One of the best races of the season is upon us. It has painted a rich trapestry of quality winners but also is capable of surprises. This year it’s attracted a small but select field.
Our understanding of this years, last years and the previous years generation will be defined by this event. The context of Rewilding’s victory over So You Think and the latter’s subsequent victory in the Eclipse. The brilliance of the St Nicholas Abbeys stunning two year old Racing Post Trophy victory and subsequent fall from grace. The class of Workforce’s Derby and Arc wins will all be measured here come 4.30 on Saturday. Throw in an Arlington Million winner in Debussy at an unconsidered 100/1 and we get some sense of how good a race this will be.
Nathaniel represents this years three-year old crop. On his first time on a racecourse he met Frankel, also making his debut, and only failed a 1/2 L. He was denied in the Chester Vase by subsequent Derby second and Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach by a head. He is already an Ascot winner over this distance having given a very good impression in the King Edward VII Stakes at The Royal meeting. The decision to pitch him in here rather than a campaign targeted towards the Ledger is brave and you can only conclude he must be showing a serious level of ability to his trainer John Gosden.
Debussy was in the care of the same man until last year and is a horse who has yet to demonstrate his class over a mile and a half. At 10 f he was a quality winner of the Million benefiting from 18 mm of rain on the track the night before. He came from off the pace demonstrating a great turn of foot to beat the American turf champion Gio Ponti. There was no fluke in that performance so don’t underestimate him. Last in the Prince Of Wales doesn’t read good but whacking the rail when in contention should be taken into account.
Rewilding is Godolphin’s main threat. A winner of the Shemma Classic, he put it up to So You Think in the Prince Of Wales coming out on top. Aidan O’Brien took the blame for the defeat and the form took the boosting it deserved in the Eclipse. It stands up.
So the big two. The market favoured St Nick at first but then swung dramatically towards Workforce. A piece of work last Sunday morning left watchers in awe and the market reacted. We already knew how good he was through last year performances but there is a niggle, he failed to fire in this race last year. It’s easy to forget that after Harbinger blew us all away but we must remember it’s the only time he has raced at Ascot.
And so to the king in waiting, St Nicholas Abbey. His three-year old career was a debacle which his trainer took full responsibility for. A fat horse in April did little to inspire confidence, come May and June we were beginning to believe again. At Chester he grabbed the ground relishing every step in a 9 L defeat of Allied Powers following up in Coronation Cup at Epsom over the this distance. The win over Midday was battling but a question mark exists over her subsequent defeat in the Pretty Polly.
So how will the race go?
The ground will be soft side of good with a possible further 4 mm of rain to come. We can rely on Debussy to set it. He will wind it up even and quickening. With the juice in the ground he’ll stay on the rail while those in search of a better surface will go under the trees on the far side. There will be a dismissal of the pacemaker by those on the far side and they will expect to easily pick him up rounding Swinley Bottom. As they regroup there will be plenty of horse in behind with all of them travelling. Every jockey will be confident knowing there mount will have the stamina to see it out. Debussy will either die or stretch with two furlongs to go. If he dies expect Ryan Moore will drive with Frankie in behind trying to get there. William Buick will be stretching and improving while the young pretender will have to demonstrate the ultimate coolness to hold his challenge till last. It could be young Joseph O’Brien might just be a chip off the old block when it comes to coolness and by playing late he could get there.
Then again, Debussy might not die. He’s a stone better on this ground and the others won’t like it like he does. Granted a stone may not be enough against these colts. The trip to the far side under the trees may well have been the play early doors but in the last furlong the concession of that ground could be crucial.
In the lung bursting last 100 yards….Debussy on juicy ground may just do, as in 1997, a Swain and produce another albeit much bigger surprise.
