Haggas team flying as Epsom looms

William Haggas has had a wonderful start to the latest Flat season and heads to Epsom this week with live contenders for both the Oaks and the Derby.

A strike-rate of 27% is testament to the yard’s form, though that rises to 31% over the past two weeks, with a further double at Leicester yesterday. He’s currently top of the trainers’ championship despite having infinitely fewer runners than Mark Johnston in second and John Gosden who lies third. Few would expect him to maintain such a lofty position though there does appear to be a marked upgrading in stable quality. It’s dangerous to disregard any Haggas runner at present.

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Addeybb, though disappointing on fast ground last time, remains a hugely progressive sort and is sure to bring further success to the yard before the season closes. Just a few days ago at Goodwood, three-year-old Society Power made it five wins on-the-bounce, when sweeping from last to first in a competitive handicap. He’ll likely be given a mark in the mid-100s, and now looks sure to be tried in pattern company.

In the coming days Haggas has a chance of adding to those two Classic victories of Dancing Rain in the Oaks of 2011 and Shaamit’s Derby success of 1996. Young Rascal runs in the colts’ classic, following a cosy success in the Chester Vase. The leggy youngster coped well with the tight turning track that day, and despite appearing a little green down the straight, quickened nicely to beat Dee Ex Bee with something in hand.

A son of French Derby winner Intello – himself a son of champion stallion Galileo – he remains rather inexperienced as he heads to Epsom, though looks a colt of huge potential. Not all horses take to the track and there’s certainly a chance that this fella could become unbalanced at certain points. He may also find the infamous ‘camber’ problematic. Nevertheless, his odds of 12/1 reflect the talent we have already witnessed, and should this examination not come too soon, he may be the one to launch the greatest challenge to the O’Brien ‘good thing’.

The Newmarket handler also has a couple of fillies primed for the Oaks, though a final decision on the participation of Sea Of Class will be taken this morning. With just two career starts to her name, the trainer may feel that Epsom arrives too soon. By Sea The Stars out of a Hernando mare, the mile-and-a-half trip should hold no fears, and her last run at Newbury was certainly eye-catching. She hammered Aidan O’Brien’s Athena that day, powering clear in the final furlong. Way back in third was Sir Michael Stoute’s much touted Crystal Hope. The form looks rock solid, and should she take her chance, despite her inexperience, she appears to be a leading contender.

Give And Take is the trainer’s other runner, and she was last seen landing the Musidora Stakes at York. That was her fifth career start and she’s yet to finish out of the first two. Popular opinion is that the York renewal was somewhat sub-standard, and there’s no doubting that the field were tightly packed at the line. The pace of the race would probably not have suited this filly, so for her to win as she did was arguably more impressive. The Oaks trip should prove ideal and though possibly less classy than her stable-companion, she’s certainly more street-wise. This looks an open renewal of the Epsom Classic and she looks capable of being involved at the business end.

It’s undoubtedly a huge weekend for Haggas and the team and, though the might of Ballydoyle will take some toppling, the Newmarket handler couldn’t have his stable in better form as he takes on this huge challenge at the highest level. The dual-Classic winner gives little away when questioned but must be excited at the possibility of further Group One glory.

Centennial Celebration Chester Vase

Chester’s May festival begins, with a special opening day, as they celebrate the 100th running of the Chester Vase.

Known as the Roodee, Chester is officially the oldest racecourse still in use. Resting on the banks of the River Dee, the racing dates back to the early sixteenth century. The eastern part of the course stands alongside the City’s ancient wall, where once Roman trading vessels would moor. These days’ crowds gather along the wall in order to obtain outstanding views of the racing, without parting with a single penny.

The first recorded race took place in 1539, authorised by the Mayor, Henry Gee. It’s thought that the term ‘gee-gee’ is derived from his name. The course is small with a length at little more than a mile. The left-handed circuit is taken at almost a constant turn, and it’s a tight track that doesn’t suit all equine visitors.

It should come as no surprise to hear that Aidan O’Brien has proved the dominant force in the Chester Vase. The master of Ballydoyle has won the race eight times since 2007. Treasure Beach followed victory here in 2011, with success in the Irish Derby. In 2013, Ruler of the World won this prior to glory in the Epsom Derby. And last year, though Wings of Eagles could only manage a second-place finish, he too, went on to Epsom glory in the ‘big one’.

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Going back to the early eighties, both Henbit and Shergar managed to achieve the Chester/Epsom double. The latter of course, became a Flat racing legend due to the emphatic nature of those victories.

Last year’s gathering proved something of a stellar occasion, producing a Derby winner in Wings of Eagles and an Oaks heroine in Enable – John Gosden’s filly having won the Cheshire Oaks at this meeting.

O’Brien has three runners as he looks to add to his outstanding record in the Centennial Celebration Chester Vase. It’s another competitive looking renewal, with Ryan Moore opting to ride Hunting Horn. The son of Camelot was third in Sandown’s Bet365 Classic Trial a few weeks back. He was behind Godolphin’s Ispolini that day, and the pair renew their rivalry.

Fresh from his success in the 2000 Guineas, Donnacha O’Brien has the leg-up on the suitably named Family Tree. This son of Galileo has only had the one outing and is very much an unknown quantity.

Ballydoyle also have a trio of challengers in the Cheshire Oaks. Ryan Moore is aboard the Galileo filly, Magic Wand. Her two career runs have come in testing ground, and being out of a Dansili mare, she may well improve plenty for a sounder surface. Gosden and Dettori join forces with the Dubawi filly Award winning. Impressive at Wetherby last time, this is clearly a huge step up in class, though Gosden must feel that she’s up to the task.

Ralph Beckett knows how to produce a talented filly, and runs the unbeaten Kinaesthesia. Alright, she’s only run the once, but she’s by Sea The Stars, so we must take note.

The opening day looks a cracker, though it’s the Chester Cup on Friday that often proves the highlight of the meeting. The largest crowd will be in attendance to witness the meeting’s most valuable race. Run at around two-and-a-quarter miles, the prestigious handicap usually attracts trainers from both codes. Nicky Henderson, Donald McCain and David Pipe have all been successful in recent times. Sea Pigeon landed back-to-back renewals in the late 70s.

The Alan King-trained Who Dares Wins will be a popular choice for punters, especially with Ryan Moore booked to ride. Paul Nicholls looks set to let Act Of Valour take his chance. The four-year-old was a classy juvenile hurdler, and is set to be ridden by the trainer’s daughter Megan.

The three day festival is hugely popular, and this week’s gathering should prove no different.

Monday Musings: The Record is On!

So the record is on, so much so that Paddy Power has paid out already, writes Tony Stafford. I’m not sure how many people got involved in betting that Aidan O’Brien would exceed the 25 Group or Grade 1 wins in a calendar year set by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003, but we’re all mighty interested, now it looks like happening.

In 2008 Aidan got to 23 and despite a large contingent (eight) at that Breeders’ Cup and a trio in the Melbourne Cup, he could not quite make the mark. The Ballydoyle stable will be aiming to complete the task in Europe, never mind what could be achieved at Del Mar next month.

The remarkable Roly Poly overcame (with help from a gently-rebuked, two day-banned, Ryan Moore) a difficult draw to make most and collect her third Group 1 with a battling performance in Saturday’s Sun Chariot Stakes. The same doggedness which enabled her to follow Winter home in the Coronation Stakes after seeing off the French 1,000 Guineas winner halfway round at Royal Ascot was fully employed once more.

It is that innate toughness and propensity to improve that characterises the O’Brien team. There are four Group 1 winning three-year-old mile fillies, with Winter supreme having won both English and Irish 1,000 Guineas along with the Coronation. Rhododendron and Hydrangea also collected at that level in the autumn and it is possible to rank all three superior to Saturday’s winner on some performances.

There is a similar story among the two-year-old fillies. Clemmie (Cheveley Park), Happily (Grand Criterium Jean Luc Lagardere, against the colts), Magical (Moyglare) and September are all highly-ranked and deservedly so.

