The experienced juvenile Royal Dornoch competed three times without success against group stakes company, but the fourth time proved to be the charm. Under urging from jockey Wayne Lordan, the son of Gleneagles re-rallied to win Saturday’s Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) at Newmarket in England.
Held over Newmarket’s straight Rowley Mile course, the Royal Lodge pitted seven promising youngsters against each other, with a “Win and You’re In” berth to the November 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) on the line. Adding to the significance of the one-mile test, the Royal Lodge also served as the first leg of the 2019-2020 European Road to the Kentucky Derby, with Derby qualification points on a 10-4-2-1 schedule to the top four finishers.
Royal Dornoch had to work hard to claim the prize. After he stalked pacesetter Sound of Cannons for the first five furlongs, Royal Dornoch advanced to take a brief lead. But the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt was quickly confronted by 6-5 favorite Kameko, who rallied boldly on the far side to claim an advantage as large as half-length with a furlong to run.
But Royal Dornoch wasn’t finished. With Lordan pumping away, encouraging his mount to fight back, Royal Dornoch found something extra as the undulating course shifted to an uphill grade for the final furlong. This test of stamina proved too much for Kameko, who weakened in the final strides, and Royal Dornoch re-rallied to win by a neck at 16-1, the longest price in the field. O’Brien also saddled Iberia and Year of the Tiger, who rounded out the top four finishers.
Royal Dornoch stopped the timer in 1:35.13, the fastest mile ever run by a 2-year-old over the Rowley Mile course, though he may have been aided by a strong tailwind. Stiff winds in excess of 20 mph were prominent at Newmarket on Saturday afternoon and blew in largely from the west, which followed the runners down the straight course.
Following the race O’Brien mentioned Royal Dornoch as a probable starter for the October 26 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (G1) at Doncaster, which would almost surely preclude a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. However, it would come as no surprise to see Kameko make the trip. A Kentucky-bred son of Kitten’s Joy, Kameko is conditioned by Andrew Balding, who has saddled 29 starters in North America since 2000. Balding has won graded stakes races with Blond Me, Vanderlin and Phoenix Reach.
The European Road to the Kentucky Derby continues Sunday, with the Beresford Stakes (G2) at the Curragh in Ireland.