Posted in England, Group 1, Pattern Racing
Tagged Arlington Million, Ballydoyle, Betfair, Debussy, Goldophin, Group 1, King Geroge VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Mahmood Al Zarooni, Nathaniel, Pattern Racing, Rewilding, Sir Micheal Stoute, St Nicholas Abbey, The Derby, Treasure Beach, Uncategorized, William Buick, Workforce
This is one to relish. Midday and St Nicholas Abbey head a small field supported by Indian Days, Clowance and Dandino.
The latter proved himself a very capable handicapper prior to his step into pattern company. He had a run in the St Leger and then went to the Japan Cup where he was not beaten far. Two wins this season including a Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes brings here in top form. His stable companion Indian Days was four lengths behind is likely to improve on that performance. Clowance defeat of Poet in the St Simon Stakes now looks good after The Brigadier Gerard but a preference for some give in the ground will surely be against her. You would expect these three will play a supporting role in this particular drama where the leading man and the leading lady will take centre stage. Who will command that stage is the question.
Midday’s form has been top class with her own sex. A super win against Snow Fairy at York was last years highlight before being touched off in The Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs . Her comeback in the Middleton Stakes this spring showed her well-being promising another super season in front of her. She’s a winner of five Group 1’s including two Nassau Stakes, a Yorkshire Oaks, a Prix Vermille and a Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in 2009. Her one blot in the copybook is not taking the honours when meeting the colts. Not that she’s had many opportunities. The only time she ventured out of her own sex was at Epsom in April 2009 when beaten in a listed race by last years Arlington Million winner, Debussy. It’s very interesting that Henry Cecil has chosen to return to the track for another crack at the boys.
St Nicholas Abbey brings an altogether different profile. This fella looked like a natural successor to Sea The Stars, as if you could such a successor, at the beginning of last year. As a two year old his Beresford Stakes win marked him out but his Racing Post win showed us something special. He was installed winter favourite for the Guineas only to flop trailing in sixth. Off course that flop was behind Makfi, Dick Turpin,Canford Cliffs, and Xtention who have since bagged seven Group 1’s over a mile since. Maybe its time to forgive him, though there wasn’t much sympathy for him after failing to sparkle on his comeback at the Curragh in April.
The excitement he generated as a two year old was reiginited in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes. A pulverising preformance when winning by nine lengths looked like he was back to his spectacular two year old days. Lets hope this continues for this lightly raced colt and we see a few more days of his brillance.
Who wins at Epsom today is not the issue. Its the style of the leading man and lady that will set the pulses racing. One to relish all-right.
Posted in England, Group 1, Pattern Racing
Tagged a Yorkshire Oaks, Arlington Million, Beresford Stakes, Brigadier Gerard Stakes, Churchill Downs, Clowance, Curragh, Dandino., Debussy, Dick Turpin, Epsom, Filly and Mare Turf, Group 1, Henry Cecil, Indian Days, Japan Cup, Jockey Club Stakes, Makfi, Midday, Nassau Stakes, Ormonde Stakes, Pattern Racing, Poet, Prix Vermille, Racing Post, Santa Anita, Sea The Stars, Snow Fairy, St Leger, St Nicholas Abbey, St Simon Stakes, The Coronation Cup, Xtention
Dubai World Cup-Pattern Racing
The east meets west with Dubai in the middle. This is a Dubai World Cup to saviour. Twice Over will start favourite on the back of an impressive prep at Meyden and an easy Champion Stakes win last October. He’s a real quality horse but today he is only one in field of such.
If you go back to before October of last year the horse dripping in quality over 10f was Cape Blanco. A Dante win over Workforce was cemented with a really impressive performance in the Irish Champion Stakes where he had Twice Over five lengths behind. The time the race was quick at Lepardstown and would have put him within a short head of Sea The Stars run in 2009.
Last August in Chicago Gio Ponti could only manage second to Debussy in the Million. Again it was quick considering the deluge the course took in the twenty four hours before the race. After what only could be described as pilot error in the Million Gio went back to mile in Woodbine where he put in a smashing performance before going down to Goldikova in the Breeders Cup Mile.