On a lower level – but given time, who knows? Like Winter, Rhododendron and Hydrangea, Bye Bye Baby is a daughter of Galileo. Her dam, Remember When, by Danehill Dancer, was second in the Oaks but never won. She is, though, closely related to Group winners Wedding Vow and Beacon Rock.

Bye Bye Baby did not make the track until August 16 when she finished a modest sixth of ten in a fillies’ race on The Curragh. She returned there ten days later for a Group 3 and finished fourth. Two weeks on, she was caught late after making most in an 18-runner maiden at Leopardstown. Ryan Moore, who rode her there, had the mount again when she made her fourth appearance within six weeks in a maiden on the Cheveley Park/Middle Park/Cambridgeshire undercard and made all.

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After that race, Moore was suggesting she could easily cope with a raise in class and yesterday at Navan, she was one of a trio of Aidan O’Brien fillies in a Listed race, and made all to win comfortably. At the present rate of progress she could be in the top division in her stable next year when the Classics come round.

The advantage Bobby Frankel and anyone in the US had and has over anyone in Europe is that the big stables can have different divisions permanently based on either side of the country. So while nominally in California, a trainer could and often does have an assistant located in New York, Florida or the Mid-West, with a large team of horses to cover the race programmes and the multiple Grade 1 races on offer in the various regions.

For a stable based in Ireland, there are only 12 domestic Group 1 races, compared with 36 in Great Britain and 27 in France, so he has to travel. Germany with seven and Italy with one make up the grand total of 83 across Europe. At this point there are 11 more Group 1 races still to be run in Europe, seven in the UK, three in France and one in Germany. Ireland’s stock has been used up.

O’Brien has his eyes on the first of them, Friday’s Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, where his quintet includes the top trio Happily, Magical and September, the last of whom it would seem may have freshness on her side. The potential squad also includes lesser winners Ballet Shoes and Sizzling, respectively third and fourth behind Bye Bye Baby yesterday.

Then comes Saturday’s Dewhurst, also at Newmarket. While such as Middle Park winner and second US Navy Flag and Fleet Review, sons of War Front, and Champagne winner Seahenge (Scat Daddy) could be contenders, Moore fears that a fit-again Expert Eye might give the edge to Sir Michael Stoute’s stable. Then again, maybe the top Coolmore fillies, among them Clemmie, could be waiting in the wings.

Most of the remaining opportunities come on the following Saturday on Champions Day at Ascot. In value order the Champion Stakes (£737,000 to the winner), QE II (£623,000), Champion Sprint and Champion Filly and Mare (both £340,000) are the Group 1 races, although O’Brien will be happy enough to collect the Group 2 Long Distance Cup and its £255,000 first prize with Order of St George after his excellent Arc fourth.

The money will also be on O’Brien’s mind. Last year he set astonishingly high marks when more than doubling his previous best earnings figures. From £3.56million from 16 wins in 79 races in 2015, he advanced to £8.13 million from 28 wins in 133 runs in Britain last year.

This time he stands only one winner shy (27) from three more runners, but can be perceived to be “lagging” a little on £6,586,278. The percentages are remarkably consistent, 20 in 2015, 21 last year and 20 again now. His best ever percentage-wise was way back in 1999 when his 11 winners came from 44 runs and realised £713,000!

What is equally surprising is that in each of the last three seasons, O’Brien runners have returned significant level-stakes profits, possibly reflecting that when he sends out multiple runners, almost all are there with a chance of victory. His profit this year is 18 points from 136 runs; last year it was 22 from 133 and in 2015, a massive 47 points profit from only 79 runs. That makes a combined 88 points from 348 runners, a yield of more than 25% on level stakes.

With John Gosden way back on £4.28 million (although Enable earned the team £2.44 million when winning the Arc) O’Brien would only need a couple of the major prizes and a sprinkling of the generous places available to meet last year’s demanding standards. Expect a mass attack on the Champion Stakes, QE II and the Fillies and Mares, although there will need to be an element of Breeders’ Cup consideration.

The last UK Group 1 is the Racing Post Trophy and there is usually a strong Ballydoyle representation in that. One disappointment about the Racing Post Trophy is that the minimum standard prizemoney for a European Group 1 race is a total of £200,000 and the race is worth precisely that with £113,400 going to the winner.

This might seem slightly embarrassing given that at Velifiendi racecourse in Istanbul, Turkey, last month five international races were staged over the two-day weekend and three of them, all designated local Group races were worth £98,000 to the winner and £170,000 in all, while the top two races on the Sunday carried total prizes of £385,000 and £260,000.

Either side of the Racing Post, France’s last three Group 1 races, all at Saint-Cloud, are the Royal-Oak on Oct 22, and the two Criteriums, the one-mile Criterium International and Criterium de Saint-Cloud (10 furlongs), both on the following Sunday. Germany ends Europe’s Group 1 calendar on November 1st with the Grosser Preis von Bayern in Munich.

On a different note, there was little slowing down in prices for bloodstock as evidenced by last week’s Tattersalls Book 1 at Newmarket, where a top price of four million guineas (£4.2 million) was paid by John Gosden on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin for a superb Galileo filly. As one member of Coolmore’s for-once foiled team remarked, “We’ve still got a few of them at home”. This week, starting today, Book 2 will let some of the merely seriously rich owners join in.

- Tony Stafford

Monday Musings: The Legends Behind The Leger

The biggest gripe about modern-day breeders is that they are so obsessed with speed that potential middle-distance sires are badly neglected in favour of young sprinting stallions, writes Tony Stafford. The perceived decline of many top staying races, including the St Leger, has long been cited as proving that point.

For many years Ladbrokes’ sponsorship bolstered the St Leger, steadfastly at the same time staving off calls for the race to be opened, like its Irish counterpart, to horses older than the Classic age of three. William Hill, now supporting the event after the Levy impasse between bookmakers and the BHA , find the race in its rudest health for many years.

Saturday’s Classic will go down in history as having been won by Capri, one of four Aiden O’Brien-trained colts, all sons of Galileo and also winner of the Irish Derby back in July. He will earn the win on his career resume while the other ten clock up defeats.

Remarkably ten is also the total number of career defeats accumulated by the six stallions with runners in the 2017 St Leger. The others were Sea The Stars, with three runners, and Dalakhani, Frankel, Dubawi and High Chaparral, with one runner each.

It doesn’t take much for memories of even the best racehorses to fade, but listing the field and its various sires, suggests that as only the truly great were represented, something out of the ordinary is indeed needed to challenge at this exalted level.

So just to remind ourselves – I needed that refresher as much as the next man – here goes. Frankel, obviously, was the greatest. By Galileo, he won all 14 career starts, including the 2,000 Guineas and the only ‘blemish’ if you dare call it that was his non-appearance in the Derby or any other mile and a half race. Any doubt he would have stayed that (or a longer) trip must have been dispersed by his seven-length romp in the 10.5 furlong Juddmonte International at York.

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Frankel raced throughout his career for his breeder, Khalid Abdullah, and with only two crops on the track, is making a strong case of becoming the chief challenger to Galileo and Dubawi going forward.

Galileo, of course by Sadler’s Wells, won his first six starts, encompassing the Derby, Irish Derby and King George before succumbing to the highly-talented Fantastic Light in the Irish Champion Stakes. His only other defeat was when proving unsuited by US racing in the Breeders’ Cup on his final start.

Dubawi, the joint least-raced with Galileo among our sample, also had eight races. He lost three times when fifth in the 2,000 Guineas, third in the Derby and runner-up in the QEII. Basically a miler, he was an unbeaten Group 1 winning juvenile and collected the Jacques Le Marois as a three-year-old.

High Chaparral raced 13 times, one fewer than Frankel, and lost three times, as many as Dubawi. The defeats came, typically for a Ballydoyle inmate, first-time out at two, and then, less so, in successive Arcs de Triomphe, in the second as a four-year-old he was third behind Dalakhani. On the plus side were impressive victories in the Derby (from stablemate Hawk Wing), Irish Derby and two Breeders’ Cup Turf races.

Dalakhani, principally regarded as a sire of stayers, won eight of his nine races for the Aga Khan, his owner-breeder. Dalakhani’s only failure came when as an odds-on chance for the Irish Derby (having won the French) he finished half a length behind the John Oxx-trained Alamshar, also an Aga Khan home-bred. His son Defoe, with four successive wins before Doncaster, was one of the few major disappointments in the race.

