ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND – Two weeks removed from just missing in his debut race, Shaikh Duaij Al Khalifa’s A’ali surged to the front in the late stages and held off a determined Ventura Rebel to capture Thursday’s Norfolk Stakes (G2) on Day 3 of the Royal Ascot meet.
The Norfolk is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with A’ali receiving an automatic berth in the Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park on Friday, November 1.
Breaking from post 1 under Frankie Dettori at 5/1 stateside odds, A’ali was near the front early while Cool Sphere set the initial pace. With 2 furlongs remaining, Dettori steered A’ali into an opening and sent him after the leader.
At the final furlong marker, A’ali poked his head in front and initially looked like he might clear away from the field, but Ventura Rebel refused to let him go without a fight. A’ali proved to be too tough, however, holding on to win the 5-furlong sprint by a 1/2-length in a final time of 1:01.90.
“I had an unbelievable ride and the horse traveled like a winner all the way,” Dettori said. “He pulled out and quickened, and it certainly made my life easy.”
Dubai Station necked out third over Strive For Glory at the wire. The rest of the field crossed thusly: Emten, King Neptune, Misty Grey, the even-money stateside favorite Sunday Sovereign, Expressionist, Firepower, Mount Fuji, Cool Sphere, Air Force Jet, and Real Appeal.
The American entry Maven was a non-runner after trainer Wesley Ward scratched him earlier Wednesday.
A’ali’s win came on the heels of a debut second-place effort that saw him miss by just a neck at Ripon. The 2-year-old son of Society Rock was a £135,000 purchase at the Ascot Breeze-Up sale, so along with the win, his connections collected the £100,000 bonus offered for any Breeze-Up graduate who won at the meet.
“When I saw them cantering to the start, I thought A’ali was very fresh,” said winning trainer Simon Crisford. “He put up huge speed figures when he ran at Ripon and the bounce factor was in my mind. I was worried that he had put in such a big effort there that it would count against him. A’Ali travelled well enough, picked up nicely, and has a good turn of foot. We’ve always known he was a very good horse and that is why we ran him in a Group 2 despite being beaten on his first start.”
A’ali returned $13.60 to win and $4.40 to place, Ventura Rebel brought back $7.20 to place, and Dubai Station paid $10.20 to place.