Latest horseracing news from the UK

Enable to be crowned Queen at Ascot

John Gosden has tasted success in two of the last half-dozen King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and saddles the favourite for tomorrow’s race.

Enable is the daughter of his 2011 winner Nathaniel, and is looking to emulate his 2014 heroine Taghrooda, by landing this after success in the Epsom Oaks. Should she add her name to an illustrious roll of honour, she will become only the third filly to do so in more than 30 years.

She arrives having already romped to a pair of Oaks victories, with her last success at the Curragh particularly eye-catching. She’s a powerful traveller, with bags of speed and plenty of stamina. At Epsom in June, she outstayed the classy Ballydoyle filly Rhododendron, storming clear inside the final furlong. The older colts in the race must give her a stone, and that looks a tall order. She’s yet to encounter soft ground, though her dam was at her best in testing conditions. She has the look of a superstar. This race should tell us if she is.

Several outstanding colts lie in wait, with last year’s winner Highland Reel sure to prove a mighty challenger. The five-year-old has nine victories from 23 career starts, with six of those coming at Group One level. He was last seen winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, when finding plenty for pressure to pull clear of Decorated Knight and Ulysses. That came at 1m2f, though he is no less effective at a mile and a half, as last year’s victory showed. He went on to finish runner-up in the Arc behind stablemate Found, before travelling to America and winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

A nagging concern that many share over Highland Reel, is his record when the ground becomes more testing. He is yet to win any race when the surface becomes good to soft or worse, with poor performances coming at Leopardstown, Sha Tin and Meydan. My Dream Boat was ahead of him in last year’s Irish Champion, and I’m confident that wouldn’t happen on a sounder surface. He certainly takes to Ascot, having won twice from three visits, with the only defeat an unfortunate one, when his jockey dropped the whip during a driving finish.

Only a fool would discount the chances of O’Brien’s colt, and he’s developed into an outstanding international performer. But the doubts remain over his effectiveness on the ground.

Those same concerns can be levelled at the vastly improved Ulysses. Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old won the Coral-Eclipse earlier this month, though looked no match for Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales’s the time before. He’s certainly progressive, but is thought to be at his best on a quicker surface. He’s a strong traveller through a race, but in a tussle between the pair, I’d be siding with Highland Reel.

Jack Hobbs was behind the pair at Royal Ascot, in what can only be described as a disappointing performance. The ground was undoubtedly quicker than ideal that day, and he was far more impressive in Dubai when winning the Sheema Classic on rain-softened ground. Injury curtailed his four-year-old campaign, and there’s a worry that he is not quite the same horse as when winning the Irish Derby so impressively in 2015. He did run a cracker at the end of last year, when third to Almanzor and Found in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. He has a strong performance in his locker, but is unreliable. On a going day, he’s a serious contender.

More rain would certainly bring My Dream Boat into the picture. Just shy of top class, the Clive Cox trained five-year-old is nevertheless a Group One winner, having lifted the Prince Of Wales’s on soft ground in 2016. He defeated Found that day, and a performance of that level would see him going close tomorrow. He ran well in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud earlier this month, and with conditions to suit has a much better chance than his 28/1 price suggests.

One that has been supported in the market, is Aidan O’Brien’s second-string Idaho. A full-brother to Highland Reel, this fella is thought to be less ground dependant. He won the Hardwicke Stakes last time, proving himself a powerful galloping sort, rather than a colt with gears. He was third to Harzand in the Epsom Derby last year, and runner-up to the same horse in the Irish version. Likely to have strengthened and improved since then, I remain uncertain as to whether he has enough class to win this. The ground will certainly help, and he looks a decent each-way proposition.

I fancy that Godolphin could have another serious contender in the three-year-old Benbatl. He was fifth in the Derby, despite being tailed-off at one stage, and clearly struggling with the track. He then won the Group Three Hampton Court at Royal Ascot, seeing off Ballydoyle’s Orderofthegarter. That form wouldn’t be good enough to win this, but I fancy he’ll handle the ground, being out of a Selkirk mare, and his three-year-old weight allowance is a huge plus. He’s lightly raced, and should be open to plenty of improvement. His odds of 25/1 look quite generous, and I’m keen on his chances.

Along with many others, I’m a huge Enable fan, and I fancy that she’ll win well. There’s plenty of dangers lurking in this quality field, but I’ll be taking a chance on Benbatl to land the each-way flutter. Best of luck to those having a punt.

Ascot Showpiece Taking Shape

Frankie Dettori appeared thrilled with Enable as the pair prepare for Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

After taking her for a spin on Tuesday morning, the Italian jock announced that both he and the Oaks heroine are ready for the challenge: “She is just full of herself right now and raring to go. It's been a tough rehabilitation but I'm delighted to report I'm feeling good and getting stronger every day. I'm glad to say the physio is all done but I'm still training myself in the gym and I can't wait for this weekend.”

Sounding pretty revved-up at the prospect of getting back aboard the flying filly, Dettori added: “I got allotted 8st 7lb in the King George which is my bare minimum, so I need to keep my weight down. She was the reason I came back from injury so early. She really is special. I pushed myself so I could ride her in Ireland and it was worth it. The King George is a tough race but I'm really excited. She's getting a big weight allowance (a stone from Highland Reel) so she's entitled to be at the head of the market.”

The opposition looks strong, but the ground is also set to play its part, with the forecast remaining changeable. The jockey continued: “Highland Reel is obviously the biggest danger to our chances. He ran very well at Ascot before, and we know he stays. He's just got a great CV. Her pedigree suggests the ground shouldn't be any issue. I'd never tried her on soft ground until this morning. It was only a small ‘breeze’ but she seemed to handle it. We shall find out on Saturday.”

With the ground likely to run on the soft side of good, the bookies expect Highland Reel to drift further in the market, with Enable possibly shortening to odds-on. O’Brien’s globetrotting star has appeared at his best on quicker ground, though the trainer has confirmed that the five-year-old will take his chance. He looks to emulate Swain (97 and 98) in winning the race in consecutive years.

“All is well with Highland Reel and Idaho," said the Master of Ballydoyle. "The better the ground, the more it will suit both of them. But whereas they wouldn't want really testing ground, we think they'll be quite adaptable if it is a bit on the easy side. The King George is always a very good race and that will again be the case on Saturday.”

O’Brien then spoke of Gosden’s filly, saying: “Enable has been very impressive winning the Oaks and the Irish Oaks. We've had fillies take her on three times this year, at Chester, Epsom and the Curragh, and we've been very impressed by her each time. She's obviously a very high-class filly.”

