The late spring has been spoiling racing fans and, with group racing on four consecutive days, flat aficionados really got their fill as we head to a summer of blockbuster racing. For the jumps boys and girls, there was arguably the biggest shock of the year so far – and it came off the track – along with a dynamite performance, writes William Kedjanyi.
We start with Group 1 flat action...
- Mustashry The Best?
This year’s edition of the Lockinge Stakes, won in impressive style by Mustashry for Sir Michael Stoute, was perhaps as notable for the horses in behind as it was for the impressive winner.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) May 18, 2019
An open renewal had always promised to leave us with some questions as well as answers, but there was no doubt that the best horse won on the day, making a clear statement in a division that some might say is up for grabs.
In the aftermath of the race, which provided Stoute with an eighth Lockinge, 33 years since his first, there was much attention on the rest of the field.
Second placed Laurens, making her return, had travelled like the best horse in the race, and fought on well to repel a host of late chargers after being the last to come off the bridle.
— My Racing Tips (@myracingtips) May 18, 2019
PJ was really pleased with today's run from Laurens and thinks she should improve for having had. pic.twitter.com/NpyLEWBouI
— Dance Thoroughbreds (@DanceThorobreds) May 18, 2019
Laurens will be better for the run - I’m sure of it!
Just ran out of gas - but travelled strongly for most of the race.
Mustashry a good winner of The Lockinge.
— Nicholas O'Leary (@nolearyASJ) May 18, 2019
They included Accidental Agent, who came from nearly last to take a fine third and better his sixth-placed finish last year en route to Queen Anne glory.
Thrilled with Accidental Agent. @johnsonhoughton and her team have done an unbelievable job to get him back in such great form!! Looking forward to @Ascot next stop #Queenanne🤞 https://t.co/ys1wOiDyJM
— charlie bishop (@bishopcharlie12) May 18, 2019
Bit doesn’t Accidental Agent just win the Queen Anne again after that?
— Paul Kealy (@PaulKealyRP) May 18, 2019
Mustashry wins, Newmarket put him spot on for today. Laurens ran a storming seasonal debut. Keen enough and definitely come on for that. Accidental Agent huge run in third👏🏼
— ⓀⒶⓏ👷🏼♀️ (@1doublehandful) May 18, 2019
Romanised, last season’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, wasn’t far behind, but spare a thought for Le Brivido, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, having to go behind and then around the retreating Without Parole before flying for fifth.
Mustashry winning the Lockinge tells me an awful lot about the current crop of older milers. Le Brivido ran well, considering so much went wrong. Definitely has a big shout in the Queen Anne.
— Rory Fitzgerald (@roryfitz15) May 18, 2019
Won’t rule out Le brivido adding to this list backed him sat. Unlucky loser and it’s not the pocket talking watched it back twice now. Maybe Angus on rtv was right draw beat him. Things might fall his way ascot at a good ew price. Will they go Queen Anne? 14s 365.
— jonathan pack (@jonopack) May 19, 2019
Where do they next meet? In the Queen Anne Stakes in what is fast shaping to be one of the most exciting Royal Ascot meetings of recent years.
Star of the show? Jade RansleyB who has looked after Mustashry all his life. Sir Michael Stoute was free flowing with his praise, and rightly so when speaking to the Racing Post’s Lewis Porteous:
"We knew he was in very good shape but Jade has made this horse. She looks after him like no other could and puts a lot of work into this horse. He's had a lot of niggles over his career but I don't think we've ever had him in better form. You can't do it without staff like Jade – she is particularly dedicated."
- Too Darn Good
Much like a Victorian painting, the equine masterpiece that we call The Derby is never quite finished – or appreciated – until the big splash, that being the race itself, but we now have a clear picture of the Epsom Blue Riband.
