Foret hero Make Believe enters Breeders' Cup Mile picture
Four of the six Group 1s on the Arc undercard figure to have Breeders' Cup implications, chief among them the Prix de la Foret (G1). The about seven-furlong test has been known to yield clues for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1), and may do so again. After Make Believe's solid performance, trainer Andre Fabre indicated that a trip to Keeneland could be in the cards.
Make Believe rocketed to prominence with his front-running coup in the French 2000 Guineas (G1) over New Bay. That earned him a supplementary entry to the St James's Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, where he threw in the only bad race of his life. It was widely believed that he was a tailed-off last of five due to the quick ground. But judging by how he motored over a fast surface at Longchamp Sunday, something else must have been amiss at Ascot.
Unraced in the interim, Make Believe was back to his brilliant best here off the layoff. The son of Makfi traveled with gusto just off the pace, burst clear in the stretch, and beat fast-finishing favorite Limato by 1 1/4 lengths. Limato was left far too much to do after getting off to a sluggish start. That's not to downgrade Make Believe's effort. However Limato might have fared with a different trip, Make Believe clocked a blistering 1:17.05 for 1400 meters. And since Limato also brought a superior formline into the Foret, Make Believe regained stature by serving it up to him.
Make Believe's tactical speed may serve him well in the Mile. The biggest question he'd have to answer is if he can take his game outside of France. His Royal Ascot flop has to give some cause for pause, especially considering that he'll be coming in a similar way -- off another big win.
Fabre's other winner on Arc Day, the two-year-old colt Ultra, will not take advantage of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" provisions offered by the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1). The Godolphin colt is instead envisioned as a potential Epsom Derby (G1) prospect.
Two-for-two going into this stakes debut, Ultra dug deep to hang on by a short neck from another Godolphin colorbearer, Cymric. Trained by John Gosden, Cymric had been soundly beaten in his two prior stakes tries, notably when third to The Queen's highly-regarded Recorder in the Acomb (G3). The step up to a mile could have helped this son of Kitten's Joy, and descendant of Personal Ensign.
The Lagardere may have Breeders' Cup implications through the two Aidan O'Brien runners, Johannes Vermeer (fourth as the favorite) and Shogun (a belated sixth). If so, it's worth pointing out that this doesn't appear to be an overly strong renewal. At least that's my knee-jerk, raceday reaction to it.
The companion race for fillies, the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), had a lot more heft on paper, and that transferred to the course as O'Brien's Ballydoyle blitzed in a sparkling 1:35.44. Her time for the metric mile was far better than Ultra's 1:37.27.
Ballydoyle has firmish turf as a prerequisite, as evidenced by her near-miss versus the boys when still green as grass in the Chesham; her maiden-breaking score over Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)-bound Nemoralia at Newmarket; her front-running job in the Curragh's Debutante (G2); and her upset loss on rain-softened ground in the Moyglare Stud (G1) last out.
Although O'Brien left the door open to bringing Ballydoyle to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), with the Boussac being a "Win and You're In," he'd previously intimated that she could be put away for the season.
Ballydoyle led home a one-two for Ireland, as the Jim Bolger-trained Turret Rocks continued her string of fine performances at a mile in second. That adds to the solid look of the form. The disappointment of the race was France's top hope Antonoe, who never looked comfortable and wound up next to last as the favorite. Perhaps it was the ground.
Rounding out the Breeders' Cup Challenge events at Longchamp was the Prix de l'Opera (G1), won in tremendously gutsy style by Covert Love. Making good use of her early foot and her abundant stamina, the Hugo Palmer filly seized command early. She looked in danger when Jazzi Top cruised up alongside in the stretch, her rival's superior turn of foot apparently ready to clinch the 1 1/4-mile prize. But Covert Love would not yield, battling to prevail by a head.
Covert Love thereby secured a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Palmer is seriously considering the option, but he might prefer to stretch her back out to 1 1/2 miles in the October 17 British Champions Fillies and Mares (G1).
Note that defending Opera champion, We Are, rattled home on the far outside to finish a strong third. As a Strawbridge homebred trained by Freddie Head, she'd be a logical BC type. So would fourth-place Wekeela, who was just purchased by Martin Schwartz for €1.1 million at the Arqana Arc Sale Saturday night and is due to join Chad Brown.
In other Group 1 action Sunday, Goldream got up to catch Rangali in the Prix de l'Abbaye (G1), capturing his second major sprint prize of the season. The Robert Cowell charge had also accounted for Royal Ascot's King's Stand (G1). Muthmir finished third in both.
At the opposite end of the distance spectrum, Mille et Mille stole the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran (G1) to earn his first Group win. Successful in the Prix du Carrousel two back, he was rebounding from an eighth in the Prix Gladiateur (G3) on soft ground.