Tag Archive for: Prix de Diane

Monday Musings: A New Head of the Table

As Royal Ascot looms, writes Tony Stafford, what could be better for the boys from Coolmore Stud as they ponder their prospects across another important week than that a brilliant dual Classic winner comes along to advertise their operation?

When the horse in question, by their UK and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill, is owned and trained elsewhere, it must be almost more satisfying. Chances are that when the Christopher Head-trained Blue Rose Cen beat their filly Never Ending Story, trained by Aidan O’Brien, by four effortless lengths in the Prix De Diane at Chantilly yesterday, it will not have bothered them a jot. There, she was supplementing her triumph in the French 1000 Guineas from a month ago.

Fixing stallion fees is one of the primary skills of this operation. A dual Guineas winner by Galileo, so one of his speedier Classic horses, Churchill might have been earmarked from the outset to get to the top. In that context the initial fee of €35k was more an enticement than a reflection of their faith in their horse.

That was in 2018 and, the following year, he was introduced to Queen Blossom, a filly that had started out as a €15k graduate of the Goffs Sportsman yearling sale (3rd division stuff really) but who did well for P J Prendergast with a win on debut and a one-mile Group 3 success on her third start. Later she was exported to the US.

It took a while for her to match that first stakes success and reach her peak over there. But she found it in the unusually severe stamina test (for the US) of the Santa Barbara Stakes at Santa Anita, a 1m4f Grade 3 for older fillies and mares, which fell right into her wheelhouse. By then a five-year-old, she was the lesser fancied of two Richard Balthas entries but won nicely and was soon on the way back to Europe, after a $220k sale.

A few months later, she was through a sale ring once more, but this time the late John Hassett had identified the daughter of smart but ill-fated dual-purpose sire Jeremy, as a prospect and acquired her through Ted Durcan for 110,000gns. She was sent to be one of Churchill’s second crop harem. Three and a half years on, her daughter Blue Rose Cen stands with a record of seven wins in nine starts, her only defeats at two on debut and when a close second to Aidan’s subsequent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Victoria Road, who has yet to appear following a training injury at the start of the season.

Those two impressive Classic victories will be the impetus for Churchill to move into the next level as a stallion. The fee was down to €30k for the present covering season, but we can expect something more akin to €50k or more when the numbers get crunched by the back-room experts in Co Tipperary come the late autumn.

Blue Rose Cen had hitherto been the second-top-rated horse in the stable of relative newcomer Christopher Head, but no longer. Head, 36, could hardly have a better heritage if he wanted to operate within any branch of thoroughbred racing as he is a fifth-generation member of the revered Head dynasty.

Originally from the UK, his great-grandfather William moved to France early in the 20th Century and soon became a leading National Hunt rider and later trainer, winning four jumps championships either side of World War I during which he fought with the British army.

Son Alec initially started riding over jumps and won successive runnings of the Grande Course de Haies, the second time on Le Paillon (1947) on which he finished runner-up to National Spirit in the 1948 Champion Hurdle.

Le Paillon went on to win the Arc but, after some falls and increasing weight, Alec’s wife Ghislaine encouraged him to retire and to set up as a trainer which he did as a 23-year-old. For half a century he won a series of major races including four Arcs which he also won three times later as a breeder and another as an owner.

When he retired to give full attention to his Haras Du Quesnay, which he ran with outstanding success with wife Ghislaine, his daughter Christiane (Criquette) took over as trainer while younger brother Freddy had a stellar riding career on the flat, before also proving a top-class trainer.

Christopher is Freddy’s son, and when I spoke to Ted Durcan last night, he said the sophomore handler has really been shaking up the established order and practice of training in France. In some ways his methods make him French flat racing’s equivalent to Ben Stokes and Brendan McCullum in England cricket.

Blue Rose Cen, following that record of four from six as a juvenile, the last of which a five length romp in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac, has now won a Guineas trial, the French 1,000 and the French Oaks in 2023 by increasingly easy margins.

