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Monday Musings: Sunday Silence and the Daddy

When you watch American racing – not that I do very often these days – it is always obvious that when there is a tight outcome, any deviation off a straight line by one of the protagonists is treated with unsympathetic correctitude, writes Tony Stafford.

Memories of those middling-to-far-off evenings in the old Racing Channel studio around the corner from London’s City Road – Old Street junction, scene of my schooldays at Central Foundation Grammar School – bring back overwhelmingly-superior winners being unceremoniously and totally-expectedly taken down.

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, poor old Ryan Moore (can we call him that?) and the Coolmore team’s Mendelssohn were given such a buffeting at the start; on the way to the first turn, and apparently just at the bend, that he never had a chance to add to his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and UAE Derby (on the Meydan dirt) triumphs on a rain-drenched night in Kentucky.

Step forward Luis Saez. He and his mount, the Todd Pletcher-trained Magnum Moon, have been identified as the catalyst for the mayhem which brought Moore such initial difficulty. From a single viewing it looked as though after such a rough introduction, Ryan had battled his mount valiantly into a reasonable position quite close to the turn but then came out of it mysteriously a fair way back and was never happy thereafter.

So while one Scat Daddy colt trailed home last of the 20 – one place behind the initially-swerving Magnum Moon – another, the favourite Justify, was always in the first two; led four furlongs out and was never troubled to maintain his unblemished record.

Favouritism - he started a shade under 3-1 on the local Pari-Mutuel – was guaranteed a long way before the off. I remember on my sole trip to the Kentucky Derby in 2002 we were gathered in the paddock for at least an hour before War Emblem went out to do his stuff, gazing up at the giant odds board. For the whole of that time the prices for the 20 runners barely fluctuated.

It left such an impression on me that when I was in the studio for the following year’s race, I had cause to question the normally-erudite James Willoughby. He said with a decent while to go before the race: “The prices could still change quite a lot”. I felt qualified to suggest, rather too forcibly I fear, that like Exit Polls in UK elections, these very large samples are almost set in stone.

This re-telling of an old story is not used to imply excess knowledge on my part. Rather it is to rebuke UK bookmakers for their treatment of punters aiming to back Mendelssohn.

A year ago, almost as a mark of respect to the great statesman after whom last year’s 2,000 Guineas winner was named, I stopped off at Woodford Green, close to the statue for the area’s former MP Sir Winston Churchill, and bought a nice piece of fried fish in Churchills fish shop, having first looked in on the odds on that evening’s big race in Churchill Downs.

My interest, though not for a bet, was on Thunder Snow, also previously winner of the UAE Derby, but in his case, only narrowly, whereas Mendelssohn won his renewal by 18 lengths. In the event, Thunder Snow proved intractable, and once leaving the gate, rather than run with the others, did a fair impression of the bulls which are specially trained to test the skills of the rodeo riders in the Wild West shows.

Whatever assailed him there, Thunder Snow bounced back three weeks later to chase home Churchill in the Irish 2,000 Guineas; was third just ahead of him in Barney Roy’s St James’s Palace, and more recently won the Dubai World Cup, beating the Bob Baffert-trained favourite West Coast by almost six lengths.

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On Saturday, having dropped off Mr Taylor at his car in Loughton, I retraced my steps, satisfying my unfathomable need for further sustenance with a battered sausage in Churchills and then looking in again on William Hill’s shop across the road. I was amazed to see him quoted the 11-4 favourite.

Ridiculous, I thought, but upon asking the counter assistant whether an SP bet would be settled at “industry” or American odds, was told that William Hill prices would hold. A long time before the race, Justify was clear market leader at 3’s with Mendelssohn one of a trio around 6-1. He ended up 6.8-1 on the machine, but less than half an hour before the race, was showing 9-4 with most bookmakers on the Oddschecker facility on the Internet. Larceny of the highest order, I would call it.

What with the shenanigans, intended or otherwise, of Senor Saez and his errant mount, and the corporate “price-fixing” of the UK layers where the Ballydoyle colt was concerned, his backers were the gambling equivalent of drawn and quartered. Fortunately the boys and their trainer have seen it all before, so Aidan’s pledge that the colt will return for the Breeders’ Cup Classic back at Churchill later in the year was both reassuring and realistic.

I cannot imagine whether the identical plan for the Roger Teal-trained and Mrs Anne Cowley-owned and -bred Tip Two Win will bring too much trepidation for O’Brien, but the small grey Dark Angel colt certainly gave the awesome Saxon Warrior a race when runner-up in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas just ahead of the favourite, Masar. Roger and his intrepid owner deserved their 30 minutes of fame and Mrs Cowley pledged once more that her little champion will never be sold. Who says racing is not for the small owner?

Like Justify, Saxon Warrior is unbeaten with four from four, and like his American counterpart, could have Triple Crown pretensions, although it’s much less likely to be attempted on this side of the pond, with an honourable mention of its closest recent attempt by Camelot, whose stock predictably are on the up. This was Saxon Warrior’s three-year-old reappearance, unlike Justify who became the first colt to win the Derby for 136 years without having run as a two-year-old. Apollo in 1882 was the last.

