08/23/2017 12:26PM

Ulysses prevails in Juddmonte International, points to Breeders' Cup Turf

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Lady Aurelia, shown winning the Giant's Causeway Stakes in April, will be favored in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes.

Ulysses is no Trojan horse. The 4-year-old colt is all solid racehorse now, improving start by start, and after an impressive two-length win over Churchill on Wednesday at York in the Group 1 Juddmonte International, his connections are pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar.

The International is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race, granting its winner a fees-paid berth in the BC Turf, including international travel expenses. As a 3-year-old last fall, Ulysses finished fourth in the BC Turf, and he has since improved considerably.

Ulysses carried 132 pounds, seven more than the trio of 3-year-olds who finished behind him in the International. Churchill, bouncing back from a fourth-place finish in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, got home a neck in front of Barney Roy, who had won the St. James’s Palace and finished a nose behind Ulysses in the Eclipse Stakes. It was 4 1/2 lengths farther back to fourth-place Cliffs of Moher, who was followed home by Decorated Knight, Shutter Speed, and My Dream Boat.

Jockey Jim Crowley got Ulysses settled just a handful of strides out of the gate in the 1 5/16-mile International, and Ulysses traveled smoothly and with extreme confidence the rest of the way. Cliffs of Moher took the early lead, but Barney Roy, his tactics changed by the Godolphin camp, went to dispute the pace, with those two towing Churchill into a perfect stalking trip.

The homestretch at York, a level, left-handed track, is more than three furlongs long, and even with a quarter-mile to go, Ulysses still had three horses in front of him, but Crowley had not moved a muscle, and Ulysses still was gaining on his younger rivals. As Churchill dove inside for his final thrust, Ulysses cruised up alongside Barney Roy and Cliffs of Moher, and when Crowley finally asked his mount a furlong out, Ulysses gave plenty, pulling away to the wire.

Ulysses was timed in 2:12.11 over a course rated good to soft, and he paid $8.20 to his North American parimutuel backers. His win was the sixth for trainer Michael Stoute in the International, after which Stoute said Ulysses would have the BC Turf, rather than the Champion Stakes at Ascot, as his major autumn goal.

Ulysses is by Galileo (who also sired the second- and fourth-place finishers) and is out of the Kingmambo mare Light Shift. Bred and owned by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables, he ran his career mark to 12-5-3-1.

Earlier on Wednesday’s card, Cracksman, third in the Epsom Derby and second in the Irish Derby, won the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes by six lengths, with Frankie Dettori riding for trainer John Gosden and owner and breeder Anthony Oppenheimer. Cracksman’s connections believe he is meant to be a better horse next year, and Oppenheimer suggested that Cracksman might not race again until 2018.

Lady Aurelia in Nunthorpe

The American filly Lady Aurelia will try to dazzle the English again when she takes on 11 rivals Friday at York in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes over five furlongs.

As a 2-year-old, Lady Aurelia won the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot by seven lengths, and back at the same meeting this summer, she beat older males in the King’s Stand Stakes by three lengths. Lady Aurelia also won the Group 1 Prix Morny last summer in France, and her only loss in a six-start career came in the Cheveley Park Stakes last fall at Newmarket.

“I just walked the course, and the ground today is the ground she won on at Royal Ascot when she was 2,” trainer Wesley Ward said Wednesday. “She handles a little bit of give in the ground, and give should help her come out of the race as good as she’s coming in since she’s going to lay her body down Friday.”

Dettori, injured and forced to miss Royal Ascot, will be back on Lady Aurelia, who will be based at Keeneland and train up to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, Ward said, following the Nunthorpe.

Lady Aurelia is the Nunthorpe antepost favorite, but Battash also has been well supported. The 3-year-old has emerged this year as a force in the sprint division and was last seen winning the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood by 2 1/4 lengths over Profitable, who also starts in the Nunthorpe and was second to Lady Aurelia at Ascot this summer.