I mentioned that she only moved ahead of stable-companion Big Rock because of yesterday’s success.  Big Rock had run three races in maidens before the turn of the year with another trainer before his owners moved him to Head.

Starting in a minor handicap at Longchamp three weeks after that fifth place for his previous trainer he won off 37 (81 UK equivalent) by five and a half lengths. Raised in grade the following month, Big Rock won a Listed by 4 ½ lengths; then two Group 3 races, the La Force by 2 ½ and the Guiche by five lengths.

By the time he turned out for the Prix du Jockey Club as the 17/10 favourite this month, his mark had been elevated from to 115. Even though beaten into second in the Jockey Club, by the unbeaten Ace Impact trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, he went up another 1lb.

It will be interesting to see whether Big Rock will continue running with the regularity he has so far, with some smart entries already including the Arc; and no doubt his trainer would love to follow the family tradition in that race. At this stage Blue Rose Cen might seem the more likely to be there on the first Sunday of October.

Christopher will have been aware of the many brilliant Head family fillies all his life, such as Three Troikas and dual Arc winner Treve for Criquette. While not an Arc heroine, the remarkable Goldikova, winner of the Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot in 2010, was trained by Freddy. She went on to win three consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile races and was a close third as a six-year-old when attempting the four-timer.

Tomorrow’s Queen Anne field is nowhere near the level of last year, when Baaeed enjoyed his exhibition. Neither is there anything within a stone and then some of Frankel, winner two years after Goldikova. Thoughts of his grandfather will also be at the forefront of the emerging young handler as it was a year ago this Thursday that the great Alec Head died aged 97.

But on the opening day I’m most looking forward to the clash between Chaldean, the 2000 Guineas winner, and Irish 2000 victor Paddington, who stepped into the void left by vanquished Ballydoyle 2000 flops but subsequent Derby (Auguste Rodin) and Haydock sprint (Little Big Bear) winners.

Royal Scotsman, Galeron and Charyn all try for a third time having run in both colts’ Guineas, but I’ll be cheering for Isaac Shelby to keep Brian Meehan’s spirits up after his near miss in the French 2000.

My bet of the week, however, is Zinc White in the Ascot Stakes. There’s only an 8lb range between the 100-rated top-weight Tritonic and Ian Williams’ Chester Plate winner on his first run for ages. The 8lb he was raised was just enough to get him in here on the bottom at number 20 and Ian is entitled to say it’s just as important to be lucky as to be talented.


For those of you that might have been confused having read the various versions of last week’s effort, I can only hold my hands up, especially to Conrad Allen, whom I misquoted several times, making a pig’s ear of getting his amazing story in some order. Writing in the middle of the night has its potential downside, not least eliminating the possibility to re-check, or be corrected by the subject once he has read what has been attributed to him.

Fortunately, Conrad was able to point out where I’d gone wrong in transcribing my notes and the final effort, I trust, was acceptable to him. Many thanks to the Editor too for his forbearance. Meanwhile Conrad’s filly Princess Chizara is jocked up to run in Wednesday’s Queen Mary Stakes in the colours of owner Izy Manueke and I hope she gives them a bold showing after her speed-laden debut win at Brighton.

- TS

Running Lion ready to put the record straight at Chantilly

Running Lion will bid for Classic redemption when she attempts to give John and Thady Gosden back-to-back victories in the Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly.

A daughter of Clarehaven’s multiple Group One winner Roaring Lion, she has been unbeaten in four since finishing fourth on debut last summer and took her form to the next level when claiming the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket last month.

That earned her a shot at the Betfred Oaks, but she got upset in the stalls and was ultimately withdrawn, meaning a frustrated Oisin Murphy could only watch on as stablemate Soul Sister stormed to Classic glory.

She is reported to be none the worse for that eventful few moments at the start at Epsom and will now get a second chance to secure Classic honours and follow in the footsteps of Star Of Seville and Nashwa, who have both won this race for the Gosden team in the past.

