Paddington and Ryan Moore win the Coral Eclipse Stakes from Emily Upjohn at Sandown. 8/7/2023 Pic Steve Davies/

Monday Musings: G1 Galore

They were coming at the big prizes from all directions over this second weekend in July, Classic winners attempting further Group 1 triumphs, writes Tony Stafford. While some notable stars continued their upward momentum, the challenge of maintaining that level of excellence is never easy.

Normally staged on the first Saturday of the month, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes over 1m2f at Sandown might have attracted only a four-horse field, but the quartet posed an intriguing puzzle as the opening clash between the top Classic horses from the respective generations.

Considering the record of three-year-olds in this £425k to the winner prize, it was disappointing that only one attended the party. But then it was a distinguished representative, the winner of five previous races in a row, culminating in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes.

This of course was Paddington and, like several of his Aidan O’Brien predecessors, here he was trying ten furlongs for the first time having been campaigned at a mile.

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Ranged against him as the obvious threat was last month’s Coronation Cup heroine Emily Upjohn, dropping back to ten from 12 furlongs and without the reassuring presence of Frankie Dettori. William Buick stepped in.

As the horses started to vacate the paddock, Matt Chapman for ITV approached William Haggas, asking about his runner, the 5yo Dubai Honour, winner of two valuable prizes in Australia and placed in another massive pot at Sha Tin last time out.

“He has won twice as much money as the rest of these,” he said, but that confidence statement did not fool the market, his horse’s price of 8/1 also at variance with his official rating which slotted in between the big two.

Once that pair launched their joint bids past the one other runner, the Crisfords’ West Wind Blows, who had quickly taken the lead after initially being bettered from the stalls by an alert Paddington, it was a match. As the duo stormed together up the hill they proved to be in a class of their own, with Ryan Moore always looking to be holding his rival.

The other pair are talented, but in finishing six (WWB) and eight (DH) lengths adrift, it will be globetrotting, as Chapman suggested “against inferior foreign opposition” rather than Group 1 shopping at home and in the top European venues, that they will have to do to continue bolstering the coffers.

Emily Upjohn is firmly in line to go back up in trip with part-owner John Shack keen on the Arc. The original outright owner, he cashed in a chunk of his great filly last year and still owns a mightily valuable proposition when she ends her career and goes to partners the Lloyd Webbers’ stud.

There will clearly be a massive stud job for Paddington, too, when the son of Siyouni finishes racing. Much has been made of his going from a handicap to Sandown but, as I’ve said here before, the Coolmore team need to offer fulsome thanks to the Irish official who decided to allot him a mark of 96. He had demolished a field of 20 2yo maidens at the Curragh on second start following an exploratory opening foray at Ascot late last September.

The next offer of gratitude is that the Sunday of the Irish 2023 turf flat programme’s opening weekend, at Naas, features the Madrid Handicap which accommodates 3yo’s with high ratings. Paddington won it and then, five days before the 2000 Guineas was being contested at Newmarket, he earned a smooth albeit unspectacular win in Listed company.

The well-chronicled and minutely explained by their trainer unhinging of Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear at Newmarket – soon eviscerated by the simple expedient of going up in trip (AR in the Derby) and down (LBB to sprinting), conveniently left a vacuum in the Irish 2000 Guineas. We now know who filled it.

Aidan has a supreme ability to get improvement race on race for his charges. In less than five weeks, Paddington has won three of the toughest Group 1s in the English/Irish calendars and his career holds a gathering similarity to that of one of his most famed predecessors at Ballydoyle.

Giant’s Causeway was known as the Iron Horse, but when I looked back at the career of the 1997-foaled son of Storm Cat, I hadn’t remembered he raced only at two and three. Unbeaten as a juvenile, with the Group 2 Prix de la Salamandre as his biggest win, he raced another ten times at three.

A win on his comeback run in a Group 3 in Ireland was followed by a near miss in the 2000 Guineas (2nd of 27 to King’s Best) and the Irish 2000, when runner-up to Bachir. He then went on a five-race Group 1 winning spree taking in the St James’s Palace Stakes (by a head), Eclipse (head again), Sussex Stakes (three-parts of a length), Juddmonte (head once more) and Irish Champion (half a length).

He finished off with two second places, in the QE II at Ascot, half a length behind Observatory, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a neck behind the brilliant Tiznow in an epic battle on the Belmont Park dirt track..

Having started more conservatively with Paddington, the O’Brien colt has already gone a long way onto the Giant’s Causeway ladder and in one way is already ahead of that horse’s Group 1 schedule.

Understandably, both the Sussex and Juddmonte were mentioned after Saturday and should he take in and win those, five Group 1 wins would already match the Iron Horse with the prospect of the Leopardstown and Ascot races to follow, not to mention a possible turf foray at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Eight would be nice and for Iron Horse we would have to substitute Diamond, the hardest mineral known to man.

At Royal Ascot, Paddington meted out stable revenge on Chaldean, the horse that won the 2000 Guineas for Andrew Balding, and there was no hint of Giant’s Causeway’s love of a tight finish in which to show his battling tendencies as the Irish colt went almost four lengths clear.

Chaldean was expected to get back on the winning trail in yesterday’s Prix Jean Prat at Deauville, but after showing up in the middle of the track in the Group 1 over a straight seven furlongs, he faded away to fifth. Other veterans of this season’s mile Classics to finish unplaced here were Indestructible, 4th, Charyn, Hi Royal and the O’Brien filly Mediate.

The winner was the Fabrice Chappet-trained Kodiac colt Good Guess, 40/1 according to the Sky Sports racing caption afterwards but barely half those odds at a miserly 24/1 for off-course punters in the UK. Sixth in the French 2000, he has always been highly regarded and reflects how quickly fortunes and abilities can change as each Classic generation unfolds through the season.

One other Classic winner, Westover, Ralph Beckett’s Irish Derby hero from last year, was also in action in France this weekend, strolling home as the 2/1 on favourite in a four-runner renewal of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Saturday.

Westover had been a creditable second to Emily Upjohn in last month’s Coronation Cup, the pair finishing a long way clear of Point Lonsdale and 2021 Irish Derby hero Hurricane Lane. He, too, will be lining up for an Arc challenge.

Two further 2023 Classic participants made the trek across to New York for the very valuable Belmont Derby Invitational. Oisin Murphy must have been hopeful of winning the main prize on Dante winner and Derby fifth The Foxes,but, having been given plenty to do, he could not peg back the Todd Pletcher-trained Far Bridge who got first run and beat him by a length.

Further back was the Charlie Appleby-trained Silver Knott. Silver Knott had been only 11th in the 2000 Guineas but had been a good second when travelling to Keeneland for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where he was beaten a nose by Aidan O’Brien’s Victoria Road.

Incidentally, Victoria Road, who has yet to reappear after a training setback in the spring, has a handful of imminent entries taking in later this month up to September.

No joy for Oisin in the Belmont Derby Invitational, then, but his trip was made more than worthwhile when the Fozzy Stack filly Aspen Grove (15/1) won the Oaks Invitational earlier on the card. Last of ten to Tahiyra in the Irish 1000 last time, the Justify filly, half-owned by Sue Magnier, collected the £229k first prize with a strong late run.

Oisin’s share of the £355k earned by his two mounts will have helped salve the disappointment of Chaldean’s defeat yesterday. You win when you lose when you’re in the Oisin, Ryan and Frankie (who missed both Emily Upjohn and Chaldean) bracket!

- TS

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