Challenge Stakes assignment for back-to-form Sacred
The William Haggas-trained four-year-old made a winning debut on the Rowley Mile in 2020 and also landed last season’s Nell Gwyn Stakes over the course and distance.
She went on to win Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes on what proved to be final start of the year and results so far this term have been mixed.
The Exceed And Excel made a promising return when beaten just a length into fifth place in the Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot, but was well beaten in both the Lennox at Goodwood and the City of York Stakes.
Last month’s Listed Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury was viewed by connections as the last chance saloon for Sacred, but having streaked to an impressive victory she gets another chance to prove her worth in Pattern company ahead of a possible trip to Kentucky next month.
Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “She was so impressive at Newbury and with the way she skipped away and showed her old sparkle we thought we’d look at the Prix de la Foret.
“Unfortunately the ground in Paris went against her last weekend, so we took a view that we’d have a little peak at the Challenge Stakes as she doesn’t carry a penalty and gets her ground.
“If she runs a big race then we might be tempted to travel to the Breeders’ Cup, but she’ll tell us I suppose. If she puts in another spectacular performance, as she did last time, then we might open that book, but we’ll have to see how she performs.
“We appreciate Keeneland can have soft ground at that time of year and it’s not like it would have been had the Breeders’ Cup been at Santa Anita, for example, but we’ll keep the window of opportunity open for now anyway.”
Sacred’s rivals include stablemate Purplepay, the admirable Pogo and the tough-as-teak Oscula, who will be having her 12th start of the year for George Boughey.
Reflecting on her latest performance when fifth in the Joel Stakes a fortnight ago, Boughey said: “She was probably short of work and the race was a bit muddily.
“I think she’ll strip fitter for the run, but she’ll probably want a little bit of rain and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get much.
“She’s in good shape and has some good course form, so she is definitely worthy of her chance. She’s been a star this year and we’ll see how she gets on.”
The action gets under way with the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes, for which Middleham Park Racing’s Prince Of Pillo is a hot favourite.
Trained by Keith Dalgleish, the Prince Of Lir colt secured his third win from four starts with a dominant display in the Harry Rosebery Stakes at Ayr three weeks ago.
He had previously finished fourth in the Flying Childers at Doncaster, a race in which Middleham Park star The Platinum Queen finished a close second prior to claiming Prix de l’Abbaye glory last weekend.
Middleham Park’s Mike Prince said: “We’ve got to turn the Childers form around with Crispy Cat, but we were struck into at Doncaster and it just took him a while to get settled in again.
“He was impressive at Ayr and seems in good form at home, so hopefully he can repeat that.
“It’s a competitive race. He’s the highest-rated horse in the race and I think he’s got the best form, but he’s got to go and do it.”
Michael O’Callaghan’s Crispy Cat would not be winning out of turn following a string of placed efforts in Group-race company, while Tom Clover rolls the dice with recent Haydock scorer Rogue Spirit.
It would be huge for an 11,000 guineas horse that has already won three races this season to compete in this and we thought we'd give it a go
“Rogue Spirit won so nicely at Haydock last time. He’s a really fun, bonny horse and while he is in such good form it was worth having a go at this race,” he said.
“It would be huge for an 11,000 guineas horse that has already won three races this season to compete in this and we thought we’d give it a go. He’s been really well since Haydock.”
In the final Group Three of the afternoon, the Newmarket Pony Academy Pride Stakes, Clover is represented by Rogue Millennium.
The one-time Classic hope drops down in grade after finishing seventh in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
Clover added: “Rogue Millennium had a break after the Nassau – the ground wasn’t right for her there and she didn’t have much luck in running.
“The Nassau form looks really strong, there has been some nice winners come out of it and she’s done some nice work this autumn. We’re pleased with her at home and I hope she’ll run a nice race.”
John and Thady Gosden fire a twin assault, with Shaara chasing a fourth successive win and Darmoiselle making her first appearance since beating high-class stablemate Mimikyu at Haydock in May.
“Shaara battled on to win a Listed race at Yarmouth last time and has come out of that in good order. She deserves to step up to Group Three company,” said Thady Gosden.
“Darmoiselle has been off the track for a while, but she won last time out up at Haydock, beating another filly of ours (Mimikyu) who won the Park Hill.
“On the strength of that form, she deserves to step up to black-type company.”
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