Tough by name and nature, Steeler continued his ascendancy towards the top with a grinding victory in the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, a Breeders Cup 'Win and You're In' race over the straight mile at Newmarket. A two year old son of the 2008 Breeders Cup Classic winner, Raven's Pass, Steeler has been progressing with leaps and bounds since the Acomb Stakes at York Racecourse in July, with the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes marking his second successive victory and his first in Group race company.
Settled in the middle of the pack behind a sedate pace set by Frankie Dettori on the Godolphin's Artigiano, Steeler began to make strong progress in the middle part of the race. With his market rivals Fantastic Moon and Al Waab seemingly under considerable pressure, Steeler looked to only have to grind down his Godolphin rival to ensure victory but this proved a much tougher task than it first looked.
Entering the final furlong, Artigiano - who was last seen finishing second in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes behind Olympic Glory at Glorious Goodwood - still held a half length advantage over Steeler before the rising ground and increase in distance played to the strength of Mark Johnston's horse, eventually sauntering into the lead for a one length success.
"Steeler found an extra gear when he hit the rising ground" commented Johnston, "He is very laid back and lazy and there will be plenty more to come next year. He has shown us plenty at home and even in April he was showing us that he was a nice horse, but we knew there would be more to come over the longer distances".
Kieren Fallon, who has partnered the horse to all three of his victories this season, was notably enthusiastic about the potential the horse harbours. "I thought it was a sensible pace for the first half of the race and then we really picked it up" said Fallon, " What I really like most about this fellow is that he puts his head down and really wants to run for you. He will come into his own and could be a really nice [Epsom] Derby horse".
With the Breeders Cup an unlikely target for Steeler, The Racing Post Trophy, a Group 1 over a mile at Doncaster [Oct 27] and a race that regularly throws up challengers for the Epsom Derby the following year, has been earmarked as the next target. Artigiano, who finished a game second, also looks to reoppose in a race which also bears the names of Toronado and Dundonnel amongst the potential start list.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)