Team Godolphin have had a successful campaign to date, and John Gosden looks sure to let Jack Hobbs take his chance, on ground that ought to be more to his liking. Speaking to At The Races, the trainer said: “We always wanted to run him in the Prince of Wales's, but the fact it turned out to be the hottest June day for 40 years and the ground lightning fast was entirely the wrong thing for him. Obviously he's got no problem with a mile and a quarter. He's run brilliantly twice in autumn ground there, but a mile and a half with cut in the ground is right up his street.”

Along with Charlie Appleby’s Hawkbill and Frontiersman, the ‘Boys in Blue’ are set to run three-year-old Royal Ascot winner Benbatl. He’s trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who has won this prestigious event on five occasions. He believes soft ground will help his horse, saying: “Benbatl worked on the Limekilns on Monday and he worked really well. It's so far, so good and he's ready to go – we're just waiting for the green light from the boss. It's a top-quality race, obviously, but he deserves his chance after winning at Royal Ascot. The more rain the better.”

One that now seems likely to bypass Ascot, is Mark Johnston’s surprise package Permian. He’s proved a sensation during a hectic summer, and assistant Charlie Johnston told Sportinglife.com: “I’d make it odds-against that he runs in the King George. We’ve got four options for him on the table at the moment, the two in the UK being the King George and the Juddmonte International and the Secretariat in America and a Group One in Germany in mid-August.

With the priority being to capture a Group One, Johnston added: “If the photo in France last time had gone our way (runner-up in Grand Prix De Paris) and we had that Group One in the bag then we might’ve started rolling the dice at races like the King George or the Juddmonte. But, it didn’t, so the priority in the short term has to be to try and get that Group One under his name and I expect the best chance of doing that would be going abroad.”

As the race starts to take shape, there’s no doubting the calibre of the entrants. This has the look of a stellar renewal. The weather is set to play a part in adding to the intrigue. Nevertheless, in Highland Reel and Enable, we have a talented duo capable of rising to the challenge. This should be a cracker.

King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Heroes

Excitement is starting to build with Glorious Goodwood less than a week away. But before we take a trip to the Sussex Downs, there’s the small matter of this Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes from Ascot.

First run in 1951, this is arguably the most prestigious Flat race of them all. The Group One, run at a mile and four furlongs has been won by middle-distance legends. The roll of honour is astounding, teeming with Derby, Oaks and Arc winners. Many of the sport’s greatest trainers have landed the spoils, including Andre Fabre, Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute, the O’Brien’s both Vincent and Aidan and ‘The Major’ Dick Hern.

Outstanding jockeys have steered equine heroes to success. Multiple champion Sir Gordon Richards was victorious in 1953. French legend Yves Saint-Martin, landed the honours in the 60’s and 70’s. Lester Piggott won this race seven times over a period of three decades. And Kinane, Murtagh and Dettori have all tasted success in more recent times.

I mentioned the sensational roll of honour, and the 1970’s is a great place to start. In a particularly thrilling decade for the event, the list of winners includes; Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Grundy and Troy.

The winners in the 80’s were no less illustrious, and included the mighty Shergar, a dazzling Dancing Brave, Reference Point and Nashwan. The 1990’s saw success for Generous, Lammtarra and Daylami, whilst this century opened with an astounding performance by the wondrous Montjeu.

In recent times, we’ve been treated to stunning performances from Galileo, Dylan Thomas, Harbinger, Danedream, Novellist and Taghrooda. Last year it was the turn of Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting star Highland Reel, to add his name to the remarkable list of King George heroes. He’ll be doing his utmost to make it two-in-a-row on Saturday, and is sure to be a tough nut to crack. But for now, I wanted to focus on past heroics from a quintet that took this prestigious event in quite sensational fashion.

It’s no exaggeration to call the first an equine legend. Nijinsky was trained in Ireland by Vincent O’Brien, and owned by American Charles W Engelhard Jr. The colt was from one of the earlier crops of outstanding American stallion Northern Dancer. As a juvenile Nijinsky was exceptional, winning all five starts, including the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

He opened his three-year-old campaign with victory at the Curragh, before cruising to victory in the 2,000 Guineas back at Newmarket. Facile victories in the Epsom and Irish Derby’s were to follow, before a date with the older generation in the King George at Ascot. A classy field was assembled, including the previous year’s Epsom Derby winner Blakeney. Nevertheless, the result was never in doubt, with Lester Piggott motionless on Nijinsky as he swept past the field in the closing stages. Poetry in motion, O’Brien’s sensational youngster was in a league of his own.

He went on to complete the Triple Crown with success at Doncaster in the St Leger. Possibly past his best after a lengthy campaign, his season ended with two defeats, though he was unfortunate to lose-out in the Arc. He was retired to stud having won 11 of his 13 career starts. Nijinsky was a powerful racehorse that glided across the turf. A sensational mover, he was one of the best.

During the summer of 1991, the Paul Cole-trained Generous routed classy fields in both the English and Irish Derby’s, before winning the King George by a record, seven lengths. Only fourth in the Guineas on seasonal debut, he was a different proposition when stepped-up to a mile and a half. His Grandsire was Nijinsky, and he undoubtedly inherited plenty of his grandfather’s class. I’d encourage everyone to watch the Ascot success on YouTube. It was truly a devastating performance, from an outstanding racehorse.

Similarities can be drawn between Nijinsky and the 2000 King George VI winner Montjeu. Another powerful looking colt from the Northern Dancer bloodline, he was also a wonderfully fluid mover. He made winning appear effortless, and as a three-year-old captured the Prix du Jockey Club, the Irish Derby and the Arc.

Thankfully, he remained in training at four, and after success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, he was sent-off a short-priced favourite for the Ascot showpiece. He did not disappoint, cruising to a stunning success, hammering the classy Fantastic Light in the process. It was a spectacular performance from a wonderfully talented colt.

The last of our ‘Fantastic Four’ came as something of a surprise when winning the 2010 renewal in such an extraordinary fashion. Second favourite to Epsom Derby winner Workforce, and shunned by jockey Ryan Moore, Harbinger proved to be one of the greatest winners of this prestigious showpiece. The acceleration he showed on turning for home was a sight to behold. He scorched clear to win by an astounding, 11 lengths, trouncing the Epsom Derby winner, the Irish Derby winner and an Arc runner-up.

He’d proved rather ordinary as a three-year-old, but as often is the case with Sir Michael Stoute inmates, he improved immeasurably at the age of four. Serious injury ended his career before a shot at the Arc. Timeform gave him a lofty rating, which on the evidence of the Ascot romp, was richly deserved.

And there you have it. I could have written about so many sensational winners of this wonderful race. But the four I chose, left an indelible mark, thanks to their extraordinary performances in winning this much-heralded contest.