That leaves Sea The Stars, a son of Cape Cross, bred and raced by Christopher Tsui and still owned by that family. He is a half-brother to Galileo and was trained by John Oxx throughout a career that began with a narrow defeat as a juvenile, but soon cranked up with wins in the 2,000 Guineas, Derby, Irish Derby, Coral-Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion and the Arc, for eight out of nine in all.

Two of three representatives, Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius fought out the minor placings half a length behind the determined Capri, and were separated by a short head. They will take divergent paths, Crystal Ocean going the mile and a half route for Sir Michael Stoute and owner-breeder Sir Evelyn Rothschild. Meanwhile, Stradivarius, home-bred by Bjorn Nielsen, looks the obvious major home challenger to Order of St George for Cup honours, starting with the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot on October 21. The third Sea The Stars, Raheen House, seemed not to get home after looking dangerous two furlongs out.

So here were the sons of six stallions, all winners at two mostly at Group level, although Galileo’s sole run as a juvenile, in a late October maiden, produced a 14-length victory romp. The result was an enthralling race, with the “team tactics” element there for all to see. The Anvil’s fast pace, probably in itself insignificant in that the others largely ignored him, was still effective in that the other Aidan O’Brien trio were the nearest to him until he capitulated. The race was run in a fast overall time, suggesting good ground at worst.

It still took a supreme effort by the winner and an inspired Ryan Moore, who had confided in close friends that he feared Crystal Ocean might beat his mount. These were three high-class animals which should go on to win many more races. In passing it is worth mentioning the fine effort in fourth of Rekindling, trained and ridden by Aiden’s two sons Joseph and Donnacha. Expect this colt, markedly smaller than most of Saturday’s opponents to make hay when he goes to Australia for owner Lloyd Williams. Maybe the 2018 Melbourne Cup will be on his radar?

There were winners on Saturday’s card for both Dubawi and Frankel, but the speed sires did get a look in with Zebedee and Acclamation collecting the William Hill Portland (Spring Loaded) and Park Stakes (Aclaim, does his spelling irritate you, too?). The one name which will provide a “what-might-have-been” moment for the Coolmore partners is Scat Daddy, who died late in 2015 just after his stud fee at Ashford, Kentucky, had been raised for the following season to $100,000.

Scat Daddy’s son Seahenge was the apparently lesser-fancied of two O’Brien runners behind Ryan’s mount Mendelssohn, but came through under Donnacha to win the Champagne Stakes. Seahenge had been well beaten behind the smart Expert Eye at Goodwood, but as a first-time winner was something of a rarity among O’Brien youngsters and showed it here.

Scat Daddy, a son of Johannesburg, was originally owned by Joe Scatuorchio, but Michael Tabor acquired a half-share and the colt won a number of races for them including the Grade 1 Florida Derby before a troubled, disappointing 18th of 20 on his last start in the Kentucky Derby led to his retirement.

Sire principally of Caravaggio and the smart No Nay Never, already turning heads at the yearling sales, Scat Daddy was the hottest ticket at Keeneland September when Coolmore’s J P Magnier and agent Kerri Ratcliffe were clearly intent on snapping up the best of his final crop of yearlings, several for seven figures. If the great Mr Sundowner (a good second at Catterick last week over a mile and a half) is anything to go by, Scat Daddy could even produce a Derby or indeed a St Leger winner from his final two crops.

Gosden to repel the Ballydoyle Battalion

There’s no doubting the strength of Ballydoyle, backed by Coolmore Stud, the home of the most potent Stallions on the planet.

Galileo has been the leading Sire in recent times, and has fuelled the crusade by Aidan O’Brien and his team, and subsequent harvesting of Classics in the UK. It’s somewhat surprising therefore, that Ballydoyle have only captured three of the last 14 Epsom Derby’s, despite being ever-present at the head of the markets, coupled with the sheer numbers sent across the Irish Sea, year after year.

This is in no way meant to diminish the achievements of O’Brien, but it shows that our perception of Ballydoyle dominance isn’t necessarily accurate, when the Epsom Derby is at stake.

The Irish trainer has seven declared for the World’s most famous Flat race on Saturday, with Cliffs Of Moher appearing to be the number one. It usually pays to follow a fancied runner in the Derby, and this son of Galileo, currently vying to go off favourite, took the Dee Stakes at Chester last month, defeating a decent yardstick in Bay Of Poets. It was a workmanlike performance, and he’s likely to improve plenty for the run. His odds are plenty short enough on the back of what he’s done on the track, and though it wouldn’t surprise me should he win, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

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Capri has been supported in the markets though he’s looked far from impressive in his two outings so far this season. He was a close third in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, behind stable companion Douglas Macarthur, with the pair running neck and neck for the last half-mile. The trial probably showed that neither of these have the class to win at Epsom. Their form is closely matched by Rekindling, who was soundly beaten in the Dante at York.

Venice Beach won the Chester Vase for O’Brien, but again was workmanlike rather than spectacular. He beat stablemates The Anvil and Wings Of Eagles on that occasion, though the three were well bunched at the line. That race rather sums up Ballydoyle’s challenge on Saturday, with numerous horses of a very similar ability, and none looking to have that star appeal. Cliffs Of Moher probably will prove the best, though he certainly doesn’t look special.

John Gosden’s Golden Horn was an impressive winner of the Derby in 2015, and connections have another leading fancy with Cracksman duelling to go off favourite. He beat Permian at Epsom in April, and the form has been franked since, notably when Permian took the Dante Stakes at York. The pair had the aforementioned Bay Of Poets behind them at Epsom, and that form ties in nicely with Cliffs Of Moher.

Permian has undoubtedly improved since losing out to Cracksman, though Gosden’s fella looks sure to strip fitter on Saturday, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t again come-out on top. A son of Frankel, out of a Pivotal mare, his action suggests softer ground wouldn’t go amiss, though he’s unlikely to get that on Saturday. Nevertheless, he’s the one I like, and he has the right man onboard in Frankie Dettori.

I also think Eminent will go close, despite his rather disappointing effort in the Guineas. That form may still be the best available, and he was hugely impressive prior to Newmarket when comfortably defeating Dante runner-up Benbatl in the Craven. He’s another by the mighty Frankel, out of a Kingmambo mare, and that’s a pedigree that appeals. His odds of 6/1 are nothing to get excited about, but I fancy he’ll run a huge race.

Best Solution may prove to be Godolphin’s leading contender. He won the Lingfield Trial in impressive fashion, and was a classy juvenile, finishing ahead of Capri and Douglas Macarthur at Saint Cloud in October. He’s by Kodiac, and I remain dubious as to his ability to get the trip in a strongly run, classier affair. I’m pretty sure the field will be ‘at-it’ from a long way out, and the winner will need to get every yard.

One that looks sure to be doing his best work late-on, and could run well at a price, is the John Gosden trained Khalidi. He shapes like the trip will be ideal, having been soundly beaten over shorter by Permian in May. He’s by High Chaparral, out of a Cape Cross mare, and he’d be my idea of an each-way shot.

But it’s Cracksman that I fancy will claim victory, giving Gosden, Dettori and owner Anthony Oppenheimer, their second success in three years. I liked him at Epsom, and though I fancy he’ll be better with more juice in the ground, I still think he’ll prove himself the best of these. I fear Eminent, though it’s another Gosden horse for each-way money, with Khalidi getting the thumbs-up. Best of luck to all those having a punt. It should be a cracker.

Pedigree Pointers to Epsom Glory

Breeding plays such a vital role in creating high-class racehorses, and this is certainly the case in producing winners of the Epsom Derby.

Certain stallions appear again and again in the pedigree of Epsom Classic heroes. It may not be the deciding factor in attempting to find the winner of a Derby, but it’s certainly a point of interest when making that all important selection.

