Haydock feature heavily on Channel Four racing tomorrow with the speedier types taking centre-stage.
The Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes is supported by a pair of Group 3’s in the Pinnacle and the John of Gaunt Stakes. The latter has been run since the mid-70’s and is a well-known feature at the Merseyside track.
The seven furlong event has been won by several decent sorts over the years. Sir Michael Stoute’s Main Aim was competitive at Group 1 level and took this race in 2009 and 2010. Major Cadeaux was another top-class performer who won this race in 2008.
The familiar sires are represented by speedsters throughout the card, the likes of Piccolo, Kheleyf, Mujadil and Bahamian Bounty. But one stallion in particular who continues to produce quality horses particularly from five furlongs to a mile is the Irish National Stud incumbent Invincible Spirit.
It’s fitting that we take a look at one of the great stallions when Haydock is the feature of attention. He started his career at the course back in July 1999, when finishing third in a six furlong maiden. Something of a late developer on the racecourse, he had his most successful campaign as a five-year-old, winning the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes and then back at Haydock taking the Group 1 Sprint Cup in his final race.
But it is as a stallion that he has made his name on the world stage. Probably his greatest season came last summer when Kingman and Charm Spirit advertised his abilities as a leading sire. The former became the champion three-year-old, winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes. His incredible finishing burst set him apart from the rest, leaving his trainer John Gosden to say: “He was, by a long way, the most exciting colt I have ever trained.”
Charm Spirit was only slightly less impressive on the track. He took the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp and finished the season taking the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.
Speed has without doubt been the common feature of Invincible Spirit’s progeny. Zebedee personified the point in his two-year-old campaign when winning six of his seven starts in blistering fashion. Trained by Richard Hannon, he took the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes and the Group 2 Flying Childers before an early retirement to stud.
Invincible Spirit is also responsible for a pair of sensational mares. Fleeting Spirit and Moonlight Cloud won at the very highest level, mixing it with their own sex and against the boys. The former was also a winner of the Flying Childers at two, before going on to take the Temple Stakes at three and her greatest win, the Darley July Cup at four. She defeated the aforementioned Main Aim that day, along with international stars JJ The Jet Plane, Takeover Target and Hannon’s Paco Boy.
Moonlight Cloud became a superstar in France. She took the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest three times, along with the Prix du Moulin and the Prix de la Foret. Again speed was the key to this sensational mare. One of her greatest performances came in defeat when beaten in a photo-finish by the Australian wonder-horse Black Caviar at Royal Ascot in 2012.
Tomorrow’s offspring may fall short of the illustrious names mentioned above, but are nevertheless pretty nifty types in their own right. Cable Bay goes in the John of Gaunt. Charlie Hills four-year-old colt improved markedly when chasing home Night of Thunder last time at Newbury. He may have finished fifth that day, but he was flying at the finish and would have been noted as a major eye-catcher for many.
That Is The Spirit is trained by David O’Meara, who won the race last year with Penitent. In the familiar silks of The Grey Gatsby, owned by Frank Gillespie, this fella looks an improving four-year-old. He won at the track earlier in the month on soft ground.
In the five furlong Achilles Stakes, the bloodline is represented by Godolphin’s Pretend. Fresh from a successful spring on the all-weather, this four-year-old is trained by Charlie Appleby and is something of an unknown quantity.
Haydock proved to be a happy hunting ground for Invincible Spirit. Tomorrow we will see if his speedy progeny have the ability to follow in his illustrious hoof-prints.