Running Lion and jockey Oisin Murphy heads back to the stables during a gallops morning at Epsom
Running Lion and jockey Oisin Murphy heads back to the stables during a gallops morning at Epsom (Adam Davy/PA)

“It was a very unfortunate freak incident at Epsom when she kicked out and broke the back gate of the stalls which meant they weren’t able to open,” said Thady Gosden.

“But obviously she didn’t have a race there and came out of it with nothing serious fortunately. She has been in good form since.

“We are drawn 12 of 15 which isn’t ideal at Chantilly, of course, although in terms of ground it’s quick there at the moment and even though there may be some thunderstorms around Sunday, she is probably a versatile filly when it comes to ground.

“Her father liked top of the ground and she is out of a Dansili mare and they normally like top of the ground. However, she won the Pretty Polly really well on slower going.

“After her first run all she has done is improve and has done nothing wrong – she has a great mind on her and always puts her best foot forward.”

Fellow British raider Novakai brings solid Group-race form to the table having chased home Polly Pott and Commissioning in the May Hill and Fillies’ Mile respectively last term. She returned to finish second to Soul Sister in the Musidora Stakes at York.

Novakai is on course to run in France
Novakai will bid to give Karl Burke a second win in the French Oaks (Mike Egerton/PA)

This has always been the target for Karl Burke’s filly who runs in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and will attempt to give the Spigot Lodge handler his second triumph in the race after Laurens in 2018.

Joseph O’Brien’s Caroline Street finished second to Derby hero Auguste Rodin in the Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown as a two-year-old and has won her sole outing this season when upped to 10 furlongs at Naas.

Brother Donnacha and father Aidan have won this prestigious contest in two of the last three years and it would be fitting if he could add his name to the roll of honour with the talented daughter of No Nay Never.

“She’s in good nick and she got a very good draw,” said the Owning Hill handler. “It’s a super hot race, but she goes there with a chance.

“I thought it was a great run in Naas, she sat back and hit the line really well – I thought she was impressive. This race has been the target since then, it was going to be the Diane or the Pretty Polly (at the Curragh).”

Never Ending Story winning at Leopardstown
Never Ending Story winning at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Meanwhile, the all-conquering master of Ballydoyle saddles Poule d’Essai des Pouliches fifth Never Ending Story, with her big-race pilot Ryan Moore expecting her to improve on that showing now upped in distance.

“This is about as deep and competitive a Classic as you will find, with a lot of talent on show and of course, with 15 runners, you are going to need all the luck going in here,” he told Betfair.

“I don’t think we saw the best of my filly at all when she was fifth in the French 1000 Guineas last time. She didn’t run badly but she didn’t fire and pick up as I was expecting, as I thought she had a big shot at winning that race.

“However, I think she remains a Group One filly and I hope she can prove it over a trip that she is bred to get. She could just surprise some fillies with more obvious claims.”

Running Lion ready to bid for Chantilly Classic redemption

John Gosden is pleased with Running Lion ahead of her tilt at the Prix de Diane, with 15 fillies heading to post at Chantilly on Sunday.

The daughter of Roaring Lion was withdrawn from the Betfred Oaks at Epsom after getting upset in the stalls and having watched stablemate Soul Sister storm to big-race glory on the Surrey Downs, she will now get another chance to secure her own Classic honours in the French edition this weekend.

Last year Nashwa exited stall two when winning the Diane for the Gosden team, but this time Running Lion will have to navigate a wide position in stall 12 as Oisin Murphy’s mount looks to replicate an impressive showing in the Pretty Polly at Newmarket earlier in the season.

However, Gosden – who trains in partnership with son Thady – is full of praise for the consistent filly who is the 11-4 favourite with Coral to land the spoils.

“She’s in great form and we’re really happy with her and her work has been great this year,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“She’s a tough filly and she needs to be from stall 12. We’re very pleased with her going into the race.

