Appleby and Buick were at it again as D’bai landed the Group Three John Of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock on Saturday.
Dutch Connection appeared to be Godolphin’s main hope of success and was sent of the 6/4 favourite. But it was the ‘boys in blue’ number two that proved superior on the day. Travelling powerfully through the race, the progressive four-year-old quickened impressively at the furlong pole before fending off the rallying Larchmont Lad, to win by a head. Tabarrak had also launched a promising challenge but faltered late on to finish a neck further back in third.
Buick, fresh from his Epsom Derby victory on Masar, said of this latest success: “He had a good winter in Dubai and won the seven-furlong handicap very well. Charlie (Appleby) used the Windsor race as a prep for this and it's worked well. He travelled really nice through and I would have liked to have had another horse to follow and to wait a little bit longer to be honest. But he stuck on well in fairness to him. He's a very talented horse.”
Appleby has his horses in tip-top shape and said: “D’bai travelled very well today and really put his head down when he had to. He holds an entry in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and we will keep the race on our radar, but he could also head for the Group Two Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. D’bai is a Group Three winner over seven furlongs now, so it seems logical to keep him over the same distance, but the way he travels in his races suggests that a fast run six furlongs could be right up his street. We will see how he comes out of the race and talk things over.”
Dutch Connection proved disappointing, failing to quicken as the front three kicked for home. He kept on at the one pace back in fourth, and Charlie Hills must be scratching his head. The trainer would have hoped for much more following such a promising return in the Lockinge. Larchmont Lad had been ‘put-up’ as a decent each-way punt by yours truly in my Friday piece. He ran a cracker in first time cheekpieces and looks capable of winning at this grade.
Whilst Godolphin continue to make the headlines in the UK, over in America the Bob Baffert show is once again in full swing. Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Arrogate and of course the mighty American Pharoah, are just a handful of Baffert’s equine stars to have dominated the American racing scene. Having landed the Triple Crown in 2015 (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes), American Pharoah became the first racehorse to win the Grand Slam, completing a stunning haul of victories when landing the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Justify is his latest superstar, and on Saturday night the giant three-year-old chestnut colt completed the Triple Crown. “It was meant to be,” said Baffert. “I was just watching the clock. It was going to be my friend or the enemy. I was like, 'Oh Mike, Oh Mike, don't empty that tank.”
Of his place among Baffert’s best, the trainer added: “I wanted to see that horse's name up there (with the other greats) because we know he was brilliant from day one. And I am so happy for Mike Smith. There is no one more deserving than him.”
Smith, now 52, said of the winner: “This horse ran a tremendous race. He’s so gifted. He’s sent from heaven. He’s just amazing. I can’t describe the emotions going through my body right now.”
Unraced as a two-year-old, Justify has now won six on the spin in just 111 days. The jockey added: “To win six races in such a short amount of time like he’s just done is just an unbelievable feat on his part. Really, Bob has just done a tremendous job to get this horse to do what we just got done.”
He can now expect a well-earned rest, prior to a return in the autumn and a date with destiny at this year’s Breeders’ Cup.