I’ve looked at the last dozen years or so, and it’s no surprise to see the name of Sadler’s Wells appear in the bloodline on numerous occasions, whether directly or indirectly. One of the great stallions of the modern era, by the time of his death in 2011 he had produced many of the leading lights of the Flat racing scene. Derby winners Galileo and High Chaparral; Arc winner Montjeu; St Leger winners on both sides of the Irish Sea – Kayf Tara, Milan and Yeats; and Guineas winners, Entrepreneur and King Of Kings, have all arrived via the Sadler’s Wells production line.

In Montjeu and Galileo, that exceptional DNA has been passed to numerous recent Derby heroes. Galileo is the leading Sire of the present day, and in recent times has produced New Approach, Ruler Of The World, and Australia. Montjeu is responsible for Motivator, Authorized, Pour Moi and Camelot.

Cape Cross has proved an ever-present Sire in the last few years, with Golden Horn and Sea The Stars winning in 2015 and 2009. The 2014 winner Australia had both Galileo and Cape Cross in the pedigree. And last year’s Derby victor Harzand also had the Cape Cross connection, being a son of Sea The Stars. Few contenders have the stallion in their bloodline this time around, though there is one at a price that catches the eye.

The third and final stallion I wish to focus on is the 1993 St James’s Palace Stakes winner Kingmambo. Though born and bred in America, he was campaigned in both the UK and Ireland during a successful period in the early 90s. Retired to stud in 1994, he died early last year at the grand old age of 25.

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He’s been responsible for several mighty beasts. El Condor Pasa was no mug. One of Japan’s finest, he was runner-up to Montjeu in the Arc of 1999. Lemon Drop Kid won a fortune in the States, including victory in the Belmont Stakes. King’s Best could have been one of the greats, had it not been for injury. He took the 2000 Guineas before injury struck in the Irish Derby. Kingmambo sired other outstanding milers including, Dubai Destination, Russian Rhythm and Henrythenavigator.

Of recent Epsom Derby victors, Kingmambo has influence through both the Sires, but more so through the Dam’s side of pedigrees. Golden Horn is an example of the latter, with Dubai Destination prominent on the Dam’s side of the family. Ruler Of The World was by Galileo, but out of a Kingmambo mare. And likewise, 2012 winner Camelot was the product of a Kingmambo mare. The 2010 Epsom Derby winner, Workforce, was another from the Kingmambo production line, being by one of his famous son’s, King’s Best.

So, what of this year’s Epsom Derby line-up, and who fits the pedigree profile?

It’s always tempting to manipulate your findings a little, to substantiate your opinion on a previous fancy. I’ll do my best to stick to the brief, without attempting to justify the unjustifiable.

I’m a huge fan of Cracksman, and I believe his position at the head of the market is completely vindicated off the back of his Derby Trial success at Epsom. He’s by Frankel, who in turn is by Galileo, hence a tick on the Sire side of the bloodline. That may prove enough for many pedigree followers, though the Dam side of his breeding is less conclusive. He’s out of a Pivotal mare, often associated with classy soft ground milers, and rarely mid-distance Classic winners. Sariska was a Pivotal that captured the Oaks, and the likes of Eagle Top, Wings Of Desire and Izzi Top were also classy types. They give hope that Cracksman has enough class on the dam side to prevail.

The pedigree case is somewhat easier to make for Ballydoyle’s Cliffs Of Moher. By Galileo (tick), he’s out of a Dansili mare, which at first glance cries out speed over stamina. Wave is the dam in question, and her mother was Queen Cleopatra, a decent sort at around a mile or just further. It’s at this point of the pedigree that Kingmambo arrives on the scene. Indeed, Queen Cleopatra was by Kingmambo out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. We’re having to go back a couple of generations, but the result is arguably a ‘double-tick’ for Cliffs Of Moher.

Godolphin’s best chance appears to be with Best Solution. He too is a partial pedigree fit, thanks to the dam’s side. Al Andalyya came to little on the racetrack, but she is by Kingmambo, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. It is the Sire side of the pedigree that is a cause for concern for Best Solution fans. Kodiac has always proved a source of speed over stamina, and it would be a surprise, if he were to produce a Derby winner.

Money has come this week for Aidan O’Brien’s Capri, and he of course has the mighty Galileo in his pedigree. But again, the dam side is an issue coming from an Anabaa mare. Soft ground is sure to suit, but whether he’ll have the class, or indeed thoroughly stay the trip, is questionable.

Eminent is a horse I’m struggling to fancy off the back of a slightly disappointing Guineas performance. Admittedly he finished less than four lengths back in sixth, but I thought he looked weakest at the finish. Nevertheless, he was ridden to win a Guineas that day, and is sure to be given a different type of ride on Saturday. He certainly passes the pedigree test with flying colours, indeed is possibly top of the class.

By Frankel, in turn by Galileo, Eminent is out of the Kingmambo mare, You’ll Be Mine. Her Dam (stay with me here), is Quarter Moon, a mare by Sadler’s Wells out of a Darshaan mare (tick, tick, tick, tick, tick). If only it was this easy, I’d be re-mortgaging the house, and lumping on Eminent.

A final colt worth a mention is Khalidi. His bare form suggests that he is well-held by Permian, though he was mightily impressive at Goodwood last time. There’s also positives to draw from his pedigree. He’s not quite up there with Eminent, but he’s not a million miles away. He’s by Epsom Derby winner, High Chaparral, a son of Sadler’s Wells. On dam’s side, we have Bezique, a mare by Cape Cross. Certainly, on pedigree, Khalidi looks a decent each-way proposition.

And there you have it. Breeding is certainly an aspect that I’ll be adding to the melting pot, when choosing my likely Epsom Derby winner. Of the above I’d have to side with Cliffs Of Moher and Eminent, with Khalidi the long-shot. Of course, all the contenders have an outstanding pedigree, but not all will be suited by the unique demands of the Epsom Classic.

O’Brien and Gosden set for Classic Clash

A week of Derby and Oaks trials has left me just as puzzled with Epsom less than three weeks away.

One thing that is becoming clear, and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, is the power at the disposal of both Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden. Ballydoyle have been the dominant force for more than a decade, but there’s little doubt that Gosden, assisted by the outstanding Frankie Dettori, is launching a mighty challenge in an attempt to disrupt the status quo.

O’Brien has captured three of the last five Epsom Derby’s, and has an identical recent record in the Oaks. I’ve spoke of the Galileo production line in recent articles, and the Stallion’s hoof-print is again prominent in June’s Classic contenders.

Cliffs Of Moher took the Dee Stakes at Chester for Team Ballydoyle, battling on strongly to defeat the Charlie Appleby trained Bay Of Poets. He took some time to hit top gear, but was well on top at the post, and should be suited by the step-up in trip at Epsom. He’s currently second-favourite for the Derby, though O’Brien has a battalion to choose from.

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Venice Beach was another impressive winner, when landing the Chester Vase from stable companion Wings Of Eagles. Ryan Moore appeared impressed with the Colt, though his price of 20/1 for the Epsom feature, suggests he may be down the stable pecking order. Nevertheless, he proved he stays the trip and coped well with Chester’s tight turning track, giving hope that he’ll adapt well to Epsom.

The yard also has the 2000 Guineas winner heading the market for The Derby. We remain in the dark as to whether Churchill will take his chance, and a team meeting in the next week to 10 days is likely to provide further clues.

The Dante Stakes at York later this week, will give connections further food for thought, with more names thrown into the Epsom melting pot. It’s likely that O’Brien will send plenty to contest a race that he’s surprisingly not won since 2010.

O’Brien’s loss has proved to be John Gosden’s gain in recent times. Golden Horn won the Dante in 2015 prior to his Derby success. Last year it was Wings Of Desire that got the better of O’Brien’s Deauville in a thrilling finish.
The Newmarket trainer has a leading contender for Thursday’s renewal, with the Epsom Derby third- favourite Cracksman. The son of Frankel took the Epsom Derby Trial in April, getting the better of Permian and Bay Of Poets.

That form appears to put him on a par with Cliffs Of Moher, but this fella only has two career starts to his name, and ought to improve plenty for his last outing. Owner Anthony Oppenheimer will be hoping the three-year-old can emulate Golden Horn, in winning this before heading to The Downs in June.

