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Monday Musings: Of Long Days and the Classic Generation

June 21st is upon us. The longest day was to be the freest day until the timid medical advisors to the UK government put the wind up them with fears that the D variant – the virus formerly known as Indian – would cause another surge in infections, writes Tony Stafford.

Well it has, averaging around 10,000 a day for the last week or so, but they are testing many, many more nowadays. Anyone prepared to go anywhere near a racecourse will have enjoyed the experience of things up their nose or aimed at their tonsils.

Since mine were removed in 1952, the year of the Queen’s ascent to the throne – rewarded with a nice ice cream <me, not the Queen> as I recall – I would only be eligible for the nose job, but apparently it’s very much an officialdom-rich environment.

While the infections have risen, the numbers dying most emphatically have not, an average of ten a day for the last week when the “roadmap” was hastily and negatively redrawn. With massive numbers of older people fully vaccinated you wouldn’t expect many deaths, but the silly old advisors want it both ways.

As I’ve said numerous times, I won’t go until everyone is free to go everywhere. I contented myself with a Saturday night day-early Father’s Day celebration with my three 40-plus children and a selection of their issue. Lovely it was too.

So on to the summer and of course from tonight the days will shorten inexorably by three minutes for each of the next 182 and then the semi-cycle will start again the other way round. We’ve already had Royal Ascot and ten of the 12 spring/summer European Classic races – only Ireland’s Derby and Oaks remain in that part of the calendar, and then the St Legers in their various forms and degrees of credibility.

The Irish have won eight of the ten, Jim Bolger picking up the 2,000 Guineas with Poetic Flare and his domestic version with Mac Swiney. Poetic Flare’s demolition job in the St James’s Palace Stakes certainly puts him well ahead among the mile colts this year.

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The two Classics decided so far and not to have been won by the Irish have been the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000) won by Coeursamba, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, and  the Derby (Adayar, Charlie Appleby).

The remaining six have all been hoovered up by Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle team and each of them boasts combinations of the increasingly complex Coolmore pedigrees.

Five individual horses have been involved in those all-important Classic victories, and four of them are fillies. I contend that St Mark’s Basilica, despite his workmanlike victory in the French 2,000 (Poulains) and a more comfortable Prix Du Jockey Club success, both under Ioritz Mendizabal, is vastly under-valued in official terms. He beat a big field in Chantilly and his female stable-companion Joan Of Arc (by Galileo, <really?!, Ed?>) was similarly too good for another large field of home fillies in yesterday’s French Oaks, the Prix de Diane. This time Coeursamba finished only 11th.

On Sunday Aidan relied on a single runner in a field of 17 and the 16 home defenders were no match for another Mendizabal mount who won by just over a length from the fast-finishing Fabre-trained and Godolphin-owned Philomene, a daughter of Dubawi.

That made it single-runner O’Brien challenges in three of the four French Classic races to be run so far – unplaced Van Gogh joined St Mark’s Basilica in the Jockey Club.  Therefore three wins and a close second (Mother Earth, ridden by Christophe Soumillon) in the French 1,000. That new-found minimalist approach also extended to Epsom and the Derby where Bolshoi Ballet, the favourite, was left as their only runner having been initially one of six expected to turn out.

Three of the four fillies in question improved markedly on juvenile form, the exception being 1,000 Guineas winner and then Pouliches runner-up Mother Earth, who had already earned her 111 rating for her second place in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf race at Keeneland last November and remains on that figure despite her Classic exploits. She ran another game race in third in much the most testing ground she has faced in Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Ascot behind Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free.

Joan Of Arc took a rating of 105 into the Irish 1,000 and was Ryan Moore’s choice for the race but Seamie Heffernan got up on the line that day aboard Empress Josephine (101) in a private duel between two Galileo fillies. She clearly improved on that yesterday while Emperor Josephine was assessed at 109 after her win.

But the biggest eye-opener was Snowfall, the 16-length Oaks winner at Epsom who went into her prep in the Musidora at York on an official mark of 90. That was upped to 108 after her Knavesmire romp but even so she was still believed by insiders to be second-best among a more normal Oaks quintet behind lightly-raced Santa Barbara, now beaten favourite in both this year’s fillies’ classics in the UK.

