Royal Patronage roared back to win the Royal Lodge (Megan Ridgwell/Newmarket Racecourse)
Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Royal Patronage rallied to take Saturday’s Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket, in a dramatic opener to the European Road to the Kentucky Derby. Shortly afterward in the Beresford (G2) at the Curragh, odds-on favorite Luxembourg maintained trainer Aidan O’Brien’s grip on the race.
Godolphin’s Coroebus appeared to have made the winning move a long way out. After tracking pacesetting Royal Patronage, Coroebus collared him and stormed clear. His daylight margin began to dwindle, however, as Coroebus either lost focus or couldn’t physically sustain his powerful kick.
Royal Patronage, who admirably kept trying despite being inhaled by Coroebus, re-emerged as a threat inside the final furlong. Staying on with relentless purpose, the Mark Johnston trainee nabbed Coroebus in the shadow of the wire and completed the mile in 1:38.06 on good-to-firm turf.
The winner of three straight, all with jockey Jason Hart aboard, Royal Patronage was following up on a novice romp at Epsom and a 25-1 upset of the Acomb (G3) at York. The French-bred son of successful sire Wootton Basset garnered more respect on Saturday as the 7-2 third choice.
Royal Patronage banked 10 points on the European Road scoreboard, but his sights are firmly set on the Derby (G1) at Epsom, not Churchill Downs. His dam, the Dalakhani mare Shalouska, is herself out of a mare by 1988 Derby hero Kahyasi. This is the family of Shahrastani, who famously held off Dancing Brave in the 1986 Derby.
With Johnston focused on the Epsom Derby trail, and perhaps an initial classic tilt at next spring’s 2000 Guineas (G1), it’s doubtful that Royal Patronage would entertain the Breeders’ Cup either. The Royal Lodge offered a free berth to the Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar. If Royal Patronage runs again this fall, the Oct. 23 Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) at Doncaster is the more plausible spot.
Coroebus earned four points for missing by a neck as the co-favorite at about 2-1. Another candidate for the Vertem Futurity Trophy, the Charlie Appleby runner has a case to try dirt at some point. The Dubawi colt is out of a half-sister to two-time Dubai World Cup (G1) victor Thunder Snow, who made it to the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) only to buck in the opening stages.
There was a 2 1/2-length gap back to Unconquerable in third (two points), and the same margin to Masekela, a flat fourth (one point) as the co-favorite. Howth, Oneforthegutter, and Seattle King concluded the order of finish.
Luxembourg advertised his Epsom ambitions with a superb last-to-first flourish at the Curragh. Now a perfect 2-for-2, the exciting European classic hopeful was giving O’Brien his 21st Beresford victory, and 11th in a row.
Last seen scoring well on debut at Killarney July 14, Luxembourg was confidently handled by jockey Seamie Heffernan. The Irish-bred was anchored at the rear of the quintet as Tuwaiq led the way. In the stretch, Swan Bay advanced to challenge, but Luxembourg was ominously right on his heels. Switching out into the clear, the 8-13 favorite responded to Heffernan’s cue and overwhelmed his rivals in a few strides.
Luxembourg ran out a convincing 4 3/4-length winner while clocking the mile on a good course in 1:40.88. Manu et Corde was best of the rest, edging third Tuwaiq, with Swan Bay a close fourth, and the maiden Chicago Soldier retreating to last. The Beresford was worth 10-4-2-1 points to the top four, none likely to be looking for a European Road ticket.
Campaigned by Westerberg in partnership with the Coolmore principals, Luxembourg could be on course to emulate his sire, Camelot. Also an O’Brien star, Camelot captured the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby in 2012 to put himself in position for a rare attempt at an English Triple Crown sweep. Camelot was a troubled runner-up in the third jewel, the St. Leger (G1), so the great Nijinsky (1970) remains the last English Triple Crown winner.