That canvass is probably a portrait of Aidan O’Brien, with a dash of black and orange thanks to Telecaster, who got the better of a thrilling Dante battle with Too Darn Hot to stamp his name right into the reckoning for Epsom.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 16, 2019
The previous nine-length maiden winner was always front rank, taking a spot behind the early pacesetter, Turgenev, and travelling with comfort into the race down the home straight. When it became clear that the outsider was about to fold, Hughie Morrison’s charge was not for stopping and Too Darn Hot – the only horse to get within hailing distance – was snugly repelled in the end.
TDH run a great race considering the circumstances. Telecaster confirms his potential, went off like the absolute clappers early on too.
Surfman will be better with a bit of juice in the ground for sure. Fascinating race. https://t.co/edBBnEE8lU
— Jay (@TracksideJay) May 16, 2019
The Champion 2-year-old of last season had been widely expected to maintain his unbeaten record, despite missing both the Greenham and 2,000 Guineas – and he was backed from 7/4 into 10/11 on the day to do so. He lost nothing in defeat, as plenty noticed here.
fwiw, my take is TDH stayed fine (Frankie having trouble pulling him up down the back); winner has been under-rated (very free to post, free in the race, still plenty in tank past line, entitled to progress again); but both compromised by short Dante-Derby window.
— Matt Bisogno (@MattBisogno) May 17, 2019
Given that his setback came the week preceding the Guineas, I think that Mr Gosden has done a fantastic job with Too Darn Hot to even get him to the Dante, + for him to run so well. I think we are over expectant of horses at times, + under the circumstances, he has ran a cracker.
— Michael Harris (@mjyharris) May 19, 2019
The next step? Back down to a mile for Too Darn Hot in the St James's Palace;
— Karl Willis (@KarlWillis9) May 17, 2019
As with all trials, we have plenty of fascinating questions:
Will Telecaster’s owners, the Castle Down Racing syndicate, supplement him for the Epsom Classic on June 1 at an expense of £85,000?
Why pay 130k for a horse and then don’t pay the £560 to enter in the first place. Madness
— Jaqen H’Ghar For Iron Throne (@Tensovs2kg) May 16, 2019
If he is supplemented, how will he handle the 16-day gap that separates the Dante and the Derby this year?
We won’t know until the very last moment, but Matt Butler of the Racing Post looked into the gaps between the prep run and the Derby for the last 20 winners and calculated the average period – 27.4 days. The two to win with less than a three-week gap were Authorized, who doubled up with the Dante, and then New Approach, who came from the Irish 2,000 Guineas to swoop down the inside.
Another titbit Butler notes is that Telecaster is a son of New Approach, and out of Shirocco Star, who was an agonizingly close second to Was in the 2013 Oaks off… a 14-day gap.
As for the rest?
Surfman ran encouragingly, having come from last to finish third and promise better over 1m4f, especially going a stronger gallop. He might now head to Epsom for the Derby.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 16, 2019
Aidan O’Brien didn’t win this Derby trial, but he still would have headed home happy from York, where Japan was a decent fourth despite essentially starting from the same position. His effort has to be marked up given that he’d missed a number of trials and had been on the ‘easy list’ at Ballydoyle due to a number of setbacks. Also caught out when the pace increased, he was tenderly ridden and should enjoy a step up in trip although we don’t yet know his next destination.
Couple weeks ago Aidan commented that the Dante is a bit too close to Epsom. That in and of itself pointed to the fact that Japan wasn’t going to be given a hard race today. Dropped him out and let him make the best of his way home. They likely got exactly what they wanted.
— Rob Yetman (@78Roberto856) May 16, 2019
#YorkRaces2019 horse to take from dante is japan easy ride stayed on well
— Mike (@EvertonianMike) May 16, 2019
- Not So Giggy With It
A dual Grand National winner. 91 Grade 1 wins. 162 winners over the last season. A seventh owners’ title.
Why anyone with that amount of success would ever want to leave racing would be a mystery, but that’s what Gigginstown will be doing over the next five years in a move that came as a great shock to the jumping fraternity.
I had to check the date to see if it was April 1st 😱
— Niall Earls Easyfix (@NiallEarls) May 14, 2019
Wow. Big news. https://t.co/lO2cgRTkKS
— Declan Rix (@HawkWing2002) May 14, 2019
Gigginstown are not the first large owner to stop investing. The industry has survived before and will again. It might be a good thing - others will see opportunity and bring fresh investment while others will double down. Sure it's not ideal but this is not the worlds end.
