Tag Archive for: Hurricane Lane

Dante Stakes Trends 2024

Run at York racecourse, the Dante Stakes is a Group Two contest for 3 year-olds that is run over a trip of 1m2f.

Staged in the middle of May each season the middle-distance contest is seen as a key Epsom Derby Trial, with four of the last 20 Dante Stakes winners going onto land the fourth English Classic - Desert Crown (2022) and Golden Hornin 2015, being the most-recent horses to complete the Dante/Derby double.

Trainer John Gosden has won three of the last 9 runnings and Mark Johnston has been responsible for two of the last 7 winning horses. The Sir Michael Stoute camp are another yard to respect having landed the race 7 times – anything they send to post, as well as leading Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has also won the race four times, should be noted.

Finally, it's a race jocky Oisin Murphy is making his own, with three wins since 2018.

We take a look back at past winners of the Dante Stakes, plus give you the key trends ahead of the 2024 renewal – this year run on Thursday 16th May

Past Dante Stakes Winners

2023 - THE FOXES (6/1)
2022 - DESERT CROWN (7/2 jfav)
2021 - HURRICANE LANE (5/1)
2020 – THUNDEROUS (13/2)
2019 – TELECASTER (7/1)
2018 – ROARING LION (3/1 fav)
2017 – PERMIAN (10/1)
2016 – WINGS OF DESIRE (9/1)
2015 – GOLDEN HORN (4/1)
2014 – THE GREY GATSBY (9/1)
2013 – LIBERTARIAN (33/1)
2012 – BONFIRE (3/1)
2011 – CARLTON HOUSE (11/4)
2010 – CAPE BLANCO (9/2)
2009 – BLACK BEAR ISLAND (12/1)
2008 – TARTAN BEARER (10/1)
2007 – AUTHORIZED (10/11 fav)

Dante Stakes Trends

18/20 – Winners that went onto run in the Epsom Derby (4 won)
17/21 – Finished third or better last time out
15/21 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
14/21 – Had a previous race that season
13/21 – Won their previous race
10/20 – Went onto be placed in the Epsom Derby
5/21 – Had won over 1m2f before
5/21 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
4/20 – Went onto win the Epsom Derby (published before Desert Crown has run in Derby)
4/21 - Won by trainer Sir Michael Stoute (won it 7 times in all)
3/21 – Won by trainer Aidan O’Brien (won it 4 times in all)
3/21 – Won by jockey Ryan Moore
3/21 – Trained by John Gosden (3 of last 9 runnings)
3/21 – Ridden by William Buick
3/21 – Ridden by Oisin Murphy (3 of the last 6)
2/21 – Trained the Johnston yard (Mark/Charlie) (2 of last 7)
1/21 – Had run at York before
1/21 – Winners from stall 2
Just 3 winning favourites in the last 16 runnings (1 joint)
Desert Crown (2022) and Golden Horn (2015) were the last Dante winner to go onto win the Epsom Derby

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2024 St Leger Trends

The St Leger is the oldest of the five British flat racing Classics, as well as the longest in trip at Doncaster racecourse.

Run over a distance of 1m6f and for 3 year-olds only this contest is targeted by horses that ran in that season’s Great Voltigeur, with 9 of the last 22 winners having ran in that York race before winning this, while in recent years with seen 9 winning favourites in the last 22 runnings.

Look out for John Gosden-trained horses as this powerful Newmarket stable has won the race four times in the last 21 years, while top Irish handler – Aidan O’Brien has saddled the winner of the St Leger seven times, including 4 of the last 11 seasons with Leading Light, Capri, Kew Gardens and last year with Continuous.

Also note any Godolphin-owned entries as they these famous blue silks have won the final English Classic of the season a staggering seven times.

Here at GEEGEEZ we've got all the key stats ahead of the 2024 renewal.

Recent St Leger Winners

2023 - Continuous (3/1)
2022 – Eldar Eldarov (9/2)
2021 – Hurricane Lane (8/11 fav)
2020 – Galileo Chrome (4/1)
2019 – Logician (5/6 fav)
2018 - Kew Gardens (3/1)
2017 - Capri (3/1 fav)
2016 – Harbour Law (22/1)
2015 – Simple Verse (8/1)
2014 – Kingston Hill (9/4 fav)
2013 – Leading Light (7/2 fav)
2012 – Encke (25/1)
2011 – Masked Marvel (15/2)
2010 – Arctic Cosmos (12/1)
2009 – Mastery (14/1)
2008 – Conduit (8/1)
2007 – Lucarno (7/2)
2006 – Sixties Icon (11/8 fav)
2005 – Scorpion (10/11 fav)
2004 – Rule of Law (3/1 jfav)
2003 – Brian Boru (5/4 fav)
2002 – Bollin Eric (7/1)

Key St Leger Trends

19/22 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
19/22 – Had 2 or 3 previous career wins
19/22 – Had never raced at Doncaster before
18/22 – Placed favourites
18/22 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
17/22 – Had won a Group race before
17/22 – Had won over at least 1m3f before
15/22 – Had 4 or 5 previous runs that season
14/22 – Had never raced over 1m6f or further before
13/22 – Winning distance of 1 length or more
13/22 – Drawn in stall 5 or higher
13/22 – Won last time out
13/22 – Officially rated 109 to 115
9/22 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
9/22 – Ran in the Great Voltigeur last time out (3 won it)
6/22 – Trained by Aidan O’Brien
4/22 – Trained by John Gosden
4/22 – Ridden by Frankie Dettori (6 wins in total)
4/22 – Won by a Godolphin-owned horse (7 wins in total)
3/22 – Ran in the Gordon Stakes last time out (2 won it)
3/22 – Ridden by William Buick
3/22 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
2/22 – Ridden by Andrea Atzeni
2/22 – Winners from stall 1
Godolphin have won the race 7 times
Aidan O’Brien has trained 7 winners of the race
The average winning SP in the last 22 years is 6/1

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Hurricane Lane storms back to winning ways

Hurricane Lane defied a thunder storm to stamp his class on the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.

