Excelebration Wins QEII On Champions Day Card
Excelebration, runner-up to Frankel on four occasions and third behind him once, finally escaped the superstar's shadow when he took the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) Oct. 20 at Ascot in determined fashion.
The $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park is next on the radar for Excelebration, who is trained by Aidan O'Brien.
"If he's OK and everybody is happy, we'll go to the Breeders' Cup," O'Brien told betfair.com after Excelebration boldly charged between horses in the straight and burst past Cityscape when guided clear by jockey Joseph O'Brien, his trainer's son.
The QEII was the co-feature on the QIPCO British Champions Day card that was anchored by the QIPCO Champion Stakes (Eng-I), won by Frankel in his 14th straight and final career victory. Without the top miler to contend with, the 4-year-old Irish-bred was the heavy favorite in the race in which he finished second to Frankel last year.
O'Brien bypassed a meeting with Frankel in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) Aug. 1 and shipped Excelebration to Deauville in France, where he faced a tough test against eight other group I winners the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois (Fr-I) Aug. 12. He proved too strong for Elusive Kate and Cityscape that day, and again on this one.
Cityscape finished second and Elusive Kate held on for third in the eight-horse field.
With the QEII win, Excelebration improves his record to eight wins, four seconds, and a third from 14 starts. He was bred by Owenstown Stud by Exceed and Excel out of the Indian Ridge mare Sun Shower.
British Champions Day is the culmination of 35 top British flat races that comprise five championship categories: Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance, and Fillies and Mares. The QEII is the finale in the Mile division. The Champion Stakes is the final race of the Middle Distance division.
Seven-year-old Rite of Passage made his first start in 510 days in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (Eng-III) and won by neck from Aiken, who was overtaken in the closing stages of the two-mile race. Askar Tau finished third, and Fame And Glory, who led more than a quarter-mile out, faded to fifth in a repeat bid to win the Long Distance Cup.
Winner of the 2010 Gold Cup (Eng-I), Rite of Passage had been sidelined with leg issues by trainer Dermot Weld, who scored a double on the card when Sapphire won the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (Eng-II).
Dancing Rain, bidding for a repeat win and making her first start of the year from an injury, led early while pressed by Was until she was overtaken in the straight by Shirocco Star. Sapphire was full of run after rating behind the leaders, however, and reeled in Shirocco Star for the victory as the 5-to-2 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile race. Dancing Rain hung on for third in the ten-horse field.
The QIPCO British Champions Sprint (Eng-II) was won by Maarek, a consistent 5-year-old Pivotal gelding trained by Tipperary trainer David Nagle. Entering with two wins at the group III level this year, including his defeat of former champion Starspangledbanner at the Curragh Sept. 15 three starts back, Maarek was prominent from the start and seized command about 150 yards out for a clear win over 25-to-1 longshot Hawkeyethenoo. Sirius Prospect finished third among the 15-horse field in the six-furlong contest.
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