Thursday’s race will also see the third career start for Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean. Punters have been clambering to get on this son of Sea The Stars, and his Derby price has plummeted. In April he won a maiden at Nottingham, and the runner-up has since franked the form. This is a huge step-up in class, though he looked mightily impressive last time, and is certainly being guided by the right man.

A Gosden/O’Brien duel may also be on the cards in the Oaks. Rhododendron heads the market for Ballydoyle, but Enable proved an impressive winner of the Cheshire Oaks last week, and Gosden sees her as his most likely Epsom Classic challenger. She’s by Nathaniel out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, and looks a class act.

He also has the potentially high-class filly Shutter Speed, again owned by Khalid Abdullah, but with a pedigree that suggests the Epsom trip could take some getting. She’s due to run in the Musidora on Wednesday, with connections then having to decide on who heads to Epsom.

Much has yet to be determined, and hopefully things will become a little clearer following the Dante Meeting at York. The one certainty is the strength in depth at both O’Brien’s yard and that of John Gosden. Moore versus Dettori is a cracking sub-plot as the next Classics draw ever closer.

Glorious Churchill Launches A Ballydoyle Blitz

Churchill proved himself the ‘real deal’, as he powered to victory in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas.

Ridden prominently by Ryan Moore, he got the perfect tow into the race from stable companion Lancaster Bomber. Moore grabbed the rail inside the three-furlong mark, and that proved the place to be, as runner-up Barney Roy along with third-place finisher Al Wukair suffered a far-less smooth run to the line. The winner was impressive, though the second and third may well get closer in the future.

Ryan Moore was positively gushing with praise for the winner: “He's such a lovely horse. He has a magnificent mind. I think he has everything you want in a racehorse - he travels, has speed and loads of class. He was always racing comfortably. He always feels like there's more when you ask him.”

For Aidan O’Brien, this was a record breaking eighth 2000 Guineas success. As ever, the Ballydoyle chief was quick to praise the efforts of the team in preparing this latest Classic winner: “Everyone at home was very happy with the horse, which is why we took the chance to come first time, so I'm delighted. We always thought he was a horse with a lot of speed. Ryan was very happy to be handy. The pace was sensible and Ryan knew Donnacha's horse (Lancaster Bomber) would take him there. The lads (owners) will decide about the Derby themselves. They make all the decisions about all the horses.”

O’Brien gave hope of an Epsom challenge when adding: “He is very relaxed and will probably get as far as you want him to get. He is by Galileo and horses by that sire very rarely lack stamina.”

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On only his third career start, Barney Roy appeared to find the notorious ‘Newmarket Dip’ a little tricky, before staying-on strongly to the delight of trainer Richard Hannon. “He’s finished second in the Guineas and it’s marvellous,” said the handler.

He went on: “It would have been better if he’d won but he’s a good horse and that’s what we came here to prove and he’s proved that. I am very proud of him. He ran a good race, but he stumbled coming into the Dip, mainly through a little inexperience, but he has run a super race. The St James’s Palace Stakes is likely to be on the cards for him now.”

Jockey James Doyle, clearly felt his horse a little unfortunate in defeat: “He has run a cracking race. We were hoping for a better pace and they didn’t go very quick at all. He’s a big baby and was a little awkward early. He got the hang of it at halfway, but Ryan grabbed the rail, whilst we were caught in a tangle. He didn’t handle the Dip at all, but once he met the rising ground he finished off really well. A flatter track will definitely suit him better.”

The French challenger, Al Wukair, had to come widest of all to make his challenge. He looked likely to sweep past the leaders coming out of the Dip, but was unable to reel in the winner, or indeed overhaul the runner-up. He certainly has gears, and the stiff finish did him no favours.

Andre Fabre appeared less than impressed with proceedings, merely saying: “It’s over.” Harry Herbert, advisor at Al Shaqab Racing, had more to say of the French colt: “He ran a hell of a race, but the pace was so slow. He would be much better off a stronger-run race. As a result, he [jockey Gregory Benoist] had to come wide and there was nothing to follow. He has done very well, all things considered. It is very likely that he will come back to the St James’s Palace Stakes. We will talk to Andre and let the dust settle.”

With a hint of understatement, Herbert added: “Andre is very disappointed.”

Another to take from the race, looked to be Godolphin’s second-string, Dream Castle. He had absolutely no luck in running, and had to be switched on a couple of occasions before running on strongly at the finish. He’ll ‘win big’ before the season is over, and may be one for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Ballydoyle completed a Classic double on Sunday, when Winter caused something of an upset by beating stable companion, and short-priced favourite, Rhododendron into second-place. The winner had a dream passage, and had things sewn-up inside the final furlong. For Ryan Moore, things couldn’t have gone much worse. The favourite was caught in traffic, and when finally finding a gap, had no chance of reeling in the winner. It would come as no surprise should placings be reversed the next time the pair meet.

It proved another sensational weekend for Coolmore’s super stallion Galileo. And could prove to be a long and arduous summer for O’Brien’s opponents.

The Usual Suspects have eye on the Classics

With Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown behind us, the time has come to focus solely on the new Flat campaign, and specifically this weekend’s Guineas Meeting from Newmarket.

Yes, the first Classics are almost upon us, and the usual suspects look set to dominate in both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas. Once again, it’s Ballydoyle that head the markets for both, with last year’s top juvenile Churchill, short-odds to beat the colts on Saturday. This could be the first of many Coolmore/Godolphin clashes throughout the season, with the ‘boys in blue’ represented by second-favourite Barney Roy, trained by 2014 winner Richard Hannon.

Aidan O’Brien has won five of the last dozen renewals, though had the disappointing favourite for last year’s race, Air Force Blue. He was by American stallion War Front, who has proved a rather unpredictable sire, despite strong and persistent backing from the guys at Coolmore. He appears to produce precocious juveniles, though the undoubted talent isn’t always carried forward to a three-year-old campaign.

There may therefore, be more confidence behind Churchill, as he is by the outstanding stallion Galileo. He’s out of a Storm Cat mare, making him similar in profile to 2015 winner Gleneagles.

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Galileo has proved the common thread running through numerous recent winners. And his name appears in the pedigree for Hannon’s challenger Barney Roy. By top-class miler Excelebration out of a Galileo mare, he was an impressive winner of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance. He thundered home on that occasion, and Hannon is clearly looking forward to Saturday’s race: “Barney Roy is a horse we have been very excited about for a long time and he confirmed our views in impressive style when taking the Greenham. He still ran a bit green that day and I believe the step up in trip and the extra experience will stand him in good stead. I am very pleased for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin that I can take a horse of his quality to the race.”

Another fancied contender is the Martyn Meade trained Eminent. Winner of the Craven Stakes, this powerfully built colt is by Galileo’s most famous son, the mighty Frankel. He defeated Rivet last time out, needing every yard of the mile trip when pulling clear in the latter stages. Haafhd was the last horse, in 2004, to win both the Craven and the Guineas.

It’s Aidan O’Brien that also sends out the market leader for the 1000 Guineas on Sunday. Rhododendron completed her juvenile campaign with a stunning success at Newmarket in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile. Another from the Galileo production line, this filly is out of the Sun Chariot winning mare, Halfway To Heaven. It’s a cracking pedigree, as Team Coolmore look for their fourth win in six years. Outstanding fillies, Minding and Legatissimo have won the last two renewals.

Despite an incredible career, that has gleaned victories worldwide, John Gosden is yet to win the 2000 Guineas, and has only captured the fillies’ classic once. That’s not to say that he hasn’t come close to winning many more, and he has certainly produced outstanding milers, with the likes of Kingman, Raven’s Pass, Nannina and Elusive Kate springing instantly to mind.

Daban is his hope for Sunday’s renewal, following her win in the Nell Gwyn a couple of weeks back. The stable has started this campaign in dazzling form, and this filly looked exciting last time, showing a stunning turn-of-foot late on. Following her win, Gosden said: “She can only improve. I was expecting a good show from her. She’s a sweet, lovely filly and is very relaxed at home. She does have that cruising speed and ability to quicken which is what a good thoroughbred has.”

