earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) for the second time this season with a course record-setting win at Ascot in the Betfair King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) July 27.
The 4-year-old Monsun
colt won by five lengths over Irish Derby (Ire-I) victor Trading Leather
, who was facing elders for the first time, and cruised across the finish line in record time of 2:24.60 on turf rated good to firm. Ridden by Johnny Murtagh, Novellist notched his second straight group I victory and third overall this season from as many starts for trainer Andreas Wohler.
The winning time was more than two seconds faster than the previous record of 2:26.78 set by Harbinger in the 2010 edition of the race.
"To win like that is unbelievable, but even more so to do it in a record time." said Wohler, who trains Novellist for Dr. Christoph Berglar. "The hardest thing for Johnny was pulling the horse up after the race. We couldn't have said beforehand that he would have won that easily."
In his previous outing, Novellist won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) June 23 to secure a start in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf, to be run Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park
. Like that race, the King George is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series, in which the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fee for the Turf and provide a $40,000 travel allowance for the colt's winning connections.
Novellist's main goal this season is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), Europe's premier middle-distance test, in October at Longchamp, Wohler said.
Settled off a solid early pace set by Ektihaam
, who was chased by Universal
, Novellist was ready to roll a quarter mile out as Universal briefly took charge. That rival could not stem the rally of the winner, who comfortably held back the rally of Trading Leather en route to an open-length triumph in Ascot's premier summer event.
"It didn't feel like a track record but I was always cruising and in my comfort zone," Murtagh said. "When we got into the straight I hung off the back of Kevin Manning (on Trading Leather) and then let him go. I was worried that something was going to come from behind, but nothing did."
Trading Leather held on for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Hillstar
. Middle-distance star and 6-4 favorite Cirrus des Aigles
finished fourth in the eight-horse field. Red Cadeaux
, second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) earlier this year, was never a factor, checking in sixth.
Novellist's win at 13-2 odds in the King George marks the second successive year the race has been captured by a German-based runner. Danedream
won by a nose from Nathaniel
in a thriller in 2012.
"We knew that he had improved since his last race (at Saint-Cloud), but it is unbelievable that he could improve so much," Wohler said.
Christophe Soumillon, rider of beaten favorite Cirrus des Aigles, said his mount ran well but needed the race following his fifth-place finish behind Novellist at Saint-Cloud.
"He wasn't really fit—the horse needs a race," he said. "The speed we went and the track conditions, it was hard to follow that pace."
Irish-bred Novellist improved to eight wins and a second from 10 career starts. His record also includes a runner-up finish in the Deutsches Derby (Ger-I, German Derby).
Berglar, owner of Stonereath Stud in Paris, Ky., bred Novellist out of German highweight and group III winner Night Lagoon
, by Lagunas