Breeders' Cup - At The Races


  • Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
  • Likely Jockey: Jim Crowley
  • Owner: Flaxman Stables Ire & Cheveley Park Stud
  • Age & Breeding: 4-year-old colt; Galileo – Light Shift
  • Season Form Figures: 131213
  • Career Highlight: Completing a Grade 1 double in the International Stakes

There is an old racing maxim that states "breed the best with the best, and hope for the best," distilling the complex science of breeding down into its most basic tenets. Of course, the “best” have almost exclusively been the preserve of an inordinately wealthy and influential set of owners, and amongst those with access are Flaxman Holdings Ltd, the racing and breeding operation of the Niarchos family.

Light Shift sits prominently in their broodmare band amid esteemed company, including Breeders' Cup Mile winner Six Perfections. The daughter of Lingerie won the 2007 Oaks at Epsom, a victory that signaled the return of the much-missed Sir Henry Cecil to racing's top table, and as a daughter of Kingmambo she was an ideal outcross for stallions from the Northern Dancer bloodline. Pre-eminent amongst these, and unquestionably the world's leading sire, Galileo was an obvious mate. The result of this tryst was Ulysses.

As a three-year-old, the top-level success for which Ulysses was emphatically bred proved elusive. His chance to emulate both parents with an Epsom Classic victory was spurned, his inexperience patent on just his fourth start. He tried the Turf at Santa Anita, and while he was outclassed in the spot by the excellent top three in there (Highland Reel, Flintshire, and Found), he ran sneaky well all things considered, and looked a progressive sort who many thought would be a main contender for the 2017 Turf at Del Mar. Key to that promise of more to come was his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute.

The master of Freemason Lodge has a reputation as an expert trainer of older horses, forged as long ago as 1978 when the five-year-old Shangamuzo landed the Ascot Gold Cup, and Ulysses's smooth victory in the Gordon Richards Stakes suggested Stoute had once again worked his magic.

A placed effort in the Prince of Wales's Stakes represented Ulysses's best Group 1 performance to date, and he took his form to new heights in the Eclipse.

Facing the runner-up from both the Guineas and the Derby, Ulysses travelled supremely well throughout, made smooth progress on the outside to lead and just about held on from a rallying Barney Roy. Many expected the Godolphin colt to reverse this form in the International Stakes, but Ulysses produced an even more emphatic performance, readily dispatching Barney Roy, and dual Guineas winner Churchill, by 2 lengths.

Clearly an exceptional performer at the ten-furlong distance, it is perhaps the two runs either side of York that present the biggest conundrum heading to Del Mar. In both the King George and Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, Ulysses exhibited his strong-travelling style, only to be outlasted and out galloped by the incomparable Enable. There's no shame in that, clearly, but the fact remains that Ulysses is just 1-5 at the Turf distance, compared to 4-7 at ten furlongs. But those are just numbers, and between his form at 12 panels, and the way that USA conditions (tight course, firm ground) should help him carry his speed, he may just be ready to give his handler a fifth win in this race. Current odds of 3-1 would represent fair value.