The chestnut looked to have the world at his feet two years ago when winning the Irish Derby and the St Leger and going close in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

His four-year-old season was something of a write-off, however, as he was only third in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot before being well beaten in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

Kept in training with the aim of returning to Paris for the Arc, those ambitions looked a long way off when he finished last of seven at Newbury in the John Porter Stakes last month – his first start after an absence of 293 days.

Weak in the market for most of the day, he was eventually backed into 2-1 with West Wind Blows sent off the even-money favourite.

Fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Charlie Appleby, the result was never in any doubt with William Buick sending him on fully half a mile from home.

With stamina no issue, Hurricane Lane powered clear and was six lengths to the good from West Wind Blows who just pipped Global Storm for the runner-up spot.

Appleby’s charge was cut to 7-1 from 20s by Betfair for the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

Appleby said: “A few people might have thought we were being a bit selfish wanting to run him (as a five-year-old), but he showed us his old demeanour throughout the winter and into the spring.

“Newbury was disappointing, but it was a big ask for him in heavy ground and Will just said he felt like a different horse today. He said he was sluggish at Newbury and today he just floated along.

“Everyone was obviously asking the question ‘why did he get beat’ and asking why we were coming back so soon, but he showed us what he could do midweek with the cheekpieces on and fair play to the team, they said he couldn’t get beat today.

“I have to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for allowing us to keep this horse in training. When you have a horse that has given the team as much as he’s given then of course you feel for them and want them to carry on doing it. I’m delighted for everyone.

“We could look at the Hardwicke in the summer, if the ground was right. I’ve always said I wanted to work back from the Arc, which might be a bit bold, but we’ll see.”

Buick said: “It was absolutely brilliant and full credit to Charlie and the team. We were brave to bring him back here 13 days after Newbury and he has had a lovely experience on his doorstep.

“This is the Hurricane Lane that we know so it is lovely to have him back winning like that. There were a lot of question marks for sure, but everyone was happy with him at home.

“I think all the information and knowledge everyone had of him was that he was in tip-top order. We were probably hopeful of that performance as we thought he was back to his good three-year-old form.

“It was brilliant when I pressed on into the lead and you couldn’t have asked for anymore of him.”

Grand Alliance powers clear for deserved big-race prize

Grand Alliance finally landed the prize his undoubted talent hinted he was capable of when causing an upset in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury.

The Charlie Fellowes-trained four-year-old finished 11th in the Derby behind Desert Crown last year, and subsequently looked like winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot only to hang badly left and lose out in a photo.

Gelded last autumn, he shaped with promise when third to Max Vega in the St Simon Stakes and over the same course and distance in a Group Three registered as the John Porter he turned the form around with that rival in no uncertain terms.

Sent off an 18-1 chance under birthday boy James Doyle, Grand Alliance seemed to relish the soft ground and while the likes of Hurricane Lane and Mojo Star – first and second in the 2021 St Leger – were all at sea in the straight, the winner scooted clear.

There were still signs of his temperament, veering away sharply to his left inside the final furlong, but thankfully he had the race won by then.

The outsider of the field, Farhan, on just his second start for Phil Kirby, ran on to be second, beaten two and a quarter lengths.

Fellowes: “He has done that to a pretty decent field. I know that two outsiders finished first and second, but they were a good bunch and he has done it pretty handily in the end. I don’t think he was doing a huge amount out in front.

“I know he has a Yorkshire Cup entry, but James said afterwards he wouldn’t be jumping to step up further in trip, so I think I need to have a sit down and talk to the owner (Paul Roy) and make a plan.

“He was on and off the bridle, but that’s him. He has got a lot better than he was last year. He was particularly quirky last year and he’s settled down a lot.

“I’ve been delighted with him over the winter and, walking around the paddock, I thought he’d done really well physically. I don’t know why watching him go round with a saddle on made me see how well he had done, but he looked fantastic.

“I think he goes on any ground. It was rattling quick when he threw that race away at Ascot.”

Grand Alliance poses for the camera
Grand Alliance poses for the camera (PA)

Doyle added: “He was on and off the bridle, but that is always what he has done. He has always hinted he has been pretty good.

“Arguably he should have won at Royal Ascot last year, but he just hung across the track.

“He is very versatile ground-wise, it is amazing when you look at him – as he’s got such small feet – that he does go on this type of heavy ground.

“He does go on fast ground, so hopefully we can have a bit of fun with him.

“On better ground he could possibly go up to a Yorkshire Cup trip, but on testing ground like it is today, I think this trip is about right. It felt like a long last furlong.”

Hurricane Lane hits comeback trail at Newbury

Charlie Appleby is banking on Hurricane Lane returning to something like the form he showed as a three-year-old on his return to action in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury.

