Will the trip make a blind bit of difference to Jack Hobbs, when he aims to add the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes to his Group 1 Irish Derby success?
Tapped for toe by Golden Horn in the Dante back in May, he visually made more of a race of it when stepped up in trip for the Epsom Derby. Indeed, had he not been slightly squeezed up on the rail that day, he would surely have got nearer to his outstanding stable companion.
Arguably his best performance came at a mile and half in the Irish Derby, when staying on powerfully to pull well clear of Storm The Stars. There’s no doubting this powerful colt is a smooth traveller, but it appears to be his sustained finishing effort, rather than a burst of acceleration, that is his greatest asset.
Having said that, his only career defeats have come at the hooves of one of the best colts of a generation. Golden Horn is an outstanding champion and it’s pretty clear that Jack Hobbs is the second best three-year-old colt over mid-distance trips. It does slightly niggle however, that this son of Halling could be vulnerable to a speedier type over this 1m2f trip.
Noble Mission took last year’s race, and he was undoubtedly better at 10 furlongs than 12. Farhh won in 2013 and never ran beyond 10 furlongs. Frankel was famously running at the trip for only the second time when winning in 2012. Twice Over rarely ran at any other distance, whilst New Approach may have won a Derby but had won the Irish Champion before success here.
My point is clear, in that it invariably takes a 10 furlong specialist to win the Champion Stakes. A mix of speed and stamina appears to be crucial with emphasis on the former. So does Gosden’s colt have enough ‘Va Va Voom’ to win Saturday’s showpiece?
His pedigree remains a concern for me. He’s a son of Halling, and although his father was a terrific 10 furlong exponent, the offspring have invariably proved better over further. On the dam’s side of the family we find the wonderful Swain. Twice a winner of the King George, successful in the Coronation Cup and the Prix Foy, he did also win the Irish Champion Stakes, but was undoubtedly at his best at 12 furlongs. Earlier in the campaign I felt sure that Jack Hobbs would develop into a St Leger contender.
So if he was to be vulnerable to a speedier type, who in Saturday’s field is capable of taking advantage? The betting suggests that Aiden O’Brien’s Found is best placed to pounce. She certainly has the class to go close having finished a close runner-up to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes. There’s also speed in the pedigree on the dam’s side with the influence of Red Evie, who in her pomp won Group 1’s in the Matron Stakes and the Lockinge.
She was stepped up in trip for the Arc and would surely have gone close with a clear passage. But this trip should prove perfect for a filly that was only just touched off in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot back in June.
The Corsican is another that should be suited by the trip, though he would probably have preferred a slightly quicker surface. Arguably his best performance this summer came when fourth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. On that occasion Jim Crowley found himself trapped behind a wall of horses, and by the time he had switched wide the front two had flown. He lacks instant acceleration, but is a powerful galloper, and if in touch and in the clear nearing the two furlong pole, he’ll make his presence felt.
Finally any horse sent over by Dermot Weld deserves the utmost respect. His Free Eagle was third in the race last year, and this time round he looks set to run Fascinating Rock. Sure to be suited by the trip, he split Al Kazeem and Postponed when runner-up in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup in May. That performance gives him every chance here and it would come as no surprise to see him in the shake-up.
Jack Hobbs is clearly an outstanding racehorse, and the market reflects that. John Gosden has swept all before him this summer, especially in middle-distance events. However, the colt was clearly being prepared for a tilt at the Arc before ground conditions at Longchamp ensured Golden Horn’s participation. Jack Hobbs may well have come here anyway after racing in France, but for much of the summer the target was undoubtedly a race across the channel at 12 furlongs.
It would come as no surprise to witness an unstoppable Jack Hobbs on Saturday, but likewise I would not be shocked to see him pipped at the post by a swifter opponent. It’s set to be a cracker.