmarket’s July Course, the Dalakhani colt showed a terrific turn of foot
late when going last to first in the Group 3 Solario at Sandown September 1.
“He is proving to be a progressive colt and will appreciate stepping up from
seven furlongs to a mile,” Noseda said.
“It is another rise in grade for him but he has more than earned the right to
be in the race. He has won both of his races on quick ground but I don’t think
it’s an issue with him.”
Godolphin will be represented by Artigiano, who is bred on the potent
Distorted Humor/A.P. Indy cross. The Mahmood al Zarooni juvenile was last seen
finishing a close second to the classy Olympic Glory in the Group 2 Vintage
Stakes at Goodwood August 1.
Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Excess Knowledge hopes to follow in the hoofsteps
of the mighty Frankel, a dominating winner of the 2010 Royal Lodge for the same
owner/breeder. Trained by John Gosden, the son of Monsun was most recently
runner-up in the August 18 Washington Singer Stakes at Newbury.
Frankel’s trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, fields a promising type in Al Waab, who
captured his first two starts here on the July Course. He suffered his first
loss last time out in the September 8 Ascendant Stakes at Haydock, beaten just a
head by Havana Gold, who just won Thursday’s Group 3 Somerville Tattersall
Rounding out the group are Birdman, Mocenigo and One Word More.
The very next race on the card is the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, a
six-furlong contest for two-year-old fillies. The Gold Cheongsam comes off three
straight victories, two of which came over six furlongs on Newmarket’s July
Course. On her latest start, the daughter of Red Clubs was successful over seven
furlongs in a valuable sales race at Doncaster on September 13.
“I have been delighted with The Gold Cheongsam since Doncaster,” Noseda said,
“and I’m thrilled that we’ll have Frankie Dettori back on board.
“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the ground continues to dry as she
is a filly who would appreciate very quick ground, ideally.
“If the ground does ride on the fast side of good on Saturday, she will be
very competitive and I believe she belongs in a contest such as this.”
Topping the 12-horse field is the unbeaten Rosdhu Queen, successful in the
Group 2 Lowther Stakes over six furlongs at York. Other top contenders include
Sendmylovetorose and Maureen, who filled the first two places in the Group 2
Cherry Hinton Stakes over six furlongs at Newmarket’s July Festival.
Eight fillies and mares go postward for the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes. Group
1 Matron Stakes heroine Chachamaidee and Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches
scorer Beauty Parlour both represent Cecil, while dual Group 1 winner Elusive
Kate hails from the Gosden yard.