Super Sprint Success – Fahey’s Far Too Good

Richard Fahey made it three from the last five, when Bengali Boys romped to victory in Newbury’s Super Sprint.

Splitting into three groups from the off, the guys down the centre of the track had a distinct advantage, and from the pack Barry McHugh sent Bengali B to the front at the two-furlong pole. He coped better than most with the rain-softened ground to storm clear in the closing stages. Maggies Angel had come-in for strong support prior to the off, and ran well to make it a one-three for Fahey. Declarationoflove split the pair in second. Corinthia Knight was miles clear of those that stayed stand-side, and finished an admirable fourth. Along with the winner, his performance was arguably the most eye-catching.

But it was undoubtedly Fahey’s day, and the Malton trainer, content at ‘mission-accomplished’, said of the victory: “It looks like he likes that ground! He'd been working well and had some solid form. It's a race we target every year. I said the day we bought him he'd win the Weatherbys Super Sprint, it's not often you can say that. He was really impressive, he didn't look like he was going to get beat at any stage.”

Bengali Boys was a bargain when bought for just 11,000 euros, and now looks sure to be stepped-up in class. The trainer added: “The soft ground has helped him, we thought it would but you don't know until you run them on it. The handicapper will obviously have a say. I've no concrete plans at this stage, but I guess we'll be looking at a Listed or Group race for him next.”

It proved to be a cracking weekend for trainers of juveniles in the north, when yesterday Karl Burke captured the Group Two Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte with Unfortunately. Sent-off the outsider in a field of six, the youngster battled bravely for victory, as British trainers dominated the finish. The leaders came close inside the final furlong, with the winner keeping the spoils after a stewards’ enquiry. The Tom Dascombe-trained Frozen Angel went down by just half-a-length, with Clive Cox’s Heartache a short-head back in third.

Speaking after the tense conclusion to the race, Burke said: “I'm relieved we kept the race in the stewards' room. I'm not sure we would have done if the French horse had finished second. It's a great result and I'm delighted for everybody. We had a bit of a sticky six months of the year, but the horses are coming to themselves now and running well. If he'd finished third or fourth I'd have been satisfied, but I'm not surprised he's run so well. He's a horse with a lot of ability.”

The form of the race has helped a little to bring some clarity to the juvenile sprint division. Frozen Angel had finished fourth to Sioux Nation at Royal Ascot, a place behind the recent July Stakes winner, Cardsharp. That pair look to be towards the head of the pile. Whilst Heartache had won the Queen Mary at the Royal Meeting, and looks to be one of the quickest juvenile fillies.

She was possibly a little unlucky this time, having been bumped early, and consequently running with the choke-out for most of the five and a half furlongs. The winner had previous experience at the track, having finished runner-up in the listed Prix La Fleche in June, and clearly enjoys his trips abroad. Unfortunately looks a solid sprinter rather than an outstanding one, and it’s likely the good to soft ground played to his strengths. I’ll stick my neck out and say that the second and third will reverse form on quicker ground, especially over the minimum trip.

Ryan’s Filly has the dash – to land Weatherbys Super Sprint cash

The Weatherbys Super Sprint takes place at Newbury on Saturday, with 25 runners going to post.

Established in 1991, the five-furlong dash is open to juveniles, with weight allocated depending on the sale price of the horse. Clive Cox took the main event a week ago with speedster Harry Angel, and he has the top weight for this valuable renewal, with Snazzy Jazzy. The son of Red Jazz looked decent when successful on debut at Goodwood, though the third placed finisher has failed to frank the form since. The stable is certainly flying at present, but with just one career outing Snazzy J is hard to assess.

Despite large fields of inexperienced juveniles, the race has favoured fancied runners in recent times. Only three of the last 10 winners went off at odds greater than 10/1. Saturday’s favourite looks sure to be Maggies Angel trained by Richard Fahey. With two victories in the last four years, the Malton handler has pitched five arrows at the valuable target. Maggie has a win and a pair of runners-up finishes from four starts, and was last seen running a cracker in listed company. With just 8-6 on her back, and fillies taking three of the last five renewals, she looks to have a decent chance.

Fahey also has Bengali Boys, a colt who is yet to be out the first two in his three career starts. He lost out to David O’Meara’s Chatburn last time, and the winner went on to run respectably behind Cardsharp. That form has a strong look to it, and this fella looks a live contender.

Corinthia Knight is another with several decent displays to his name. Trained in Lambourn by an in-form Archie Watson, the son of Society Rock ran respectably at Royal Ascot behind Sound Of Silence. He’d previously chased home Frozen Angel, and prior to that had landed a couple of races on the all-weather. He showed plenty of speed last time, and Newbury may prove more suitable than Ascot. I quite like the look of him and fancy he’ll go close.

Connery and Pursuing The Dream have splashes of form, and clashed at Bath earlier this month. The former came out best, though the latter appeared to struggle with the track. Pursuing The Dream was a dazzling sixth in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, and a repeat of that performance would undoubtedly see her go close.

Kevin Ryan has an interesting contender in Falabelle. She’s only raced the once, when nabbed late on at the stiff track of Carlisle. She’d been a little keen that day, and probably should have won. She should improve plenty for the experience, and if coping with the large field could run a huge race. A daughter of Choisir, she showed plenty of speed, and Newbury should suit. Ryan’s no mug with sprinters, and this filly could be useful.

Juvenile races are always tough to call. With little form in the book, and horses progressing both physically and mentally, this type of race is probably one to be left well alone. But where’s the fun in that?

Richard Fahey clearly targets this race with his youngsters, and he’s likely to go close again. But I’ll be having a small wager on the Archie Watson trained Corinthia Knight and Kevin Ryan’s Falabelle. The former looks to have strong claims on a solid Royal Ascot performance, whilst the latter showed plenty of potential on debut at Carlisle.

Best of luck to all those taking a punt on this one. You’ll certainly need it.

Clear as Mud – Juvenile Colts

It comes as no surprise to see Ballydoyle fillies at the head of the juvenile division, and Ireland’s leading thoroughbred outfit also have a few colts making the right kind of noises with 2018 Classics in mind.

There’s little doubt that the picture is less clear with the juvenile boys, with outstanding performances few and far between. Gustav Klimt won the Group Two Superlative Stakes at Newmarket for Aidan O’Brien, though the performance could hardly be described as impressive. Yet another from the Galileo conveyor belt, he was inconvenienced in running and had to be switched before staying on well to win. He nabbed Nebo on the line, and that fella had previously finished down the field in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. The form looks ordinary, and that Gustav is now clear favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas says plenty of the dearth of talent seen on the racetrack thus far.

