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Alpine Star primed for Palace Pier rematch at Deauville

Alpine Star is reported to be in good form as she attempts to go one better in the Prix Du Haras De Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.

Jessica Harrington’s filly only found Palace Pier too strong by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago when the ground was heavy.

That was the second of three occasions the daughter of Sea The Moon was runner-up in a Group One last season, after scoring at the top level in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on her first and only other start in 2020.

Frankie Dettori celebrates with Alpine Star at Royal Ascot last year
Frankie Dettori celebrates with Alpine Star at Royal Ascot last year (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Connections needed to give her a prep run after nine months off the track before returning to Deauville. Alpine Star returned in a Listed race at York last month, going down by a short head to Aristia after a pulsating finish.

“Mrs Harrington is very pleased with the filly and it’s nice to get her back in Group company,” said Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family.

“The conditions should be very different this year. The ground is soft at the moment and the forecast is dry, so it should be good racing ground. Last year it was very deep.

“She needed to have a run before we considered coming to Deauville. It didn’t quite pan out as we’d hoped, but she came out of it very well and it brought her along so she should be on top of her game on Sunday.”

Alpine Star and Palace Pier, trained by John and Thady Gosden, were among 10 horses left in the Group One following the latest acceptance and supplementary stage.

Should Palace Pier be successful, he would be only the third horse to win back-to-back renewals after Miesque (1987 and 1988) and Spinning World (1997 and 1998).

Aidan O’Brien remains two-handed with Order Of Australia and Mother Earth while Andre Fabre has left in both Victor Ludorum and Midtown.

Jim Bolger relies on Poetic Flare after withdrawing stablemate Mac Swiney.

Ecrivain, Colosseo Usa and Chindit are the others left in the mix. Millebosc was the only other withdrawal.

Aristia outdoes Alpine Star to take Listed honours at York

Aristia thwarted a winning comeback for the classy Alpine Star as Hayley Turner completed a York treble in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Lyric Fillies’ Stakes.

Alpine Star, winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on her first start of last season and a close second in three subsequent Group Ones, could not quite repel 22-1 shot Aristia’s determined challenge and had to settle for runner-up spot.

Richard Hannon’s winner, a successful debutante at Newbury in April who has twice been beaten at Listed and Group Two level since, appeared set to be outdone by the strong-travelling odds-on favourite a furlong out but battled on to prevail by a short head.

The three-year-old’s victory continued a fine evening for Turner, who won the opening John Wright Electrical Silk Series Female Jockeys’ Handicap on Andrew Balding’s Dejame Paso at 11-4 and then the JKH 80th Birthday Celebration EBF Restricted Novice Stakes with Charlie McBride’s 13-8 favourite Silken Petals.

Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star was returning from a 292-day absence, after a spring setback delayed her four-year-old campaign, but Turner nonetheless admitted it was beyond expectations to beat her.

Turner told Racing TV:  “It was a surprise certainly – because I think we were all thinking we were going to be second to the favourite.

“But she’s a really tough filly, and she battled well – and I think having fitness and toughness on her side helped her manage to get home.”

Aristia, who launched her challenge from off the pace, had a stirring duel with Alpine Star before just getting the better of the exchange – with Fooraat only another short-head back in third of seven.

Turner added: “I was drawn seven and ideally would like to have had a bit of cover. But without taking her right back, I couldn’t manage that – but she actually did settle quite well.

“We managed to follow the favourite through, which gave us a nice lead. We made it a test for the favourite, which played in our favour.

“Alpine Star is a tough filly, a Group One winner with a very high rating. We all thought we might be second, but that was a nice surprise.”

Alpine the Star attraction in York Listed heat

Racegoers at York on Friday evening will be treated to the sight of top-class filly Alpine Star making her return to action in the British Stallion Studs EBF Lyric Fillies’ Stakes.

Jessica Harrington’s filly followed in the hoofprints of her multiple Group One-winning half-sister Alpha Centauri by running out a brilliant winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer.

The daughter of Sea The Moon went on to fill the runner-up spot in three more top-level events before the end of 2020 – going down by under a length in French Oaks, the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Prix de l’Opera.

Alpine Star has not been seen in competitive action since pushing Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa all the way at ParisLongchamp in October, but appears to face a relatively straightforward task on her Listed comeback on the Knavesmire.

Harrington said: “It’s a nice little start-off for her and then we can plan for the autumn. We’ve got loads of options.

“She had a little setback earlier in the year, which is why we didn’t get to run her.

“This is a nice place for her to start and a nice opportunity. She doesn’t have to carry a penalty and is taking on just fillies, so let’s hope all goes well.

“She arrived over there safely this (Thursday) morning.”

Fooraat is among Alpine Star's rivals
Fooraat is among Alpine Star’s rivals (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

The Irish raider will be long odds-on to dispatch of six rivals in Friday’s extended 10-furlong contest.

The second-best horse on ratings is Roger Varian’s Fooraat, but even she has 16lb to find with Alpine Star.

The William Haggas-trained Sea Empress and Vesela from Ralph Beckett’s yard also feature.

