10/20/2012 12:40PM

Ascot: Excelebration likely for Breeders' Cup Mile following Queen Elizabeth II score


Even when he wins in exceptional fashion, as he did in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday at Ascot, Excelebration can’t escape Frankel’s shadow.

A half-hour after Excelebration effortlessly handled the good miler Cityscape, tallying a three-length score, Frankel ended his perfect career with a rousing win in the Champion Stakes. Five of Excelebration’s six losses over three racing seasons have come in races won by Frankel, and on four of those occasions, Excelebration finished second to him.

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But Frankel has been retired now while Excelebration has at least one more chance to flex his considerable muscle when he takes on Wise Dan in a tantalizing showdown at the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a race Excelebration will contest, trainer Aidan O’Brien said, as long as he’s healthy.

Jockey Joseph O’Brien and Excelebration, winning his second straight Group 1 since Frankel moved up to contest 1 1/4 mile races rather than miles, were stuck in an inside pocket for much of the straight-course Queen Elizabeth II, run over a soft, demanding course. Longshot Side Glance kept them hemmed in as Elusive Kate set the pace, but O’Brien waited patiently for an opening, finding one with about a quarter-mile to run. Quickening instantly, Excelebration moved out for running room, blowing past Cityscape and Elusive Kate without being asked by his rider, O’Brien only encouraging his mount inside the final furlong. Three and one-quarter lengths separated Cityscape and third-place Elusive Kate, who edged Carlton House for third.

Excelebration, an Australian-bred Exceed and Excel colt owned by the Coolmore group, won for the eighth time in 14 starts.

Excelebration’s win was the fourth straight for an Irish-based horse on the Champions Day card, following victories by Sapphire in the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes, Maarek in the Champions Sprint Stakes, and Rite of Passage in the Champions Long Distance Cup.

Sapphire, who beat Shirocco Star and Dancing Rain, was ridden to victory by Pat Smullen for trainer Dermot Weld, the same combination that teamed to win the two-mile Long Distance Cup with Rite of Passage, an 8-year-old who hadn’t raced in 16 months.

Five-year-old Maarek, who graduated from handicaps to Group races in 2012, won the 15-runner Sprint Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Hawkeyethenoo, with favored Society Rock fifth.