Royal Ascot form is also taking some reading after Rajasinghe’s defeat to Cardsharp at Newmarket. The former had won the Coventry Stakes, but was unable to land a blow on Cardsharp, who clearly appreciated a step-up in trip, having finished third at the royal meeting in the Norfolk. He in-turn had finished behind De Bruyne Horse in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, but that colt could only finish eighth in the Coventry behind Rajasinghe. Confused? You should be.

Hannon’s De Bruyne Horse then went to Ireland, and was beaten by Beckford at the Curragh. Gordon Elliott is better known for training three-mile chasers, but his talented juvenile is causing something of a sensation. He’s arguably the best of the youngsters to date, though how he performs in the Phoenix Stakes will tell us more. He’s by Bated Breath out of a Danehill Dancer mare, which suggests he’ll probably become a sprinter, though he just about has enough stamina on the dam side to make a miler. He defeated Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity last time, though his colt’s pedigree is somewhat underwhelming.

I’m not convinced that we’ve yet seen a future star, though Royal Ascot’s Norfolk Stakes may prove the strongest form to date. The aforementioned Cardsharp, was third to Sioux Nation and Santry that day, and the latter pair both look decent prospects.

Aidan O’Brien’s Sioux Nation was desperate for the quicker ground at Ascot, and improved a ton accordingly. The son of Scat Daddy, out of an Oasis Dream mare, has entries in all the leading events during the remainder of the season. And I fancy that there’s plenty more to come from him.

Santry was fancied to go close in the Norfolk, and did not disappoint. Declan Carroll’s youngster could well come over for the Gimcrack at York, though his targets are not so dependent on ground conditions.

Two races in Ireland over the coming months that look sure to bring some clarity to the Colt juvenile picture, are the Phoenix Stakes and the National Stakes. It’s no surprise that Ballydoyle dominate both, with Caravaggio taking the former in 2016 and Churchill winning the latter.

Another juvenile event that continues to produce thoroughbreds of the highest calibre, is the Dewhurst Stakes from Newmarket, which takes place towards the end of the season. Frankel, Dawn Approach and Churchill are three recent winners.

It’s quite clear to me, that though the juvenile fillies picture is starting to take shape, the colts equivalent has some way to go. Those that enjoy an antepost flutter on the following year’s Classics should probably hold-fire.

An eye on a Juvenile – Fillies

During this rather quiet period, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the juvenile division, especially after witnessing several promising performances at Newmarket’s July Festival.

I’m starting with the female of the species, and arguably the most impressive two-year-old display of the weekend. The rapidly improving Clemmie, trained by Aidan O’Brien, powered clear in the latter stages to win the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes. Still looking a little green at times, it took her a while to get into top gear. She looks a relentless galloper, rather than a filly with gears, and the stiff final furlong at Newmarket certainly suited. She’s currently second favourite for next year’s 1000 Guineas despite being beaten by more than four lengths at Royal Ascot just a few weeks back. She’s clearly a classy sort, and looks the type to continue improving with racing. Though I fancy she’ll become next season’s Roly Poly, rather than a Ballydoyle Winter or Rhododendron.

Her stoutly bred stable companion September, heads the Guineas market after her romp in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. By Japan’s outstanding stallion Deep Impact, out of Irish Oaks winner Peeping Fawn, her pedigree is exceptional, though points to stamina rather than speed. It’s no surprise to also see her heading the market for next year’s Epsom Oaks, and that sort of trip looks likely to prove her optimum. Unbeaten in just two career starts, her next outing is eagerly anticipated.

Another exciting Irish filly is the Jess Harrington trained Alpha Centauri. She was runner-up to the French filly Different League in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, with Clemmie further back in seventh. The front pair were some way clear that day, and possibly had something of an edge on the maturity front. Both are physically imposing, and that advantage in stature is sure to change as the season unfolds. A clash in Ireland with Clemmie or September is highly likely for Harrington’s filly, and would further help assess the progression of these two-year-olds. I fancy that Alpha Centauri’s early season advantage may well evaporate.

Different League is trained in France by Matthieu Palussiere, who was formerly an assistant in Ireland to Mick Halford. The filly is by French stallion Dabirsim, himself an exceptional juvenile who captured the Prix Morny and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. It’s impossible to say whether we’ll see her back on our shores, though she is priced up for next season’s 1000 Guineas. The Prix Morny was touted as a possible short-term target.

Clive Cox is having another season to remember, and has an exciting filly, in Royal Ascot winner Heartache. She’s a sprinter, and looked exceptional when thrashing 22 others in the Group Two Queen Mary. Likely to head for the Lowther at York, Cox will be hoping she can progress in a similar fashion to his outstanding sprinter Harry Angel. She’s a way to go to become that good, though the initial signs are promising.

Other classy fillies are sure to be unearthed during the summer, with Ballydoyle more than likely to add to their classy pair of Clemmie and September. It would also come as a surprise should Godolphin not have several potential stars in their midst. Charlie Appleby has plenty of juveniles set to make their debuts in the coming weeks, including smartly bred fillies Piccola Collina, Lunar Maria and Dubhe.

Flash Harry is not for catching

Too slick, and far too quick. It was Harry Angel’s time to shine at Newmarket on Saturday afternoon, as the Clive Cox trained ‘pocket-rocket’ stormed to victory in the Darley July Cup.

On a track that suits a speedier type, it was the Godolphin youngster that had the required ‘zip’ to fend off a classy looking field, and capture one of Europe’s most prestigious sprints. At the front end throughout, Adam Kirby set sail for home inside the two-furlong pole, and never looked likely to be caught. Limato threatened briefly, but always appeared held by the youngster, who was in receipt of a crucial 6lbs. Brando ran a cracker in third, whilst Caravaggio, sent-off the short-priced favourite, was never able to get within striking distance, and had to settle for a ‘staying-on’ fourth.

Clive Cox had won this race in 2013, with the wonderful Lethal Force. The handler was clearly thrilled to capture the prestigious event again, when saying of the youngster: “This is one of the best July Cups I’ve seen in my lifetime and I’m very proud of the horse and everyone at home. He’s become a man today. He was extremely well and a little bit fresh going into Ascot. It was an achievement that day to be beaten three-quarters of a length by Caravaggio and I'm very pleased we've taken his scalp today. With maturity, he's becoming the finished article and I think today was pretty special.”

Kirby was understandably thrilled and certainly wasn’t holding back on the praise when adding: “He proved how good he is today and I’m delighted. He’s a machine, the best you will see for a long time - I truly believe that.”
The Sprint Cup at Haydock appears the next logical step for the winner. He was an emphatic winner at the track in May, and three-year-olds have a terrific record in the race, having captured four of the last six.