Justify and Mendelssohn are, as mentioned above, both from the penultimate crop of the much-lamented Scat Daddy; and as the television screens showed the deluge from Churchill – three inches fell during the day – it reminded me of a similar day’s weather when I attended a party arranged before the day at Monmouth Park 11 years ago when a broken leg tragically ended George Washington’s career. I believe the host for the party was James Scatuorchio, the original owner and latterly partner with Michael Tabor in Scat Daddy.

Scat Daddy’s racing career had ended with an 18th place in the Kentucky Derby that May, but he went into Ashford stud the following season for a $30,000 fee. As is normal with untried stallions, the early years are tough commercially, so by the 2011 season, when his first crop was about to be launched, the fee was down to $10,000.

From then until his untimely demise in late 2015, when the price for his 2016 matings had already been fixed at $100,000, his progeny have far out-performed those limited expectations. Had he lived, with the quality of the runners since, it would have been more like $400,000 by now.

Saxon Warrior’s emphatic win on Saturday proved yet again what brilliant and imaginative people run Coolmore. He was one of the first examples of the bold decision to send a number of Group 1 winning mares to be mated with Deep Impact in Japan. At a stroke, a much-needed outcross source for the many high-class mares, particularly daughters of Galileo, seems to have been established.

That top-class son of Sunday Silence was foaled late in his sire’s long career in Japan at the Yoshida family’s farm in Hokkaido. I had the good fortune to get a trip to Japan in the early 1990’s and saw Sunday Silence winding down at the end of his first year’s residence.

Back in 1989, Sunday Silence won the first two legs (Derby and Preakness) of the Triple Crown, but failed in the Belmont as was often the case until American Pharoah came along two years ago to end the void since Affirmed in 1979. Both times he beat the favoured Easy Goer, his major rival, before losing the argument by eight lengths in the Belmont. Finally, by defeating Easy Goer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he earned championship honours.

A disappointing four-year-old campaign left US breeders generally unmoved, but Shadai had already bought an interest and he was shipped to Japan where he became the perennial champion stallion, a position Deep Impact has inherited a decade and a half after his father’s passing.

Deep Impact might conceivably have had another European Classic winner if his diminutive daughter, September, had been able to take her place in yesterday’s 1,000 Guineas. She was very unlucky when a fast-finishing runner-up in the Fillies’ Mile over the same course and distance behind Laurens, herself runner-up yesterday behind Billesdon Brook, at 66-1 the longest-priced winner of the race.

As with Saxon Warrior, who had won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy over a mile at Doncaster last autumn, the May Hill Stakes over that course and distance at the St Leger meeting provided the fillies’ Classic’s winner. Billesdon Brook, trained by Richard Hannon, was twice successful at Goodwood last year, showing finishing speed and determination to win a handicap and then a Group 3. After those runs, fifth at Doncaster behind Laurens was probably a disappointment. She certainly put it all together up the hill yesterday and never looked like being caught.

I’m off to Windsor this Bank Holiday Monday to see if Sod’s Law can confirm what we’ve long hoped might be above-average ability. Raymond Tooth and Steve Gilbey are coming too, so let’s hope he’ll at least go close. Apres Le Deluge has been entered for Market Rasen on Friday. As the only previous winner in the field he has to be interesting, but there are some well-connected and quite pricey newcomers to worry about. Hughie Morrison can do it if anyone can.

In between it’s off to Chester, to check whether the scoff in the owners’ room remains up to standard. For me, it’s the best anywhere.

Monday Musings: The Quest for the Roses

“It could only happen to Michael!” Those words, spoken to me by Victor Chandler after Thunder Gulch, owned by Michael Tabor, had astounded everyone in racing when he won the 1995 Kentucky Derby, were repeated many times in the days after that unlikely success for a hitherto small-scale English owner, writes Tony Stafford.

Trained by Wayne D Lukas and ridden by Gary Stevens, Thunder Gulch narrowly missed out on what would have been a first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1977 when only third to stable-companion Timber Country in the Preakness before his Belmont Stakes success.

Thunder Gulch died two weeks ago at Ashford stud, Coolmore’s Kentucky base and his home throughout his own long stud career. Before his amazing Derby triumph, any thought that Tabor would ever be teaming up with John Magnier in the Coolmore ownership group would have seemed fanciful in the extreme. Yet that Run for the Roses was the catalyst that brought the pair, joined later by Derrick Smith, together and to their unchallenged position at the top of the thoroughbred world.

Ashford is also home to American Pharoah, the horse that finally ended the 38-year US Triple Crown drought three years ago. By the time he had completed that feat and long before his Breeders’ Cup Classic victory at the end of the 2015 campaign, he had been partially acquired by Coolmore. He shares with their outstanding European stallion Galileo the distinction of a “private” stud fee for the 2018 covering season.

