Albahr (GB) capped a perfect Woodbine weekend for trainer Charlie Appleby and the powerful Godolphin outfit when he romped to a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 $404,400 Summer Stakes on Sept. 19.
The Summer, as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series, offers the winner an all-expenses paid berth for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar.
Albahr, part of a three-horse Godolphin contingent sent from England for the Woodbine Turf Festival weekend, followed Sunday’s Natalma Stakes (G1) winner Wild Beauty (GB) and Saturday’s Pattison Canadian International (G1) hero Walton Street (GB) in becoming Grade 1 victors.
Frankie Dettori rode the three Godolphin winners and also finished third aboard Raging Bull (FR) in the Woodbine Mile (G1).
“That’s really what it’s all about, winning these big races around the world,” said assistant trainer Alex Merriam, while paying tribute to the Godolphin patriarch Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “So just like him it’s for Charlie and all the team. It’s been a great effort.”
Albahr, despite breaking sluggishly, quickly settled into a tracking position as First Empire, one of four Mark Casse-trained horses in the Summer, carved out a :23.95 quarter and a :47.93 half over good going on the E.P. Taylor turf course.
Locally-based Heat Merchant and Chicago shipper Degree of Risk were racing in closest attendance as First Empire’s lead dwindled to a head through six furlongs in 1:12.17.
Albahr was within easy striking in fourth place by this point and when Dettori popped the question in earnest the gelding burst to the front to lead by 1 ½ lengths at the eighth pole and to increase his margin to finish in 1:35.77 despite lugging from the middle to the track to the inside fence.
Grafton Street, making his local debut and second career start, raced toward the rear of the field before moving into contention and finishing well on the outside after experiencing some traffic issues.
Degree of Risk, invading from Chicago for a second time after finishing second to First Empire in the Soaring Free Stakes, stayed on for third.
Hammered down to 3-5, Albahr returned $3.30 and topped a $25.60 exacta over 9-1 Grafton Street.
Bred by Godolphin in England, Albahr is by Dubawi out of the Street Cry mare Falls of Lora and has now won four straight races since finishing a troubled third in his debut. The Summer was his first graded stakes try and by far his most lucrative engagement to date.
“Albahr had been in decent form, he’s tough,” said Merriam, adding that the Godolphin runners will be returning to England before decisions on the Breeders’ Cup or any other engagements are finalized.
Dettori believes that both of Sunday’s rookie winners would be suited to the southern California oval.
“The filly’s tough,” he said. “She’ll take everything at Del Mar, the tight turns.
“He’s got a tendency to go left as well, so he’ll be suited for Del Mar. For the filly, she needs more luck, because as you see she wasn’t that fast with those, but they were both great today, and have both earned their shots.”