Fair Eva is another well-fancied filly carrying famous silks. Trained by Roger Charlton, she is the daughter of Frankel and runs in the instantly recognisable colours of Prince Khalid Abdullah. Placed in the Lowther and the Rockfel last autumn, her trainer is happy with her progress and confident of a huge run: “I'm very pleased with her and I'm satisfied she will stay a mile well,” Charlton told At The Races. “I think she has an excellent chance of finishing in the first four as she's already a Group Three winner and Group Two-placed - she justifies her place.”

Just how well these three-year-olds have trained-on is about to be tested. There-in lies the difficulty of assessing the chances of contenders for these early-season classics. A high-class pedigree, powerful connections and coming from one of the leading yards, is often the best starting point, when trying to pick the ‘Classic winner’ from the classy also-rans.

Galileo, Galileo, Galileo Figaro Magnifico

Few would have believed it possible, but for Aidan O’Brien and his Ballydoyle operation there appears no limits to the extraordinary level of success they are capable of achieving year upon year.

Having plundered the major prize at Newmarket on Saturday with the staggeringly progressive filly, Alice Springs, O’Brien then captured Flat racing’s most prestigious event with arguably the best filly in training, Found. But not only did the master of Ballydoyle take first place in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he captured the first three spots with his trio of entrants.

Travelling powerfully in a prominent position, just behind the leading group, Ryan Moore made his bid for glory a couple of furlongs from home. Bursting past race favourite Postponed, the classy filly swiftly put lengths between herself and the remainder. Stablemate Highland Reel gave chase without ever looking likely to catch the filly. And it was left to the Ascot Gold Cup winner, Order St George, to complete the O’Brien rout.

In truth, Found looked a cut above the rest, and though she has a CV stacked with runner-up spots, she’s been performing at the highest level throughout her career, ‘mixing it’ with the middle-distance elite. Her victory over the Arc hero Golden Horn at last year’s Breeders’ Cup was the best form on show, and just last month she had finished second in the strongest looking Irish Champion Stakes ever.

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Part-owner Michael Tabor, speaking to At the Races, was clearly struggling to comprehend the team’s achievement when saying: “I can't believe it. First, second and third in the Arc, it's unbelievable. It's just incredible. Words can't describe it. It's just amazing.”

And the trainer’s thoughts mirrored those of the owner, when O’Brien said of the success: “She's only run over a mile and a half four times before and she was unlucky in the Arc last year. We've had our eye on this for a long time. It's a privilege to be here and be part of it. I couldn't dream this would happen. You know how difficult the Arc is. And what makes it amazing is that they (the first three home) are all by Galileo.”

And whilst acknowledging the astounding work of O’Brien and his team, there’s no doubting that the greatest Stallion, is driving this unprecedented success.

On Saturday, three-year-old filly Alice Springs, another from the Galileo production line, proved herself one of the outstanding milers of her generation, when winning the Sun Chariot Stakes. She’s continued to improve throughout the campaign, and this latest success never looked in doubt. Godolphin’s Always Smile battled all the way to the line, but found herself trying to fend off an irresistible force. This was her eighth outing of the season, and she may well head to the Breeders’ Cup before taking a well-earned winter break.

Ryan Moore was clearly pleased with her performance. Speaking to Channel 4 after the win, he said: “She picked up very well but she was just dossing a bit. As soon as I got serious with her though, she found a bit more. She's a very good filly.” Of a trip to America he added: “She's very well balanced and very professional. She was second in the fillies' race at Keeneland last year when the ground went soft and didn't really suit her. Santa Anita should suit her better.”

Ervedya proved the best of the French challenge with a third placed finish. She could never quite get to the leading pair, and this looks set to be her final race, with a career at stud beckoning. Of his classy filly, Jean-Claude Rouget said: “She ran very well and I think that will be it for her now. This year she has been third in a Jacques le Marois and now third in a Sun Chariot. She deserves to go to stud and I hope she can produce a champion.”

Of the new Arc heroine, a trip to the Breeders’ Cup may also be on the agenda, though the Coolmore camp were understandably reluctant to map out plans in the immediate aftermath of such a sensational afternoon. Ryan Moore preferred to speak of the here and now, when saying: “To saddle the first three in an Arc, and to get three horses there in top shape and beat the best around, is quite incredible. She was in her best shape today and things worked out, back to a mile and a half and a nice, evenly-run race. She showed what she is capable of, and at her best she is a very hard filly to beat.”

Nemoralia is More Than Ready

Sometimes when reflecting on a high-profile racing festival, one is reminded of an eye-catching performance that possibly slipped somewhat under the radar.

A number of fillies and mares impressed during the four days at York. Queen Kindly took the Lowther Stakes, and looks a juvenile of the highest order. One of the first crop by the mighty Frankel, she defeated another of his progeny, the highly touted Fair Eva. Both are fillies full of potential, with the latter more stoutly bred, and more likely to make into a potential Guineas and Epsom Oaks contender. Queen Kindly’s dam; Lady Of The Desert, was undoubtedly at her best over the shorter trips, indeed she finished runner-up in both the Sprint Cup at Haydock and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

Whilst the juvenile fillies advertised the talents of a new stallion in Frankel, the victory of Seventh Heaven in the Yorkshire Oaks, chased home by Found, did plenty to trumpet the continuing success of the greatest stallion Galileo. Seventh Heaven has progressed into a formidable three-year-old, capable of galloping her opponents into submission. Found possibly needed the run more than her younger stable companion, and was of course giving the winner plenty of weight.

On the Friday of York’s Ebor meeting, Mecca’s Angel created all the headlines, when the mare rocketed to success in the Nunthorpe Stakes. I was not alone in believing that she would need more testing conditions to come out on top. However, Michael Dods’ heroine almost smashed the track record, with a truly dominant display. She’ll take some beating if continuing at this level for the remainder of the season. And the fact that she performed this well on a sounder surface allows Dods to target whichever sprint he and owner David Metcalfe fancy, whatever the prevailing ground conditions.

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Despite the stunning performance of Mecca’s Angel, it was another filly that caught my attention on Friday, and continues to impress, especially with conditions in her favour.

Jeremy Noseda has a stunner on his hands with Nemoralia. It came as no surprise when she won the Group 3 City Of York Stakes, but the performance further enhanced her soaring reputation. She’s pure class, travels like a dream, and has a devastating turn of foot. The strong gallop suited her, and under hand-and-heels she was far too good for an admittedly ordinary looking field.

Jamie Spencer, speaking to Channel 4 Racing after the win had said: “She was really impressive, she wants a mile but Jeremy wanted to run her in a race she could win. She's a real firm ground filly, she's just been unfortunate with the weather this year.” After the smooth success, Noseda said: “She was in good form and she was as Group One filly dropping back into Group Three company. She had a hard race at Royal Ascot (second in Coronation Stakes) and ran a bit flat in France.”

That Ascot defeat to classy French filly Qemah, came on unsuitable ground, and of future targets Noseda added: “The Park Stakes at Doncaster will possibly be next and then we'll head to America and look at the Queen Elizabeth for three-year-old fillies on October 14 in Keeneland. We've got the choice of races at the Breeders' Cup. We'll keep moving forward now. It was nice to get her back winning.”

Those targets may not necessarily depend on the ground, but her performance certainly will. She’ll take all the beating on a quick surface. She’s by a leading American Stallion in More Than Ready, a sire known for his impact around the globe. He’s responsible for Grade 1 winners in seven countries, and is based at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. Whilst undoubtedly best known for his progeny in America and Australia, More Than Ready is making a belated impression in the UK.

Nemoralia may be the standout, but Charlie Appleby and Team Godolphin have a promising juvenile on their hands with Boynton. He took a while to get going last time in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, when a strong finishing third. He looked a little quirky, with his head held rather high at times. He’d previously won the Group 2 Superlative at Newmarket, when ‘toughing it out’ in the final furlong.

Mokarris is another juvenile that has shown a good level of form. He proved no match for Blue Point in the Gimcrack at York the other day, though was given a pretty gentle ride once the winner had flown. Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, this son of More Than Ready looks to be another that will improve as he steps up in trip. He travelled stylishly at York, and ought to be competitive at a very high level.