It seems to me a master-stroke of fudging by the BHA to restrict Snowfall’s latest mark to 120, not merely because that is 2lb lower than Enable after her Oaks defeat of Rhododendron – what that champion did after Epsom has nothing to do with the assessment - and also 1lb less than Adayar.

The give-away for me is to suggest that Mystery Angel, rated 100 after her fourth (four lengths back) in the Musidora had only equalled her York mark. That ignored she made the running at Epsom in a much bigger field and still had the resources left to stay on and retain second 16 lengths behind the Frankie Dettori-ridden winner, finishing well ahead of a trio of considerably more highly-rated fillies.

If the medical advisors who keep us wearing masks and touching fists rather than shaking hands are timid, they have nothing on the BHA men who fear giving too high a rating to a Classic winner, even one who has set a record winning distance for any UK Classic in living memory and beyond.

Snowfall has made the first big statement that she might be a challenger to Love, her predecessor as an outstanding Oaks winner and star of the stable’s slightly disappointing Royal Ascot, as the season progresses. Love, dropping back two furlongs after a ten-month absence since the 2020 Yorkshire Oaks, made all to win the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

A third female deserving of mention in that elite grouping must be the David Menuisier-trained four-year-old filly, Wonderful Tonight. She got first run on Broome to win Saturday’s Hardwicke Stakes in style despite its being her first appearance of the year. Her French-born Sussex-based trainer has the Arc, where she has a good chance of getting the soft ground she favours, as her main target.

Broome may not have won but earlier that afternoon his close relative by Australia, the two-year-old Point Lonsdale, won the Chesham Stakes, a race often reserved for the best of the earlier O’Brien juveniles. Ryan had a battle keeping him straight, first going right and as they got close home, more markedly left, but they had enough in hand to beat the Queen’s promising colt Reach For The Moon – Sea The Stars/ Gosdens / Dettori – by half a length.

We had wondered why she chose Saturday to make an appearance. That highly-encouraging performance and the good run later of her King’s Lynn in the Wokingham made it a bit more like Royal Ascot, even when viewed from Hackney Wick. Hopefully, Your Majesty, you and me (and many others besides) can be there for the whole five days in 2022.

The astonishing thing about all four female Coolmore Classic winners is that at no time did anyone at Ballydoyle, and certainly not the trainer nor the owners, believe any of them was within hailing distance of Santa Barbara. My guess from Epsom was that the favourite probably did not stay the mile and a half under the conditions and in the quirky way the race was run, up the stands side with all the direction changing that inevitably happens.

I’m looking forward to seeing her, in what still will be only her fourth race and with a highly-creditable close fourth to Mother Earth at Newmarket on her record, in a suitable race over ten furlongs. The Nassau would be nice, but maybe she won’t be the only one from her stable appearing in that Goodwood Group 1.

 

Appleby and O’Brien big guns lined up for 2000 Guineas showdown

Coolmore and Godolphin dominate the 18 confirmations for Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

Aidan O’Brien is chasing an 11th victory in the first Classic of the season and already holds the record as the most successful trainer in the race.

The Ballydoyle handler has an exceptionally strong hand, led by St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley – the first two home in the Dewhurst at the end of last season.

St Mark’s Basilica leads home Wembley in the Dewhurst
St Mark’s Basilica leads home Wembley in the Dewhurst (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Vintage Stakes winner Battleground, who missed the a large part of the summer before finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup, stands his ground, while O’Brien could also run Criterium International winner Van Gogh and Military Style.

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby look the chief threat to Ballydoyle, with two major chances.

He fields Craven Stakes winner Master Of The Seas and One Ruler, who will be making his seasonal debut but impressed in a recent workout on the Rowley Mile.

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One Ruler beat Van Gogh in the Autumn Stakes before chasing home Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. Appleby could also run Naval Crown.