Winner of the Irish Derby and St Leger in 2021 when he also finished a close third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, last season was something of a write-off.

Beaten at odds-on twice, in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot and in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, he was one horse certainly not suited by the heatwave given his liking for softer ground.

With Newbury set to be pretty testing this weekend, Appleby is happy to start a campaign which he once more hopes will culminate in Paris in October.

Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick celebrate winning the St Leger with Hurricane Lane
Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick celebrate winning the St Leger with Hurricane Lane (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He has been a grand horse for Godolphin, and we feel he should be able to pick up another major prize this year,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“With his programme, we are working back from the Arc, that’s our main aim. He revels in soft ground and there is a good chance he could get those conditions at Longchamp in October.

“You cannot fault the horse at home. He retains all his old zest and he looks great. We will know early in his five-year-old campaign whether or not the Arc is a realistic target.”

Max Vega won the race 12 months ago for Ralph Beckett and he is back to defend his title, along with a new stablemate, Lone Eagle.

“Both he and Lone Eagle are going to find it tough if the real Hurricane Lane is going to turn up. But he should run his race as normal. He is in good shape,” said Beckett.

There was not much between Lone Eagle (left) and Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby of 2021
There was not much between Lone Eagle (left) and Hurricane Lane in the Irish Derby of 2021 (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Lone Eagle was a classy three-year-old himself and made Hurricane Lane pull out all the stops in the Irish Derby when trained by Martyn Meade.

He is now part-owned by Marc Chan, meaning Frankie Dettori takes the ride. Beckett also runs the fancied Jimmi Hendrix in the BetGoodwin Spring Cup and both are sporting blinkers for the first time.

Beckett said: “Lone Eagle is new to us and I think the first-time headgear will be of some benefit, and likewise Jimi Hendrix on a comeback mission in the Spring Cup – the headgear there, I think we should have pulled the trigger earlier, but that’s down to his trainer!”

Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star is undoubtedly talented, as he showed when finishing second in both the Derby and St Leger at three.

He only made it to the track once last season but it was another massive effort as he was second to Kyprios in the Gold Cup at Ascot, beaten just half a length.

“He has always been a very good colt but has had a few niggly issues which have kept him off the track and hasn’t run since putting up a brilliant effort when second in the Gold Cup,” Hannon told Unibet.

“He’s done plenty of work and been away to gallop so should be pretty straight. But this is his first run in a while, so he’s entitled to improve for it and we’re working back from the Ascot Gold Cup. I’m very happy with him and while the trip is on the short side, this is a good place to kick off his season.”

Mojo Star was a fine second to Kyprios at Ascot
Mojo Star was a fine second to Kyprios at Ascot (David Davies/PA)

Another who will not be inconvenienced by the ground is Surrey Mist, who has the benefit of already having had a run this season when fourth in a French Group Three.

Clive Hadingham of owners Surrey Racing said: “We could do with a bit more rain, which will hopefully test the fitness of the main protagonists as we already have one run under our belt this season.

“Having said that, it’s a very competitive race – we may have to get creative with our tactics!”

Hurricane Lane primed for Newbury return

Hurricane Lane is set to make his return to competitive action at Newbury this weekend after delighting trainer Charlie Appleby in a racecourse gallop at Newmarket.

The son of Frankel enjoyed a fantastic three-year-old campaign in 2021, winning the Dante Stakes, Irish Derby, Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger, as well as being placed in the Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Much was expected of Hurricane Lane last season, but he made it the racecourse on only two occasions, with a comeback third in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot followed by a disappointing performance in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

But after seeing the five-year-old draw clear of a stablemate in a seven-furlong workout under William Buick on Tuesday morning, Appleby is confident the entire can bounce back to his best, with Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes – better known as the John Porter – his intended starting point.

“I’m pleased with that. We brought him up here purposely with the ground being good to soft, soft as we know he is a horse that is proven on that surface,” said the Moulton Paddocks handler.

“His three-year-old career, I don’t have to tell anyone about that, but his four-year-old career ended up being disappointing. He ran a creditable race in the Hardwicke Stakes on ground that was quick. We thought we got away with it to be honest with you.

“We then went to the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the ground wasn’t where we thought it was. It was quick enough that day and he ran a disappointing race.

“We purposely left it there and thought we’d give the horse every chance. The one thing I wanted to make sure starting this year was that he was starting on ground with soft in the description. I don’t want any excuses.

“If the horse were not to turn up, you would have to accept that the horse did what he did as a three-year-old at the highest level and that was that – but on the evidence of what we have seen at home this year, we have been very pleased with him as a physical and just in his demeanour, and I think he has shown you guys out there this morning he has let himself down there.

“The plan is to take a look at Newbury on Saturday with the ground being there to suit him.”

While Hurricane Lane holds several Group One entries, Appleby confirmed the Arc will again be his major target, adding: “The only reason this horse has stayed in training is to work back from an Arc.

Adayar winning the 2021 King George at Ascot
Adayar winning the 2021 King George at Ascot (Nigel French/PA)

“I want to make sure we tick all the right boxes and give him the best opportunity to get there. I don’t want to be there mid-season running on ground he doesn’t want and then telling myself I’ve made a mistake.

“The Arc is our long-term plan and he will be campaigned accordingly around that.”

Appleby also provided an upbeat bulletin on the progress of his 2021 Derby hero Adayar, who remains on course to make his return in the Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown on Friday week.