— Noel Hayes (@BigCityBanker) May 14, 2019
However, the news came right from the horse’s mouth:
"We wish to sincerely thank all our trainers and their teams for the enormous success we've enjoyed over the past decade, but as my children are growing into teenagers I'm spending more and more of my time at their activities and I have less and less time for National Hunt racing, a situation that will continue for the foreseeable future.”
"I hope that by running down our string over an extended four-or-five-year period it will give our trainers ample time to replace our horses without disruption."
So, what happens now?
The changes will be gradual yet seismic for Irish racing. The announcement actually came on the very same day that the store sale season was commencing at Tattersalls Ireland, with the news sending shock waves through the sport and even making bulletin headlines in the UK, too.
Quotes (from the Press Association, and Racing Post):
Gordon Elliott: "Gigginstown have been very, very good to me all through my career so far. They've really supported me, and we've been lucky to have some great horses and great days together. It is a blow, obviously - they have plenty of horses with us. But there are a lot of other owners in the yard, and we've proven we can train - so hopefully some other owners will come in."
Ruby Walsh: "It might take them four or five years to get out, but the ramifications will be felt as soon as this morning. I don’t think anyone will benefit from this situation. It’s a loss for Irish racing. There is no winner."
Colin Bowe (Ireland’s leading point-to-point trainer): "I will certainly miss them. They have bought plenty of nice young horses off me and I suppose the best of them was Samcro. It's a massive blow to the point-to-point industry. Not only was it great to see them in the sales ring when you were selling one at Cheltenham, but they also added a bit of depth to the point-to-point races too."
Oh, and some people weren't so shocked. Or at least one person:
Who are these people in shock at the Gigginstown decision? Firstly, the operation could hardly have got any bigger without being out of control. Second, it sounds a sensible move to phase out over several years. The only people 'sad' will be vendors.
— Adam Norman (@JustNormNow) May 14, 2019
Oh, and there's no better time than a crisis to sell:
🚨 GIGGINSTOWN PANIC SALE 🚨
Gigginstown scarves now €17.99 from €19.99. Includes delivery.
For the next five years or while stocks last.
— Horse Racing Scarves (@Racing_Scarves) May 14, 2019
- The Emerald City
Anyone who reads these pages will know that you can’t keep any Irishman down in this sport, and there was yet more Irish jumping success, this time in the City of Love.
A number of the esteemed Twitter racing community, including this man – you might know him as The Racing Blogger – went for one of the best days French racing has to offer yesterday, and some did the double of both Saturday and Sunday.
Firstly, we had the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil – otherwise known as the French Champion Hurdle, although run over 3 miles and half a furlong. De Bon Coeur, the wide margin winner of the race last year – and by 16 lengths no less – was sent off 2/5 with the local public expecting to see their heroine dot up.
She met her match however, in the Irish (or now Irish) supermare Benie Des Dieux, who was going further than she ever had on her first start against geldings in eight starts, but you would never have noticed that from the way that she powered home after the last to beat De Bon Coeur by six lengths.
Une petite surprise! Bene Des Dieux surges clear of the favourite to win the French Champion hurdle pic.twitter.com/Nqm2JBKdnH
— Fergal O’Brien Racing (@FOBRacing) May 18, 2019
Benie Des Dieux hacksssss up! The aftertimers were all on her! Will be fav for Champion Hurdle
— Jake Johns (@JakeJohns) May 18, 2019
Wow, what a performance from Benie Des Dieux 👏,
— Harriet (@HattieLFuller) May 18, 2019
Rule no.1: never goad Willie into sending a batalliom over to France, what a performance by BDD. But Yorkhill, my word he's just isn't steerable 🤪🤪 https://t.co/Ca0XHxyLzc
— Matt Rennie (@Matt_Rennie13) May 18, 2019
No doubt who the best mare in training is,all class that from Benie Des Dieux
— Michael Looby (@michaellooby2) May 18, 2019
The second big Irish success of the week came in the shape of a wonderful victory for Davy Russell, who had one of his biggest and perhaps easiest wins as Carriacou ran out a wide margin and deeply impressive winner of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. Brilliantly trained by Isabelle Pacault, who became the first woman trainer to win the “Grand Steep”, he sauntered into the race between the last two and romped home by nine lengths from the favourite Bipolare.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) May 19, 2019
Ain't life grand for Irish jockey @_Davy_Russel_ ?
