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Indigo Girl targeting Valiant victory on seasonal bow

One-time Classic hope Indigo Girl is the star attraction in the British Racecourses Join Sunflower Lanyard Scheme Valiant Stakes at Ascot.

The daughter of Dubawi won two of her three starts as a juvenile last season, including an impressive Group Two triumph in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September.

She met with defeat for the first time when runner-up to Pretty Gorgeous in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket the following month, but while the third home Mother Earth went on to win the 1000 Guineas this spring, Indigo Girl has not been seen in competitive action since.

John and Thady Gosden’s filly is one of two runners for prominent owner George Strawbridge in Friday’s Group Three feature along with Noel Meade’s Irish challenger Elysium.

The Belardo filly, who will be carrying the Strawbridge colours for the first time, also has to overcome a lengthy absence, having been off the track since winning the Group Three Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh last autumn.

Meade said: “She’s in good shape. We had kind of a miserable spring as she got a few little respiratory problems, which slowed her down.

“We struggled to get her right, but we think we’re nearly there now and we really hadn’t any place to start her (in Ireland).

“We wanted to start her in a Group race if possible and this looked the most suitable one. Her owner has another runner in it and she’s favourite, but that’s the way it goes.

“I’m hoping our filly will have a good run. She will improve for the run I’m sure.”

The biggest threat to the Strawbridge pair appears to be the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Lights On, who has won three of her four starts this season – most recently romping 10 lengths clear of her rivals in the Listed Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract.

Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “We’ve been thrilled with her this year. She ran no race at Royal Ascot (eighth in Kensington Palace Stakes) because of the draw really.

“The ground is going to be different on Friday. A bit of juice in the ground might have been helpful, but it’s a logical race and we’ll see what happens.

“John and Thady Gosden’s filly was highly thought of last year, but our filly is in good form and has come out of her last race well.

“Hopefully they put a bit of water on.”

Suesa on course for Commonwealth Cup date

Unbeaten French sprinter Suesa will head to Royal Ascot in search of Group One glory.

The George Strawbridge-owned three-year-old has a perfect record of four runs and four victories, all at Chantilly.

After winning on her track debut in October last year, the filly took the Listed Prix Yacowlef before she was bought by American owner Strawbridge.

Strawbridge transferred the bay from the base of Carlos Laffon-Parias into the care of Francois Rohaut, and Suesa struck on her first run for her new handler with an easy triumph in the Group Three Prix Sigy, after which she enjoyed another comfortable victory at the same level when winning the Prix Texanita by three lengths.

Royal Ascot now beckons for the daughter of Night Of Thunder, with the Commonwealth Cup on June 18 set to be her first run away from Chantilly.

“She won them very easily,” said James Wigan, racing manager to Strawbridge, of the filly’s successes thus far.

“I don’t know what she beat, but she couldn’t have done it more easily.”

Suesa is currently a 9-2 chance for the Commonwealth Cup, a price that leaves her second-favourite behind only Wesley Ward’s Campanelle.

The presence of Ward’s American runner confirms the race is set to attract high-calibre six-furlong three-year-olds from across the world, and Suesa’s connections are expecting to learn more about her class when she is pitched against them.

“It’s difficult to know because she hasn’t taken them on, the best Irish or British sprinters,” Wigan said.

“But she’s shown herself to be better than what’s available in France.”

Indigo Girl had high-class form as a juvenile last year
Indigo Girl had high-class form as a juvenile last year (David Davies/PA)

Strawbridge also owns the John and Thady Gosden-trained Indigo Girl, who was last seen finishing second in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October.

That performance followed two victories, one on debut and one in the Group Two May Hill Stakes, but the daughter of Dubawi is yet to take to the track this season.

A tilt at Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes was suggested as an alternative to the 1000 Guineas, but she did not run in either contest and may head to Chantilly for the Prix de Diane, the French equivalent to the Oaks, instead.

“Her original target was the Prix de Diane,” Wigan said.

“I think that’s probably still the target, unless he (John Gosden) has changed his mind.”

Clock Watcher: Young Guns

Is that the time? Doesn't it fly when you're having fun? It's been a good while since the previous Clock Watcher episode so high time for another instalment. This time the focus is mainly on two-year-old races which might pan out well - or at least better than markets expect.

When pulling the relevant races from the database - those since 10th August 2020 - and ordering by the sum of Topspeed and our sectional upgrade figure, I was pleasantly surprised and at the same time irked that the top four to have run since recording their good number have all won their sole subsequent start.

