In the equine battle of the sexes, the fillies have more than held their own throughout the Flat campaign of 2017. Enable was without doubt the shining light, though others have landed major blows, and there remains time for several more to dazzle.
John Gosden’s stable star had already put the fellas in their place with a stunning success in the King George at Ascot, before confirming her supremacy over the colts with an emphatic victory in the Arc at Chantilly. She stands head and shoulders above her equine peers after a glorious and triumphant summer.
Winter may have fluffed her lines in the Arc, but like Minding 12 months ago, she seems destined for a grand finale on Champions Day at Ascot. She looks set to take in the Champion Stakes at 1m2f rather than the QEII at a mile. Team Ballydoyle have Churchill to consider, and it appears that the dual-guineas winner will drop back in trip after his disappointing effort in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
That leaves Winter looking to repeat her impressive success in the Nassau Stakes. She stayed-on powerfully to win at Goodwood, though that victory came against her own sex. She may well have Cracksman and Barney Roy to contend with at Ascot. The drop back in trip may not be ideal for the former, whilst the latter could prove the biggest danger to O’Brien’s filly, having run another solid race in the Juddmonte International at York.
Ballydoyle’s Minding defeated Godolphin’s Ribchester in the QE11 12 months ago. There’s every chance that the Irish powerhouse could again get the better of the ‘Boys in Blue’, with Winter striking for the fillies against Godolphin’s Barney Roy.
Another filly with star quality and a reputation for bashing the boys, is Karl Burke’s sprinting sensation Quiet Reflection. Absent over the summer, she returned with a stylish success at Naas a couple of weeks back. That run should have her fighting fit for Ascot, and if the ground is in her favour (soft ground ideal), she looks capable of putting up a serious challenge. Harry Angel has looked sensational in recent starts, but Burke’s filly is something special in testing conditions.
Another that shows signs of returning to her best is Ballydoyle’s Rhododendron. At Chantilly she took the Prix de l’Opera, getting the better of stablemate Hydrangea in a thrilling finish. It’s worth remembering that she was unlucky in running when runner-up to Winter in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. She was then travelling better than Enable at the two-furlong pole in the Epsom Oaks, before being out-stayed by this year’s star filly.
She bled in the French Oaks and it took some time for O’Brien and his team to get her back on the track. She’s likely to head to America for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and a decision will then likely be made as to whether she stays in training next season. She’ll need to step forward again if she it to mix-it with the leading colts, but she has the potential of becoming a leading contender for races such as the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.
Ballydoyle also have in their ranks the leading juvenile fillies who look capable of playing a starring role in the Flat campaign of 2018. Clemmie landed the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Saturday and is currently favourite for next year’s Guineas. She’s improved rapidly throughout her two-year-old campaign and has the stature to match the talent that she has so clearly displayed on the track. Much depends on her progression over the winter, but she’s certainly an exciting prospect.
The same can be said of next year’s Oaks favourite Happily. She’s already beat the boys, after her power-packed finish to the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly. She was well on top at the end of the eight-furlong trip and is clearly a filly of huge potential. She’s another from the Galileo/Storm Cat bloodline which is also responsible for Clemmie and Churchill.
It’s been another thrilling summer on the flat, thanks in no small measure to the wonderful Enable. Other fillies such as sprinters Lady Aurelia and Marsha, have also played their part in the battle of the sexes. Chances are that there’ll be more of the same in a couple of weeks at Ascot on Champion’s Day.