June 29, 2022

Just Wonderful acceleration in Breeders’ Cup WAYI Rockfel

Just Wonderful emulated her dam, Wading, who won the Rockfel in 2011 (Photo courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter)

One of the spring’s most captivating debut winners, Just Wonderful subsequently failed to fire on the big stage, but the Aidan O’Brien pupil erased those memories with a sparkling display in Friday’s Rockfel (G2) at Newmarket. The daughter of Dansili and Wading, the 2011 Rockfel winner, quickened smartly to book her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Just Wonderful flashed talent in her unveiling in a six-furlong Curragh maiden on Irish 2,000 Guineas Day, propelling herself into favoritism for the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot. But the occasion was too much, too soon, and she tired to 14th. Next seen versus the boys in the July 21 Anglesey (G3), she was favored to rebound, only to wind up a belated third.

Considering her pedigree – Wading is a full sister to 2014 Irish Oaks (G1) and Ribblesdale (G2) heroine Bracelet and a three-quarter sister to this summer’s Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) romper Athena, descended from the mighty Urban Sea – Just Wonderful was entitled to need added ground at this point. O’Brien accordingly stepped her up to a mile in the September 1 Flame of Tara (G3), and she responded to score handsomely.

Just when Just Wonderful looked to have turned the corner, she disappointed again in the September 16 Moyglare Stud (G1). Whether the good-to-yielding ground was in fact worse than the going of the same description in the Flame of Tara, she checked in seventh.

O’Brien brought her right back 12 days later for the Rockfel, again over seven furlongs but now on good-to-firm, and Just Wonderful was a different animal. Jockey Ryan Moore tucked her in within hailing distance of the pace set by Albany winner and 15-8 favorite Main Edition, who was challenged by Yourtimeisnow wider out. Main Edition disposed of her pace rival, and fellow stalker Canton Queen could not go on either.

That left a yawning gap next to Main Edition, an opening seized by Just Wonderful. Exploding through in a couple of strides, the 7-2 chance drew off by 1 3/4 lengths. Dandhu rallied to take second from the stalling Main Edition.

A decision on Just Wonderful’s Breeders’ Cup participation probably wouldn’t come soon, with the October 12 Fillies’ Mile (G1) back at Newmarket a logical intervening target. Moreover, a filly of her profile with obvious classic potential might head into winter quarters rather than prolong her fall campaign abroad.

Moore’s comments on always viewing her as a three-year-old are apposite in that context:

For the same reason, we’ll never know just how good her dam, Wading, might have been. The daughter of Montjeu ran her last race in the Rockfel, retiring after her juvenile campaign and leaving her classic promise untapped.

Just Wonderful is the latest celebrity from the Urban Sea family, now responsible for three Derby (G1) winners after Masar joined Sea the Stars (2009) and Galileo (2001) on the Epsom honor roll in June.