Time may prove that trying to give Harry Angel almost half a stone was an impossible task. I’m not yet convinced that Limato is quite as good as last year, though his runner-up finish left his jockey Harry Bentley in no doubt, when saying: “He has run a great race, a fantastic race. I am very happy with how everything went during the race. He picked up fantastic for me and has given me a wonderful feel. We have beaten some fantastic horses today and those who were on top at Royal Ascot (in the Diamond Jubilee) and we’ve managed to turn that around.

“I don’t think we could have done anything differently. If I had been told beforehand that was where I would be off that pace, I would have taken it every day of the week, so I am delighted. It was a slightly different race to last year. But he has given me that feel again that I got off him last year and at Chantilly. He feels back to his best. We can look forward to the future with him now – he is such a solid performer. There are options for him, but that will be up to the owner and trainer.”

For the previously undefeated Caravaggio, attention may now turn to France, and a slight step-up in trip. I remain convinced that O’Brien’s colt needs a stiff six furlongs or further. He was outpaced on Saturday, and by the time Ryan Moore had him rolling, it was all too late. Talking yesterday of the vanquished Caravaggio, O'Brien said: “He's good. I thought he ran very well. He ran a good race and we should be praising the winner Harry Angel as well as Clive, Adam and Sheikh Mohammed. It was one of those days, they are only flesh and blood and we'll look forward to him the next day.

“The lads will obviously decide what's next, but John (Magnier) was just saying that we might have a look at the Maurice de Gheest. He was just saying that to me this morning, but we'll see how he is after a week or 10 days. I think the Everest (in Australia) is still on the table.”

Whilst Newmarket’s July Cup proved to be a real thriller, over in Ireland John Gosden’s Enable was turning the Irish Oaks into a procession. Sensational at Epsom, the daughter of Nathaniel was no less impressive at the Curragh, and now looks a realistic Arc prospect. She cruised through the race, and when asked by Frankie Dettori to go through the gears, the response was electric. Speaking after the success, the Italian said: “She's amazing. She's got a good cruising speed for a stayer, she can quicken and she gets the distance really well. They're all the things you want. I was able to give my shoulder a rest in the last 100 yards and ease our way to the line. She felt great. As long as she travels, her well-being is good and she produces performances like that, we don't have to worry too much.”

Enable is currently available at 7/1 for the Arc, a race won by the fillies on five of the last six occasions.

Limato to be crowned King Of Speed

Saturday’s Darley July Cup could prove to be as good a sprint as we’ve witnessed in many a year.

Newmarket’s July Festival showpiece has attracted a stellar cast, and it appears to be Caravaggio that has landed the leading role. Ballydoyle’s undefeated three-year-old is said to be the fastest Aidan O’Brien has ever trained. And he arrives at Newmarket fresh from a stunning success at Royal Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup. That victory came against his own age group, but tomorrow he is to be tested against his elders.

There’s no doubting that Caravaggio has been impressive to date, and though appearing slightly outpaced during the race at Ascot, he was well on top when it mattered. He renews rivalry with Godolphin’s lightning quick Harry Angel, and may well find himself a few lengths adrift heading into the latter stages. The testing final furlong of the July course will certainly play to his strengths, as he looks to maintain his unblemished record. This race is usually run a couple of seconds quicker than the Royal Ascot six-furlong features. Caravaggio is a powerful finisher, but he’ll need to be in striking distance coming out of the dip, if he is to land the honours.

Harry Angel is all about speed, and he’s likely to be at the head of affairs heading into the final stages. Much of the July course is downhill, and I can envisage the Clive Cox trained speedster holding a decent advantage as the field hit the rising ground. If Adam Kirby can steal enough of a lead, the youngster could take some pegging back.

The first three home in the Diamond Jubilee are set to take on the youngsters, and it was The Tin Man that came out on top at Ascot. James Fanshawe’s classy sprinter has a stunning finishing kick, and is likely to be played as late as possible by his jockey Tom Queally. He’s yet to run at Newmarket, though his trainer appears confident that he’ll handle the track. He’s another that will be coming hard and fast at the business end, and looks sure to go close.

He beat Tasleet by a neck at Ascot, and the pair look closely matched. He’s yet another who is sure to be coming home with a wet sail. Trained by William Haggas, Tasleet is a progressive four-year-old owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum. Connections won this race with Muhaarar in 2015, and this fella certainly looks to have the class to go close. He has quite a high knee action and is not averse to softer ground, and it would worry me that a drying surface may see him slightly outpaced when it matters. Nevertheless, he’s a leading contender, and remains open to further improvement.

Third home in the Diamond Jubilee last month was Limato. That looked a huge effort from a horse returning from a small injury. Henry Candy’s classy five-year-old took this race last year, and would be the first since the 1950s to achieve back to back victories. He needs quick ground to be at his best, and if getting his conditions, he’ll take all the beating. He was devastating last year, travelling powerfully through the race, before scuttling clear inside the last two furlongs. There’s no doubting that he stays further, but he has the natural speed to maintain a prominent position during what is likely to be a furious pace.

Trends point to a fancied runner winning the race, with five favourites successful in the last 10 renewals. Four-year-olds have a strong recent record, though plenty aged three and five have captured this prestigious event.
Caravaggio is the obvious choice, but his price is plenty short enough for me, and I worry that he’ll be outpaced and have too much ground to make up. I can see Harry Angel reversing the Commonwealth Cup placings on this track, but he remains vulnerable to a fast finisher. Limato is the classiest horse in the race, and he’s the one for me. Proven on the track, and with the tactical speed to keep tabs on the lightning quick Godolphin youngster, I see him forging clear late on.

It has all the hallmarks of a truly memorable renewal. Best of luck to all those having a punt.

Newmarket’s Historic July Festival

The three-day July Festival at Newmarket begins this afternoon. The event always attracts high-class thoroughbreds, with Saturday’s Darley July Cup the dazzling showpiece.

The meeting has been in existence since 1765, and takes place on the July Course. With a longer downhill portion than the Rowley Mile, the track is a haven for speedsters, though does still have the testing uphill furlong to the finish.

The Group Two July Stakes is one of the opening day highlights. It is the oldest surviving British event for juveniles, and is run over six furlongs. Open to colts or geldings, the race has been won by some ‘nifty’ sorts over the years. Green Desert took the 1985 renewal, and a year later captured the July Cup. He went on to become a prodigious stallion, producing outstanding sprinters.

One such speedster was Invincible Spirit, and he became the sire of the 2015 July Stakes winner Shalaa. Trained by John Gosden, the dynamic youngster became the top-rated British juvenile, capturing the Richmond Stakes, the Prix Morny and the Middle Park Stakes, during a stunning campaign. Beset by injury as a three-year-old, he never reached his full potential on the racecourse.