He said: “Adayar is in great form and he has been over to Waterhall (gallop) and done all our preparations pre-season and he has delighted us over there.

“His target is the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. We go to Sandown with it very much as a trial, but I would be disappointed if this horse is not a big player there.

Charlie Appleby is looking forward to the return of Adayar
Charlie Appleby is looking forward to the return of Adayar (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We are very much on the front foot this season as this time last year, unfortunately our dream had gone for the first half of the season, which became frustrating watching all those good races go by.

“He showed that he was worth our patience at the back end there winning at Doncaster, which was more of an organised gallop, before running a courageous race to finish second in the Champion Stakes on ground that we know is not his ideal.

“We are very much looking forward to Sandown next week.”

Appleby is keen for Adayar to win a Group One over 10 furlongs to go with his Derby and King George wins over a mile and a half to enhance his future value at stud.

“To start with he will be campaigned over a mile and a quarter because of his stallion CV. In this day and age, they want to see a bit more speed on the page,” he added.

“What he achieved in his three-year-old career, winning the Derby and King George, was fantastic and everyone was delighted. From a commercial point of view, everyone would like to see that mile and a quarter stamped.

“I think it is a trip that is well within his compass – he has always been a very strong traveller in his races.

“Epsom and Ascot were fantastic results for the horse and the team, but I’m pretty confident he will be putting a Group One 10-furlong tag around his neck this year.”

Newbury reappearance possible for Mojo Star

Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star could make his reappearance in what is shaping up to be a high-class Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Runner-up in both the Derby and St Leger during his Classic season, he has been off the track since finishing second in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last year – his sole start at four.

He was due to return in the Further Flights Stakes at Nottingham last week, but having skipped that Colwick Park assignment on account of deteriorating ground, the Amo Racing-owned five-year-old could begin his march back to the Royal meeting in this 12-furlong Group Three.

“We did want to start him off at Nottingham, but I think we saw there with Trueshan getting beat and how bad the ground was, we made the right decision to not go there – we were happy to swerve that one,” said Tom Pennington, Amo’s racing and operations manager.

A maximum of 11 will go to post for the race better known as the John Porter and other notable names amongst the possibles include Charlie Appleby’s pair of Yibir and Hurricane Lane.

The latter accounted for Mojo Star when scooping Classic honours at Doncaster as a three-year-old, but Pennington is keen to point out that Amo’s son of Sea The Stars is a top operator in his own right and will always be facing off against stiff opposition.

He continued: “We’ve got to start somewhere and he’s that good of a horse, operating at a high level, that we’re always going to bump into one or two and we can’t be afraid of anyone.

Former St Leger winner Hurricane Lane is a possible for the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury
Former St Leger winner Hurricane Lane is a possible for the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes at Newbury (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Richard’s happy with him and as I’ve said before, this is a stepping stone to Royal Ascot and the Gold Cup and then those nice staying targets in the summer.

“We just need to get a run under his belt now. He’s been off the track for over 300 days and we just need to get the cobwebs blown away and get him back on track.”

Owners Godolphin are again well represented amongst the 22 entries for the Dubai Duty Free Stakes – also known as the Fred Darling – where Appleby’s Fairy Cross and John and Thady Gosden’s Bridestones will put their 1000 Guineas aspirations to the test.

Amo Racing are also double-handed in the race with Olivia Maralda potentially making her debut for Roger Varian and Magical Sunset bidding to build on an impressive course-and-distance success in the Radley Stakes in her final start at two.

Magical Sunset struck Listed gold at Newbury
Magical Sunset struck Listed gold at Newbury (Neil Morrice/PA)

“Olivia Maralda has been working well for Roger and he has been very pleased with her,” added Pennington.

“This has been her target all along but if that rain materialised Thursday/Friday, I would be worried because it is already soft, heavy in places now. She wouldn’t want it that extreme I wouldn’t think, so we’ll have to assess that nearer the time.

“Magical Sunset loves that ground – it was heavy when she won the Radley Stakes and she seems to thrive on it. She is a much better filly on it, so it will be a nice starting point for her.”

Of the remainder, Lowther Stakes one-two Swingalong (Karl Burke) and Queen Me (Kevin Ryan) could make the trip down from Yorkshire, with Small Oasis a possible Irish raider for Jessica Harrington.

Monday Musings: The Apples of Charlie’s Eye

I finally made it to Ascot on Saturday, my first visit to a racecourse since the last day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, writes Tony Stafford. As I drove the last few miles the excitement was almost making me breathless and I was delighted that by waiting until there was an element of normality, my trip was just as I remembered all those wonderful big-race summer afternoons.

The best part, apart from seeing a great winner of a very good King George, was the thing that I, as a now very senior citizen, always regarded as my private, exclusive club. When you’ve been racing in a sort of professional role you get to know hundreds, probably into the thousands, of people in the same narrow environment.

When loads of them stop to ask, “How are you? Long time, no see!” and variations of those sentiments having been stuck mostly at home for 16 months, it is so energising. I always used to say, “Most people my age probably see half a dozen people a day if they are lucky. I go racing three or four days a week and see maybe an average of a hundred or more that I know.”

And Ascot on Saturday was as normal as it ever was. Bars, restaurants and boxes open and fully extended, the always beautifully attired Ascot crowds basking in the better than predicted weather and fast ground befitting the middle of summer.