🏇 6 April – Wins Grand National @AintreeRaces on Tiger Roll 🐯
— Francis Keogh (@HonestFrank) May 19, 2019
Winners in America, Punchestown, Kipbeggan, Clonmel and France.. all in a week's work for the brilliant Davy Russell https://t.co/4qbkAq4LDo
— Daragh Ó Conchúir (@RebelDevil71) May 19, 2019
That genius Davy Russell again. Winning the Grand Steep and Grand National in the same season is one hell of an accomplishment!! A privilege to be here and see it. pic.twitter.com/thgksVB4Wq
— Jay (@mufc_fan_saf) May 19, 2019
Luck of the Irish: Was not in here, jockey aside, with Irish National winner Burrows Saint doing the best of Mullins’ five. He was too free off the slow gallop but didn’t disgrace himself in fifth. Total Recall, Rathvinden and Pleasant Company were all outpaced in the final circuit in a race where the gallop changed regularly.
A Sight For Sore Eyes:
- Rest of The Week
War of Will got the fortune that he was missing when he gave Mark Casse a first Triple Crown win in the Preakness, beating Everfast and Owendale. The real show stealer was Bodexpress, who unseated John Velazquez at the start and ran an extra lap before being caught:
Bodexpress tried to win Preakness without a jockey 😂 pic.twitter.com/lBRbxCORdW
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 18, 2019
A rare sight at the Preakness. Jockey fell off in the beginning. Horse just by itself. pic.twitter.com/vfFDgOADb7
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 18, 2019
Aidan O’Brien – yes him, again – had a four-timer at Naas as he strengthened his Royal Ascot hand yet again, with victory for So Perfect in the Lacken Stakes, Pistoletto in the Gustav Klimt Race, Etoile, who made a winning debut in the Group Three Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies' Sprint Stakes, before Ferretti took the Royal Ascot Trials At Naas Handicap.
All of them deserved credit, although for Pistolettto to overcome a bitten tongue and two lost shoes – as well as a hip bang - was notably impressive.
Aidan O'Brien reveals Royal Ascot remains on the agenda for Pistoletto, despite his rough race today pic.twitter.com/PwSPqpbCG4
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 19, 2019
So too was Etoile winning on debut as she did:
The only newcomer in the field, Etoile bursts out of the pack in the latter stages to land this Group 3 contest for fillies at @NaasRacecourse - she's by War Front out of a Sadler's Wells mare pic.twitter.com/IbmA5ALGOm
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 19, 2019
At Newbury, a thrilling renewal of the London Gold Cup saw Headman defy top weight and a wide draw to win the London Gold Cup in an exciting finish for Roger Charlton; Temple of Heavens got the better of a battle with Fort Myers and Well Of Wisdom to win the Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes; Queen Power ran down Lavender’s Blue to take the the Haras de Bouquetot Fillies' Trial, and Khaadem began his three-year-old career in style when landing the Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes, entering the Commonwealth Cup picture in so doing.
During the Dante meeting, Champion stayer Stradivarius made a successful reappearance when getting the better of a tug of war with Southern France in the Yorkshire Cup; Lah Ti Dar made a successful comeback in the Middleton after a sustained duel with Rawdaa; Invincible Army was deeply impressive in the Duke of York Stakes; and Nausha held off the challenges of Entitle and Frankellina in a thrilling Musidora Stakes.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 17, 2019
Oh yes, the Summer racing festivals are bubbling up nicely! Until next week...