Master Of The Seas is a leading contender for Godolphin after his Craven win
Master Of The Seas is a leading contender for Godolphin after his Craven win (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Following his Craven win William Buick has sided with Master Of The Seas, with James Doyle set to partner One Ruler.

“Five days out from the Guineas, I couldn’t be happier with them. One Ruler has been progressing nicely at home, while Master Of The Seas has gone to the races and put the score on the board,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com

“It wasn’t an easy call for William, who rode Master Of The Seas in the Craven and then sat on One Ruler in a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks last week.

“William asked some serious questions of Master Of The Seas in his race, and he was pleased with the response. I believed that’s what clinched it in the end. Of course, the final call comes at declaration time on Thursday.

“Master Of The Seas had three runs as a two-year-old. He suffered a setback after the National Stakes at the Curragh last September. We then took him to Dubai (second in the Meydan Classic), all the while with an eye on Europe in the spring. We did the same with Masar.”

One Ruler was impressive in the Autumn Stakes last year
One Ruler was impressive in the Autumn Stakes last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He went on: “Master Of The Seas has taken a proven path to the Guineas, and has kept progressing, but the biggest change in him came after he ran at Meydan. He strengthened noticeably.”

As for One Ruler, he has been getting a helping hand from someone who knows exactly how to win the race.

“Things have also gone well with One Ruler. He is well in himself, and his work has been pleasing,” said Appleby.

“Kieren Fallon, who has been riding him all winter, took him for a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks on Saturday, and he was pleased.

“Kieren won the Guineas five times, so it’s great to have a rider with that experience on the team.

“We took One Ruler for a gallop at Chelmsford four weeks ago, and he also had a racecourse gallop at the Craven Meeting earlier this month. His prep has gone well, and this is the perfect starting point for his Classic season.”

Mac Swiney adds to the Irish challenge along with stablemate Poetic Flare, as does Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega, a Group One-winning juvenile, with similar comments applying to Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon, who only has two lengths to make up on St Mark’s Basilica from the Dewhurst.

Adding further spice to the mix is Charlie Hills’ Mutasaabeq, who has been supplemented following his taking reappearance win at Newmarket.

Richard Hannon’s Greenham winner Chindit, Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Albadri, Ralph Beckett’s Devilwala, Roger Varian’s Legion Of Honour and the Andrew Balding-trained Mystery Smiles complete the field.

Galileo sister to Japan and Mogul becomes world’s most expensive yearling sold this year

A daughter of Galileo became the most expensive yearling sold in the world this year when fetching 3.4 million guineas on day three of Tattersalls Yearling Sales Book One at Newmarket.

Out of Shastye, the filly is a full-sister to Japan and Mogul, both trained by Aidan O’Brien.

She was bought by MV Magnier, of Coolmore and is set to join her elder siblings at Ballydoyle.

“It is a great result for everybody involved, she has been bought in partnership with Westerberg,” said Magnier.

“She is a very nice filly, she is a very nice mover, like Japan and Mogul. The mare produces great-looking stock and great racehorses, let’s hope she does it one more time.”

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Julian Dollar, general manager at Newsells Park Stud, the breeder and consignor, said: “Those are the easy ones to sell.

“The team lead by Mark Grace, the yearling manager, has done a wonderful job. He loves that filly so he will be very sad, but he has done a great job.”

Magnier also splashed out 2.8m guineas for a Galileo filly out of Prize Exhibit.

The dam is a full-sister to this year’s Sussex Stakes winner Mohaather.

“She a very nice filly, Aidan and all the lads liked her,” said Magnier.

“Breeder David Nagle has been saying for a very long time how good a filly she is.

“We are very lucky to have been able to buy her with Michael, Derek, Georg Von Opel and everyone; we are lucky to have her now. She has a great page, she comes from a very good nursery.”

Godolphin got in on the act when paying 1.8m guineas for a filly by Kingman out of Sante.

She was bred by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, and sold by Eddie O’Leary’s Lynn Lodge Stud.

“She was always a queen and made a queen’s price there,” said Eddie O’Leary.

“I hope she is very lucky for Sheikh Mohammed, she is a smashing filly.”