One person who didn’t make it was the “You’ve been pinged!” trainer of the brilliant Adayar, Charlie Appleby, who had neglected to do what people increasingly have been doing, removing the app from their phones.

Not too many Derby winners have followed their Epsom success with victory in the same year’s King George. It was more commonplace in the first 50 years of the race’s existence after its inauguration in 1951. But in this century, until Saturday only Galileo, Adayar’s grandsire via Frankel, had managed the double.

Appleby therefore made it four mile and a half Group 1 wins since the beginning of June with his two Frankel colts, the home-bred Adayar and his stablemate Hurricane Lane, the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris hero, bred by Philippa Cooper’s Normandie Stud.

Both horses won maidens in the last part of October, Hurricane Lane on debut and Adayar second time out. Both therefore were far less trumpeted at the beginning of this season when again Hurricane Run started with more precocity, indeed until he finished third to Adayar, the apparent third string at Epsom, he was unbeaten.

Adayar’s juvenile victory came in the Golden Horn Maiden at Nottingham, the race name being awarded to the great Derby winner the year after his Classic triumph. Previously it was known as the Oath Maiden Stakes in honour of the 1999 Derby hero owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation, who won the same maiden to get his career on the go the previous autumn.

I thought I would have a look at Charlie Appleby’s 2021 three-year-old complement courtesy of Horses in Training. Charlie had 70 horses of that age listed at the start of the season, 21 fillies and 49 male horses. Of the 21 fillies, eleven are by Dubawi, also the sire of 27 Appleby colts and geldings. Surprisingly, as many as 12 were already gelded at the start of the campaign and at least a couple more have subsequently experienced the unkindest cut.

Appleby had three colts by Dubawi as major candidates for the 2,000 Guineas: Meydan Classic winner Naval Crown, who beat Master Of The Seas that day; Master Of The Seas himself, who went on to win the Craven Stakes; and One Ruler, runner-up to Mac Swiney in the 2020 Vertem Futurity, also went to the Guineas. Master Of The Seas did best, losing out in a desperate thrust to the line with Poetic Flare and, while that Jim Bolger horse has gone on to run in both the Irish (close third to Mac Swiney) and French (easy winner) Guineas, and then dominated the St James’s Palace Stakes, we are yet to see Master Of The Seas again.

Another Dubawi colt to do well has been Yibir, winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket’s July meeting, while the geldings Kemari (King Edward VII) and Creative Force (Jersey Stakes) both at Royal Ascot have been to the fore.

It is noticeable that several of the gelded group have been either difficult to train or simply very late developers.

Meanwhile, the five-strong team of Frankel sons have been nothing short of spectacular. It will be of great satisfaction for the organisation that Adayar is out of a Dubawi mare and not an especially talented one.

What of the other three? One, Magical Land, has been gelded. He won the latest of his seven races for Appleby and has an 80 rating. The others have not been sighted this year. Fabrizio, placed as a juvenile, is a non-winner but Dhahabi is an interesting horse I’d love to see reappearing.

At 3.1 million guineas this half-brother to Golden Horn carried plenty of expectations. He won on debut and, last time in the autumn, was third to One Ruler in a Group 3 at Newmarket. Just the five Frankels, then, and I bet Charlie wishes he had a few more. The list of juveniles shows 48 sons and daughters of Dubawi and 11 by Frankel.

For many years the ultra-loyal and ever agreeable Saeed Bin Suroor was the only and then the principal Godolphin trainer. His stable is now increasingly the junior partner with half of the 140-odd complement listed as four years of age or older, and many of these are probably more suited to the structure of racing in Dubai over the winter. Saeed has three Dubawi three-year-old colts and one filly this year, but none by Frankel. The juveniles listed reveal one by each stallion.

How ironic that in the year of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s death in January, the all-conquering owner of Juddmonte Farms never saw the crowning of Frankel, already the greatest racehorse certainly of the past half-century, as a Derby-producing sire.

He will surely progress again from this situation and, now with Galileo also recently deceased, is in position as the obvious inheritor of his sire’s pre-eminence.

The other younger contenders will take time to earn their prestige and it can only be good for racing that a horse that went unbeaten through 14 races has made such a statement at the top end of the sport.

To win his King George, Adayar had to see off the challenge from the tough Mishriff, stepping forward from his comeback third to St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse Stakes. His owner, Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal, was one of the people I’ve known for half a lifetime that greeted me on Saturday. Also, Adayar had to consign Love to her first defeat for 21 months. The concession of so much weight to a younger colt by an older mare – 8lb – is never easy, but her race didn’t go as expected either.

Her pacemaker Broome missed the break and then only gradually moved into the lead. In the straight Love looked poised and then Mishriff tightened her up on the outside as Ryan Moore was beginning to move her into a challenging position. Having to change course, as the Coolmore filly did halfway up the short Ascot straight, is never the recipe for success.

It is fair to say, though, that Adayar would have won whatever. It will be interesting to see how Appleby shuffles his pack. Someone suggested the St Leger. If you wanted to make Adayar a jumps stallion, that’s what you would do. He won’t go anywhere near Town Moor in September. With due deference to the fifth Classic, he will have much bigger fish to fry.

- TS

Monday Musings: The Middle Distance Ranks Are Massing

Until Wednesday evening in Paris it was all plain sailing for Aidan O’Brien, writes Tony Stafford. He could pick his Group 1 spots for the rest of the year with his team of Classic colts and more plentiful top fillies and wait to see what presumably ineffectual opposition Europe’s other major stables would be able to throw at them.

