European Group 1-winning two year-old Lucky Vega (Lope De Vega) will end his brief yet successful race career in the St James’s Palace Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at Royal Ascot tonight (Australian time).
Yulong Stud owner Yuesheng Zhang will resist the temptation to extend the three-year old’s career beyond an eighth start and instead stick to the plan of bringing the son of Lope De Vega (Shamardal) to his Victorian stallion operation in August ahead of the 2021 breeding season.
One of six stallions on the Yulong roster, led by Written Tycoon (Iglesia), Lucky Vega will stand for an introductory fee of $22,000 (inc GST).
Troy Stephens, Yulong’s nominations and sales manager, yesterday confirmed that the Jessica Harrington-trained Lucky Vega would be retired after the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day of the Royal Meeting.
“It was definitely a hard decision to make and there was a lot of talk around it, but we want to be a premier stallion farm and we want to stand champion stallions, so the decision to bring him down (this year) was pretty easy when we look at it that way,” Stephens said.
“He’s a Group 1-winning two-year-old son of Lope De Vega. He ran second in another Group 1 in the Middle Park Stakes up there as a two-year-old and now he’s got Group 1 form as a three-year-old, so bringing him down here, he’s an out-cross to Danehill, and we think he’s going to be a really good chance (of making it as a stallion).”
The Jim Bolger-trained Poetic Flare (Dawn Approach) is the 4-1 favourite for the St James’s Palace Stakes after finishing runner-up to stablemate Mac Swiney (New Approach) in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) at the Curragh.
Lucky Vega, on the fifth line of betting as a 13-2 chance, ran fourth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas while also finishing third at his previous start to Poetic Flare in the 2,000 Guineas Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket on May 1, his first start as a three-year-old.
Stephens would not dismiss the prospect of Lucky Vega bowing out as a dual Group 1 winner after tonight’s Group 1 race.
“He came back as a three-year-old first-up in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket where he ran a very courageous third, beaten by a short margin. He then went to the Irish Guineas where he absolutely hated the track,” he said.
“It was blowing a gale and bucketing down with rain over there, but he held on for a strong fourth, so they are really happy going into (tonight’s) run. “I think if he can go back to producing what he did at Newmarket he will be very hard to beat.”
Shadwell’s Mostahdaf (Frankel), who won the Heron Stakes (Listed, 1m) at Sandown on May 20, is second favourite at 5-1 for trainers John and Thady Gosden while Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore have the third elect in Battleground (War Front) at 11-2.
The early reaction to Lucky Vega from Australian breeders has been positive with Stephens suggesting it was hard to ignore the southern hemisphere feats of his own sire Lope De Vega (Shamardal) during a fouryear shuttling stint between 2011 and 2014.
“Lope De Vega has sired four Group 1 winners down here: Gytrash, Santa Ana Lane, Vega Magic and now Vega One. Both Gytrash and Santa Ana Lane are out of Fastnet Rock mares while Vega Magic’s maternal granddam was by Danewin, so he’s certainly clicked well with Danehill and Danehill-line mares down here,” he said.
“Even up in the northern hemisphere, he’s worked well with the likes of Belardo, one of his first crop champion twoyear-olds, and he is out of a Danehill mare himself.
“He is going to be the first son of Lope De Vega to stand at stud in Australia, which is a huge thing, and breeders are pretty eager to see him and his bookings are certainly going well, so we couldn’t be happier with him.”
Lucky Vega won his first start as a juvenile at Naas last June before finishing runner-up in the Railway Stakes (Gr 2, 6f) at the Curragh. He then went one better at the same Ireland course, landing the prestigious Phoenix Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) in August. He was also runner-up to Supremacy (Mehmas) in the Middle Park Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) at Newmarket in September to round out his season.
Yulong is also launching the stud careers of Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Tagaloa (Lord Kanaloa) and Cantala Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Yulong Prince (Gimmethegreenlight) this year at their Nagambie stud in Victoria.