The only people with a worse record than racecourse tipsters must be the weather forecasters who, in the early summer of 2022, have repeatedly predicted copious amounts of rainfall, only most often to have to admit they were wrong, writes Tony Stafford.
The latest example to affect me, or rather not, was Friday’s warning of serious flooding in East London and most of Essex and no doubt elsewhere. We barely saw a drop. Neither did they the previous week at Royal Ascot. Had the predicted precipitation happened, Frankie Dettori might still have been in a job.
It all revolved around Trueshan, three times the victor in tussles with Stradivarius, twice in the Long Distance Cup (Group 2) at Ascot in October 2020 and 2021 and also in the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp a couple of weeks before their second Ascot encounter.
Twice in the week before last Alan King and the owners of Trueshan agonised long and late about whether to allow the six-year-old to take his place in the field, in the Gold Cup on the Thursday and then in the Queen Alexandra Stakes, the meeting finale a couple of days later.
Probably an hour and a half before the Saturday race first Andrew Gemmell, one of the ownership group in Trueshan, walked past my table in the owners’ restaurant – I hasten to add I was a guest, not an owner! – and upon my question: “Does he run?” replied, “I don’t know.”
Maybe half a minute later, King came along the same pathway between the tables and gave a resigned shake of the head, not emphatic, but close enough. No Queen Alex or Gold Cup, so they would have to wait for the Northumberland Plate, a race in which he’d finished sixth 12 months earlier running off 118.
Since Newcastle he had been unbeaten in four races, the Goodwood Cup preceding the two Stradivarius defeats and a Listed prep when accounting for Hughie Morrison’s subsequent Henry II Stakes winner, Quickthorn, comfortably over an inadequate 1m6f at Nottingham in April.
In some ways it was difficult to suggest he should be running off just a 2lb higher mark on Saturday, but he was actually having to carry a full 9lb more as Alan King chose to take 5lb off his back last year, employing talented claimer Rhys Clutterbuck.
This time he allowed Hollie Doyle to retain her partnership with the gelding and as this year’s race was effectively 2lb inferior in quality, he carried the almost unfathomable weight of 10st 8lb. That he should come through and win merely made a certainty in retrospect that he would have beaten Kyprios, 2021 Derby and St Leger runner-up Mojo Star, and his “bunny”, Stradivarius.
But of course in the interim, by the time Trueshan did get his day in the Gosforth Park sun, Dettori had already been dumped by John and Thady Gosden as they and owner Bjorn Neilsen refused to compromise their dissatisfaction for his Gold Cup ride. It seemed they preferred to judge him on a single ride against the 15 wins in 24 previous associations between the eight-year-old entire horse and 51-year-old rider.
The various statements from Gosden senior showed only irritation at Dettori’s perceived allowing his mount to drift back in the field at a crucial stage. I and many people close to where I watched the race were admiring of Ryan Moore’s tactical nous in preventing Dettori’s getting out as he attempted to switch off the inside.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. If Trueshan had been able to run, Stradivarius would probably have played one of his bum notes. Winning the Plate off 10st 8lb, conceding 28lb to the regally-bred five-times-winning stayer Spirit Mixer and 18 others should ensure a few pounds more to his mark tomorrow morning.
Over the years the Gosden axe has fallen on a number of jockeys. There is no doubt – and Frankie’s reception after his win from his sole ride at Newmarket on Saturday when he was eviscerated from two Gosden horses demonstrated as much – where the public sentiments lie. Could you imagine Big John, or even Thady, jumping off a horse in a winner’s enclosure? Silly observation? Never have I said anything sillier!
Trueshan’s performance was exceptional and confirmed once again that Alan King is a masterful trainer, equally adept at the top table on the flat as over the jumps where his talent was honed at the side of the much-missed David Nicholson. I only have to mention the Duke’s name to feel again the pain of his weighty right boot crashing against my shin bone when we met on the soccer field a lifetime ago.
Newcastle provided a tasty aperitif to an equally remarkable result in the Irish Derby, won by an eye-opening seven lengths by the Ralph Beckett-trained and Juddmonte-owned Frankel colt, Westover.
Third to the unbeaten Desert Crown in the Derby at Epsom when denied a run at a crucial stage in the last two furlongs, he had been only mildly supported as a 25-1 shot with his rating of 109. That was raised by 7lb before Saturday, and it will be intriguing where Dominic Gardner-Hill rates him in relation to Sir Michael Stoute’s colt tomorrow.
I would imagine Beckett, who until last autumn had dealt exclusively with fillies for his Group 1 successes, would love to take on Desert Crown again. On Saturday Westover had Piz Badile, a disappointment at Epsom, well beaten in second while it may not be a reliable line to point to Oaks winner Tuesday, who finished in a well-beaten fourth.
Joint-favourite with the winner, it was her turn to have a less than perfect run round under Ryan Moore. I doubt that Aidan O’Brien or the Coolmore owners will be looking to sever their association with their retained jockey who has been riding at the top of his game this year.
Last October, Beckett sent his two-year-old Angel Bleu on two trips to France and he came back with Group 1 wins in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc Day at Longchamp and the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud. He has yet to match that form in two runs since, including behind Coroebus at Royal Ascot.
Scope, a Teofilo three-year-old, collected the Prix Royal-Oak (Group 1) at Longchamp late that month in the style of a potential top stayer. There was nothing in his promising second over a short for him mile-and-a-half in a Newbury Group 3 last month to suggest he might not be up there challenging Trueshan, Kyprios, and Mojo Star, not to mention Stradivarius, for the remainder of an interesting season for the stayers.
The first of the one mile Classics were run less than two months ago but already we are getting word of possible Ballydoyle colts and fillies with aspirations of winning next year’s Guineas races.
Auguste Rodin, beaten on debut at the beginning of June, but a son of Deep Impact out of the multiple Group 1 winner Rhododendron (by Galileo) was expected to put that right in yesterday’s opener at the Curragh before missing the race owing to the rain-softened ground.
There was no hesitation on the part of Aidan O’Brien, though, in the following fillies’ Group 2 over six furlongs. Here, Statuette, a daughter of US Triple Crown winner Justify, a Coolmore America stallion, out of Immortal Verse, was “expected” and duly delivered.
The word beforehand was that she was superior to Royal Ascot winner Meditate, so impressive when making all in the Albany Stakes. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, but it’s a nice talking point as the season progresses.
Even more interesting was Ryan Moore’s observation after the runaway victory of 20-1 shot Aikhal in the ten-furlong Group 3 on Saturday. Aikhal, rated 109, was previously seen when last of 11 in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but the son of Galileo had placed juvenile form behind such as Angel Bleu and Coroebus.
“I think we ran the wrong one in the Derby,” was Ryan’s alleged whispered aside. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this Galileo colt might be another dramatic improver to bolster the stable’s big-race armoury in the coming months.