Massaat caused something of an upset when winning the Group Two Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
Second in the Guineas last year, he’s subsequently not been the easiest to train, and has had a series of setbacks leading to this belated seasonal return. Despite his trainer expecting fitness issues after a year off the track, the four-year-old looked as good as ever, sweeping to the front a furlong out, and storming clear for an impressive victory. He’d been tracked by race favourite Librisa Breeze, but never looked in danger of relinquishing his advantage.
Though hoping for a decent performance, Burrows was clearly surprised by the manner of success when saying: “He'd been working nicely, but I just thought he'd be rusty. I was just looking to get him back on track and he's done it impressively. He had a chip removed from his fetlock after Salisbury then he injured himself and went back to Shadwell. It's been a big team effort to get him back.”
Of future targets, Burrows said: “Fingers crossed he'll be fine after the race and we can plot then. We'd have to look at Group Ones now. He is entered on Champions Day (QEII Stakes), but I think it is important he has a bit of cut in the ground. I'm not saying he wants it soft but it was pretty firm at Salisbury when he injured himself so I'll certainly keep him away from that ground now.”
Money had come for Librisa Breeze, but he looked well and truly second best, though his trainer Dean Ivory sounded less convinced when saying: “He was squeezed for room and he lost a couple of lengths when we had to switch him. His neck turned to come straight again and the winner has got first run on us. The horse deserves to win and we will get there, I hope. You have just got to ride him for a bit of luck but that didn't come our way.”
In truth, the horse looks a little short of top class, though a Pattern win should still be within his compass. On this display, the winner looks capable of victory at the highest level, especially with cut in the ground. The concern is whether Burrows can keep the horse sound. You’d expect that soft ground is probably essential, and maybe a decent break between runs would also prove desirable. It’ll be interesting to see if he is now saved for the QEII in October.
John Gosden will have been thrilled with third home Nathra, who put in her best display since the runner-up finish in the French Guineas of 2016. She also appeared to appreciate a softer surface, and there’s every chance that something like the Sun Chariot would now come-under consideration. She’d be an interesting contender with juice in the ground.
Whilst Massaat’s performance took many by surprise, Order St George’s victory in the Irish St Leger Trial Stakes went according to script. It’s his third victory in the race, and the result never looked in doubt. Ryan Moore took up the running two-furlongs out, and stretched clear under hand and heels for just shy of a five-length success. A return to the Curragh for the Irish St Leger, followed by a trip to Champions Day at Ascot now looks likely. He failed to win either last year, though did sandwich an Arc third between the pair. You’d fancy he’ll take some beating in either this time around.