Coventry Stakes winner Rajasinghe, is one of the potential stars of today’s meeting, and will be looking to make it three from three in the July Stakes.

Always a star-attraction on the Flat circuit is Frankie Dettori. And he will be relishing his return to action, having spent a month on the sidelines due to an arm injury. He has a pair of exciting mounts in the day’s most prestigious renewals. Speaking of his return, he said: “I am very excited to be coming back in time for the Moët and Chandon July Festival. It’s been a long time, I’ve been out for a whole month. Newmarket is my home town and the meeting is one of the highlights of my year.”

Of the two horses, Dettori went on: “I could have had five or six rides on Thursday but I thought it was sensible to ease myself back into things with just a couple. My first ride is on Denaar. I was aboard when he won his first two races, then I think he let the Royal Ascot atmosphere get to him in the Coventry Stakes. The other one is Wings Of Desire (Princess Of Wales’s Stakes), who I finished fourth on in last year’s Epsom Derby. He’s so laid back that we have decided to try him in cheekpieces, as they might just help him concentrate.”

Denaar is trained by Richard Hannon, who along with his father accounts for five victories in the last seven renewals of the two-year-old showpiece. The horse is owned by Al Shaqab Racing, as was 2015 winner Shalaa.

Tomorrow’s highlight is the Group One Falmouth Stakes, a race that usually attracts some of the best fillies and mares at a mile. This year’s renewal has the added attraction of an entrant from leading German trainer Andreas Wohler. He has brought Delectation over for the prestigious event, and appears confident of a decent performance.

He said of the three-year-old: “Delectation is really well and I think that she is still on an upward curve. She will have to be if she is going to go close in the Falmouth Stakes, as it looks a really tough race. The faster the ground the better for her, as at Deauville [the French 1000 Guineas] she was beaten after a couple of furlongs because of the soft going. She is a lot better than her fourth placing in the German 1000 Guineas shows. She needs to be ridden from behind, and Dusseldorf is a tricky course to pull that off. I have had a winner at the July Course, but that was a long time ago, and this will be my first runner at the July Festival.”

Another filly likely to court plenty of admirers, is Ballydoyle’s exciting juvenile Clemmie. She is set to take part in the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes, and looked mightily impressive last time when winning a Group three at the Curragh. The stable took the race last year with Roly Poly, who looks likely to go off favourite for the Falmouth.

Saturday’s highlight is undoubtedly a thrilling renewal of the Darley July Cup. Unbeaten Caravaggio takes on several classy older sprinters, including last year’s stunning winner Limato. Harry Angel will ensure a rapid pace throughout the six-furlongs, and it’s set to be an absolute cracker.

Three thrilling days of high-class racing is guaranteed. And Newmarket certainly know how to put-on a show.

Sprint Sensations set to collide in the July Cup

I usually go somewhat off-piste with my Wednesday piece, but I wanted to play my part in fuelling the fervour for Saturday’s thrilling Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

I’m a sucker for a sprint, and this could be as good as any we’ve seen in a long time. As in last week’s Eclipse, we have the intrigue of a clash of generations, but the added spectacle of Royal Ascot champions in opposition.
Caravaggio captured the Commonwealth Cup in stunning fashion, and is said to be the fastest Aidan O’Brien has trained. Yet to taste defeat in five career starts, he’s currently a short-priced favourite to uphold that unbeaten record. A powerhouse of a horse, the uphill finish at Newmarket looks tailor-made.

The Tin Man captured the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, and is a leading contender for older brigade. A hold-up horse with a potent turn of foot, he too should be suited by the course.

Speaking of his sprinting star, trainer James Fanshawe said: “The Tin Man is very well in himself. He did a piece of work on Saturday and, although he has never been a flashy work horse, he seems to have been nice and bright since then. It’s by accident that he’s never run at Newmarket before, it’s just the way that things have turned out, but he handles the Limekilns gallop here in Newmarket and that has a dip in it. The Darley July Cup is a great race. It will be interesting to see the three-year-olds taking on the older horses for the first time.”

Tom Queally rides The Tin Man, and said: “I am really looking forward to the Darley July Cup. There are so many different factors at play going into the race and so many fancied horses, I think it’s going to be some spectacle. It’s a fascinating renewal and will potentially go down as one of the top July Cups. Having the different generations meeting for the first time turns it into a real conundrum with everyone trying to work out how good the three-year-olds are.

“The Tin Man is a fun horse to ride, he likes to take aim at the opposition and has a devastating turn of foot. His attitude and overall demeanour are a testament to James and his staff. I was very impressed with him at Royal Ascot. He quickened well and then edged ever so slightly left which told me that he was doing it easier than he was letting on.”

He got the better of Limato that day, though Henry Candy’s stable-star is likely to improve a fair amount having missed work through injury. The five-year-old was an impressive winner of this race 12 months ago, and should the ground stay on the quick side, he’ll be as tough as any to beat.

Harry Bentley is back on board, and can hardly wait. Speaking last week, he said: “Obviously I am delighted to get back on him as I have ridden him six times before. He gave me a fantastic day at Newmarket last year and another great one at Chantilly in the Prix de la Foret. He is the best horse I have ridden. I knew Ryan Moore was going to ride Caravaggio if he runs, and in the back of your mind you are hoping you might get that phone call. I thought he ran a great race at Ascot and you could not fault him. He is one of the main contenders and I think he has a massive chance.”

Tasleet split The Tin Man and Limato at Ascot, finishing with a fair old rattle. He had an interrupted campaign as a three-year-old, but looks a classy sprinter at four. He has form at seven furlongs, and as such, should relish the stiff finish on Saturday. He goes on any ground, as he proved in May, when romping to victory in testing conditions in the Duke Of York. Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, connections will be hoping he can replicate the performance of Muhaarar, who took this race in 2015. He looks to be another major player.

Though beaten fair and square in the Commonwealth Cup, it would be unwise to dismiss the chances of Godolphin’s Harry Angel. He’s another hugely gifted three-year-old, and is likely to be heading the field into the dip. A fearsome pack will be in hot-pursuit, and the finish could prove an absolute thriller.

More than just a clash of the generations, this July Cup sees potential sprinting goliaths collide. I for one cannot wait for the sparks to fly. We’re set for a cracker.

Ulysses hold off Barney in Sandown Sizzler

Ulysses edged-out Barney Roy to win a thrilling Coral-Eclipse.

