A return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) has generally been a long range goal for Ulysses, and on Wednesday afternoon the four-year-old colt punched his ticket to Del Mar on November 4 while giving trainer Sir Michael Stoute his sixth victory in the Juddmonte International (G1) at York, a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race.
The 4-1 third choice in the wagering behind three-year-old stalwarts Churchill and Barney Roy, Ulysses wore down both in the straight to take the about 1 1/4-mile International by two lengths in a time of 2:12.11 on good-to-soft ground under Jim Crowley.
“It all just went so smoothly and there was never a blip. I think it was his best performance to date,” said Stoute, who previously won the race with Shadari (1986), Ezzoud (1993-94), Singspiel (1997), and Notnowcato (2006), to the Press Association.
“I think it’s time to give him a break and work backwards from the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The owners [the Niarchos family] are keen to go for that. We’ll go home and work it out.”
Churchill, the 5-2 favorite in overseas markets, edged Barney Roy for second by a neck. Churchill had gotten the better of Barney Roy in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and then captured the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), but was only fourth to that rival in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Barney Roy, who contested the pace with Cliffs of Moher most of the way, has now dropped two straight to Ulysses. The pair were separated by a nose in a thrilling renewal of the Eclipse (G1) at Sandown in early July.
In the interim, Ulysses had finished second to Europe’s leading Thoroughbred, the three-year-old filly Enable, in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot. Enable is heavily favored to take Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks (G1) on day two of the Ebor meeting.
Fourth to Highland Reel in last year’s Turf at Santa Anita, Ulysses also placed behind that rival in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot in June. Other career highlights include Group 3 scores in the 2016 Gordon at Goodwood and the Gordon Richards at Sandown in his season debut April 28.
Earlier in the card, the John Gosden-trained Cracksman cruised to a six-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltigeur under Frankie Dettori.
Closely placed in the Epsom Derby (G1) and Irish Derby (G1), Gosden said the son of Frankel would likely bypass the St Leger (G1) at Doncaster in favor of a possible tilt in either the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp or the Champion (G1) at Ascot.