07/27/2016 12:20PM

The Gurkha wins Sussex Stakes, earns spot in Breeders' Cup Mile


The Gurkha turned the tables on Galileo Gold on Wednesday at Goodwood Racecourse, beating him by a neck in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes after Galileo Gold had defeated The Gurkha in the St. James’s Palace Stakes last month at Royal Ascot. 

The Sussex is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In Race, and The Gurkha earned a fees-paid berth into the BC Mile plus travel expenses to the race at Santa Anita. While Aidan O’Brien, who trains The Gurkha for the Coolmore connections, did not specifically mention the BC Mile, he did say his colt wants fast ground and one mile, making the race this fall in California a natural fit. 

Clearly, little separates The Gurkha and Galileo Gold, 3-year-olds who swept the top two placings Wednesday while getting a five-pound weight break from their older rivals in the one-mile Sussex. In the St. James’s Palace, which was run over soft ground, Galileo Gold and Frankie Dettori got first run on The Gurkha, who had a somewhat troubled trip, but on Wednesday, Ryan Moore kept The Gurkha much closer to the pacesetting Galileo Gold and wound up getting the run of the race.

Hemmed in at the rail just behind Galileo Gold for much of the trip, The Gurkha would have been in trouble had Awtaad, the Irish 2000 Guineas winner over Galileo Gold, been able to quicken with the top two when the dash for home began more than a quarter-mile out. But Awtaad lost touch with Galileo Gold, opening a seam for Moore, who steered The Gurkha outside Galileo Gold and wore him down in the final furlong, though the leader fought on gamely.

“They are both very good colts,” Moore said. “My horse was a lot happier back on good ground today, and I think he'll be even better on faster. He traveled very well and showed a lot of pace through the race. I was confident that my horse would be able to get himself out of any position today and go and win. He's had a tough campaign, but he's done very little wrong. It all points to him being a very exciting horse for the rest of the year."

Ribchester, another 3-year-old who had been third in the English 2000 Guineas behind Galileo Gold, finished very well outside the top two and missed second by just a nose. It was three lengths back to Toormore in fourth, as Awtaad faded to eighth.

O’Brien won the Sussex for the fifth time. The Gurkha, who won the French 2000 Guineas this spring for his first Group 1 success, now has an excellent record of 3-2-1 from six starts, and he has won both of his races over turf rated good or better.

:: Enjoy news and analysis from DRF? Unlock access to handicapping analysis, real-time coverage, reports, charts, and more. Start your 30-day trial for 1¢. (First-time members only.)