Grist to the method mill maybe, but slim pickings unless of course you're one of that desperate band of netherworlders, the after-time police.

For the record, we'll cover the subsequent winners, and then have a squint at the quartet yet to go again; we might call those the 'destined to get beaten' group!

The First Four...

Top of the late summer pops was Dubai Honour, whose effort in narrow defeat at Chester behind an all-the-way winner was substantiated by both a good speed figure and a tidy sectional upgrade. [Click the image below to open a more pixel-perfect version]

We can see from the running lines (race position and distance behind the leader/in front) in the blue boxes to the left that State Of Bliss led all the way, and that at the middle (third) call point, which is the two furlong pole ('4-2' of that section, see data to the right of the blue boxes), Dubai Honour was just about four lengths back in fifth position.

He made up three-quarters of a length and two positions in the penultimate furlong (2-1) and all but a nose of the three lengths deficit from the trailblazing winner in the final (1-0) furlong.

The red filled boxes (in the lilac box to the right - confused?!) tell the tale of the finish: Dubai Honour's final furlong finishing speed percentage was 108.3 compared with the winner's 104.1.

Dubai Honour posted some impressive sectional timing figures when narrowly failing to catch Stat of Bliss at Chester

Next time out, and sent off 5/2 favourite for a similar race at Haydock on 26th September, Dubai Honour made no mistake. Alas, at time of writing there are still no sectional insights for that - or indeed any Racing TV - track. However, I'm given to understand this may begin to happen in the near future; Course Track, a company commissioned by Racecourse Media Group (and their TV channel, Racing TV), have been collecting the data for some time and the challenges they've faced in ensuring the integrity of that data may finally be in harness.

It is a difficult challenge, in fairness, and I sincerely hope that I - and many others - can stop whining and start consuming very soon!

Stepping away from my dangerously worn out soapbox, while Dubai Honour's light is no longer under a bushel he does look the type to improve for a step up in trip; and, out of a Montjeu mare, his pedigree offers hope also.

Without going into fine detail, the other three subsequent winners were Indigo Girl, now unbeaten in two for John Gosden after landing the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster; La Barrosa, also unbeaten in two and also a winner in Pattern company since, the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby; and Rising Star, who led all the way to land a Kempton novice event. The last named may be the best chance of a price next time.

The Next Four...

To those yet to run since, and a likely kiss of death for them...

The '85' in the spreadsheet image above is Derab. Trained by John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, he recorded his number on debut when running up to the aforementioned La Barrosa. Waited with early, his final furlong time of 12.14 seconds on the Ascot incline was clear quickest.

We already know the early merit of that form - the third has also won since, and the fourth, and the 11th (at 125/1!) - and this lad has yet more expectation bestowed upon him as a result of his breeding: by Sea The Stars, he is out of the same mare, Concentric, as Enable!

[Again, click the image to view a clearer version - images containing numbers and text generally blur slightly when forced to a certain resolution]

 

Less obvious - let's face it, almost any two-year-old in training is less obvious than Derab - is Rival, a respectful third behind State Of Bliss and Dubai Honour at Chester. Drawn widest of all, Rival was five lengths off the speed at the half mile marker in that 7½ furlong contest, and closed up to finish best of the rest.

As well as Dubai Honour's impressive subsequent score, the fifth and eighth placed finishers have won their sole spins since giving the form a solid look.

Rival was due to run at Windsor this afternoon before that track got waterlogged. Expect to see him back on track soon.

The first of the brace of 81's belongs to King Zain, who was winning for the second time either side of a pair of Group 2 mild disappointments. The son of Kingman is out of a Dalakhani mare and may prove best at the far side of a mile; here he quickened well over seven and left his closest rivals eating sods in the last quarter mile.

This time the chart (below, click for pixel clarity) shows 'sectional time' by furlong so, of course, the lower the line the faster the time.

The black line is par, which relates that Lingfield seven furlong turf contests are often more quickly run early before slowing up late. This race, as can be seen, was not run like that: rather, it was steady until around the two furlong from home pole and then a sprint to the line.

I've included the second (Incorrigible, green line) and third (Gypsy Boy, mauve) so you can see how King Zain (maroon) matched the runner up before leaving that one behind in the last eighth of a mile. The third plodded on at the one pace and looks flattered as a result of his early position in a slowly run heat.

 

The last of the four yet to go again since their spreadsheet effort is Fools Rush In, by first-season sire sensation, Mehmas (see below, image copied from TheOwnerBreeder.com - click on the image to visit their site).

