Enable, Cracksman and Ulysses were arguably the standout performers at last week’s York Ebor meeting.
John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute have been producing outstanding middle-distance racehorses for decades, and it’s no surprise to see the pair so dominant once again.
Gosden claims that Enable is the best mile-and-a-half filly he has ever trained, and her Yorkshire Oaks romp cemented her place at the head of the market for the Arc at Chantilly. Making her own running throughout, Frankie Dettori asked her to stretch the field turning into the straight. Queen’s Trust attempted to lay-down some sort of challenge, but was unable to land a blow. And having had the audacity to get within a few lengths at the two-furlong pole, she barely had the legs to cling to a third-place finish at the line.
I’m far from certain that this was Enable at her stunning best, and indeed the proximity of runner-up Coronet, suggests that Gosden’s star filly may welcome a short break from the track. She’s been kept reasonably busy over the past few months, with stunning victories at Epsom, the Curragh and in the King George at Ascot. I’m convinced that she’s a far better filly on faster ground, as she showed when scintillating in Ireland. She’ll likely win the Arc whatever the weather, though the inclusion of Ulysses at Chantilly would prove interesting.
Stoute’s four-year-old continues to improve, though the question remains over whether he’s quite as effective at 12 furlongs. His stunning success in the Juddmonte International came at 10-and-a-half, though he certainly wasn’t stopping. Given a peach of a ride by Jim Crowley, Ulysses was simply too good for Churchill and Barney Roy. The pair of youngsters were getting half a stone, but were unable to make it count, as Stoute’s ace cruised into contention, before forging clear inside the final furlong.
He’s already been beaten by Enable, when four-lengths shy of the filly in the King George. That defeat came in testing conditions, and there’s no doubt that giving lumps of weight away would be slightly less challenging on a sounder surface. I’m not saying that Ulysses can reverse King George placings at Chantilly, but should the ground ride good or quicker, I fancy he’ll get considerably closer. He travels powerfully through a race, and is likely to get plenty of cover in the Arc, giving Crowley the chance to pounce late-on. Whether he can get near enough to Enable to land a telling blow remains a doubt, but he’s still available at 12s, and that’s a tempting proposition.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf remains the main target for Stoute’s fella, though he looks sure to also take in either the Arc or the Champion Stakes at Ascot beforehand.
Either of those events are also on the radar for Gosden’s Great Voltigeur hero. Cracksman had been placed in a pair of Derby’s and was an impressive winner on the opening day of the Ebor meeting. There’s no St Leger date for him, but the trainer confirmed that he’s a possible for Ascot or Chantilly.
I’ve thought for some time that plenty of juice in the ground would suit Cracksman. He’s out of a Pivotal mare that loved the mud, and has the right knee action for the task. Whilst his opponents clearly faltered in the testing conditions, Gosden’s colt galloped remorselessly to a Voltigeur victory. Rather than a devastating change of gear, I believe we witnessed a powerful stayer aided by both conditions and a galloping track.
Though impressed, Frankie was quick to question the suitability of Chantilly: “He put up a good performance there, because I asked him early enough to get into top gear and stretch them out. The last two furlongs he was galloping right away from the field and I was very impressed. I think Chantilly could be a bit sharp for him at this stage.”
The performance of Cliffs Of Moher in the Juddmonte further dented the overall strength of the Epsom Derby form. There’s a growing opinion that this season’s mid-distance three-year-old colts are slightly one-paced and unlikely to prove a match for Gosden’s flying filly. Any realistic Chantilly challenge may well rest with that vastly improved four-year-old from the Stoute camp.