Two outstanding fillies landed the major prizes over the weekend.
On Saturday it was Minding who added the Qatar Nassau Stakes to her incredible haul of Group 1s. She’s now won seven of her 10 career starts, with six of those at the highest level. She probably wasn’t at her outstanding best at Goodwood, with a combination of fast ground and a busy schedule resulting in a workmanlike performance, rather than dazzling.
She hit the front two furlongs from home, and fought off a persistent challenge from Queen’s Trust, with just over a length to spare at the line.
Aidan O’Brien appeared more than satisfied when speaking after the win, saying: “I’m delighted with this filly. She's thriving from race-to-race at the moment and is physically very strong. She loves racing and has a super mind. It all comes alike to her - she's very versatile. She's a real professional and conserves herself, doing only what she has to. There are a lot of options open to her and she is ready to go down most roads.”
Her jockey Ryan Moore, pointed to the small field as a factor in her performance, saying: “It was always going to be a messy sort of race. I just tried to keep it as simple as I could. She was only doing what she had to do. She is a very special filly.”
The runner-up is probably useful, and would have appreciated the sounder surface, having run a decent race in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June on soft ground. Nevertheless, that is five Group 1 races in just three months for Minding, and I fancy she’d appreciate a summer holiday if she is to maintain her exceptional run of success during the latter part of the season.
Yesterday attention turned to France with the prestigious Prix Rothschild taking place at Deauville. In a strong looking renewal, it was Royal Ascot winner Qemah who proved herself an outstanding miler, when storming to victory from fellow French trained filly, Volta. Held up in midfield for much of the race, she was delivered to challenge by Gregory Benoist inside the two-furlong pole. She quickly asserted, and probably had a little more in hand than the winning margin of a length and a quarter suggests.
She was adding her name to an illustrious list of winners in recent times, including Moonlight Cloud and Goldikova. Her trainer Jean-Claude Rouget holds her in high regard. After this impressive victory, he said: “She is really good. We have seen other good fillies here in recent years like Goldikova and Moonlight Cloud and I think that she is up there in that kind of company.”
Rouget added: “Today Qemah confirmed all of her quality. People said she didn't handle a straight track but she was still quite immature in the Poule d'Essai and she benefited a lot from going to Ascot. Today she showed she is the best filly over a mile. A filly like her gives everything and it will definitely be the Matron [Stakes at Leopardstown on September 10] next.”
She’s sure to face a number of O’Brien fillies on that occasion, maybe Minding herself. Alice Springs disappointed yesterday at Deauville, possibly feeling the effects of her Falmouth romp a few weeks earlier. She too could head to the Matron for another crack at the French filly.
Another to disappoint yesterday was the Mark Johnston trained Lumiere. She faded tamely when asked serious questions, and finished second-last of the 10 starters. The run was hard to fathom after such an impressive performance at Newmarket last time. Maybe she needs rattling firm ground, or maybe more time between runs, to be seen at her best. It would come as no surprise if she were dropped back in trip, as she’s undoubtedly doing herself no favours in running with the ‘choke out’.
One filly that wasn’t in action over the weekend, was the undefeated dual Classic winner from France, La Cressonniere. Arguably the best of the bunch, she has a victory over Qemah to her name, though she appears to be heading towards a shot at the Arc later in the year, and maybe there a clash with Ballydoyle’s Minding.
Whatever the plans for the remainder of the campaign, there’s no doubting that we are witnessing the exploits of three exceptional three-year-old fillies.