“She’s very business-like, both in the mornings and her races and has shown nothing but a great mental attitude to her racing and has been very consistent.”

Never Ending Story, here winning at Leopardstown, will run for Aidan O'Brien in the Prix de Diane
Never Ending Story, here winning at Leopardstown, will run for Aidan O’Brien in the Prix de Diane (Niall Carson/PA)

There is further UK representation in the form of Karl Burke’s Novakai, who was last seen finishing second to Soul Sister in the Musidora, while Aidan O’Brien and his son Joseph are represented by Never Ending Story and Caroline Street respectively.

Christopher Head’s impressive French Guineas winner Blue Rose Cen is the shortest-priced contender from the home contingent and will be joined in the line-up by likely pacemaker and stablemate Wise Girl.

Prix Saint-Alary winner Jannah Rose and the supplemented runner-up Elusive Princess, along with Andre Fabre’s unbeaten Pensee Du Jour are others from the home team with leading claims.

Pensee Du Jour primed for Diane mission

Pensee Du Jour puts her unbeaten record and lofty reputation on the line when she contests Sunday’s Prix de Diane at Chantilly.

The daughter of Camelot made it three from three when winning the Prix Penelope with supreme ease at Saint-Cloud in April and having won by a combined 13 and a half lengths in her outings so far, will now bid to give trainer Andre Fabre a fifth win in the fillies’ Classic.

Owned by Ballymore Thoroughbreds, for whom Fabre trained Miss France to win the 1000 Guineas in 2014 and also guided Persian King to a trio of Group One victories, connections are hopeful Pensee Du Jour will continue her progressive ways following a short break.

“She was a backwards filly last year and Andre thought he could win some black type early on this year,” said Anthony Stroud, racing manager for Ballymore.

“Then she developed and developed and she won three races. After she won those races we thought we would give her a bit of time, as she had run in those races quite quickly.

“I thought she won nicely and in a progressive way (in the Prix Penelope). She has had to make the running in her three races and it would be nice if she didn’t. She’s also had three different jockeys on, so it will be nice that she will have a bit of consistency next time.”

Pensee Du Jour will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Miss France and win a Classic for Andre Fabre and Ballymore Thoroughbreds
Pensee Du Jour will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Miss France and win a Classic for Andre Fabre and Ballymore Thoroughbreds (Steve Parsons/PA)

Pensee Du Jour’s potential rivals include Oaks winner Soul Sister and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches victor Blue Rose Cen at this stage, with Stroud admitting he would like some rain in the coming days as her previous wins have come with cut in the ground.

“I would hope she will handle the ground OK, but I would love to see a thunderstorm come along,” continued Stroud.

“I would like there to be some sort of rainfall. She’s never run on this ground but we know she goes with a bit of ease in the ground, so I would like a thunderstorm to appear.”

If Sunday’s Classic mission proves successful, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe could prove an enticing proposition later in the year considering Fabre’s impeccable record in Europe’s richest middle-distance contest and the filly’s proven attributes on soft ground.

Although preferring to focus on matters closer to hand, Stroud is allowing himself to briefly dream about such races later in the season, with him envisaging Pensee Du Jour’s future lying over further.

He added: “I could see her going up to a mile and a half down the line and I think as time goes on, she will get better as she is quite a physically big filly. But it’s not often you have a filly that has won all three of her races and she deserves her chance to take part in this race.

“I think the Arc would be a wonderful dream, but we have to take it step by step and this weekend coming is the next step.

“I’m sure she will have a break and we will see how she is and then we will be advised by Andre. Of course there is the Prix Vermeille and the Arc, but I think it is important to not get ahead of ourselves, get Sunday out of the way and go from there. But it’s good to have dreams.”

A total of 18 fillies remain in contention for the race, with Running Lion, who was withdrawn at the start at Epsom, standing her ground along with the likes of Oaks fourth Caernarfon, Never Ending Story, Jannah Rose and Left Sea.

