It was a terrific weekend for British racing, albeit not in Britain; and it promises to be a terrific week for British racing here on home shores too.
Also today, I've the opening position from this year's Geegeez Fantasy Football League, and a word on what I was up to at the weekend...
Let's start with the racing action just passed, and wonderful performances from old friends and new, women and children first.
The child in this context is Clive Cox's unbeaten juvenile, Reckless Abandon, who did us a turn at Ascot when winning the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes and has since added two fat Gallic pots to his treasure chest, in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin and, last weekend, the Group 1 Prix Morny. He's a funny bugger is Reckless Abandon.
You may recall him winning at Ascot (and indeed on debut at Doncaster) despite jinking late and in pronounced manner. Well, he did that again at Maison-Lafitte when winning the Papin but, in his stiffest test thus far, he ran straight down the rail to his left and led from trap to line. In behind were a couple of O'Brien beasts, and the Hannon hoss he'd seen off in the Papin (Sir Prancealot), who was beaten about the same again.
Given that Reckless led from the start, and placed horses all came from off the pace, it's difficult to get a robust handle on the merit of the form. What isn't in question is that a) the winner is very good and progressive; b) the second may have more scope for improvement, especially - with an eye to the Guineas - at a mile; and, c) the French, whose first home was only sixth behind British and Irish runners, may not have too much depth in their juvenile rank this term.
When a horse shows as much natural speed as Reckless Abandon does, it's quite difficult to see him lasting out a mile, even next year. He's bred for seven furlongs most likely, but I'd be tempted to have a dig at one of the late season all age sprints - perhaps the Abbaye itself, over a flying five - as he's clearly very fast and would get a ton of weight (ok, not a ton, but the best part of a stone).
Cox had a good'un a couple of years ago in Xtension (sold to race in Hong Kong and subsequently worth a million in prizes, to quote Iggy Pop) and, whilst that one had a bit more stamina, this one could achieve more on this isle than Xtension's domestic PB of third in the Dewhurst and fourth in the 2000 Guineas.
[Incidentally, Cox is a stable in cracking form just now, as evidenced not only by Reckless Abandon's win, but also by that of 25/1 team mate, Lethal Force in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury].
Onwards, to a superb race mare now in her fourth season of racing. Snow Fairy is the timeless chick, and she came back as hot as ever in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet, where she saw off Izzi Top et al by three-quarters of a length and more. It was a decent enough renewal with Galikova (won last year's Group 1 Prix Vermeille) and Giofra (winner of the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes last time) in behind.
Snow Fairy, who has now won six Group 1 races, three of them in Asia at the end of the year, will surely be heading to the Orient once more, and those juicy prizes. She's amassed pushing four million in prize money, and will topple that landmark four million figure if she stays fit.
She's a real flag bearer for Ed Dunlop who, alongside Sir Henry, is developing a reputation as one of the best trainers of fillies and mares in the world. (Think Ouija Board, Lailani, and all the way back to Ta Rib in the 1996 French 1000 Guineas).
Concluding the 'women and children first' section, and jumping back to Saturday night UK time, Arlington's Beverley D Stakes, a Grade 1 for fillies and mares, was won by David Simcock's I'm A Dreamer, ridden by Hayley Turner. While there's little doubt she got the run of the race, she does have form in North America, after a silver medal last term in the EP Taylor, a Grade 1 in Woodbine, Canada.
The winner of this race gets an entry to the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and that's a logical place for I'm A Dreamer to target. On the same Arlington card was the American St Leger, won by Marco Botti's Italian 'hand-me-down', Jakkalberry. I backed this horse last time at Ascot in the Hardwicke, in which I thought he was nailed on for a place, but he only finished fifth behind Sea Moon there.
This day, he fair bolted up, beating the best of the US squad by more than two lengths, with more than another six back the third placed horse, Johnny G's Zuider Zee. Whilst a tilt at the BC Marathon would appear to offer a penalty kick scenario, connections are plotting a more precarious course to Antipodean waters, and the Melbourne Cup, run in the same week as the Breeders Cup.
Adding a third European victory on the night in Arlington, and a second Grade 1 (the American St Leger is an ungraded conditions race currently), was Alain de Royer-Dupre's Bayrir, who bagged the Secretariat Stakes. Bayrir was having only his fifth career start, all of them as a three year old, and the obviously progressive son of Medicean is now working towards a crack at the Breeders Cup Turf, probably via a break and a prep run on Arc weekend.
Although Bayrir may not be bred for a true run mile and a half, the BC Turf is very rarely truly run (due to tight turns making it difficult to attain and maintain peak speed, and also the lack of true twelve furlong horses in US), so he's every chance of stalking and pouncing there.
And, rounding out the British interest in the global racing at the weekend, 'Filthy' Luca Cumani just failed to make it a Grade 1 clean sweep for Europe at Arlington Park, when his Afsare went down narrowly in the Arlington Million.
Basically, the race was stolen from the front by the lone pace, Little Mike, who got out, was unhassled and stayed out. Afsare finished best, and perhaps if Fallon had made more use of him he might have won. But this was still a decent effort in difficult race conditions.
This week is all about York and, after something of a summer holiday for top class turf action in UK, the Ebor meeting brings it back with a bang.
Four days of tip top racing kick off with Wednesday's Juddmonte International, and a certain wonder beast. Yes, Frankel will finally step up to ten furlongs here at the thirteenth time of asking.
Given the way he finishes his races; and his level of talent and improved temperament; and the fact that he's a son of crack middle distance horse, Galileo; in my view, he's an absolute shoo in to be at least almost as good at ten as eight furlongs. And, whilst you would have to have a lot of sevens to be piling in to buy some ones (Frankel is a best priced 1/7 currently), 14% tax free has its attraction when sat next to bank interest rates for savers...
I'll be offering thoughts on the racing throughout the week, starting with a piece tomorrow on what to look out for at the track, in terms of course constitution, draw, trainers and so on; and then it's previews, tips and trends for the rest of the week. So do stay tuned for that!
Now then, there's a fair chance it didn't escape your attention that this weekend saw the start of the Premier League football season. Naturally enough, therefore, it also saw the commencement of our very own Fantasy Football League.
And I'm pleased to report we had a new record number of entries, as 248 of us will battle it out for kudos aplenty and prizes a few. 🙂
Nothing to report in terms of progress at this stage, as it truly is a marathon not a sprint, but keep your dial at geegeez fm for occasional updates on the movers and shakers.
And finally, how was your weekend? What did you get up to? Enjoying the sunshine? Taking in some sport?
Me? I was in a very hot classroom for two days of ante natal training. This baby thing was blissfully ethereal, distant even, despite the impending due date, until the weekend past.
Now, I know in graphic detail the extremes that poor Mrs Matt will endure to ensure the legacy of Geegeez is well taken care of! Actually, as well as being mildly terrifying, it was interesting and I certainly learned a heck of a lot. Being able to recall important factoids in the heat of the moment is, of course, another matter entirely.
For now, then, I'll bury my head back in the sand - or the form book at least - as I get to grips with York's fiendish punting puzzles. (Plenty) more as the week rolls on.