It was a Classic weekend, dear reader, in more ways than one, as we were treated to both the Oaks and the Derby, plus the Blue Riband across La Manche, the Prix du Jockey Club.
Good races all, and good winners each. But were they great? And what of their chances for the rest of the season?
Plus some bad news regarding Lowlay...
First though, let's take a look at the highlights from the weekend:
One of the best finishes to a horse race I've seen in a long time was in the Coronation Cup on Friday. I was at Epsom that day, and some of my chums were bemoaning the quality of the field, despite the presence of a dual Arc runner up (Youmzain), an Oaks winner and St Leger third (Look Here), a Yorkshire Cup winner and Grade 1 nose 2nd (Ask), an Irish Derby winner (Frozen Fire), and a Dubai Sheema Classic winner (Eastern Anthem).
Tish and pish, I said to them (or words to that effect) and, when they almost all told me that Youmzain would win, I had to point out that - whilst the best horse on form - he's a bit of a monkey and usually wins races he should win.
So it was that he traveled like an absolute dream but, when asked to go and win, fell short. Only a nostril or too short, but short nonetheless. Look Here, on her first start of the season, showed she's trained on in grand style, and looked the winner as she powered down the outside. Alas, she didn't quite make it.
The one who got the better of both of them in a three-way head bobber was Sir Michael Stoute's Ask, who had hacked up by six lengths over 1m6f last time out, and looks on the upgrade.
Contrary to the perceptions on my buddies, I suspect this was a very strong race, and Ask looks like a potential player for the Breeders Cup Turf at season end. Of course, there is the small matter of the Arc first, but this year there is an extra week between Arc day and BC day, so there may very well be a few additional Euro horses making the transatlantic flight - especially after last year's amazing winning haul. Fingers crossed.
In the Oaks, Sariska showed she is the best 3yo filly in Europe; Midday improved again and ran a blinder for 'Sir' Henry; and Rainbow View showed she doesn't stay 12 furlongs. She'll be very interesting at 1m2f as the season progresses.
To Saturday, and the big one: Fame And Fortune was backed as though defeat was out of the question (7/2 into 9/4). Sea The Stars was himself well backed to prove that he had the requisite stamina and be the first horse since Nashwan (I think) to do the 2000 Guineas / Epsom Derby double.
I for one didn't believe the Guineas winner would stay, and I was wrong. Or was I? He was a worthy winner on the day, for sure, but my suspicion is that his position in the race and the relatively slow pace (for a Derby) allowed him to nick it from the front.
As John Oxx said afterwards, he'll likely not run in the St Leger and - after a tilt at the Irish Derby - will revert to a mile and a quarter. He's far shrewder than I am, and I'd be tempted to take him on at the Curragh a few weeks hence. With what, I'm not quite sure.
Rip Van Winkle ran a strange race, looking outpaced before staying on best of all, to be beaten just two lengths back in fourth. He could be the one for the Curragh, as could Fame And Glory. The latter looks a purer stayer, but Rip surprised a fair few spectators with his late rattle, and the cambers of Epsom definitely did him no favours.
Time will tell, but I'll be against Sea The Stars at beyond 1m2f.
And then it was time to pop over to Chantilly. Is there a more beatiful racecourse in the world? Possibly, but this place is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to visit the town a few years ago, and it's truly a special area.
What used to be known as the French Derby, the Prix du Jockey Club, is now run over 1m2f, which is something of a curio for racing traditionalists. Whether it still counts as a Derby I don't know, but it is certainly the early Summer feature for 3yo colts across the pond (although the Grand Prix de Paris, over 1m4f, on July 14th, Bastille Day, is now considered to be the French Derby).
Anyway, Westphalia represented the O'Brien squad, and ran with merit in third spot. He was, however, no match for Le Havre, who ran on stoutly to win going away, and give his trainer, the eminently likeable Jean-Claude Rouget a big race treble on the day, having already landed the two Group 3's on the card.
The Racing Post argues that a) this race wasn't as good as the Derby, and b) that Le Havre probably won't stay the 1m4f of the Arc. Whilst it's much too early to agree or otherwise on the first point, I do believe that Le Havre can stay the Arc distance, despite being fairly speedily bred.
Again, time will tell. There are many battles to be executed between these chaps and chapesses before the summer is out.
Finally today, an apology. I had hoped to bring you the final wrap on the Lowlay betting review. Alas, my Lowlay guy has been... well... laid low by the nasty onslaught of gall stones. Although we've officially finished the trial, which performed with some merit, it may be a few days before Kevin is back on form and able to post the full service review.
I can tell you that yesterday's Lowlay, which was Lucky Punt in the 2.40 Southwell, won it's race at odds of 7/4, making a small dent in the previous profit situation. More on this in a day or two hopefully and, more importantly, let's wish Kevin a speedy recovery.