Novakai primed for French Classic mission

Novakai remains firmly on course for a tilt at Classic glory in France after seeing her form receive a significant boost at Epsom last weekend.

Runner-up in the May Hill at Doncaster and the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, the Lope De Vega filly made her three-year-old debut in the Musidora Stakes at York.

Karl Burke’s filly again had to make do with second place, but that now looks a fine effort after the surprise winner, Soul Sister, followed up in the Betfred Oaks at Epsom under Frankie Dettori.

Immediately after her run at York, Burke nominated the French Oaks as the likely objective and he is looking forward to seeing her line up at Chantilly on Sunday week.

“She’s on target for Prix de Diane, she looks in great shape,” said the Spigot Lodge handler.

“She’s not a particularly strong work horse at home, but she does look in good form and we’re very happy with her.

“The Musidora form obviously got a nice boost and she’ll step up on that York form as well.”

Novakai will bid to provide Burke with a second French Oaks success following the victory of his star filly Laurens in 2018.

Whether she will renew rivalry with Soul Sister remains to be seen, but she is likely to meet her stablemate Running Lion, who was withdrawn before the start of the Oaks at Epsom.

Head proud of Big Rock despite Prix du Jockey Club defeat

Connections of Big Rock will be in no rush to take on Ace Impact again after he was caught in the latter stages of the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Ace Impact came from way off the pace to take the Group One laurels with a scintillating burst of speed, which resulted in a new track record over the extended 10 furlongs.

Big Rock was sent off favourite on the strength of four unbeaten starts since joining trainer Christopher Head. Those victories included a Listed success and a pair of Group Three contests.

Having made much of the running under Aurelien Lemaitre, Big Rock looked to have the race in safe keeping with a furlong to race, but had no answer as Cristian Demuro’s mount swept past and went on to record a three-and-a-half-length success.

While defeat may have been bitter-sweet, Head was far from despondent at the Rock Of Gibraltar colt’s first run beyond an extended nine furlongs.

“I am very happy, because the horse has come a long way,” said the handler.

“He has won a bunch of races already and it is possible he gets beaten by good horses in the Jockey Club. In terms of the (front-running) strategy, it was pretty straightforward.

“Of course you can be vulnerable when you are trying to go a longer distance with that strategy.

“It’s fair enough. I’m very happy. If it wasn’t for the horse who beat us, we would have won the Jockey Club by four lengths and everybody would be amazed.

“The jockey did everything right. He kicked at the right time and I thought we had it won.

“When I saw that horse (win) from so far back, you have to think it is probably a very top-class horse, one we are probably not going to encounter again.

“The track record was broken and certainly they are two good horses. Usually we don’t have that kind of pace and usually you don’t get to see the true quality of the horses. I’m pretty happy with that result.”

Head has not ruled out the possibility Big Rock will cross the Channel at some point, although it is unlikely he will be seen at trips beyond 10 furlongs again.

He added: “We still have to discuss with the owner where we go and there are a few nice options.

“Pretty much we are going to try to put him over a mile or 2000 metres (10 furlongs), but we will see. That will probably be the top of his distance, I would think.

“It is a possibility you will see him in Britain. I have a few options with a few races back there and it would be nice.”

Meanwhile, Blue Rose Cen, who gave the trainer a breakthrough Classic success in the French 1,000 Guineas, will bid to secure another when she heads for the French Oaks at Chantilly on Sunday week.

“She is doing very well and we are heading for the Prix de Diane,” added Head. “She is beautiful and came out of the race well.

“She is really a wonderful filly, as she has been a very nice two-year-old and now it seems she is capable of winning both the French Guineas and probably the Oaks.

“I don’t see the limit of her and we will see after that race what we do about her programme for the next part of the season.

“She looks very stable and that’s what we want. I’m very happy with her.”

Monday Musings: Of Long Days and the Classic Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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