 

Trained by Tom Dascombe, he had a busy three and a half months where he racked up eight starts between the resumption and mid-September. During that time he was only outside the first four twice: in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot and a valuable sales contest at York. Winning, however, has proved elusive with a solitary score to show for his exertions.

In the Chester race flagged in the image above (you know the drill by now, click it for clarity), he suffered mild interference at the start and, though he closed the gap, was unable to recover against a pair of runners that were first and second almost throughout.

The winner has gone in again since and it will be interesting to see where next for Fools Rush In. Ostensibly exposed on a mark of 82, he could be freshened up by a short break and might be interesting in a straight track six furlong handicap.

Takeaways

The bird may have flown in large part with regard to the horses highlighted herein, sadly.

That said, Dubai Honour looks a colt of some promise and is ready for the step up to Pattern company, though a rating of 90 is probably tempting in the handicap context. Derab will also be fascinating to follow for all that he's unlikely to be a punters' pal.

Of the remainder, Rival is less exposed than King Zain and Fools Rush In; having been rained off today, he's entered in a valuable mile nursery at York on Saturday and that more stamina-testing track, off a mark of just 77, may play to the strengths of a horse doing his best work late around Chester's bullring (the winner of that Chester race is now rated 90, and the fifth-placed horse 82).

He'll need a few to come out to make the cut there but, wherever he next appears, he could be worth following.

But the big takeaway is that we might soon have the significant gaps in what may be termed 'official' sectional coverage plugged by the long-awaited publication of Racing TV sectional data. Fingers crossed, that will form part of the next edition of Clock Watcher.

Matt

Indigo Girl too good for May Hill rivals

Indigo Girl defied a slow start and signs of greenness to triumph in the bet365 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster.

John Gosden’s filly had won her only previous start at Yarmouth and was sent off a 100-30 chance in what looked a strong Group Two.

The Clarehaven handler was winning the race for a fifth time, having last prevailed with Rainbow View in 2008 in the same George Strawbridge silks.

A sister to the Group One winner Journey, Indigo Girl broke awkwardly from the stalls which meant she was at the back of the field early.

However, she made eyecatching progress up the stands side with three furlongs to run and was soon challenging Dubai Fountain for the lead.

Her lack of experience told as she then jinked to her left, while favourite Zabeel Queen on the far side was also running off a straight line.

However, once Frankie Dettori was able to get her straightened up to a certain degree, the daughter of Dubawi went on to win by three-quarters of a length from Dubai Fountain, with Zabeel Queen a length away in third.

It was a quick double for Gosden and Dettori after Logician’s stroll earlier on the card and the winner was introduced into the 1000 Guineas betting at 14-1 by Paddy Power.

Gosden said: “She did it very smoothly at Yarmouth and she’s been in great form since. The race didn’t knock her back a bit – it was rather like a piece of work.

“If we’d gone for another novice race, she would have had to lump a lot of weight and I don’t like doing that with two-year-olds. You can end up giving 7lb to a Group horse and you don’t know it.

“The May Hill is a beautiful race over the straight mile. The track is in beautiful nick and I thought we’d bring her here and see if we could nick a bit of black type.

“She relaxed beautifully, which is key, and smoothly came through. I admit when she hit the front she ran around, but that’s the trainer’s fault because when I work them at home, I don’t like them bursting clear and breaking another one’s heart.

“She’s obviously got a lot of talent. As long as she continues to enjoy her racing,she can move upward.”

Considering future targets, the trainer added: “There are two options this year – the Prix Marcel Boussac and the Fillies’ Mile. We could look at either of those or wait until next year, we’ll just have to see at this stage.

“Her mother (Montare) won a Prix Royal-Oak and her full-sister (Journey) won the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot over a mile and a half. Funnily enough, I see this one as more of a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter filly.

“She travels strong and has a great turn of foot.”

Indigo Girl won despite showing wayward tendencies
Indigo Girl won despite showing wayward tendencies (David Davies/PA)

Dettori said: “I rode Journey (her sister) and she’s the same type – not over-big, but she’s got loads of gears. It’s my first time on her.

“She travelled smoothly, quickened well, ran a bit green and went left and right, but it’s only her second start so you can excuse her for that.

“She’s from a talented family. Everything is in the right place and I really like her.

“She seems easier to handle than her siblings. She’s got a good future and is two from two and a Group Two (winner). Fingers crossed she can go all the way.”