Pretty Polly return possible for Alpine Star

The Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh has been identified as a potential comeback target for top-class filly Alpine Star.

Jessica Harrington’s charge was a brilliant winner of last season’s Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot under Frankie Dettori, before going on to fill the runner-up spot in three other Group One contests in France.

The daughter of Sea The Moon was narrowly beaten by Fancy Blue in the French Oaks, pushed Palace Pier all the way in the Prix Jacques le Marois and found only subsequent Breeders’ Cup heroine Tarnawa too strong in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp in October.

Alpine Star holds a whole host of big-race entries, and connections are understandably looking forward to her reappearance.

Alpine Star and Frankie Dettori return to the Ascot winner's enclosure
Alpine Star and Frankie Dettori return to the Ascot winner’s enclosure (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: “Alpine Star is coming along and could possibly start off in the Pretty Polly at the Curragh (June 27).

“She definitely has a top line of form. I think we’re more than likely looking towards the second half of the season with her.

“I’ll be catching up with Mrs Harrington in the next few days, but that is what we were thinking last week.”

Another exciting filly for the owners is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Sunrise Valley, who carries the Flaxman Stables colours.

A daughter of the Niarchos Family’s Japanese-bred ace Karakontie, the three-year-old was second on her debut at Yarmouth and then dominated her rivals to get off the mark at Newmarket last week.

“That was very encouraging from her,” added Cooper.

“I need to catch up with Sir Michael and see what he’s thinking as to what level we go to next.

“She’s from an old family that has served us well every generation.

“We’ll feel our way and take it from there.”

Alpine Star team excited for 2021 campaign

Connections of Alpine Star are looking forward to seeing what next season holds for the top-class filly following her narrow defeat on Arc weekend in Paris.

Successful on two of her three starts as a juvenile, the daughter of Sea The Moon made a spectacular start to her three-year-old campaign with a brilliant victory in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot under Frankie Dettori.

Jessica Harrington’s charge has since been touched off in the French Oaks at Chantilly, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp, most recently going down by a short neck to a fellow Irish raider in Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa.

Celebration time for Frankie Dettori and Alpine Star
Celebration time for Frankie Dettori and Alpine Star (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Alpine Star will now enjoy a winter break before being brought back for more top-level targets in 2021.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: “She ran another blinder in the Opera. She’s a tough, honest and very high-class filly.

“We’ll put her away now and bring her back for a four-year-old campaign next season. She’s very consistent and hopefully there’ll be more Group One races for her.

“It will be interesting to see what Jessie decides regarding trip next year. She seems equally capable over a mile and a mile and a quarter at the moment, which is very exciting.”

Monday Musings: Lies, Damned Lies, and…

Don’t look now, but York starts on Wednesday and every year for me that means the beginning of the end of summer, writes Tony Stafford. The nights start to draw in; evening race meetings begin at 4 p.m. and if they want to stage ten-race cards as they have been doing recently, they’ll need to be over by 8 p.m. at the latest, except on all-weather.

I’m still not going racing, instead waiting for the day that, like the French, the British (and Irish) public can attend. Harry and Alan are going up to York and have got a great deal in the Marriott at the mile and a half gate. All they need now are some of the highly-regulated owners’ badges to go their way. Wednesday looks good apparently, but some of the other days are more questionable. It might be a case of watching on the hotel telly.

There’s been a fair amount of goalpost-moving lately. I’m delighted that I can get back from today to ice-rink chauffeuring. In the end Mrs S and her skating chums didn’t have to resort to chaining themselves to the Downing Street railings like latter-day suffragettes to get their pleas heard. Now she needs to see if she can still skate after six months off since her latest leg operation.

But the biggest movement, and one more than relevant to someone who has meticulously – as you all will be aware – kept the Covid-19 UK daily death figures since mid-March, immediately after the conclusion of the Cheltenham Festival, is how they are reported.

Spikes and the now seemingly-defunct “R” number have kept us all in check – bar the odd quarter of a million on Bournemouth, Brighton or Southend beaches when it got really hot. But in the middle of last week, suddenly the Government finally proved that there really are “three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics” as commonly attributed to the American writer Mark Twain, though whose true origin may predate that great wordsmith.

Back in mid-April, in the week to April 12 there were 6,425 recorded Coronavirus UK deaths, an alarming figure that mercifully began to reduce steadily. By mid-July we were in the realms of below 500 a week and still falling. During the same period, testing was increasing exponentially from the starting point of barely 10,000 tests – in other words, at that time people were really only tested when it was obvious they had the virus. But, by July, between 100,000 and 200,000 tests were available every day.

Then suddenly last week, the Ministry – amid renewed local lock-downs where clusters of positive tests were revealed – concluded it would no longer count as Coronavirus deaths, anyone tested as having the virus but who died more than 28 days afterwards.

So from July 31, when the brave new world came in, and when positive tests were going back up again to 1,000 plus each day the daily deaths in the UK were not. Starting on the last day of July the number of deaths has been 5, 1, 18, 14, 18, 12, 3, 5, 17, 14, 20, 18, 11, 3 and 5. Those numbers are probably smaller than many other routine causes of deaths in a population of 60 million. In all honesty, if that is the basis by which it’s judged, shouldn’t we be getting back to normal?

