October 21, 2020

Isabella Giles rolls in BC WAYI Rockfel; Mile candidate Kameko beats Benbatl in Joel

Kameko pictured at Glorious Goodwood (Steven Cargill/Racingfotos.com)

The Clive Cox-trained Isabella Giles easily put away Aidan O’Brien’s hot favorite Monday to prevail in Friday’s Rockfel Stakes (G2) at Newmarket, earning a free berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). But according to the postrace comments, Rockfel runner-up Nazuna could be the one who turns up at Keeneland.

Paul and Clare Rooney’s Isabella Giles was coming off a seven-length romp in the Aug. 29 Prestige (G3) at Goodwood, but the soft going that day left a scruple about how literally to take the result. Friday’s ground at Newmarket was good, if reportedly riding on the slower side after rain, and Isabella Giles proved that she didn’t need a bog to show her class.

Monday, favored off her front-running score in the Ingabelle on Irish Champions Weekend, again took the lead. Only this time, she was being niggled along very early and soon dropped back.

In contrast, Isabella Giles traveled with alacrity alongside and struck the front on the bridle. Driving clear with Adam Kirby, the daughter of freshman sire Belardo completed 7 furlongs in a sharp 1:22.55 with a tailwind.

Nazuna was the lone rival who stayed on well enough to keep it entertaining, crossing the wire two lengths adrift. Trainer Roger Varian immediately mentioned the Juvenile Fillies Turf as a potential target for the Kodiac filly, noting that he sent last year’s Rockfel winner, Daahyeh, to run second at Santa Anita.

Alba Rose checked in another 3 1/4 lengths back in third, followed by Monday and Santosha in a strung-out field of five.

Isabella Giles now sports a 4-for-5 mark, her lone loss a fourth to Santosha in the July 26 Princess Margaret (G3) at Ascot. The €45,000 Goffs Sportsman’s Sale purchase scored as the favorite in her first two starts at Leicester and Newbury, and rebounded in style in the Prestige.

Bred by Ballylinch Stud in Ireland, Isabella Giles is a half-sister to multiple German stakes winner Majestic Colt (by Clodovil), runner-up in the Sept. 6 Goldene Peitsche (G3) at Baden-Baden. They are out of the Dubawi mare Majestic Dubawi, who captured the 2010 Firth of Clyde (G3). This is the immediate family of two other current notables, multiple Group 2 victor Dark Vision and Group 1 bridesmaid Lope Y Fernandez.

Isabella Giles could advance to Group 1 company herself in the Oct. 9 Fillies’ Mile (G1), unless Cox prefers to call it a season. He sounded disinclined to try a transatlantic venture.

“She is in the Fillies’ Mile, but she has done pretty good this year. She wouldn’t have blown a candle out there, but we will see how she comes back,” Cox said.

“It was a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup, but I’m not sure. Next year beckons over a mile, and I think we will be looking that way.”

It’s a different story with the winner of the very next race on Friday’s card, the Joel Stakes (G2), for Kameko’s connections – Qatar Racing and trainer Andrew Balding – are seriously considering a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

Hero of the 2000 Guineas (G1) in record time over the same course and distance back in June, Kameko subsequently endured a three-race losing skid. He was fourth each time, with excuses. The Kitten’s Joy colt was the favorite in the Derby (G1) at Epsom, where he didn’t stay the trip. Reverting to a mile in the Sussex (G1) was the right idea, only he found himself bottled up on the inside, in one of those traffic nightmares around Glorious Goodwood. Kameko then tried the about 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte International (G1), made a brief move, but flattened out behind Ghaiyyath as if that too were a shade too far.

The Joel was the right spot to regain the winning thread, if he could shoulder a 5-pound penalty that put him at a disadvantage against his elders. Chief among them was Godolphin’s top-class Benbatl, who was also the defending champion. Kameko coped admirably, with a heady ride from Oisin Murphy.

Murphy has also piloted Benbatl, including in his 2019 Joel conquest, and when he was last seen finishing third to Maximum Security and Midnight Bisou in the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup. His familiarity with both market leaders arguably made the difference for Kameko.

Benbatl, the favorite to make a winning return as he did 12 months ago, wasted no time seizing command. Top Rank attended him, while Kameko was settled right in his wake. Aware of the danger of Benbatl’s giving them the slip, as well as of Kameko’s need to get stoked up, Murphy began urging him past the halfway mark. The early signal worked.

Kameko collared Benbatl as Top Rank bowed out, and fellow stalker Tilsit likewise could not keep on. Then Regal Reality surged late to prevent it from becoming a two-horse race. Rallying on the other side of Benbatl, Regal Reality might not have been in Kameko’s field of vision at first. But Murphy galvanized him to see off that final threat by a half-length in 1:34.41 for the mile.

Benbatl soldiered on another half-length back in third. There was a 2 1/4-length gap back to Tilsit, and Zabeel Prince and Top Rank concluded the order of finish. Duke of Hazzard and Urban Icon were scratched, citing unsuitable ground.

Kameko improved his resume to 9-4-2-0. Both runner-up efforts were near-misses in the Royal Lodge (G2) and Solario (G3), when he was still putting it together as a juvenile. The dark bay turned the corner in last fall’s rescheduled Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1), contested on Newcastle’s Tapeta rather than Doncaster.

His late-season options this term are the Oct. 17 Queen Elizabeth II (G1) on Champions Day and a trip to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup. Note that Sheikh Fahad did both with Roaring Lion in 2018, albeit he attempted the Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. That was his last roll of the dice before going off to stud, so it could be significant that Balding believes Kameko’s likely to retire to a stallion career as well.

“I think that is a decision the owner and the Qatar Racing team will take shortly. I don’t have a final answer, but I think the likelihood is that he will be at stud next year.”

If so, perhaps Kameko would also take in both Champions Day and the Breeders’ Cup.

Benbatl’s trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, is looking toward Champions Day, either for the QEII or a step up in trip for the Champion S. (G1).