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Earthlight retired to stud

Earthlight, a dual Group One winner as a juvenile, has been retired from racing and will stand at Kildangan Stud in Ireland in 2021.

Trained by Andre Fabre, the Shamardal colt won both the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes in an unbeaten five-race campaign in 2019, setting a new course record at Newmarket on the latter occasion.

Earthlight missed the early part of the 2020 season after suffering a setback, before returning with a Deauville Listed win in July, after which he finished a length behind Space Blues when fourth in the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest.

He bounced back with a Group Three win when stepped up to seven furlongs next time, but had to settle for second in the Prix de la Foret on what was his final career start, beaten a neck by three times race winner One Master.

Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard told www.godolphin.com: “Earthlight has been the most wonderful horse to be around. He was far superior to his rivals at two, showing a decisive turn of foot in his two Group One wins, while his demeanour was always one of calm self-assurance.

“He has been a wonderful flagbearer for Godolphin, from a family that has been nurtured for generations, by the late Shamardal and out of a New Approach mare. He showed class and courage in his races and will be a great asset to the Darley stallion roster.”

Earthlight is the second Godolphin star to retire in recent days, with last year’s top juvenile Pinatubo bowing out last Friday.

Persian King poised for retirement after gallant Arc effort

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe third Persian King is highly unlikely to run again before heading to stud.

A deal had already been signed for the son of Kingman to stand at Haras d’Etreham stud in France, and he put up a brave display in attempting to add to his three previous Group Ones.

It was all the more meritorious that he was only beaten two lengths over a mile and a half in very deep ground, considering his last run had come over a mile when winning the Prix du Moulin, where he beat Pinatubo.

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Persian King also won the French 2000 Guineas last year and the Prix d’Ispahan earlier this campaign.

He holds an entry on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot in the Champion Stakes, but Fabre is not keen on that idea in the belief the four-year-old will not have sufficient time to recover from his Arc exertions.

“I was pleased with his race and we had no excuses, I think he ran well,” said Fabre.

“It was his first run over that distance and the ground was very soft. Perhaps if it wasn’t he may have held on. Who knows.

“I don’t think he’ll run again not, probably not. Ascot will come too soon and I don’t want to travel to America.”

Fabre also went close with Earthlight, who was caught close home by the William Haggas-trained One Master in the Prix de la Foret, a third win in the race for the mare.

“One Master certainly knows where the winning post is at Longchamp, she is a fantastic mare,” said Fabre.

“It’s very unlikely he will go to the Breeders’ Cup. The travel is very complicated this year because of the virus.

“Whether he stays in training has still to be decided by Sheikh Mohammed (owner), I don’t know yet.

“It was a frustrating day yesterday without a winner, but that is racing. Given the circumstances – the lack of a crowd and desperate ground – it was quite a nice meeting with a nice atmosphere and good races.”

Foret next stop for Earthlight – with Breeders’ Cup in the mix afterwards

Earthlight is set to head for the Qatar Prix de la Foret at ParisLongchamp next – and could go to the Breeders’ Cup after that.

Having lost his unbeaten record in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Andre Fabre-trained dual Group One winner successfully stepped up to seven furlongs in the Group Three Prix du Pin at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Should all go well on Arc day, the son of Shamardal has the option of going to Keeneland in November.

“He’s good. He handled the seven furlongs well,” said Fabre.

“That was a prep race for the Foret so that is the obvious target for him.

“The Breeders’ Cup Mile could be an option later.”

Fabre has yet to speak with connections on plans for Persian King following the colt’s victory in the Prix du Moulin.

That Group One success over Pinatubo, who carries the colours of Persian King’s co-owners Godolphin, came at a mile.

The four-year-old’s options include the Qatar Prix de l’Arc Triomphe over a mile and a half back at the same course and the Qipco British Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter at Ascot.

“I don’t know yet where he goes next. We have to discuss it with the owners,” said Fabre.

“The Champion Stakes is quite some time away and I didn’t know how the ground would be then. The Arc is a possibility.”

Monday Musings: Charlie Gives Maurice the Blues

Until York next week, there isn’t very much of great moment happening on the racecourses of the United Kingdom, but Sunday in France and Ireland was highly interesting and informative, writes Tony Stafford.

Every year the Prix Maurice De Gheest offers a fascinating mid-season barometer of the relative merits of the classic and older generations. At the same time its 1300-metre (6.5 furlong) straight trip brings together pure sprinters and horses that stay further. Often it’s the latter grouping that comes out on top and so it proved yesterday when the four-year-old Space Blues got the better of a field chock-full of Group 1 performers.

Space Blues is trained by Charlie Appleby who sent the four-year-old over 12 months earlier to finish a staying-on third behind the Martyn Meade-trained Advertise.

Appleby showed great enterprise in bringing him back for this repeat attempt, barely a week after a smart win at Goodwood. The field was headed, form- and betting-wise, by the Andre Fabre-trained but also Godolphin-owned Earthlight, unbeaten in six starts and twice a Group 1 winner in a five-race unblemished 2019 juvenile campaign.

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Earthlight had every chance throughout and was moved into contention by Mickael Barzalona in the middle of the track, while Space Blues seemed to be struggling after making a sluggish start close to the stands rails.

But then William Buick could be seen to be manoeuvring him into a challenging position and once he secured a gap inside the last furlong, he breezed through and comfortably held Hello Youmzain and Lope Y Fernandez with the favourite only fourth.

Space Blues began life by winning a late-season Nottingham juvenile maiden over a mile and started out last year over 10 furlongs at Newbury, finishing fourth. Dropped in trip he won two seven-furlong races, a York handicap and Epsom Listed before that initial trip to Deauville.

This year – following a single run in Dubai in the winter - he has moved quickly though the grades, collecting a Haydock Listed; a Longchamp Group 3, and then up one more level for the Lennox Stakes (Group 2) at Goodwood where his turn of foot quickly settled that argument.

His ability to quicken characterised yesterday’s display and I have no doubt that for the rest of the season he will be hard to beat at the highest level at anywhere between six and eight furlongs. Considering his pedigree, it was understandable that initially middle-distance racing was at the forefront of Charlie Appleby’s plans.

The son of Dubawi was bred to Miss Lucifer, a triple winner for Barry Hills, and a daughter of Noverre. Noverre was trained for his first seven races by David Loder, all as a two-year-old when Loder had just re-located to train at the recently de-commissioned Evry racecourse near Paris. Noverre had already won twice before retaining his unbeaten record when coming over to Newmarket for the July Stakes.

In all, his form figures with Loder in Europe were 111212, but the decision to send him to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the end of that year proved unsuccessful, Noverre finishing nowhere: 11th of 14. Sent to be trained at three by Saeed Bin Suroor, he was to win only once more from 14 starts, but that one was pretty good, the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood!

Space Blues enlivened events at Deauville barely half an hour before another exceptional performance, this time by the Jessica Harrington-trained filly Lucky Vega in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh.

This six-furlong race attracted most of the best of the Irish juveniles to have raced so far as well as The Lir Jet, Michael Bell’s Royal Ascot winner. Steel Bull, so impressive when winning the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood was also in the very strong line-up.

Lucky Vega had been caught late on in a recent run at The Curragh by the big outsider Laws Of Indices, but here she had that rival well in arrears as she strode to a near four-length margin in a style that suggests the Matron Stakes must be on her agenda, as well as all the top fillies’ races elsewhere in Europe.

- TS