Raven's Pass earns his first group I victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Raven's Pass earns his first group I victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Trevor Jones

'Raven' Soars to Victory in QEII

A slight change in tactics made the difference as Raven’s Pass turned the tables on longtime rival Henrythenavigator to earn his first group I victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by Sony) (Eng-I) at Ascot Sept. 27.

The race was one of three stakes races on the Ascot card that were part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” program for the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita. Raven’s Pass earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 25.  Trainer John Gosden hinted after the race that the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) is also being considered for the son of Elusive Quality.

The Queen Elizabeth II brought together three of the top milers in Europe, with French group I winner Tamayuz also joining the lineup.  Aidan O’Brien and Freddie Head both entered pacemakers for their stars, and it was Honoured Guest and Racinger who went immediately to the front and set a fierce gallop.

As that pair pulled away from the rest of the field, Tamayuz raced in third under Davy Bonilla, with Raven’s Pass tracking them closely in fifth, just behind longshot Winker Watson.  Johnny Murtagh had Henrythenavigator rolling along just behind them, and Sabana Perdida trailed.

As the field entered the home straight, Tamayuz took command briefly, but Jimmy Fortune had Raven’s Pass in high gear and the pair quickly overtook Tamayuz.  Murtagh was hard at work aboard Henrythenavigator, and the son of Kingmambo responded strongly, driving up on the outside to make a run at Raven’s Pass with a furlong left.

Raven’s Pass, however, had gotten the jump on "Henry", and that ended up being the key factor in his victory.  Henrythenavigator could get no closer than a half-length to the winner, with the eventual margin of victory being one length.

Sabana Perdida closed well to finish third, 4 1/2-lengths farther back.  Tamayuz finished a lackluster fourth.  Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:38.94 over a course rated as "good".

“The jockey and trainer have finally got it right!” a delighted John Gosden told the Racing Post after the contest.  “It is not bad being in front of that good horse for a change, and he had to come and get us.”

Gosden continued: “The plan now is to go to the Breeders’ Cup and he could run in the Mile or the Classic.  He sees his races out well now, and physically he has done very well.  If the Mile was run somewhere like Belmont with one turn, it would be fine;  but it is a two-turn mile at Santa Anita and you can get done by the draw, so on that basis we will entertain running in the Classic.”

Aidan O’Brien remained upbeat after Henrythenavigator’s second-place finish, telling reporters: “He ran a stormer but the ground was quite loose and he’s better on a fast surface.  I’m not putting that up as an excuse, and hopefully we’ll have a look at Santa Anita—although I’m not sure which race yet.”

Raven’s Pass is a 3-year-old chestnut colt by Elusive Quality out of Ascutney, by Lord at War.  He was bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable, and is now owned by Princess Haya of Jordan.