Celebration Time

Major Dick Hern trained some incredible racehorses in his time, but few could hold a candle to the brilliant Brigadier Gerard.

In a three year career, this outstanding colt won 19 of his 20 starts, his only defeat coming at York in what was then known as the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup. He was ridden by Joe Mercer throughout his career, and Joe was adamant that his charge was ill on that infamous day at York.

Completely dominant as a juvenile, Brigadier Gerard won all four outings in effortless fashion. He was just as successful at three, starting with a stunning win in the 2000 Guineas, when defeating My Swallow and Mill Reef. He then set about dominating over a mile; a trip that undoubtedly proved to be his optimum.

One of those victories came in the Goodwood Mile, now known as the Celebration Mile. Sadly, only three runners were assembled that day, though the winning margin of 10 lengths was no less impressive. Only Frankel’s achievements on the track can come close to matching those of Brigadier Gerard. The pair proved destructive in their performances. Frankel was very much the beast to Brigadier’s beauty.

Hern’s equine superstar was the greatest winner of the Celebration Mile, though plenty of other classy sorts appear on the roll of honour. Joe Mercer was lucky enough to be aboard another cracking miler, when winning the race on Kris in 1979. That renewal took place at Ascot, during a campaign that saw the colt win the St James’s Palace, the Sussex and the QEll.

In recent times, it’s fair to say that leading milers haven’t had Goodwood’s Group 2 on their itinerary. The likes of Kodi Bear, Bow Creek, Afsare and Premio Loco, though all good recent winners of the event, could hardly be called top-class racehorses.

On Saturday the latest renewal has attracted just five runners. It’s a small yet select field, though undoubtedly lacks a star attraction. Three-year-olds have a strong recent record, with six wins from the last eight. The two market leaders are from that age group and represent trainers that have found success in the race.

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Sir Michael Stoute has a record eight wins, with Zacinto his last victor in 2009. Thikriyaat runs for the yard and is likely to go off favourite tomorrow. He has four wins and a second from his five career starts. His only defeat came in the Jersey Stakes, when runner-up to the classy colt Ribchester. That form now looks particularly strong, though he was getting 5lbs from the winner. He did win his last start over course and distance at the end of July.

Clive Cox won the race 12 months ago, and this time goes into battle with the Cheveley Park owned Zonderland. Sixth in the 2000 Guineas, he then won a listed event at Sandown. He was unable to land a blow in the Jean Prat at Chantilly, but bounced back to form when winning the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury. This is tougher, but he looks sure to go close.

A trio of five-year-olds take on the youngsters. It’s impossible to dismiss any of the three. Toormore is two from four at the track, and is a consistent performer at the highest level. He came out best of the older horses in the Sussex Stakes, behind The Gurkha, Galileo Gold and Ribchester. This is definitely an easier task, though he has a penalty to overcome.

Qatar Racing has two in the race. Lightning Spear was a length behind Toormore in the Sussex, and probably needs softer ground to have a chance of winning this. That’s not to say he won’t go close in such an open renewal.

Arod has not looked the same horse this year, though ran his best ever race at Goodwood when touched off by Solow in last year’s Sussex Stakes. He needs fast ground, and it would come as no surprise if he was to bounce back to form.

This is such a tough renewal to predict, and I am just favouring Thikriyaat to progress past the rest. He’s the most unexposed in the field, and has been brought along gently during this campaign. Should the ground remain on the quick side I would see Arod as a serious threat. This track suits his positive style of running, and if returning to form, he could take some pegging back.

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