He may have dropped a clanger at Royal Ascot, but Ryan Moore made amends at Goodwood yesterday as he steered The Gurkha to victory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes.
Many criticized Moore for his ride in the St James’s Palace in June, when he allowed Frankie Dettori too much rope aboard Galileo Gold, and was never near enough to land a blow. However, yesterday was very different, with the Ballydoyle colt tailing Hugo Palmer’s Guineas hero throughout, before being asked to challenge just over a furlong out. The tussle was a cracker, with The Gurkha getting on top late on, a neck clear of Dettori’s mount, with the fast finishing Ribchester a short-head further back.
The winner has had a busy schedule, and a relieved Aidan O’Brien spoke after the victory, saying: “It has been tough on him. We were worried coming here after Sandown, but the lads said he was thriving. I was worried because he's had such a big career crammed into a short space of time. He didn't race last year, but he's danced every dance since.”
Hugo Palmer was far from downbeat after the defeat, when he said: “There's nothing between Galileo Gold and The Gurkha. We debated whether to run a pacemaker. It’s hard when you’re sitting in front for so long, but no-one else wanted to go on. Ryan Moore was in our slipstream and when he came by there was not much we could do. I thought Ryan would win by further, but the fact he didn’t shows the talent and guts Galileo Gold has got.”
Palmer added: “I never shy away from a fight and the question is where it will be next. The Jacques Le Marois is quite soon, then there is the Moulin, QEII and Breeders’ Cup Mile. But it would be nice if we can leave the donkey work for someone else next time.”
Arguably the eye-catcher of the race was Jersey Stakes winner Ribchester. He took a while to get into top gear on the ground, but was storming home at the death. His trainer Richard Fahey was clearly impressed, when after the race he said: “I was delighted with Ribchester but it's obviously frustrating when you're not beaten far and finish strongly. We have minded him so far as he's still up in the air and raw. He could be a champion, and I would love to win a Group 1 with him this year.”
His Royal Ascot victory came on soft ground, and a return to more testing conditions could see his trainer’s wish become a reality.
The Classic generation certainly put their elders to the sword, and on Saturday it’s the turn of the fillies, when Minding leads her generation into battle for the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes. The 1m2f contest has attracted a field of 10, with seven three-year-olds taking on a trio aged four. Aidan O’Brien’s Guineas and Oaks heroine is sure to be sent off a short-priced favourite, and could face her toughest challenge from stable-companions Ballydoyle and Alice Springs.
John Gosden has a terrific record in the race, and is set to run Swiss Range, a filly on a recovery mission after a poor performance in France. Far too keen on testing ground in the Prix de Diane Longines, the better ground at Goodwood should suit, and she looked exceptional at Newmarket in May. Frankie Dettori will take the ride, and it would come as no surprise to witness another Moore – Dettori tussle for a major prize.
The best of the older brigade could well be Godolphin’s Beautiful Romance, a Group 2 winner on fast ground at York in May. She was no match for the colts in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, but a step back in trip and a sounder surface is sure to aid this classy filly. Though getting the better of Minding is sure to prove a tall order.
Having had his fair share of disappointments so far this season, Aidan O’Brien must be feeling he’s turned a corner. And with the likes of The Gurkha and Minding proving themselves exceptional talents, the remainder of the season could bring plenty ‘Moore’ joy his way.