But then along came Hurricane Lane, only third to lesser-fancied stable-companion Adayar in the Derby at Epsom but subsequently a workmanlike winner in the face of a good late challenge by English-trained Lone Eagle (Martin Meade) in the Irish Derby at The Curragh.

Neither run could have prepared us for the Frankel colt’s storming performance on Bastille Day (14 July) as he ripped away the home team’s barricades <couldn’t help myself> beating the Prix du Jockey Club also-rans with possibly more ease than St Mark’s Basilica had managed a month earlier.

Die-hard traditionalists have already been put in their place in France. In the old days the Jockey Club was 2400 metres (12 furlongs) in line with Epsom and The Curragh and was reduced to its present distance of 2100 metres in 2005.

That move coincided with the moving up to a mile and a half of the great Fête Nationale celebration race on a movable feast of an evening card at Longchamp. The Grand Prix de Paris, until the arrival of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920, had been the most prestigious and valuable race in France and was run over 3000 metres (15 furlongs), and even 3100 metres for a shorter intervening period.

In 1987, though, it was reduced significantly in distance to 2000 metres (1m2f) and it was at that trip that Saumarez won the 1990 race prior to his victory in the Arc that October. Previously trained to place in the Dee Stakes at Chester by Henry Cecil, Saumarez made Nicolas Clement, who had recently taken over the stable when his father Miguel died, the youngest-ever trainer to win France’s greatest race.

It works for France because, as Hurricane Lane showed so eloquently, a horse could run in and even win either or both the Epsom and Irish Derby, or indeed the Jockey Club, and there would still be time to prepare him for the Grand Prix.

That is just what Charlie Appleby did with such skill and the most notable element of it was how much he had in hand of the William Haggas colt Alenquer whose form with Adayer in the Sandown Classic Trial over ten furlongs in the spring appeared to give him a collateral edge on Hurricane Lane.

Alenquer not only beat Adayer on the Esher slopes but afterwards comfortably won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. But he was put in his place as Hurricane Lane stormed <that verb again!> six lengths clear of Wordsworth, first home of the O’Brien trio. It looked at first appraisal a major improvement on The Curragh but closer inspection reveals that Wordsworth had been beaten slightly further in his home Classic.

So where does that leave Adayer? Well, according to a conversation Charlie Appleby had with a friend who visited his luxurious stables in Newmarket before racing on Saturday, Adayer is fancied to run a very strong race as he faces up to last year’s O’Brien Classic superstar, Love, in Saturday’s King George.

The filly has the edge in the market after her comeback win over an inadequate ten furlongs in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot but Appleby, mindful that the weight-for-age scale favours three-year-olds, is by all accounts confident he will do so. Love concedes 8lb to the Derby hero while William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver gives him 11lb. Ascot is also the probable target for Lone Eagle.

Like O’Brien, Appleby is a modest man who often deflects praise to the people around him. Indeed as my friend left, Charlie said, “If you couldn’t train horses from here, where could you?”

Guesses that maybe St Mark’s Basilica might step up in distance on Saturday have been scuppered by his trainer’s single-mindedly pointing him towards the Juddmonte International. Those three days in York next month will also feature the next step towards the stars of Snowfall, following in the footprints of Love from a year ago by taking in the Yorkshire Oaks.

By the way, Jim, get my room ready! I’ll see how my first day back racing on Saturday at Ascot goes and then I might take the liberty of giving you a call. Where have I been? Too busy with all this Covid lark, mate, but I have been thinking of you!

However short a price Love was on what was to prove her last run of 2020 after the easy wins in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, the latter by nine lengths, 4-9 will be looking a gift if that is available about Snowfall. Could be 1-5!

Many felt the exaggerated superiority, indeed a UK Classic record-winning margin of 16 lengths, could in part be ascribed to the very testing ground at Epsom. Just as many were predicting that on faster ground in Saturday’s Irish Oaks she might go for economy.

Leading two furlongs out under Ryan Moore, delighted to be riding her for only the second time – he was on board for the shock Musidora win at York on May 12 three weeks before Epsom and that Frankie Dettori benefit – she drew away by eight-and-a-half lengths in majestic style.

As we know, the Coolmore boys like all the boxes ticked and the opportunities covered, but I can categorically tell you that they did not expect her to win at York. Even when she did, the beaten horses’ connections were dreaming up reasons why you could not trust the result.

After all she was rated only a modest 90 on the back of her juvenile exploits, the most memorable apart from winning a small maiden race was the mix up when she wore the wrong colour hat when well behind in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn.

After the Epsom and Curragh regal processions there is only one place you would consider for a soft-ground loving but equally comfortable on quicker turf three-year-old filly of her status - the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It took me a while – having discarded my European Pattern Races 2021 book with hundreds of others in advance of a hoped-for downsizing move – to work out why she had not been one of the dozen O’Brien horses entered for the Arc.

Six older male horses – Mogul, Broome, Armory, Serpentine, Japan and Inisfree (where’s he been for 20 months?) – are supplemented by Love. The five three-year-olds are the colts St Mark’s Basilica, along with domestic Classic flops Bolshoi Ballet, High Definition and hard-working Van Gogh whose dance in four Classics (the UK and Irish Guineas, when third behind Mac Swiney, and French and Irish Derby) brought that one positive result.

