September 24, 2010

Rip vs. Mak in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes

A field of eight is set to do battle in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes in England on Saturday afternoon. This one mile affair, run over the hallowed grounds of Ascot Racecourse, looks to be the most important race of the weekend worldwide, and could prove one of the more important miles of the year. At stake is an automatic invitation to the Breeder’s Cup Mile, but that might not be the only BC race to be targeted by the race winner. Remember this is the same race that produced Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator, the two English 3-year-olds who ran past our tiring champion Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic of 2008. That 1-2 finish at Santa Anita matched the result at the Ascot Festival just weeks earlier. This year’s race should be another good one with, once again, major Breeders’ Cup implications.

Two of the top colts in Europe loom the pair to beat on Saturday. The defending champion is back, as Rip Van Winkle, used a triumph last year to propel him to near favoritism in the BC Classic. He did not get it done in America, but the beautiful bay continues to be one of the glamour boys of European racing. The son of Galileo has only one win this year, but it came in impressive, late-running fashion in the Group 1 Juddmonte International two starts ago. The Aidan O’Brien trained colt is coming off a well beaten second place finish in the Irish Champion, but he should be ready to roll now that he isback at the flat mile distance in which he's performed well in the past. Rip Van Winkle will be my top pick to pull off the minor upset over his younger and favored competition.

Makfi became a sudden star when winning the English 2000 Guineas in May. The classic win came in only his third lifetime start. Enthusiasm for his potential was tempered temporarily when he ran poorly at Ascot in his next race, but that race came with an excuse of coming out of the June race worse for the wear. He confirmed the form of the Guineas win, and himself as one of the top milers in the world, when he returned to easily defeat champion Goldikova at Deauville in his last start. Should the son of Dubawi run back to that race, he will give Rip everything he wants in his quest to win back-to-back runnings. The rest of the field will all have juicy odds, with Poet's Voice looking like the most interesting of the bunch. The Godolphin entrant is likely to have his work cut out for him tomorrow against the top two from a class standpoint, but he is starting to live up to his potential that he flashed as a juvenile, and is coming off a smart score in the Celebration Mile.

Ascot Racecourse is one racecourse that I have always wanted to visit, and the QE II would be a wonderful race to witness live. It will not happen again this year, but it will someday. For now I will be content to be a most interested observer from afar. A win by Rip Van Winkle or Makfi should send them to America as one of the favorites for the Breeders‘ Cup Mile, or perhaps they will opt for the riches of the Classic instead. Or maybe a new shooter will emerge and head to the United States off a big win.


Jonathan said...

I was thinking Beethoven to place if 8 stay in the race. However the ground scares me as on form not sure what can handle it bar Makfi and am no sire expert. Makfi will likely be overbet because of that so I'll just hope to see the two group 1 stars have a ding dong down the straight.

Brian Zipse said...

Jonathan, soft turf could be the great equalizer, but even on the wet stuff I can not get away from the top two.

LDP said...

Should be a great race. Can't wait to see it.