09/21/2009 12:00AM

Milers seek BC spots at Ascot


Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman head a field of 11 milers in the five-day entries for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. A Group 1 mile, the QEII is one of three races to be run there on the day at that distance as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Win And You're In program.

Like everything else in Europe, Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman, both trained by Aidan O'Brien, have spent much of the year chasing the indomitable Sea the Stars. Rip Van Winkle was fourth behind him in both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby, but was just a length second in the Eclipse Stakes before earning high marks for his 2 1/2-length victory in the one-mile Sussex Stakes. Mastercraftsman was fifth in the Guineas and later second in the Juddmonte International and third in the Irish Champion Stakes, all three times behind Sea the Stars. In between he won a pair of Group 1 miles, the Irish 2000 Guineas and the St. James's Palace Stakes.

It is uncertain whether they will both line up for the QEII. Rip Van Winkle suffered a setback following his Sussex victory but has been given the green light for Saturday's race. If he goes, Mastercraftsman could be rerouted to the 1 3/8-mile Diamond Stakes on the Dundalk Polytrack on Oct. 2.

Delegator, recent winner of the Group 2 Celebration Mile, has already been announced for the Breeders' Cup Mile, in which the QEII winner receives an automatic berth. He is set to take his chance for Godolphin, while Ghanaati, winner of the 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes, will try to improve off her third-place Sussex finish. The lately improving Aqlaam, winner of the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, is expected to renew a rivalry with Moulin runner-up Famous Name.

While the Queen Elizabeth II winner receives a guaranteed spot in the BC Mile, this race proved to be the key prep for the Classic a year ago when Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator finished one-two in both races. There is every reason to believe that O'Brien may be thinking along the same lines this year with Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman, especially as they are both Group 1-placed at 1 1/4 miles.

The Group 1 Fillies Mile winner will earn herself a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but as that is still an ungraded race, the winner may be aimed directly at next year's British classics, as was last year's winner, Rainbow View. Among the 12 possibles are the O'Brien-trained Cabaret, winner of the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes, and Long Lashes, the Godolphin-owned winner of the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes.

The Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes, whose winner gains entry to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, has drawn 21 entries. Among them are the Coolmore-owned Group 3 Solario Stakes winner, Shakespearean. Godolphin could counter with Finsceal Beo's half-brother, the listed Prix de la Huderie winner Frozen Power.