Another exciting weekend of racing sees major action from both sides of the Irish Sea.
We head north to Haydock for a pair of Group 2s. The Sandy Lane Stakes over six-furlongs has the look of a hors d’oeuvre to the main course, the prestigious five-furlong sprint, the Temple Stakes.
The latter has been won by sprinting greats over the years, including a number of top-class fillies and mares. Look Busy was the last to land the prize in 2009, but a year earlier the wonderful Fleeting Spirit was victorious.
Trained by Jeremy Noseda, she was a sensational sprinter, romping to victory by two lengths, and breaking the track record in the process. Often a sluggish starter, she was possibly a little unfortunate not to add the King’s Stand a few weeks later. She went on to finish runner-up in three Group 1s, whilst landing the Darley July Cup over six-furlongs at Newmarket.
Airwave was another fabulous filly, who won the event as a three-year-old when the race was held at Sandown. She then came within half a length of capturing the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, before a third place finish in the Darley July Cup.
Arguably the best of the lot was Lochsong, the winner of the Temple Stakes back in 1994. That victory came during an incredible period of dominance, which saw the filly win the Nunthorpe, the Abbaye and the King’s Stand Stakes amongst others.
Hoping to add her name to the stunning roll of honour is another classy filly, Quiet Reflection. The winner of seven of her 10 starts, including a pair of Group 1s, she is running over the shorter trip for the first time since her juvenile campaign. She’s no slouch, though would have preferred a little rain prior to the stalls opening.
She took the Sandy Lane at the corresponding meeting last year, and was finishing powerfully on that occasion. Her trainer, Karl Burke, sounded concerned over drying conditions when speaking to At The Races earlier in the week: “Unfortunately there’s such a dry forecast we’ll have to keep an eye on the ground. If she doesn’t go to Haydock because the ground is too quick, we’ve got an option in France the following weekend. She’s done nothing but bloom these last few weeks.”
We could get lucky on Saturday, and witness a clash of two outstanding fillies, with the possibility of Aidan O’Brien sending Acapulco over to Haydock. She was a stunning winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot as a two-year-old, when trained by Wes Ward. She returned to action at the Curragh in May, when winning a listed event over five furlongs. That run should have blown away the cobwebs, and should she land on these shores, she’s sure to go close.
Over in Ireland, O’Brien will be hoping to capture an Irish Guineas double, to match the Newmarket set achieved in May. Churchill is odds-on to win the 2000, with Michael Halford’s Irishcorrespondent the likely danger. It would come as a shock should the favourite not prevail, and O’Brien has a terrific record in the race, having won six of the last nine. Churchill has a look of Gleneagles about him, and is set to follow the same path. A victory here, and then a trip to Royal Ascot to capture the St James’s Palace appears the plan.
Winter looks to make it a 1000 Guineas double, and is odds-on to do so. She was impressive at Newmarket, and doesn’t have Rhododendron to beat this time. Michael Halford again looks to supply the main danger, in Aga Khan’s Rehana. She was impressive at Naas last time, and ought to go close. Nevertheless, the favourite is clearly the one to beat.
And on a weekend when fillies may well make the headlines, it’s fitting that I conclude this piece with a comment or two on Ballydoyle’s Minding. She goes in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, and looks nigh-on a certainty. The bookies see it that way, with her currently trading at around 1/3. She was sensational last season, when winning five of seven, including a QEII verdict over Ribchester. Ballydoyle have such a wealth of talent at their disposal, and this lady is one of the best.
Let’s hope the main players take to the field. If they do, it should prove a cracking weekend.