That left room for one filly and, considering Santa Barbara took until last week to gain Grade 1 winning honours in the New York Oaks while four of her supposedly inferior female counterparts beat her to it, the evidence is there. They did indeed think she was far and away the best.

At least that was the case until 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of May 12. The Arc closed at France Galop’s HQ around four-and-three-quarter hours earlier.  Now they have to wait until September 27 to get her in and pay a heavy penalty to do so.

In all, 101 horses made it. I am sure that date is writ large on the Racing Office wall and, if she enjoys another exhibition round back at the Yorkshire track she first consented to tell her trainer and owners how good she is, the supplementary entry will be made. Chances to win the race do not come along very often.

For all his and his owners’ successes in big races around Europe and in the US, the Arc has proved elusive. Two victories, with four-year-olds Dylan Thomas in 2007 and the brilliant filly Found five years ago, leave him still with a blank to fill. No Ballydoyle three-year-old has won the race since the days of Vincent O’Brien, who took the first of his two Arcs with Alleged in 1977. His second win, doubling up for Lester Piggott the year after followed Ballymoss in 1958, showed once again just how tough a race it is to win.

As mentioned, two O’Brien fillies are entered, Love and Santa Barbara. The latter might continue to make up for her earlier limitations in the Nassau Stakes next week but, as we know, a trio of Classic-winning alternatives, Joan Of Arc, Mother Earth and Empress Josephine, are equally qualified to step in and possibly pick up the Goodwood fillies’ Group 1.

Meanwhile Kevin Ryan has been exploiting the early juvenile Group contests in France with Atomic Force. Beaten first time out and gelded before a win in a small race at Hamilton, Ryan took him to Longchamp last month and he won Group 3 Prix du Bois nicely.

Returning yesterday for the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, he started 2-1 on and bolted up. He will probably return for the Prix Morny at Deauville next month. Having watched that win the Sky Sports Racing team suggested the Nunthorpe might be an option given how much weight juveniles get from their elders. This year though that could be a hot race if newcomers on the Group 1 sprinting scene like Ed Walker’s Starman and Tim Easterby’s flying filly Winter Power turn up.

- TS

Monday Musings: Classic Connections

The weekend in Ireland produced another extremely disappointing performance from an Aiden O’Brien Derby favourite, writes Tony Stafford. If anything, High Definition’s sluggish display in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby was in merit terms inferior even to Bolshoi Ballet’s comprehensive defeat at Epsom.

The discovery of a cut to a hind leg immediately after that race gave connections a straw to cling to with Bolshoi Ballet, while on Saturday a stumble through clipping heels after two furlongs apparently unbalanced High Definition with jockey Ryan Moore apparently never able to get him back on an even keel thereafter.

The common denominator in a period when Irish horses have otherwise been wiping the floor with their English-trained counterparts over jumps and on the Flat has been the two Derby wins for Godolphin on horses trained by Charlie Appleby.  Adam Kirby was the unexpected hero in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom but William Buick, only third that day on first string Hurricane Lane, was again in the saddle as that horse put things right at The Curragh.

From the time when his father Walter used to bring him over from Norway, where he was born, while Scots-born Buick senior was the eight times champion jockey in Scandinavia, William always had the mark of a future top jockey.

He used to come along to Newbury racecourse, a tiny lad, and visit the press room where his proud dad brought him and, later on, his two younger brothers, Martin and Andrew. Even years later when he started riding aged 16 as a 7lb claiming apprentice from Andrew Balding’s stable he weighed just about 5st wet through.

Walter took on the job of trying to get him started and initially it proved difficult. Then one day he rode his first winner for Paul D’Arcy, a friend of Walter’s from their riding days before Walter moved to Scandinavia.

That made little difference to the flow of rides and one day Walter asked me whether I could talk to any trainers. William had been enrolled in the Newmarket Jockey School and apparently had made something of an enemy of one of the coaches who found him rather too ready to express his opinions, a tendency that years later cost him a doubling of a suspension when he accused French stewards of being corrupt, a comment he later wisely withdrew.

At the time I was very friendly with Vince Smith and we’d recently arranged for a couple of Raymond Tooth horses to go to him, with excellent results. Vince is no longer a trainer and after surgery for gender transformation, is now known as Victoria Smith.

Vince gave the boy his chance and in the last two months of 2006 he rode the three-year-old handicapper Vacation six times to two wins, two seconds and two thirds, the impetus of which helped get him going. By the end of the year he had clocked up ten wins. Vince continued training for only two more seasons and William rode seven winners from 40 mounts for him with another 13 finishing second or third.

But what I believe was a big step in the making of William was when, as a result of a recommendation by Michael Tabor, William spent the early part of 2007 in the US in the Florida winter base of top US trainer Todd Pletcher. That, rather than run through his claim in egg-and-spoon races on the all-weather, Buick senior agreed, was a better idea and more beneficial for his future.

On that trip, with his dad as chaperone, he was taken under his wing by the great Angel Cordero in his daily track work and returned to the UK a better rider and a much more rounded young man.

While voted the Apprentice of the Year in the Derby awards in both 2017 and 2018 by UK journalists, Buick was actually beaten as champion apprentice the first year by Greg Fairley who had been supported with all the ammunition available from the country’s now winning-most trainer Mark Johnston. Sadly within four years of having maintained a similar level, Fairley found the struggle to deal with maintaining an unnatural weight beyond him.