If they don’t yet have a vaccine ready, shame on them. There have been plenty of people willing to act as paid guinea-pigs, especially if their jobs have disappeared. You might even say if the figures can be presented thus, what’s all the fuss been about?

To the racing. It’s expected to be fast ground at York – amazing news for anyone who has been waiting for the action to start at the Test match at Southampton over the past few days, and they are the conditions I prefer to see on the Knavesmire. Frankie Dettori won’t be there but as the great man approaches his 50th birthday in December, he is showing a rare facility for making correct choices.

While the racing goes on at York, he’ll be staying in Deauville having had the news on Friday that the newly-re-imposed 14-day self-isolation period for people returning from France and some other countries has been modified for elite sportsmen. They, it seems, need only face a seven- or eight-day spell under specific conditions in self-isolation at home before resuming full activity.

Frankie was anxious not to miss either Mishriff, the French Derby winner, impressive again at Deauville last Saturday, or the unbeaten St James’s Palace hero Palace Pier in yesterday’s Prix Jacques Le Marois. That fast-improving colt came through to beat Alpine Star with the older horses led home by Circus Maximus, and best of the home team, Persian King, well beaten off. He is now being lined up for the QE II Stakes at Ascot in the autumn.

Alpine Star had been narrowly pipped in the French Oaks by the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Fancy Blue who went on to take the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood with authority. Jessica Harrington trains Alpine Star, and the two Irish fillies – along with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Peaceful – comprise a formidable trio of mile/ten-furlong star sophomores.

None of them will be at York, but the best of the lot among the Classic generation of females will be.

Potential opposition to Love in Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks again seems to fall principally on Frankly Darling, who disappointingly failed to provide much of a test at Epsom for the Coolmore filly as she added the Oaks to her 1,000 Guineas honours in spectacular style. The four-year-old Manuela De Vega is smart but conceding lumps of weight? Hardly! Dettori’s absence from York – he’s staying en France an extra week – tough! – to wait for a Wesley Ward runner in next weekend’s Prix Morny.

That will still give him time for the requisite eight and a few more days before teaming up with Enable in Kempton’s September Stakes, a cleverly-thought-out target from John Gosden which obviates the need to tackle Love before the Arc. Enable won the September Stakes two years ago as a prelude to her second win in Paris in October. How they would cherish a third as a six-year-old after the shock of being caught close home by Waldgeist last year.

The York meeting opens with another Gosden star, Lord North, the major loss this week for Dettori judged on the four-year-old’s upward-mobility this summer. Winner of six of his nine career races with two seconds and a luckless eased last of eight in the other, Lord North has progressed from a laughably-easy Cambridgeshire winner to outclassing his Prince Of Wales’s Stakes opponents at Royal Ascot. James Doyle is the beneficiary, as he was at Ascot when Dettori rode Mehdaayih. Who’s to say Lord North cannot progress enough to beat Ghaiyyath, as well as the 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko and possibly Magical in the Juddmonte International?

We won’t have Saturday’s Ebor Handicap runners until around 1 p.m. today and I can’t wait to see which potentially top-class horse Messrs Gosden, Haggas or Varian will have lined up to win it. Even though the total prize pool has been slashed from £600,000 to a relatively frugal £250,000 I’m sure there will be enough horses to fill the 22 available stalls. It would be great if a hard-knocking horse from the North could see off the aristocrats from Newmarket.

Another race that I’m looking forward to is Friday’s Nunthorpe Stakes, not least because Wesley Ward is bringing a lightly-raced but clearly talented juvenile to tackle Battaash, Art Power and A’Ali. His Golden Pal, runner-up after making the running to The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes will be going there as a maiden with form figures of 22, having earlier been beaten when favourite for a Gulfstream Park maiden in the spring.

He will be echoing to a large degree the pre-Nunthorpe record 13 years ago of the John Best-trained juvenile Kingsgate Native, a 66-1 debut runner-up in the Windsor Castle Stakes and then second again in the Molecomb at Goodwood.

Backed down to 12-1 (among many, by me!), Kingsgate Native easily beat Desert Lord with future stallions Dandy Man and Red Clubs the next two home. I note the weights will be unchanged from then, so Battaash carries 9st11lb; three-year-olds Art Power and A’Ali 2lb less and Golden Pal only 8st1lb. He will have Andrea Atzeni, who rode him at Ascot, back on board.

I know the other three are highly-talented, and it would be another feather in the Charlie Hills cap if Battaash could win a second Nunthorpe, but I’d much prefer Wesley’s undying love for British racing to get a reward after a couple of less than wonderful years. He certainly seems to have all his ducks in line this time.

So in conclusion, I say enjoy York, if you are, like Harry and Alan, fully documented-up. If not, the wonderful coverage – free and flourishing on ITV though I still doggedly stick to Racing TV – deserves watching for all four days. Please then, start taking off the restraints, Mr Boris. Five months using only two tanks of fuel has been sacrifice enough.