The Group 1 Lockinge Stakes is Newbury’s showpiece on Saturday. First run in 1958, the race has been won by some of the all-time great milers.
Brigadier Gerard and Frankel were two of the greatest. The former was only defeated once in 18 career starts. His victories included the 2000 Guineas, the St James’s Palace Stakes, the QEII on two occasions, the Champion Stakes twice, the Eclipse, the King George VI & the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and of course the Lockinge. He was a truly astounding racehorse, all power, pace and grace. Truly a sight to behold.
Frankel was similarly astounding on the racecourse. A mighty beast of a horse, capable of galloping the opposition into the turf. His ability to travel effortlessly at high speed was thrilling to witness. It’s tough to choose one standout performance, but if pushed, his victory in the Juddmonte International was probably the most astonishing. He cruised past four-time Group 1 winner St Nicholas Abbey, before streaking clear. His Lockinge success was similarly exhilarating, with Excelebration the unfortunate horse to be brushed aside.
Both Brigadier Gerard and Frankel captured the Newbury showpiece at the age of four, and it’s this age group that have proved dominant in the Lockinge, capturing eight of the last ten renewals. Godolphin have been victorious in four of those, and have three wins from the last four, including last year, when the Roger Varian trained Belardo took the prize. It’s interesting to point out that Aidan O’Brien has only one victory in the Lockinge, and that was back in 2003, when four-year-old Hawk Wing destroyed a quality field.
Both Godolphin and Ballydoyle are represented in tomorrow’s renewal. The Richard Fahey trained Ribchester currently heads the market. Progressive throughout his three-year-old campaign, he concluded last year with a second-place finish to O’Brien’s super-filly Minding, in the QEII on Champions Day. Prior to that, he’d won a Group 1 at Deauville, and had been a fast-finishing third in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. He had a pipe-opener at Meydan in March, and looks a worthy favourite. He’s a powerful galloper, though perhaps lacks that ‘instant’ change of gear.
It’s interesting to see that Fahey has another Godolphin owned runner in the field, and one would guess that this is to ensure a strong end-to-end gallop. Toscanini is no mug, and has strong form over shorter trips. He’s likely to be employed at the head of affairs, ensuring Frankie Dettori does not get a free hand to dictate matters aboard Galileo Gold.
More of him later, but first a look at Ballydoyle’s sole entrant, the filly Somehow. She’s undoubtedly a classy sort, and was recently an impressive winner of the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket. It’s fair to say that she defeated a mediocre field of fillies and mares on that occasion, though did it in style. This is a huge step-up in class, and she’d have to be just shy of Minding quality to go close. I expect a solid performance from her, but I’ll be shocked if she’s quite good enough to trouble a couple of these colts.
Back then to last year’s 2000 Guineas winner, Galileo Gold. Owned by the race sponsors Al Shaqab, and trained by Hugo Palmer, this son of Paco Boy (himself a winner of the Lockinge in 2010) was sensational during the early part of last season. He won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot under a canny ride from Dettori, and then came close to landing the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. His form tailed off towards the end of the campaign, when twice finishing behind Ribchester.
The question for punters, is whether Ribchester improved past Galileo Gold, or whether the latter simply ran out of gas after a challenging campaign at the highest level? I’m inclined to believe the form of the Sussex at Goodwood, when the pair could only be separated by a short-head in finishing a whisker behind O’Brien’s colt, The Gurkha. If that form proves to be true, the race tomorrow should be an absolute thriller.
Of the remainder of the nine-strong field, you’d have to fancy Lightning Spear’s chance of claiming a place, having run a career best third behind Minding and Ribchester in the QEII. Now a six-year-old, he goes well fresh, as he proved when finishing third to Tepin in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot last June. He’s yet to win a Group 1, and I fancy he’ll come-off second or third best once again.
The markets look to have this spot-on, with Ribchester and Galileo Gold the stand-out candidates. They take some separating on last year’s form, with Palmer’s Guineas winner capable of a mighty seasonal debut. I fancy this track will suit him, and should Dettori make his move at the right moment, his fella has the gears to steal a length or two. Expect Ribchester to be flying late-on, but I’ll side with Galileo Gold to hold him off in a thriller.