Age is no barrier to these prodigious stallions. Galileo at 18 remains the best in the business, and at 19, More Than Ready appears more popular than ever, especially in the UK. Nemoralia’s dazzling season is sure to elevate his status further, with wealthy owners taking the plunge in a bloodline likely to prove a prized asset.

Tony Stafford: Trainers, Stallions, and Multi-Millions

Galileo has fathered the next generation of stallions

Galileo has fathered the next generation of stallions

Six trainers have dominated the UK championships over the past 20 years with successively Sir Michael Stoute, Saeed bin Suroor, Aidan O’Brien, Richard Hannon, senior and junior and John Gosden taking his turn, writes Tony Stafford.

They have all clocked up impressive top prize money figures during that time, Sir Michael’s 2003 tally of £3,754,850 from his best numerical score of 115 setting a high benchmark. That was improved upon by bin Suroor for Godolphin, the following year with £4,319,646 from the same number of winners.

O’Brien, the only non-British-based member of this exclusive club had an optimum figure of £3,819,986 from his 13 wins in 80 runs in 2013, while the Hannons, father and son, both broke the £4m barrier in successive seasons in 2013 and 2014. Senior’s £4,532,465 earnings in his final campaign were accrued from 235 victories and 1,412 runners. Junior exceeded the money element with £4,749,470, but was slightly down on wins, 206 from 1,404 runs.

British prizemoney is not regarded as in any way equivalent to the level of ability needed to win races compared with elsewhere, but the major events have steadily increased in value so that in 2015 John Gosden’s 133 wins from 577, including Golden Horn’s great achievements, propelled him to a record domestic seasonal tally of £5,277,651.

This year, Messrs Gosden (£1.8m) and Hannon (£1.57m) are some way off their record schedules, but with lavish money available - especially at Goodwood this week - there is still time for them to get back on track.

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But it is most unlikely that either will get within shouting distance of the remarkable O’Brien, who sneaked within £3,000 of his 2013 figure when collecting the £652,165 for the Coolmore partners for Highland Reel’s front-running display in the King George at Ascot when he took full advantage of Postponed’s enforced absence, and a bonus £65,000 for Sir Isaac Newton’s fourth.

With a possible £560k in prospect for The Gurkha in Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes and an even more probable £340k for the flawless Minding in Saturday’s Nassau, it is not unrealistic to project that O’Brien might be pushing the £5m mark by the end of the week, and then there’s all those big juvenile prizes to target later on, not to mention Champions Day at Ascot in the autumn. The record must be his for the taking.

There’s an unbreakable thread through the past 50 years at Ballydoyle, begun by Vincent O’Brien, principally parlaying Robert Sangster’s Vernons Pools inheritance and then most tellingly O’Brien’s son-in-law John Magnier’s innovative input, through to Aidan (no relation) O’Brien for the past 20-odd years.

The human thread echoes the equine. The original Coolmore brains trust identified the wonderful Northern Dancer at the beginning of his stud career after his 14 successes from 18 on the racetrack which featured an ultra-tough juvenile campaign and the first two legs of the Triple Crown, unique for a Canadian-bred and –based racehorse.

O’Brien bought such as Nijinsky, The Minstrel, El Gran Senor and Storm Bird, all champion sons of Northern Dancer in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s while Sangster bought the mare Fairy Bridge and sent her to Northern Dancer, producing Sadler’s Wells.

While not quite the best of his generation, Sadler’s Wells did win the Irish 2,000 Guineas, Champion Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes, before going on to make a pretty good imitation of his sire by winning 14 championships (13 in a row), interrupted only for a single season by Danehill Dancer, also from the Northern Dancer male line through Danzig and Danehill.

Sadler’s Wells came along in 1981 when his father was 20. His own son Galileo was a little quicker to arrive, in 1998. Galileo was a most impressive winner of the Derby and since his holding court at Coolmore, he and fellow Sadler’s Wells product, Montjeu, have dominated the Derby with seven wins between them.

Like Sadler’s Wells before him, Galileo has become almost an automatic champion sire every year since appearing at stud and, apart from the Derby winners and brilliant juveniles, he has the distinction of having produced the highest-ever rated racehorse, the sublime Frankel, winner of all 14 of his starts.

Frankel was a product of the inspired Galileo – Danehill “nick”, Danehill’s daughter, Kind, providing the leavening of Galileo’s considerable basic talent. Interestingly, Highland Reel, never really considered a player by the racing establishment even after his King George, is also by Galileo out of a Danehill mare. After Saturday, perhaps surprisingly, he stands third in prizemoney terms for any of Galileo’s progeny with £2.42m with six wins in 15 starts, behind only Frankel £2.99m (14/14) and Cape Blanco, also O’Brien-trained with £2.57m from nine wins in 15 starts.

With Ashford Stud in Kentucky to focus their American business, Messrs Magnier, Tabor and Smith have invested strongly in War Front, with excellent results and now control American Pharaoh, last year’s US Triple Crown winner. Sadly, Scat Daddy, their at the time upwardly-mobile stallion, sustained an injury which caused his untimely death before the start of the 2016 breeding season.

It would be easy to under-estimate the ability of Highland Reel, who is shaping up as a possible successor as a global money-maker to Montjeu’s son St Nicholas Abbey, who drew stumps with a jot under £5m in career earnings.

Meanwhile the “other” Galileo –Danehill representative, Frankel, has already started his stud life with a string of promising first-season representatives. Saturday’s Princess Margaret winner, Fair Eva, who was untroubled yet still got within 0.08sec of Henrythenavigator’s juvenile track record is leading the way with early favourite quotes for 1,000 Guineas glory.

There were plenty of people willing to stump up the £125,000 which has been required for Frankel’s services in his first four years at Banstead Manor and the ante is sure to be upped for 2017. It would be entirely in character for the Coolmore brains trust to have targeted Frankel as a potential addition to their portfolio. Prince Khalid Abdullah allowed them into Danehill when he was already a top stallion, winning three UK titles and siring 349 stakes winners, a record. Why would the Prince not listen if Coolmore were to come calling? The last association did nobody any harm, after all.

Coral-Eclipse Joy For Team Godolphin

Hawkbill continued his meteoric rise, with a thrilling success in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

Now undefeated in his last six, the son of Kitten’s Joy had won a listed event in April, and followed up with victory at Royal Ascot a fortnight ago in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes. This looked a tough ask, but connections were spot on in supplementing. Their faith was rewarded with not only a classy performance, but one full of courage.

The pace was set by Time Test’s stable companion Countermeasure. As the field turned for home, it was a pair of three-year-olds that forged to the front. Hawkbill was joined in battle by Ballydoyle’s race favourite The Gurkha. The pair were stride for stride throughout the final two furlongs, with the Godolphin colt finally getting on top as the post drew near. Time Test battled on bravely for third.

The team’s chief executive John Ferguson, was quick to praise the ‘team’ currently enjoying a terrific period, when saying: “I love Charlie, Saeed and our own trainers but the important thing is for the team as a whole to be winning races worldwide, that's what Godolphin is all about. We are having a great time in Australia and America so it's very important to be winning big races here too whoever they are trained by.”

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Charlie Appleby, who just last week took the Northumberland Plate, was clearly thrilled with this latest success, saying: “He has been a challenging horse but he has got some racing under his belt and mentally got stronger with each run. At Ascot he was very warm before the preliminaries but he did what we thought he could do.”

The trainer added: “After Newmarket (Listed win in April) William said we were dealing with a proper horse. Since Ascot one thing we noticed was how much he had grown up from there. Normally he would be awash with sweat at home but this past ten days he has not turned a hair and his rider has said he had come on again. He was being so good today I hoped it was part of growing up. He has arrived now.”

For Buick, the victory is a huge tonic as he prepares to serve a 30-day ban for a riding offence in France. He spoke to Channel 4 Racing: “What a lovely horse and what a call by the whole team to supplement him - this is fantastic. He goes in the ground very well and the future is very bright for him. His demeanour has changed a lot this year, he's grown up physically, he's grown up mentally. He's shown us all of the attributes of a great racehorse. I'm a little bit speechless - it's just great for the team.”

