The Group 2 Celebration Mile from Goodwood is Saturday’s showpiece event. The race was first run in 1967 and has gone to many top-class milers in its time.
One of the greatest, Brigadier Gerard, took the race in his dominant season of 1971, having already bagged the 2,000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Joe Mercer partnered Dick Hern’s sensational colt and was again on top when Kris took the race in 1979. He too had taken the St James’s Palace and the Sussex Stakes on route to this.
One of the most successful stallions in recent times took the race in 1999 at the age of five. Cape Cross finished down the field in the 2,000 Guineas as a three-year-old, but improved with age, winning the Lockinge Stakes at four before taking the Queen Anne and the Celebration Mile as a five-year-old. Ouija Board, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn are proof of his prowess at stud.
Chic is the only horse to have won the race twice. The filly, owned by Cheveley Park Stud, won back to back renewals in 2004 and 2005. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, she was a talented filly capable of outstanding performances. A Group 1 victory eluded her, though she came mighty close when twice chasing home Mark Johnston’s terrific filly Attraction. One defeat came in the 2004 Sun Chariot Stakes when beaten just a neck. A year later she got to within half a length in the Group 1 Matron Stakes.
In 2007 it was the turn of her half-sister Echelon to take the Celebration Mile. Another Cheveley Park Stud - Sir Michael Stoute combination, she did manage a Group 1 victory when winning the Matron Stakes in Ireland just weeks after her Goodwood success.
A year after Echelon’s win, an outstanding colt trained by John Gosden took the prize. Raven’s Pass had suffered at the hooves of Guineas winner Henrythenavigator during the campaign before finding success in the Celebration Mile. That sparked a stunning finale to his 2008 season. It proved to be fourth time lucky when he finally got the better of Henrythenavigator to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. He then defeated his old rival again, this time in America when winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
This weekend’s renewal looks competitive, though plenty of punters seem keen on the Clive Cox trained Kodi Bear. He missed the 2,000 Guineas in May due to a setback but appears to have his season back on track after his recent Sovereign Stakes success. The QEII looks to be high on the list of priorities, but this should prove a perfect stepping stone.
Second in the betting is Lightning Spear who ran well in France last time behind Andre Fabre’s pair of Esoterique and Territories. He appeared to cope pretty well with testing conditions in Deauville and may need to do so again on Saturday. Olly Stevens’ colt is on a steep upward curve and has to be a serious contender.
Dutch Connection is another who has had a terrific campaign. Since finishing a promising seventh in the 2,000 Guineas, he has won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot; been runner-up in the Prix Jean Prat and finished a close second in the Qatar Lennox Stakes behind Toormore. He had Kodi Bear a long way behind him in France though Saturday’s anticipated ground conditions will be very different.
Once again the weather is set to play its part in proceedings. Bretton Rock will become a serious contender if the rain continues to fall. He won last season’s Group 2 Hungerford Stakes in testing ground. Unfortunately, every bit of rain that falls lessens the chances of the much anticipated return of Richard Pankhurst. John Gosden’s colt by Raven’s Pass will no doubt be saved for another day, with a Group 2 at Doncaster a strong possibility.
In its relatively short history the Celebration Mile has become a standing dish for quality milers. The roll of honour is a strong one and Saturday’s renewal is set to be another exciting affair.