Rip Van Winkle held off a stubborn Zacinto in the final furlong to claim his second group I victory of the season, taking the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) by a determined 1 ¼-lengths at Ascot Sept. 26.
The Aidan O’Brien trainee will now head to Santa Anita to contest the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 7.
Aqlaam broke sharply under Richard Hills and went straight to the front with Rip Van Winkle, under Johnny Murtagh, hot on his heels. The two colts pulled a few lengths clear from the remainder of the field as they led through the early stages of the race.
Rip Van Winkle took command of the race three furlongs from home, as Aqlaam began to fade. It appeared for a moment that Rip Van Winkle would draw off to an easy win, but both Delegator and Zacinto had yet to launch their bids from the back of the pack.
Delegator was the first to challenge the leader, getting to within a length of Rip Van Winkle with two furlongs to go. He could not sustain his bid, though, and quickly flattened out under Frankie Dettori.
It was left up to the lightly-raced Zacinto to make a race of it, and the son of Dansili did just that, pulling to within a neck of the heavy favorite. Rip Van Winkle was able to find a bit extra, stubbornly refusing to give way and held off Zacinto in the final yards.
Zacinto was a clear second, finishing 3 ¼-lengths in front of Delegator. Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:38.82 over the good to firm turf.
O’Brien told reporters after the race, “We are looking forward to going to America and the plan is to run in the Classic.”
“We have no horse at home who can lead him, so it was brilliant the way the race turned out,” he continued. “It is only in the last two weeks that we have had an uninterrupted preparation. It was a brilliant performance and Johnny was superb on him.”
Teddy Grimthorpe, representing Zacinto’s owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “At one stage we got upsides the winner, and one thing is for sure – we have earned a bit of respect today.”
“There are a couple of options, including the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) and one of the mile races at the Breeders’ Cup,” Grimthorpe continued. “But our immediate thought after this is to go to Newmarket (Champion Stakes).”
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said of Delegator: “He fell a bit short today, but we were beaten by two better horses on the day.”
“My feeling is we will still go for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) with him, he will be running against those good horses and we know there will be no hiding place in California.”
Rip Van Winkle has now improved his record to four wins from eight career starts. He captured the BGC Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) at Glorious Goodwood last time out.
Rip Van Winkle is a 3-year-old colt by Galileo out of Looking Back, by Stravinsky. He was bred in Ireland by Roberto Brogi and is owned by Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.