09/26/2009 12:00AM

Rip Van Winkle headed to BC Classic

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Rip Van Winkle turns back the longshot Zacinto to win Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot by 1 1/4 lengths.

Rip Van Winkle is set to try and improve trainer Aidan O'Brien's 0-or-10 record in the Breeders' Cup Classic following a battling victory in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The 8-13 odds-on favorite in a field of four runners, Rip Van Winkle was sent past the front-running Aqlaam with over five-sixteenths of the right-handed mile still to cover.

Aqlaam was soon beaten but Rip Van Winkle's other two rivals were definitely not. Indeed, Zacinto, at 18-1 the outsider of the quartet, looked poised for a shocking victory as he closed to within a neck of Rip Van Winkle soon after the furlong pole.

But the son of Galileo would not be denied, drawing away again to register a 1 1/4-length victory, stopping the clock at 1:38.82 over the "good to firm" turf course.

The win was Rip Van Winkle's fourth from eight career starts and he has now gleaned over $800,000 in prize money.

O'Brien, who has twice saddled the runner-up in the BC Classic (Giant's Causeway in 2000 and Henrythenavigator last year) will bid to go one better with this 3-year-old colt, who has always been highly regarded but has suffered from intermittent lameness since recovering from a severe virus in the spring.

"The Classic is the ideal race for him," said winning jockey Johnny Murtagh. "He will set up well for that. He's got the tactical speed needed around Santa Anita and I think he'll love the surface - it's a very, very nice race for him."

Zacinto posted a personal best in second and now heads for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 17. And the disappointing Delegator, who was beaten a total of 4 1/2 lengths in third despite having beaten Zacinto four weeks earlier, may now head for the Breeders' Cup Mile, the race for which the Queen Elizabeth II held Win And You're In status.

"He fell a bit short today, we were beaten by two better horses," said Simon Crisford, racing manager for Delegator's owner, Godolphin. "But my feeling is we will still go for the Breeders' Cup Mile."

Two-year-old winners not likely for Breeders' Cup

The stewards were busy but Breeders' Cup clues were thin on the ground in the two juvenile Win And You're In turf races at Ascot on Saturday.

The juvenile feature was the Group 1 Fillies Mile, where victory guaranteed a spot in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. However, the triumphant trainer, Clive Brittain, did not mention America when discussing future plans after watching Hibaayeb defeat Lady Darshaan by three-quarters of a length.

"Next Sunday's Prix Marcel Boussac was a possibility beforehand, but that comes a bit quick now and it would not worry me if she did not run again this season," he said.

A daughter of Singspiel who had not won any of her three previous career starts, Hibaayeb squeezed through on the inside of the pacesetting Sent From Heaven approaching the furlong marker. And, despite her lugging left to hamper both the former leader and Lady Darshaan - who got a sharp crack across the face from the whip of winning jockey Neil Callan - the result was allowed to stand following a stewards enquiry.

The stewards had to investigate a similar incident at the finish of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, a Win And You're In for the Juvenile Turf. This went to Joshua Tree, the less fancied of two runners in the 10-strong field for O'Brien.

At the rear of the field until the stretch, Joshua Tree came with a storming run down the outside before lugging in to the rail. But the 12-1 chance was clearly the winner on merit and it was no surprise that the result was unaltered following his length and a quarter defeat of Waseet.

"Joshua Tree is progressing nicely," O'Brien said. "If he were to run again this season it could be in the Racing Post Trophy" at Doncaster on Oct. 24.