Out east it was all about one filly, Buena Vista. She was beaten by Victoire Pisa in the Arima Kinen and before that she was controversially disqualified in the Japan Cup but if she reproduces the run of the Tenno Sho she will be bang right there. Getting five pounds from the boys will help and she proved last year she can handle the heat.
Tapeta may ultimately decide but if she handles the surface and tracks Twice Over from her wide berth outside him she may well be the one in a cracker.
In the Duty Free the ground will be against Debussy while Presvis will be all out to catch Tazeez on the line.
Pattern Racing - Hong Kong International Race Information HERE
It’s going to be an interesting end to the season at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Four Group1’s to finish off in style culminating in the Hong Kong Cup over 1m2f. It should be a cracker with a good looking field headed by Vision D’Etat having his last hurrah.
It’s the race itself that interests me most. Where will it rank against the top 10f races of this year?
Will it confirm, even in his absence Henry Cecil’s Twice Over as the best 10f horse in the world on turf this year?
If Vision D’Etat wins having been beaten at Newmarket in the Champion Stakes you would be inclined to think so.
However even though his wins at Newmarket and in the Eclipse at Sandown were impressive he was comprehensiously beaten at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes when finishing third to Cape Blanco.
The time at Leopardstown was fast when run on quick ground while at Newmarket in October it was slow on the good to soft going.
I reckon the Leopardstown race was the best 10f race in Europe this year not just for the manner in which Cape Blanco hammered his stable rival Rip Van Winkle but because the time was so quick.
On the clock the winner would have beaten Sea The Stars by the tightest of short heads in 2009.
The other one that really impressed me this year was on the other side of the pond, the Arlington Million. It was won by Debussy in a time quicker than the Leopardstown race. Prior to the race the Americans were lamenting the European challenge saying the travelling team weren’t Group 1 standard. They couldn’t see their 2009 turf champion, Gio Ponti getting beaten.
I didn’t see that way. Tazeez had brought the Prince of Wales form when just behind Twice Over in third. Gio Ponti went off odds on and travelled like a good thing coming wide off the last bend to hit the front a furlong out. It looked like a glorious run only William Buick had other ideas. In the twenty four hours before the race the Arlington track which had been like a road all week took 18mm of rain. This turned the ground perfect for Debussy who had previously won on similar ground at Maision Laffette when taking the Prix Eugene Adam as a three year old, a Group 2 over 10f in the summer of 2009. Buick knew the engine he was on and the John Gosden team got their tactics perfect when sending Tazeez out as the hair. They knew that Gio Ponti could travel and cruise but they also knew, as Winchester had shown in the Manhattan at Belmont, that collaring Gio Ponti close home would expose his vulnerability. When Buick asked for his effort Debussy responded beautifully bouncing off the juicy ground to nail the champ. The time of the race made it the best 10f race of the year for me. Gio Ponti’s subsequent efforts when landing the Shadwell Turf mile at Woodbine where he looked awesome and his second to Goldikova in the Breeders Cup mile sealed the deal.
It’s a real pity Summit Surge doesn’t go to Hong Kong. Luca’s Cumani’s charge had been an intended runner having finishing fifth in the million. His chance stolen by those 18mm of rain. He had previously beaten Debussy on his favored fast ground in the York Stakes. If he had run I think he would come close on the Sha Tin’s fast surface. That would have brought the Arlington form to Hong Kong. The best form over 1m2f this year.
I won’t begrudge Vision D’Etat should he win, after all it would be his fifth Group 1 of his career but unless it’s quick it won’t beat Debussy in the Million.
Posted in Group 1, Hong Kong, Pattern Racing
Tagged Arlington Million, Buick, Cape Blanco, Debussy, Gio Ponti, Goldikova, Hong Kong Cup, Luca’s Cumani’s, Maision Laffette, Pattern Racing, Prix Eugene Adam, Rip Van Winkle, Sea The Stars, Sha Tin, Summit Surge, Tazeez, Twice Over, Vision D’Etat, William Buick