Godolphin’s Line of Duty hit top gear late to collar Uncle Benny in the $920,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs, but had to survive an objection, and a several minutes-long stewards; inquiry, to keep the trophy on “Future Stars Friday.”
Coming off a victory in the Prix de Conde (G3) at Chantilly, the Charlie Appleby pupil emerged as the alternative for bettors concerned about 3-1 favorite Anthony Van Dyck’s wide draw. Line of Duty saw his odds drop from a 10-1 morning line to 7-2 second favoritism at the start. While Anthony Van Dyck never managed to get into position from post 14, Line of Duty worked out a trip with regular pilot William Buick.
The 15-1 Somelikeithotbrown set out to control affairs on the front end like Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine Newspaperofrecord and Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Bulletin, and made a bold show of it. After opening fractions of :24.40, :48.46, and 1:13.60 on the yielding course, Somelikeithotbrown spurted 2 1/2 lengths clear in midstretch.
Line of Duty, who had been nestled several lengths off the pace in midpack, and Uncle Benny, rallying from farther back, were the only closers able to gain on the leader. In the process, they were involved in two separate incidents for the stewards to investigate. The first occurred as the field prepared to leave the far turn, when Uncle Benny was improving on the inside and had to steady as Line of Duty was himself on the move.
Peeling out wide, likely in search of the better footing, Line of Duty began to build momentum inside the final furlong. Uncle Benny by this point had plenty of room between foes and kicked on strongly despite wandering a bit. Line of Duty came in the faster he went in deep stretch, and the two briefly made contact. Both overtook Somelikeithotbrown, and Line of Duty was a half-length on top at the wire.
Uncle Benny’s rider, Irad Ortiz Jr., promptly claimed foul. Fans of Line of Duty had to have flashbacks to his dam, Jacqueline Quest, who was first past the post in the 1000 Guineas (G1) in 2010 only to be demoted for interfering with Special Duty. That was a hot controversy, and the longer the stewards took here, the greater the chances of the son suffering the same injustice as the mother. But the decision was different this time, the stewards allowing the on-track result to stand.
Now with Line of Duty declared the official winner, attention turned toward the fact that his time for the mile, 1:40.06, was a second slower than Newspaperofrecord’s 1:39.00 in the fillies’ race.
Somelikeithotbrown was another neck astern in third. British shipper Arthur Kitt checked in a solid fourth on the inside, followed by War of Will, Forty Under, Current, Anthony Van Dyck, Opry, Marie’s Diamond, King of Speed, Henley’s Joy, and Much Better. Also-eligibles Order and Law and Tracksmith stayed in the barn.
Line of Duty’s resume now reads 5-3-2-0, $621,741. An unlucky second in his Sandown debut, and then runner-up to next-out stakes winner Great Scot at Haydock, the chestnut broke his maiden with a sharp burst at Goodwood. He experienced the same trip, pocketed before quickening through a seam, in the Conde. The form was boosted when third-placer Wonderment came back to land the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1).
A Galileo colt like Line of Duty wouldn’t have belonged to Godolphin in recent years. As a matter of policy, Sheikh Mohammed’s operation did not pursue offspring of stallions standing for rival empire Coolmore. But thankfully the self-restriction was lifted, and the Godolphin brain trust secured Line of Duty for 400,000 guineas as a Tattersalls October yearling – the same sale as fellow Irish-bred Newspaperofrecord.
Jacqueline Quest unfortunately did not win another stakes, so she retired as a classic-placed daughter of Rock of Gibraltar. A product of Triermore Stud, Line of Duty is therefore bred on the potent Galileo/Danehill cross.
Quotes from the Breeders’ Cup
Winning trainer Charlie Appleby: “It’s lovely to be here. William (Buick) gave him a great ride. He managed to get him wide and come with a clear run. It’s great for the team and especially Sheikh Mohammed.”
Winning jockey William Buick: “Obviously, I am relieved that we have kept the race. He has put up a great performance to go on and win.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. on his trip aboard runner-up Uncle Benny: “I had to check going to the quarter pole. That’s why I claimed foul. He ran huge.”
Uncle Benny’s trainer, Jason Servis: “It looked like he banged him pretty good. I got beat a neck. But, my dad was a steward for 40 years, and you’ve got to respect their opinions.
“He’s been doing very well. I expected him to run well.”
Trainer Mike Maker on third-placer Somelikeithotbrown: “He ran dynamite. He’s a great horse to have in the barn. He’s getting better.
On Henley’s Joy’s subpar 13th: “I don’t think he liked the ground too much. It was too soft for him.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz on Somelikeithotbrown: He gave me his best and dug in when he felt the horses to the outside of him. It was a brave effort. We are very happy with the race that he ran.”
Richard Kingscote, rider of fourth-placer Arthur Kitt: “He didn’t start the best, but he came home well and I am absolutely delighted with his run.”
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart on Forty Under’s sixth: “Our game plan kind of changed after watching some of the races today. It looks like speed has been tough, so we wanted to be forwardly placed. We thought if he broke clean, he might be able to get the lead and that would put us in the best position. But the way it worked out, it looks like the race is playing more fair than you would think so it probably cost us being so close.”