Two automatic starting positions in the Breeders' Cup World Championships will be on the line April 1 at Royal Randwick in Sydney through the Breeders' Cup Challenge series as Godolphin's Hauraki (AUS) and Carusi, Agius Et Al's Le Romain (AUS) lead a 20-horse field for the 152nd running of the Group 1 $3 million Doncaster Mile (G1) for a berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), and the veteran Chautauqua (AUS) headlines the $2.5 million Darley TJ Smith Stakes (G1) at 6 furlongs on turf for a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held for the first time at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego, California, on November 3-4.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Doncaster Mile winner to start in the Mile, and the winner of the TJ Smith Stakes winner to start in the Turf Sprint. Breeders' Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the Championships' pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.
Le Romain, trained by Kris Lees and ridden by Hugh Bowman, finished second to the super mare Winx (AUS) last time out in the 7 1/2 furlong China Horse Club George Ryder Stakes (G1) at Rosehill on March 18. A bay gelding by Hard Spun, Le Romain (post 8) had won three consecutive races prior to the George Ryder, starting with the one mile Cantala Stakes (G1) last October at Flemington. He opened 2017 with a win in the Chi X Southern Cross Stakes (G3) at Randwick on February 4, and followed up that victory with a dramatic win by a nose over Chautauqua in the 6 1/2 furlong Canterbury BMW Stakes (G1) on March 4 at Randwick. Video
Le Romain is currently tied for fifth in the 2017 Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings.
Hauraki, a 5-year-old gelding by Reset (AUS), won the Group 1, one-mile TAB Epsom Handicap at Randwick last October, and closed out the year finishing in a dead-heat for second in the Emirates Stakes (G1) at Flemington on Nov. 5. This year, Hauraki, trained by John O'Shea, finished three lengths behind Le Romain and Chautauqua in the BMW Stakes, and was recently fourth, beaten 10 1/2 lengths in the George Ryder. He will break from post 16 under jockey James Doyle.
Horses trained by Chris Waller have won the last four runnings of the Doncaster Mile, represented by Winx last year and previously by Kermandec (NZ), and consecutively by Sacred Falls (NZ). This year, Waller will have four starters: Arod (AUS) (post 7, Glyn Schofield), McCreery (AUS) (post 17, Kevin McEvoy), Endless Drama (AUS) (post 20, Brenton Abdulla and Antonio Giuseppe (AUS) (post 6, Tommy Berry). Endless Drama was third behind Winx and Hartnel (GB) in the 7 furlong Apollo Stakes (G2) on February 13 at Randwick.
Trainer Darren Weir has entered the 4-year-old Palentino (AUS) and the 6-year-old Tosen Stardom (JPN), the first two finishers in the March 18, one-mile Incognitus Blamey Stakes (G2) at Flemington. Palentino will be ridden by Mark Zahra from post 3 and Tosen Stardom will break from post 23 under Craig Williams.
R & C Legh Racing and GPI Racing's 6-year-old gelding Chautauqua is the two-time defending champion of the Darley TJ Smith Stakes. Trained by Michael and Wayne Hawkes, Chautauqua has won half of his 22 career starts, but is winless in his last five outings since capturing the Chairman's Sprint Prize (G1) at Sha Tin in Hong Kong last May. Ridden by Tommy Berry from post 11 in the 15 horse field, the son of Encosta de Lago (AUS) returned to form in the Canterbury BMW Stakes, just getting nipped at the wire by Le Romain. However, Chautauqua was not a factor finishing third, 8 1/2 lengths behind Winx in the George Ryder.
B.C. Micalizzi's 5-year-old Malaguerra (AUS), a winner of 8 of 16 starts, won last year's 6 furlong Darley Classic (G1) by a shot head over Spieth (AUS). Trained by Peter Gelagotis and ridden from post 7 by Ben Melham, Malaguerra opened 2017 with a two-length win over Black Heart Bart (AUS) in the 6 furlong, Group 2 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley. He was recently sixth, but beaten just 2 1/2 lengths, at Caulfield in the 7 furlong Ladbroke's CF Orr Stakes (G1) on February 11.
The 7- year-old gelding Terravista (AUS) won the Darley Classic in 2014 for Couper and Rix Et Al and trainer Joseph Pride. He began this year as a 14-1 choice on February 18 in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes at 7 furlongs on the straight course at Flemington and won it in a thrilling finish by a short head over Spieth. The latter, trained by Bryce Heys and ridden by Hugh Bowman from post 13, was a tough-luck second to Malaguerra in last December's Darley Classic.
Also of interest is Laurel Oak Bloodstock's 7-year-old Rebel Dane (AUS), who won the William Hill Manikato Stakes (G1) last October at Moonee Valley. Trained by Gary Portelli, Rebel Dane will be ridden by Craig Williams from post 15.