The "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" kicks off Sept. 24 with races in Ireland and England dominated by trainer Aidan O'Brien and a few of the top 2-year-olds from perennial rivals Coolmore and Godolphin.
Despite the name of the series, the short fields—seven in Ireland and just four in England—aren't likely to contain any candidates for the U.S. Triple Crown. The races are on the turf and are much more likely to produce contenders for the 2023 classics in Ireland, England, and France, than for the first Saturday in May in Louisville.
Aidan O'Brien saddles two of the seven final declarations for the Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stakes (G2) at the Curragh in Ireland. Adelaide River, an Australia colt, tops the antepost wagering after a debut win and a second in the Prix des Chines (G3) at Longchamp. O'Brien's other starter, Continuous, by Heart's Cry out of the Galileo mare Fluff (IRE), won his only previous start.
The remainder of the field is the third- through sixth-place finishers from the Prix des Chines. The winner of that Sept. 8 race, Kubrick, is not entered for the Beresford.
The four-colt field for the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) at Newmarket looks like a showdown between Godolphin's Flying Honours, trained by Charlie Appleby with William Buick named to ride, and Coolmore's Greenland, another of O'Brien's with Ryan Moore forsaking Ireland to take the mount.
Flying Honours, by Sea The Stars out of the Dubawi mare Powder Snow, finished fourth in his first start but then romped by big margins in his two latest efforts. Greenland, a Saxon Warrior colt produced by the Canford Cliffs mare Aktoria, steps up after breaking his maiden on the fourth try in August at Roscommon.
The Foxes and Dubai Mile complete the Royal Lodge contingent.
The Royal Lodge is also part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Race Series, providing paid, automatic entry to its winner into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) at Keeneland Nov. 4.
The European Road commenced in 2018. While its first four editions have had no impact on the makeup of the field for the Run for the Roses, the first two races of the 2021-22 edition certainly made their mark on 2022 European grass racing.
The 2021 Royal Lodge produced one of the top 3-year-olds of 2022 in Coroebus, who finished second behind Royal Patronage. Coroebus went on to win the Qipco Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and the St James's Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot before suffering a fatal fall Sept. 4 in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1).
Luxembourg won the 2021 Beresford. Trained by Aidan O'Brien for a Coolmore partnership, he returned to finish third in the Qipco Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and was most recently seen winning the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown. He currently is a prospective starter in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Luxembourg also won the fourth and final race of the autumn part of the "European Road," the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1), validating his future on the grass on that side of the Atlantic Ocean.
When the series switched to the all-weather tracks in the springtime, it quickly became clear none of the connections was looking for a trip to Louisville. None of the six horses entered in the final leg was even nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown.