Rhododendron Seeks Repeat Win in Prix de l'Opera Longines
Fans of international horse racing are well aware that the first Sunday in October is the date of the much-anticipated Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at Longchamp, the most prestigious race in Europe and—perhaps—the entire world.The Arc is a great attraction in and of itself, but for North American racing fans with an eye on the 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November at Churchill Downs, it could be just as important to watch the action in the Prix de l’Opera Longines (Fr-I) about 45 minutes after the Arc takes place. After all, the 1 ¼-mile turf test offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I) and could very well toss up a major contender or two for the Churchill championship.
Even better, the top betting choices in the Prix de l’Opera are conditioned by trainers who have enjoyed strong Breeders’ Cup success in the past. Leading the way is Wild Illusion, who races for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin Racing. The highly-regarded three-year-old daughter of Dubawi finished second in the Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) earlier this year and picked up the second Group 1 win of her career when defeating older rivals in the 1 ¼-mile Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) at Goodwood, so the distance of the Prix de l’Opera should be right in her wheelhouse.
Trainer has won twelve Breeders’ Cup races in the past, but never the Filly & Mare Turf. He came closest last year with Rhododendron, who finished second, and Rhododendron could quite possibly represent O’Brien again at the Breeders' Cup if she runs well on Sunday. The daughter of Galileo has been on a losing streak as of late, but she did win the Prix de l'Opera last year and also prevailed in the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) back in May, so on her best day she has the class to compete for victory here.
O’Brien will also be represented by the proven Group 1 competitors Magic Wand and Athena, with the latter being particularly intriguing from a Breeders’ Cup perspective since she’s already made one successful trip to the U.S., scoring a decisive victory in the Belmont Oaks (gr. I) in July. Meanwhile, Freddie Head—best known for training Goldikova to win three straight Breeders’ Cup Miles—will send out With You, winner of the Prix Routhschild (Fr-I) at Deauville this summer and most recently third against a top-class field in the Prix Jacques le Marois (Fr-I).
Urban Fox, who defeated Athena in the Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-I) going 1 ¼ miles, is another top contender in this competitive event, along with the up-and-coming Group 2 winner Castellar and the Group 1-placed Homerique.
The complete field for the Prix de l’Opera, the fourth race of the day at Longchamp, can be viewed on the Racing Post website. Post time is 10:50 p.m. Eastern.