08/11/2013 12:32PM

Moonlight Cloud wins Prix Jacques Le Marois to earn spot in Breeders' Cup Mile


A one-week turnaround between victory in the Maurice de Gheest and the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois last summer produced only a fourth-place Marois finish for Moonlight Cloud, but trainer Freddy Head’s latest star mare pulled off the quick double this season, hanging on to win the Marois by a nose over English invader Olympic Glory.

The Marois is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race, and Moonlight Cloud earned a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile plus a travel stipend with her victory Sunday in Deauville, France. Moonlight Cloud, bred and owned by George Strawbridge, turned in a disappointing performance in the 2012 BC Mile, finishing a flat eighth.

The 5-year-old Moonlight Cloud has spent much of her career sprinting, but she beat the classy Farhh in the one-mile Moulin de Longchamp last fall and demonstrated again that she can race effectively over one mile at the highest level.

Under regular rider Thierry Jarnet, Moonlight Cloud settled in midpack in the straight-course Marois, splitting horses about a quarter-mile out and opening a clear lead that would prove insurmountable, if just barely. While Moonlight Cloud and Jarnet made their decisive split, Olympic Glory and Frankie Dettori dipped inside and out, looking for a seam between fading horses.

Dettori finally found one on the outside, then steered back inside, coming with a furious finish that nearly nailed Moonlight Cloud. A troubled 11th in the French 2000 Guineas in his most recent start, Olympic Glory is considered the second-best 3-year-old behind Toronado in the barn of English trainer Richard Hannon but showed Sunday he is a serious miler in his own right.

It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to leading French 3-year-old Intello in third, and while Intello ran decently to edge Declaration of War, he could not match the acceleration the top two showed in the Marois.

Much more disappointing than Intello was Irish raider Dawn Approach, who raced as keenly as usual but failed to deliver his customary race, flattening from a prominent position to finish fifth. Trainer Jim Bolger said Dawn Approach would be freshened for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes this fall.

Moonlight Cloud, a daughter of Invincible Spirit–Ventura, won for the 11th time in 18 starts.

Sudirman wins Phoenix Stakes

At The Curragh in Ireland, the heavily favored War Command could only finish a one-paced third of five in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, where Sudirman posted a half-length victory over Big Time.