Stronach's Royal Challenger Wins Breeders' Stakes

(from Woodbine report)
Stronach Stables' Royal Challenger rallied from last to first to win Sunday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third jewel of Canada's Triple Crown on the Woodbine turf course.

The chestnut son of Touch Gold, who trailed for the first four furlongs, completed the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:28.66. He edged the late closing 2-1 favorite French Beret, who suffered a wide trip, by a neck. Shillelagh Slew finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner.

It was the first stakes score for the lightly raced Ontario-bred homebred, who was attempting the turf for the first time.

Brian Lynch trained the Royal Challenger to the victory, while jockey Patrick Husbands celebrated his second Breeders' Stakes win.

"I saved every inch of ground. When I asked, he just exploded," said Husbands, who won the race with Wando in 2003. "About 10 strides from the wire, he was looking at the ground -- the cameras and everything -- he pulled himself up. Then when Todd (Kabel, aboard French Beret) came to him, just before the wire, he took off again. He showed you today that he was the best."

Lynch commended the veteran rider for the patient ride from mid-pack with one mile remaining in the race. "He gave him a great ride. He kept him out of trouble. It looked like he was going to get stuck a little bit. The seas parted for him. It was our day, I guess."

Going into the event, Lynch was "quietly confident" his 3-year-old would handle the turf and distance.

"We worked him on the grass, and he seemed to look good and handle it. The end result speaks for itself," said Lynch. "He really seemed to enjoy (the distance). Anytime you can get a horse to sit off the pace and come with a run, going 1 1/2 miles, it's a great asset."

Husbands, who rode Royal Challenger for the first time to a solid fourth-place finish (placed third via disqualification) in the Prince of Wales, said his mount has a future on the sod.

"On the grass, he's a different horse. I'd rather stick with him on the grass than go back on the sand," he said.

Owner Frank Stronach was on hand for the win and also praised Husbands. "Patrick rode a very good race. He saved a lot of ground and didn't hurt the horse."

Three weeks ago, the connections of Lynch and Stronach Stables watched their Malakoff cross the line first in Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, only to be disqualified for interference and placed fifth. Breeders' rival Shillelagh Slew was awarded first. The result is pending appeal with the Ontario Racing Commission.

Edenwold captured the Queen's Plate, the 1 1/4-mile first gem of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Now a three-time winner, Royal Challenger is the first Breeders' Stakes winner to be sired by a winner of the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the American Triple Crown, since Peteski (by Affirmed) in 1993.

Royal Challenger returned $9.80, $4.40, 3.50, combining with French Beret ($3.60, $2.50) for a $35.80 exacta. Shillelagh Slew ($3.30) rounded out a trifecta of $107. Fourth-place finisher Young Dom completed a $1 Superfecta worth $966.05.

Completing the order was Uncle Max, Kisseroo, Looktotherainbow, Ascot Bill, Skipped Bail, and Pyramid Park.

(Chart, Equibase)