In the battle of the generations, it was Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive four-year-old that held off Richard Hannon’s young warrior in an epic finish. Ulysses had travelled powerfully throughout the contest, and shadowed the move made by Barney as the pair approached the final furlong. Godolphin’s colt hit the front only briefly before being seemingly swamped by a motionless Jim Crowley on Ulysses. The result appeared a formality, but the youngster was far from finished. In a pulsating climax, Hannon’s stable star proved he has the battling qualities to go with an immense amount of talent. At the post, he was a nose shy of getting back in front.

Crowley was understandably thrilled with his success onboard the rapidly improving Ulysses, saying: “That was fantastic. It was great to get the ride on him and I'm very grateful to the owners and Sir Michael Stoute. I learnt a lot from riding him last time. The race went really well today and when he got to the front he thought he'd done enough. I cruised into the race and my only concern was getting there too soon. Fair play to the second, who came back at us, and I wasn't sure we'd won.”

Stoute is a past-master at improving these mid-distance horses, year on year. Ulysses is a wonderful mover, and clearly operates at his best on a sound surface. He continues to progress, and will prove competitive in major races throughout the summer.

The trainer was more than satisfied with the performance, when saying: “He's a very brave and admirable horse and so consistent. I wasn't confident he was going to win, but I was hopeful. I felt he was holding on. He's been to Santa Anita and he's been to Goodwood and he's very adaptable. I wouldn't rule out going back up to a mile and a half as he won the Gordon Stakes last year and ran a big race at Santa Anita (fourth in Breeders' Cup Turf). He's not as keen this year and settles better, so he'll get a mile and a half.”

To the victor the spoils, but Barney Roy lost little in defeat, and should improve plenty for the experience. He proved that he stays the trip well, and was possibly less comfortable than the winner on the quick ground. He still looks a little babyish at times, but certainly enjoys a scrap. James Doyle was thrilled with the performance: “We actually had a lovely run round. He was a little bit green on the track, but he turned into the straight nicely and I thought we'd win. Ulysses jumped on us quick and I thought we were definitely beat and then he's rallied back in the last 50 yards. In another stride I think we'd have got there, but full credit to him, he's run a stormer.”

Hannon echoed the jockey’s views, and remains excited about the future, saying: “He is a good horse and he is getting better. We are delighted, he has run a super race. He was just a shade unlucky. I'm very proud of him and the team, it was a good effort. He is a brave horse and he is only a baby. He will be a very good middle-distance horse for this year and next year. He is in a lot of good races. He is still quite inexperienced, but he has run a super race all things considered.”

The Juddmonte International at York may prove to be the next stop-off for both horses, with the Irish Champion Stakes further down the line. I remain a Barney fan, and would expect the long straight at the Knavesmire to prove ideal. Exciting times lie ahead for both him and Ulysses.

Barney can win the Eclipse ‘Generation Game’

It’s the prestigious Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday, with the eagerly anticipated clash of the generations.

One of the truly great Flat races, the Eclipse roll of honour bears the names of some of the sports heroes. In recent times, three-year-olds Golden Horn and Sea The Stars captured the Sandown feature. The sensational Dancing Brave took this en-route to his Arc success in 1986. And in the early 1970s, racing legends Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard also captured this celebrated event.

Not only does the Eclipse pitch three-year-olds against their elders, but we have the added intrigue of Guineas and Derby runners clashing at an intermediate trip. The question of whether a classy miler can see-out those extra two furlongs, against high-class thoroughbreds proven over the Derby trip, is a thrilling conundrum. Many have failed, despite a pedigree that suggested otherwise. Saturday’s renewal poses just such questions from a field of nine.

Barney Roy is potentially the star of the show. Runner-up in the Guineas at Newmarket, when struggling to cope with the dip, he made amends when finishing powerfully to land the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s a son of Excelebration, out of a Galileo mare, giving hope that a step-up in trip will not unduly inconvenience him. It was noticeable at just how strongly he finished off the race last time, and that performance would have influenced the decision in heading here.

He had finished several places ahead of Eminent in the Newmarket Classic, with that rival going on to finish a close fourth in the Derby at Epsom. Though Hannon’s colt does remain very inexperienced, with just four runs to his name, this does leave him open to plenty of improvement, and he looks to be the class act in the race.

Eminent is clearly a talented colt, and was a little unlucky in the Derby, when finding himself short of room on a couple of occasions. Like Barney, he also has just the four career starts, and may well ‘come-on’ again from his Epsom effort. A powerful looking son of Frankel, he has no stamina doubts following that Epsom run, and indeed this mid-trip may prove his optimum. His trainer Martyn Meade believes that he has ‘strengthened up’ since the Derby, and he looks a leading contender.

Aidan O’Brien came close with The Gurkha 12 months ago, and last took the event in 2011 with So You Think. Cliffs Of Moher arrives having been mugged late-on in the Derby by stable companion Wings Of Eagles. The Epsom form has been knocked by many, yet horses coming out of the race have kept winning. This fella is another lightly raced three-year-old, and looks closely matched with Eminent. The pair made a similar run at Epsom, and had Meade’s colt not been squeezed up just inside the two-furlong mark, they may well have been head to head at the line. I doubt Cliffs Of Moher has the gears of Barney Roy, but he’ll certainly see-out the trip strongly.

With the trio of three-year-olds at the head of the market, the older brigade is led by the Royal Ascot Prince Of Wales’s second and third place pair. Roger Charlton took the Eclipse in 2013 with five-year-old Al Kazeem, and has one with a very similar profile in Decorated Knight. Both won the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland, though AK followed up with victory at Royal Ascot, whilst Decorated Knight was unable to overhaul Highland Reel in this year’s race. This is undoubtedly his trip, and though he may lack the ‘wow’ factor, he’s a fast improving sort with a huge chance.

If we give Charlton’s charge a chance, then we must consider Ulysses. The pair crossed the line in unison at Ascot, and Sir Michael Stoute’s contender had previously won the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown, a race won by Al Kazeem in 2013. Stoute has won this race five times, and this improving sort by Galileo looks to be another leading contender. Should the youngsters fail to impress, both he and Decorated Knight look best placed to take advantage.

This is rarely a race for an upset, with only Mukhadram winning at double-figure odds in the past 10 years. Seven of those wins have gone to those at 4s and under, with favourites accounting for five victories.

The leading five appear to have it between them, it’s merely a question of whether the Classic generation are up to scratch. I’d be surprised if one of them isn’t too good for the ‘old boys’, and it’s Barney Roy that I’ll be siding with. Cliffs Of Moher looks the main danger, with Ulysses capable of further improvement to prove best of the oldies. Should Barney win well, Godolphin would suddenly find themselves in a dominant position, having high-class Ribchester at a mile and BR at 10 furlongs. This could prove a huge day for the ‘boys in blue’.

