Crystal Ocean (GB), a late withdrawal from last year’s Breeders’ Cup, secured an elusive first victory at Group 1 level with a battling triumph under Frankie Dettori in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1), which guaranteed him a start in the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races, whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, Nov 1-2.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Crystal Ocean to start in the 1 ½-mile Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
A model of consistency for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, the Sir Evelyn de Rothschild-owned Crystal Ocean had never finished outside the first three placings in 14 career races and was second three times in three previous efforts at Group 1 level, in the St Leger in 2017 and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes last year.
But in his 15th start, in a race run during a torrential downpour, Crystal Ocean was not going to denied as Dettori took him past pacesetting Hunting Horn (GB) with two furlongs to run and stayed on too strongly for the favored 4-year-old filly Magical (IRE), last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup runner-up, to score by 1 ¼ lengths. Waldgeist (GB) finished three-and-a quarter lengths back in third.
Sea Of Class, last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe second, was a well-beaten fifth, with Japan’s Deirdre (JPN) sixth.
Crystal Ocean and Frankie Dettori, picture Liesl King
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes was due to be the comeback target of champion mare Enable (GB), the two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and 2018 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, but when her return to action had to be delayed, Dettori gained the mount on Crystal Ocean.
“As soon as I knew Enable wasn’t running I rang for the ride that morning,” said Dettori, “I didn’t get a yes that morning but I got it in the afternoon.
“Crystal Ocean is very tough. He is an ultra-consistent horse who never runs a bad race. I was scared of the rain because all his form is on firm ground. When I kicked on the turn I used my stamina and in fairness he stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line.”
Crystal Ocean, by Sea The Stars (IRE) out of Crystal Star (GB), was bred at the de Rothschild’s Southcourt Stud.
Stoute, who has gained four of his eight Breeders’ Cup wins in the Turf, said: “It’s great for the stud because Mrs. Robeson [the late Renee Robeson, the owner’s sister] used to run it in the Notnowcato days and now Eveyln has continued the interest. It’s good to have a boost like this with a Group 1 colt.
“He’s been very durable and very successful. I thought he ran very well in the Champion Stakes last year. He ran better than appeared. I felt he may be better at a mile and a half but he is certainly a pretty good horse at a mile and a quarter and he’s proved that today.”
Stoute also trained last year’s Prince of Wales’s winner, Poet’s Word (IRE).
Crystal Ocean covered the 1 ¼ miles in 2:10.25 against seven rivals in gaining his eighth win in 15 starts. He is now unbeaten in three starts in 2019 after picking up Group 3 wins in the 1 ¼-mile Gordon Richards Stakes on April 26 at Sandown and in the 1 ½-mile Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury on May 18. He was pre-entered in last year’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs but was unable to make the trip after suffering a training setback.
Crystal Ocean becomes the first horse from Europe to win an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and the third this year. The other qualifiers were Il Mercato (ARG), winner of the Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini (G1) at San Isidro in Argentina, and George Washington (BRZ), winner of the Grande Premio Brasil (G1)l at Gavea in Brazil.