What, if anything, are your memories of Royal Ascot 2006? A slightly incongruous question seeing that it’s almost ten and a half years ago, but a few elements of the fixture are indelibly stamped on the admittedly-failing memory, writes Tony Stafford.
The first concerns Royal Hunt Cup day, the Wednesday, when the race winners included Soviet Song (in the recently instituted Windsor Forest Stakes), Ouija Board (Prince of Wales), and Red Evie, thrillingly with a late trademark run under Jamie Spencer in the Sandringham Handicap.
That was her fifth of seven successive victories for owner Terry Neill and the Michael Bell stable and a winning bet for your correspondent. Two days later, arriving early, I sat for some time with the late George Ward, getting around eventually to breeding. I suggested he should try to book any suitable mares as soon as possible for the following year to Derby winner Galileo as I was sure Coolmore would be putting up his covering fee.
George said that the in my mind bargain figure was still way beyond his reach for the type of mares he owned. After I finished my drink and left, I moved along the second floor of the main stand to Coolmore’s box. I knocked at the door and asked the attendant whether I could have a quick word with John Magnier.
I was told he was speaking to his daughter so could I wait a moment, and then was ushered in, through a packed throng of people just finishing lunch. I can picture exactly where we exchanged the few words, which after introductions were to the effect: “Hello John, I’m not sure you realise what you’ve got with Galileo. He has eight runners, all three-year-olds, on this card today, from his first crop. That must be almost a mathematical impossibility.” He probably did, but I felt I had to mention it.
None of the eight managed to win that day, although Red Rocks and Sixties Icon, second and third in the King Edward VII Stakes for Brian Meehan and Jeremy Noseda, and The Last Drop, 17th of 19 in the King George V Handicap, were to fill the first three places in the St Leger three months later, Sixties Icon turning the form around at York – Doncaster was closed that year.
Red Rocks, third at York, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf that autumn. In all there were five sons of Galileo in that St Leger along with two more by his sire Sadler’s Wells, two by Montjeu and one each by Desert Prince and Lomitas. Of the eight, only one was in the care of O’Brien, but that soon changed, as did the stud fee, quadrupled from the €37,500 in 2006 to €150,000 the following year. The 2006 St Leger 1-2-3 obviously helped, but the dramatic acceleration was made inevitable by the subsequent unbeaten juvenile season of second-crop colt Teofilo who did not make his debut until the following month.
Returning to Red Evie, after a couple more wins the following year, she was offered at the December Sale, but was led out unsold at a million guineas. Coolmore later acquired her privately and whatever figure Terry Neill eventually secured, it was clearly a fair profit on the 58,000gns he paid for her as a yearling to Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park Stud. Since then Red Evie has been routinely covered by Galileo and her third produce turned out to be Found, long regarded by Ryan Moore as a potential champion.
Yesterday at Chantilly, Found confirmed that status with an emphatic triumph as she led home an extraordinary 1-2-3 for O’Brien and Galileo four-year-olds with fellow multiple Group 1 winners Highland Reel and Order of St George filling the places. Major owners often take plenty of criticism for their policy of prematurely packing star three-year-olds off to stud, but this trio and other predecessors like St Nicholas Abbey show this operation is much more selective.
When, as with The Gurkha this year, injury interrupts a stellar career, stud is the only option, but the riches available in the major international races mean more and more top animals will be staying in training at four and above. Multiple entries in big races is nothing new for O’Brien or the sire, but for once Galileo had fewer challengers for Europe’s showpiece than Dubawi, his great but now well-held rival, who was responsible for four.
I’ve been unsuccessful in my admittedly sparing attempts to find track records for Chantilly, but Found’s time of just inside 2min 24 sec seems fast as it’s a shade under 12 seconds per furlong. The Juliet Rose won the previous day’s Group 2 for Nicolas Clement in seven seconds more!
Earlier in the summer I pointed out here that Aidan O’Brien’s British exploits in the week between the King George (Highland Reel) and Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes (Minding) brought more prizemoney than any English trainer had earned for his patrons in the entire year.
Yesterday, the O’Brien Trifecta brought a total of £3.36m, again more than any English trainer has so far earned in the UK, none having yet broken the £3m barrier. For the Coolmore partners, this was representing a prizemoney return of more than £23,000 per second for the 2min23.61sec (more than five seconds faster than the Racing Post standard time).
O’Brien now has 18 Group or Grade 1 wins worldwide, with nine in the UK, three in France, five in Ireland and Deauville’s Belmont Derby win in the US. More seem certain to follow, starting possibly with Churchill in the Dewhurst next weekend; several obvious chances on Champions Day and the guarantee of a major challenge at the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita next month.
At the moment it’s at least £15million and counting and yet the trainer consistently attaches most of the credit to everyone at Ballydoyle and Coolmore, not least: “The owners, who send me such lovely horses to train.”
Only four of the seven other trainers who supplied Galileo colts (and one filly) that 2006 Royal Ascot day are still active, but I’m sure Messrs Meehan, Noseda, Channon and Weld must be wishing that Coolmore did not have quite such a stranglehold on the best of them.
I missed Newmarket on Saturday where Alice Springs (Galileo) made yet another step up the O’Brien in-house ratings with a fluent success in the Sun Chariot Stakes, instead favouring Ascot, where the highlight was Shalaa’s successful comeback after being off since winning last year’s Middle Park Stakes.
He’ll be back for the big sprint on Champions Day where John Gosden is equipped to clinch second place in the trainers’ title. We’ll be back there too for the Balmoral Handicap with Ray Tooth’s homebred, Dutch Law, despite his slightly disappointing close-up 11th in Saturday’s Totesport-sponsored handicap after looking a real contender two out.
Yesterday, Hughie Morrison reckoned: “Charlie <Bennett> got a little excited, but he’ll have to be more patient over a mile. Dutch Law looked great this morning and I’d love to run him. When do you get the chance to run for a share of £250,000?” In the case of Aidan and the team, Hughie, pretty much every day of the week. By the way, if Morrison’s Sweet Selection gets in the Cesarewitch on Saturday, I reckon she’s a handicap certainty.