Aidan O'Brien was once again philosophical in defeat, saying: “It got a bit rough on the bend, he just came alive a bit early because of it. He showed a lot of speed and I wouldn't be sure if he stayed. He is by Galileo and you would imagine he would get a mile and a quarter, if it happened a little bit smoother for him, it might have happened, but he ran very well.”

The trainer went on: “I've always seen him as a fast Galileo and maybe we took the chance and maybe it was the wrong thing, but I'm not making any excuses. Originally the plan was to go from Ascot to the Sussex Stakes, but he was so well that we decided to run. We try to do our best, but we can't win every day. That's the reality.”

In fairness, The Gurkha ran a cracker in defeat. He bumped into a fast improving colt, that was probably better suited by conditions. A drop back to a mile looks on the cards, but another crack at 10 furlongs, especially on quicker ground, seems more than likely at some stage.

As for Team Godolphin, and in particular Charlie Appleby, it appears at the moment that they can do no wrong. Whilst Hawkbill was landing the day’s major prize, Endless Time was battling her way to victory in the Bet365 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock. When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Brutal Belardo Lands Godolphin Magnificent Seven

Saturday’s showpiece at Newbury went to Belardo, who came with a storming finish to take the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

The drying conditions appeared to be against Roger Varian’s colt, and money started to pour in for one time favourite Limato. Nevertheless, Varian’s charge, the son of Lope De Vega, proved himself more than capable of handling a sounder surface with a devastating burst of speed to gun down Euro Charline in the shadow of the post, and in the process give connections their seventh victory in the race.

Godolphin’s more fancied runner Toormore had taken up the running with three furlongs to go, but was unable to hold off a group of challengers, and faded to fifth. Race favourite Limato came with his challenge nearing the final furlong, but appeared to run out of gas. That left Euro Charline and Endless Drama battling it out, until Belardo swept past on the wide outside.

The winning trainer said: “He salvaged his year last year chasing home Solow at Ascot and that told us we needed to keep him in training. I'm delighted for his owners and they kept the faith in him. His work has always been outstanding at home and he deserved another big one.”

Andrea Atzeni was back on-board Belardo having ridden him to success in the Dewhurst in 2014, and said: “It's great. The last time I sat on him was in the Dewhurst and he's a good horse on his day. I have to thank his owners for letting me ride him. They went quick and he travelled brilliantly. Once he got daylight he picked up well.”

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Marco Botti said of Euro Charline: “She ran a blinder. She's tough and I think this is the best she's been. I'll speak to the team but we might take some time out and go for the Falmouth now. Hopefully later in the season the Breeders' Cup would be the main target.”

Ger Lyon was thrilled with Endless Drama, who ran a huge race after such a lengthy absence. He said of the run: “You have to be delighted. The good news is he wants further, which we thought he'd get. The plan is Royal Ascot (for the Queen Anne) but he won't go on extremes and wouldn't run if there is firm in the description. A stiff mile there will suit him. You'd like to think something like the Irish Champion Stakes later in the season would suit him.”

As for Lockinge winner Belardo, he will now be trained for Royal Ascot, and will aim to emulate Canford Cliffs and Frankel, who were the most recent Lockinge winners to successfully land the Queen Anne.

Varian’s four-year-old colt was mightily impressive, but his performance was matched, if not surpassed on Sunday, when Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old The Gurkha ran out an emphatic winner of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas at Deauville.

Sent to the lead by Ryan Moore with just over a furlong remaining, he stormed clear in the style of a top-class colt, to win by just shy of six lengths. Yet another son of Galileo, out of a Danehill Dancer mare, he clearly possesses plenty of speed. Nevertheless, the way he dealt with the preliminaries, including having to be re-shod just before the start, coupled with the way he stormed through the line absolutely full of running, all gives hope that the Derby trip will prove well within his compass.

It’s also worth noting that this was only his third career start, and as such, you’d expect plenty of improvement to come. The bookies reacted by slashing his price for the Epsom Derby. Ladbrokes went shorter than the rest, installing him as their 3/1 favourite.

Co-owner Michael Tabor had expected a big run from the colt. “We actually were pretty confident but it's one thing being confident and another thing winning the way he did, which was pretty awesome,” he said. “I always love a straight mile because I think generally the best horse wins and he has shown what a good horse he is.”

Aidan O'Brien refused to be drawn on whether the winner would head to Epsom, saying: “We thought he was good and he's always had a lot of speed. What he does next is a decision for the lads. We always had in our heads to come here and then go to the French Derby, Epsom Derby or the St James's Palace Stakes; it's a decision the lads will have to make but he does have a lot of speed.

There’s no doubting that his win was visually the most impressive of any three-year-old colt to date, with perhaps the exception of Galileo Gold at Newmarket. Other Derby trials have failed to excite, and Ballydoyle’s main hope appeared to be US Army Ranger, who only just scraped home at Chester. With Hugo Palmer’s Guineas winner still only a maybe for Epsom, I’d be surprised if O’Brien and connections didn’t let The Gurkha take his chance. He looks an exceptional talent.

O’Brien sends in the Army

Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last four Epsom Derby’s. His leading hope for this year’s race appears to be US Army Ranger, and the son of all-conquering sire Galileo puts his credentials to the test at Chester today.

The MBNA Chester Vase has been dominated by Ballydoyle in the last decade with no fewer than six victories. Soldier of Fortune was another Galileo colt who took the race in 2007 and went on to finish fifth in the Epsom Derby. He then reversed form with Derby victor Authorized in taking the Irish equivalent, before a respectable fifth place finish in the Arc. He stayed in training at four; winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom and finishing third in the Arc won by Zarkava. He was a top-class racehorse.

Treasure Beach was sired by Galileo and took the Chester Vase in 2011 before coming agonisingly close to winning at Epsom when chinned on the line by Pour Moi. He then took the Irish Derby, but failed to build on those performances in the remainder of his career.

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Ruler of the World did manage to complete the Vase/Derby double when winning both in 2013. Yet another Galileo, he romped to victory at Chester before staying on powerfully at Epsom to beat the Dante winner Libertarian. Gutsy rather than flashy, he lacked gears and was outpaced in the Arc before staying on in the latter part of the race for a seventh place finish.

Today’s Galileo representative is US Army Ranger, and it’s pretty clear that O’Brien thinks plenty of him. He spoke at Chester yesterday, saying: “US Army Ranger is still a baby, as he's only done it once and it was on very slow ground. This will teach him much more of what Epsom is about. He's a very nice prospect and has always gone through his work very easily. He has massive potential, and has been doing his work with the Group horses, and he'd always come there cantering so we know he has a massive engine.”

He has an eye-catching pedigree being by Galileo out of Moonstone, herself an Epsom Oaks runner-up. His only run thus far was at the Curragh in April when comfortably accounting for Dermot Weld’s Aasheq. That form took a thumping at Navan a few weeks later, when another of O’Brien’s colts, The Gurkha, ran out an impressive winner. Today we’ll certainly get some idea of whether US Army Ranger has the potential to be a serious Epsom Derby contender.

O’Brien also runs Port Douglas, yet another Galileo, but this time out of a Kingmambo mare. He was last seen finishing fourth to Marcel in the Racing Post Trophy in October, having previously taken a Group 2 in Ireland. His pedigree suggests this step up in trip should suit, and he’s an interesting contender. All talk has been of his stable companion leading into the race, but a bold run from this fella would come as no surprise.

Biodynamic may prove best of the British contingent though it would be something of a shock if he were good enough to win this. He was almost three lengths behind Linguistic at Newmarket though stayed on stoutly that day. Better ground today may help, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be good enough to cope with the Ballydoyle pair.

High Grounds runs for Charlie Hills and is by Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral. He was battered by Sir Michael Stoute’s Derby prospect, Midterm, at Sandown. Though he’s sure to have ‘come-on’ for that, it’s some leap of faith to think he’ll win this. Hills said of the horse: “His third at Sandown was a step up and he will stay very well. We're taking on the Derby favourite so finishing second would be a good performance. He'll learn plenty from the experience.”

Midterm could yet prove the fly in Ballydoyle’s ointment come Epsom, but that’s for another day. Today we will see if US Army Ranger has the ability to match the hype.