In 2008 Buick did gain his coveted Champion Apprentice title, although he had to share it with another Andrew Balding rider, geegeez-sponsored David Probert. Within a couple of years he was head-hunted by John Gosden and for four years, during which time he won a first Irish Derby on Jack Hobbs, the pair had spectacular success together.

But the final step on his graduation into the top sphere was being recruited in 2014 by Godolphin with all the winter benefit of winning such races as the Dubai World Cup and its extravagant rewards. That has projected Buick into the same elite jockey grouping as Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.

Moore has been the Coolmore number one throughout the same period, succeeding Joseph O’Brien, while Dettori, previously the long-term Godolphin number one, switched back to Gosden on Buick’s departure and duly extended his astonishing longevity with the UK’s top stable, most notably with his association with Enable.

William won the 2018 Derby for Godolphin on Masar and, while he could finish only third behind Adam Kirby, who rode lesser-fancied stablemate Adayar, on Hurricane Lane in the Blue Riband earlier this month, he remained loyal to his mount and was rewarded three weeks later with what was a second victory in the Irish Derby.

It required a top-class ride on Saturday as, going into the final furlong, Dettori, riding the Martin Meade-trained Lone Eagle, had poached a clear lead. With none of the home team looking up to making a challenge the two UK colts had the finish to themselves.

Between the Godolphin pair at Epsom was the Richard Hannon-trained and Amo Racing-owned Mojo Star, still a maiden but he was now strongly fancied to correct that status in this Classic. Unfortunately for connections, when Buick first launched his run down the outside of the field he instigated a touch of general bunching to his inside.

Mojo Star was the worst affected in the scrimmage so, while having no time to recover fully, he did well to finish fifth, just ahead of Irish 2,000 hero, Mac Swiney. Wordsworth, in third, was the best of the Ballydoyle runners but a full five lengths adrift of the first two.

So, with a Classic win, there was a little respite for the town of Newmarket, still shocked by the sudden resignation earlier that day of Matt Hancock from his post as Health Secretary and therefore the most constant face of the Government’s during the Covid-19 crisis of the past 15 months. Hancock is the Member of Parliament for the West Suffolk constituency which includes Newmarket.

The former minister was the subject of a leaked picture, probably taken from a phone camera, showing him snogging a woman that turned out to be his future live-in partner, an action contrary to Covid-19 regulations and a few other considerations too, I would imagine. The break-up of his marriage had been announced just before the departure.

I touch on this simply because he was, or rather is, a fan of horse racing and while the financial situation for owners remains as dire as it has been for many years because of the inadequate prize money levels, the sport certainly needs friends in high places. I don’t suppose he’ll be too much use from the back benches.

I digress. Whereas Adayar was a home-bred, Hurricane Lane, a son of Frankel, was bred by Philippa and Nicholas Cooper’s Normandie Stud in Sussex. I first met the Coopers in the spring of 1998 after Hitman, a decent horse I bought as a yearling and had in training with Henry Cecil along with Peter Mines and a few of his pals under the name of the Paper Boys, was beaten a neck by their horse I’m Proposin at Leicester.

We were all shocked, but Henry, despite Hitman’s having starting the 4-9 favourite after some exceptional homework, was not surprised. “A better horse still needs to be fit to win and Hitman needed the race. When it came to the crucial stage, I’m Proposin <an 8-1 shot that day and winner of his next two races for John Dunlop> was fit, so he won.” A lesson learned from the words of the master! Mainly jumping owners at the time, the Coopers graduated to the Flat before becoming highly-successful commercial breeders.

They reluctantly decided to sell their West Sussex farm in 2017 but continue breeding basing their mares at Coolmore and Newsells Park, the latter of which has changed hands in the past few weeks.  Gale Force, a daughter of Shirocco and, rarely for Philippa, not a home-bred, was sold in a partial dispersal of Normandie’s stock in December 2019 for 300,000gns. That was two months after her son, to be known as Hurricane Lane, went through the same Park Paddocks sale ring for 200,000gns.

Part of the reason for the Coopers’ sale was the tendency for all their retired racehorses to come back to the farm and then live to a great age. Now they are kept at Angmering Park, near Arundel, the home of the late Lady Anne Herries and former training base of William Knight, who moved to Newmarket early last year.

The Classic Year 2021 has thrown a few unexpected barbs at Coolmore with Santa Barbara’s defeats in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks even though they still won both races. Mother Earth’s victory in the Newmarket race and more emphatically Snowfall’s record-breaking romp at Epsom obviously lessened the blow each time.

Yesterday Santa Barbara, with Aidan O’Brien splitting the difference in the ten-furlong Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes, feature race on the final day of the Derby meeting, went a long way towards restoring her reputation. Initially looking at best booked for third or fourth, she produced a flying finish between horses in the last half furlong under a left-hand drive by Moore and only narrowly failed to catch the more experienced four-year-old, Thundering Nights.

That filly, sent to Belmont Park for her previous run and an excellent second there in a mares’ Grade 2 for Joseph O’Brien, looked likely to win comfortably but Santa Barbara reduced the margin to a neck.

With four three-year-old fillies at Ballydoyle already Classic winners this year, the in-fighting for a place in the Nassau Stakes line-up will be intense but at least Santa Barbara must now be a contender. As Peeping Fawn showed back in 2007, there’s plenty of time to rebuild a reputation. She won four Group 1 races only starting at Goodwood that year.

- TS