Best of luck to all those having a punt.

Coral-Eclipse – A Clash Of The Ages

For many Flat racing fans, the Classic generation taking on their elders is when the season truly begins.

Until now the youngsters have battled between themselves, but on Saturday the Coral-Eclipse run at one mile and two furlongs, will go some way towards telling us just how good these kids are. To add to the intrigue, we have Epsom Derby runner-up, Cliffs Of Moher, stepping back in trip, and 2000 Guineas runner-up Barney Roy, stepping up. The pair take on the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes runner-up Decorated Knight. Roger Charlton’s five-year-old looks something of a specialist at the trip, having won the Tattersalls Gold Cup back in May.

The Eclipse roll of honour paints a pretty even picture, with the regards to the age of winners. A third of the last dozen renewals has gone to three-year-olds, with the remainder shared between those aged four and five. Only one horse has won from outside this age-range, and that was in the first running back in 1886, when six-year-old Bendigo claimed victory in Britain’s richest ever race.

The Eclipse has always been a classy affair, regularly attracting the best middle-distance runners, and often proving the first mouth-watering clash of the ages. Last year’s renewal provided something of an upset, when French Guineas winner, The Gurkha, lost out to Hawkbill in a battle of the three-year-olds. Despite the Ballydoyle runner being a son of Galileo, he appeared to be outstayed by the Godolphin colt in a pulsating finish.

A year earlier, getting the trip was never going to be a problem for Epsom Derby hero Golden Horn. Ridden from the front by Frankie Dettori, he was pestered by the Grey Gatsby throughout, but finished the race powerfully to pull clear in the final furlong. His subsequent exploits marked him down as one of the modern greats, with a perfect blend of speed and stamina.

Sea The Stars took the Eclipse of 2009, during an unblemished three-year-old campaign. He opened the season with victory at Newmarket in the 2000 Guineas, and then proved his stamina by winning the Derby at Epsom, defeating Fame And Glory. Understandably sent off a short-priced favourite for the Eclipse, he was made to work hard for victory by another three-year-old, in Ballydoyle’s Rip Van Winkle. The Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion followed, before the perfect season was completed with success in the Arc. Six Group 1s in six months is testament to the extraordinary talent of Sea The Stars.

Aidan O’Brien has captured the race five times since the turn of the century, including a trio of three-year-old victories. Oratorio in 2005 and Hawk Wing in 2002 were both talented colts, but in 2000 it was the mighty Giant’s Causeway that captured Sandown’s showpiece.

Runner-up in both the English and Irish Guineas, he proved to be sensational at 10 furlongs. His victory over Kalanisi in the Eclipse was quite incredible, having looked beaten 100 yards from the post. The pair had battled head to head throughout the final furlong, in an absolute thriller. They then clashed in the Juddmonte at York, and once again fought tooth and nail to the line. In another dramatic finish, Giant’s Causeway got his nose in front when it mattered. His final run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic saw him come-off second best in just such a tussle, with American colt Tiznow winning by a neck in a thriller.

The Eclipse roll of honour is littered with the names of outstanding thoroughbreds. Daylami, Nashwan, Dancing Brave, Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef, are just a handful that have captured this historic event in recent times. It’s hoped that Saturday’s renewal can provide a worthy winner to add to the list. Youngsters Cliffs Of Moher and Barney Roy certainly look to have the potential.

A Dazzling Dozen for ‘Class Act’ Aidan

Aidan O’Brien’s Capri turned Epsom Derby form on its head to win the Irish version at the Curragh in gutsy fashion.

Ridden prominently throughout by Seamie Heffernan, he was given a perfect toe into the race by stable companion The Anvil, and took the lead entering the final two furlongs. The top three in the market; Cracksman, Wings Of Eagles and Waldgeist, came in unison with a mighty challenge entering the final furlong, but Capri was not for passing, and held on by a neck and a short-head. Gosden’s Cracksman came nearest, with O’Brien’s Derby hero Wings Of Eagles a close third. French challenger Waldgeist was a length further back in fourth.

Back at Epsom, Capri broke poorly, and was being given the ‘hurry-up’ throughout in order to get on terms. And I remain adamant that he is not the quickest, and found himself outpaced on a sounder surface. Though no mud-bath, the ground at the Curragh was certainly running slower than Epsom, and this enabled Heffernan to get a prominent position early, and then use Capri’s guts and stamina to hold off the chasing pack.

The victory brought up a dazzling dozen for O’Brien in the race, and speaking after the success he said: “I was always a great believer in this horse. Even after Epsom, Seamus wanted to come here and ride him. We know that he gets a mile and a half and we know that he's brave. Seamus had a lovely position through the race. I thought Seamus gave him a brilliant ride. What he did wasn't an easy thing to do. The pace was strong up front, and he was sitting right in the eye of the storm.

“It was a masterclass from him, really. Seamus has been a part of our family for over 20 years now. He is an amazing fellow - talented, dedicated, loyal and an unbelievable rider. We feel privileged and delighted to be working with him every day.”

Such comments are typical of the wonderfully humble Aidan O’Brien. Never one to hog the limelight, despite his phenomenal record, he heaps praise on his team, and they so rarely let him down.

Heffernan was winning his third Irish Derby, and said: “We’ve always liked Capri since he won at Galway last year. He’s run well in some very good races. The beautiful ground and the track, which is so different to Epsom, played to his strengths. There was nowhere to hide out there and Capri saw out the trip well.”

Pat Smullen was deputising for Frankie Dettori, and gave a positive report of runner-up Cracksman, when saying: “He ran an excellent race. He got a little bit further back than we had planned but he never really travelled through the race and showed a lot of immaturity still. He's very babyish. It wasn't ideal to have to come around one in the straight but I just wasn't going well enough. To his credit, he got it together and stayed on very well to the line. I thought when I got the better of Wings Of Eagles I had it, but the grey horse battled away well. He's run an excellent race. It's unfortunate he's got beat, but he's a horse that will only keep progressing from here on.”

Yesterday news came that Wings Of Eagles had suffered a career ending injury during the defeat on Saturday. O’Brien had talked of a summer break for the Epsom star, with an autumn return and a likely crack at the Arc. It’s another blow for Ballydoyle, who also have concerns over the chances of Minding returning to the track. After a recent X-ray, she is set for further time on the sidelines, with the season fast passing her by. And yet more sad news came from the camp, with talented filly Somehow having to be put down after suffering a fracture of a hind tibia on the gallops.

Resources at Ballydoyle are bountiful, and the talent on tap is second to none, but this weekend has again proved the fragility of the thoroughbred, and that with every success achieved there’s often anguish lurking around the corner.