December 1, 2022

Rebel’s Romance rolls to course record in Breeders’ Cup Turf

Rebel's Romance, with James Doyle aboard, wins the Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)
Rebel’s Romance, with James Doyle aboard, wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf for trainer Charles Appleby (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Rebel’s Romance capped a brilliant Breeders’ Cup for Godolphin when driving to a course record-setting victory in Saturday’s $3.68 million Turf (G1). And he wasn’t even regarded as trainer Charlie Appleby’s top threat in this race. Go-to rider William Buick opted for eventual fifth Nations Pride, so jockey James Doyle picked up the mount on Rebel’s Romance, and earned his first Breeders’ Cup win.

The third winner over the two-day championships for Appleby, following Mischief Magic in the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) and Modern Games in the Mile (G1), Rebel’s Romance was the fourth overall for the boys in blue at Keeneland. Godolphin’s American-based Cody’s Wish also landed the Dirt Mile (G1) for trainer Bill Mott.

The other storyline summed up by the Turf was the dominance of European shippers on this surface. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Stone Age was runner-up in the Turf, concluding a terrific three-win Breeders’ Cup for Ballydoyle — a “Future Stars Friday” double with Meditate in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Victoria Road in the Juvenile Turf (G1), and Tuesday’s heroics in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

The best of the Americans was War Like Goddess, who rallied gamely for third. But the rest of the top six were all Europeans. Globetrotting money-spinner Mishriff churned on for fourth, edging 2.91-1 favorite Nations Pride. Broome, the better-fancied of the Ballydoyle duo, was sixth.

While Rebel’s Romance brought a perfect 4-for-4 record on turf, he was facing his deepest field yet. The Dubawi gelding actually started out as an all-weather campaigner and budding dirt star at the Dubai Carnival. After his 2021 UAE Derby (G2) romp, he was set for the Belmont S. (G1), only to be scratched with a hind leg infection. His comeback runs on the Meydan dirt early this season were unmitigated disappointments, but he’s blossomed since switching to turf this summer, and now proved himself at the highest level in a championship event.

Under patient handling, to get the big gelding organized and comfortable, Rebel’s Romance bided his time in the latter part of the field. At one stage on the backstretch, he was flanked on the inside by War Like Goddess and covered up on the outside by Mishriff, who was still sluggish from the gate in first-time blinkers.

The projected leader, Bye Bye Melvin, duly obliged through fractions of :24.91, :49.42, 1:14.15, and 1:38.92 on the firm course. The other habitually forward type, Channel Maker, tracked until upping the ante rounding the final turn into the stretch. Stone Age, a ground-saving third much of the way, steered out and gradually began to threaten the leaders.

Rebel’s Romance, who had spun out wide on the turn and fanned Mishriff widest of all, was now deploying his long, raking stride. Producing a much stronger change of gear than the one-paced Stone Age or the churning Mishriff, the 5.96-1 chance stormed 2 1/4 lengths clear and paid $13.92. He clocked 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.35, lowering the mark of 2:26.90 set by Tide of the Sea on Oct. 7, 2020.

War Like Goddess stuck to an inner path down the lane, unflinchingly splitting foes twice. First asserting herself in tight between Nations Pride and Master Piece, she then blew between Channel Maker and Bye Bye Melvin. The daughter of 2007 Turf hero English Channel couldn’t get past Stone Age, though, and crossed the wire another three-quarters of a length astern in third. War Like Goddess was a neck up on Mishriff, trailed by Nations Pride, Broome, Channel Maker, Master Piece, Bye Bye Melvin, Gold Phoenix, Red Knight, Highland Chief, and the ever-last Nautilus.

Now 5-for-5 on turf with an overall record of 12-9-0-0, Rebel’s Romance has amassed $2,934,459 in earnings. The Irish-bred four-year-old commenced his turf campaign in the June 25 Fred Archer S. at Newmarket, added the Glorious (G3) at Goodwood, and handled a class hike on the road in Germany. He turned a double in the Aug. 14 Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) and Sept. 25 Preis von Europa (G1).

Doyle noted that given Rebel’s Romance’s ability, the choice for Buick to go with Nations Pride was not at all easy. Godolphin pairs can present that kind of quandary quite a bit. Doyle benefitted from a similar situation in the 2000 Guineas (G1) back on April 30, when Buick stuck with Native Trail, and Doyle rode the victorious Coroebus.

Rebel’s Romance’s dam, the stakes-placed Street Cry mare Minidress, is a full sister to Group 3-winning stayer Volcanic Sky. Second dam, multiple Group 3 scorer Short Skirt, placed in the 2009 Oaks (G1) at Epsom and Yorkshire Oaks (G1). This is the family of Japanese champion Victoire Pisa, winner of the 2011 Dubai World Cup (G1) on the old synthetic surface at Meydan.

Rebel’s Romance is the second straight Turf winner for Godolphin, Appleby, and sire Dubawi, following Yibir in 2021. The dark bay promises to be a grand international campaigner for years to come. But first, he’ll enjoy a well-deserved holiday before connections map out the agenda for 2023.