It proved to be a ‘Blue Day’ at Newcastle on Saturday, with Godolphin landing the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate thanks to a scorching finish from the Charlie Appleby trained Antiquarium.
Connections are going through a purple patch at present, though few would have given Appleby’s four-year-old much hope at the furlong pole with Brian Ellison’s Seamour seemingly streaking clear. Local trainer Ellison, born in Newcastle, must have thought his dreams were coming true, but just as victory seemed assured, James McDonald found daylight on Antiquarium and the gelding quickened in the style of a class act.
Travelling in midfield throughout the contest, the winner hit traffic problems two furlongs from home, and for a moment looked unwilling to go for a gap. Nevertheless, when he finally hit top gear, the response was devastating. By the time he hit the line he had actually won with a fair amount in hand. Appleby's assistant trainer James Ferguson said: “James has given him a fantastic ride. There was a moment of worry halfway up the straight, but with the benefit of hindsight we can say we weren't panicking. There's a £100,000 race for him at Goodwood, so we'll look at that. He'll be as effective back on turf.”
Appleby analysed the performance on the Godolphin website, saying: “Antiquarium ticked a lot of boxes today, and we were hopeful of his chances. James McDonald has given the horse a fantastic ride. He is a world-class jockey, who has won big races all over the world, and I am delighted that he has ridden a winner for Godolphin in such an historic race. This was the race we had targeted and I think that he will be able to translate this level of form back to turf. The fact that he has now won over this distance also opens up a few options.”
He looks a young stayer with a bright future, and Godolphin have certainly had their fair share over the years. A step up in class is likely with the likes of the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup later in the season both realistic options.
Ellison was understandably gutted to have come off second best, in a race he would dearly love to win. “Seamour was going too well,” said a despondent looking trainer. “He looked the winner a furlong out. He is a good horse and it's a shame he got caught. At least he has run his race and there is a good race in him.”
Just an hour after the Newcastle showpiece, the Epsom Derby winner Harzand attempted to land his second Derby at the Curragh. And the Epsom form was duly confirmed, when after a terrific tussle Dermot Weld’s colt fought off Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. The winning distance was just half a length at the line, though the winner always looked likely to hold off the persistent challenge laid down by Ballydoyle’s colt.
After the famous win, Weld said: “A lot of people thought Harzand didn't have speed but he showed today that he had. He's a proper horse and the first two picked up and really quickened. Pat [Smullen] gave him a great ride. It's been a very special day. The horse will have a good break now and will be aimed at the Arc.”
He looks to have all the attributes required for a serious crack at the French showpiece. He travels well through a race; quickens off a strong gallop and has shown that he loves a battle. He has also proved that he can handle any ground conditions. The Aga Khan last won the Arc back in 2008, thanks to wonder-filly Zarkava.
If Harzand was proving himself King Of The Colts, then 24 hours later we were treated to another sparkling display by this summer’s Queen. Minding has been outstanding this term and again looked peerless when romping home in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes. It’s fair to say that the opposition failed to capture the imagination, but the filly could do no more than win emphatically, and this she most certainly did. The 1m2f trip looked ideal and many will be hoping to see her in the Nassau at Goodwood before a possible shot at the colts in the Juddmonte International at York in August. She’s a class act.