One of the enduring oddities of the international racing calendar is that the first Saturday in May is the traditional date for both the Kentucky Derby and the 2,000 Guineas. In the days of Concorde it would have been theoretically possible to attend both – the five-hour time difference more than making up for the three and a half hour Mach2.5 Atlantic crossing - but you would have needed some heavy duty transfers.

But after Mendelssohn’s UAE Derby extravaganza on Saturday night at Meydan, there can be little doubt that Tabor, John Magnier and especially Smith, in whose colours the $3million colt runs, will be unlikely to forego Churchill Downs for the Rowley Mile, however compelling the prospects of unbeaten Saxon Warrior, or any one of half a dozen Ballydoyle colts that might pitch up for the Qipco-sponsored Classic.

The Coolmore story, and especially the last 20-odd years of it, is one of continuity. When Demi O’Byrne paid $200,000 on Tabor’s behalf for a yearling colt by Hennessy in Kentucky in September 2000, he was beginning a process that was to culminate in those astonishing events on Saturday night in Dubai.

Johannesburg won all six of his races as a juvenile in Europe, starting at Fairyhouse; going on to Royal Ascot for the Norfolk – the only time he started odds against – before winding up domestic and UK operations with an easy Dewhurst victory.

In hindsight, it seems crazy that he could have been allowed to start at odds of 36-5 for his juvenile swansong in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the dirt at Belmont, but that was entirely because of the reputation – I would have been talking it up, for sure – of the Thoroughbred Corporation-owned Officer, trained by Bob Baffert and a 4-6 shot after easy wins in Californian and then the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont.

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He flopped on his big day, however, and so on balance did Johannesburg the following May. After a soft-ground comeback defeat at home, he was only eighth of 20 behind War Emblem, Officer’s stable-companion also owned by Prince Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corporation, in the Derby. That remains my only time to attend America’s greatest race and, as I was part of the TC’s entourage, it remains one of my best memories in racing.

Johannesburg was promptly retired and with his pedigree and Grade 1 dirt win, it was pretty obvious he would be based in the US. It didn’t take too long for Scat Daddy to arrive. Todd Pletcher was the buyer when he came up at the same Keeneland September sale, five years almost to the day that his daddy went through the Lexington ring; and for a similar sort of price, $250,000.

The new owner was Joe Scatuorchio and his colt was campaigned at a high level, winning the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont before finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Gulfstream, Florida, behind wide-margin winner Street Sense. Pletcher also had Circular Quay running in the Tabor colours and this Doreen Tabor homebred started favourite, having upset the odds-on Scat Daddy when they met earlier in the season.

Both colts turned out for the Derby the following May, Circular Quay again faring better, albeit only sixth behind Street Sense, who completed the Juvenile - Derby double with an emphatic win from Hard Spun and subsequent champion, Curlin.

Presumably with the Johannesburg element to encourage him, Tabor bought into Scat Daddy and the immediate success of such as Caravaggio and Lady Aurelia quickly promoted his status within the Ashford stallion hierarchy. He had been upgraded to a $100,000 fee before a fatal accident curtailed what subsequent events show might have been a career in the Galileo mould.

Until Saturday night, that comment may have seemed over-doing it a touch, as equally might the $3million paid by M V Magnier for Scat Daddy’s yearling colt out of Leslie’s Lady, back at Keeneland’s September sale, 10 years and two days after the sire’s acquisition and 15 years and four days on from granddad’s.

But then Leslie’s Lady had already produced Beholder, whose racetrack earnings after 18 wins from 26 career starts were a touch short of four million sterling. She won three Breeders’ Cup races, from age two to six, all at Santa Anita, and Mendelssohn has already emulated the first of those, winning the Juvenile Turf last November.

Aidan O’Brien wisely brought him out for an all-weather prep at Dundalk early last month when Threeandfourpence and Seahenge were also in the field before both joined him in Dubai. The margin over the former was a modest three-parts of a length at Dundalk, Mendelssohn conceding 5lb. It would probably not have mattered if he had been giving five stone on Saturday as once Ryan Moore got him to the front, there was nothing Gold Town, favourite after two home wins for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin, or anything else could do to prevent the Irish horse’s lap of honour.

It is still easy to picture Arazi’s spectacular Juvenile win around the outside of his field all those years ago, but equally his Kentucky Derby defeat. In Mendelssohn’s case, the ever-widening gap had stretched to more than 18 lengths by the line, and was achieved in a time more than two seconds better than ever previously recorded in the race’s history as a nine and a half furlong affair.

O’Brien senior already has umpteen Derby’s and untold Group 1’s in his locker while elder son Joseph is the Melbourne Cup’s youngest winning trainer. Just what will Donnacha, and sisters Sarah and Ana have in store for us in the coming years?

Now the Kentucky Derby beckons. Johannesburg begat Scat Daddy; Scat Daddy begat Mendelssohn. It’s Easter and there’s almost a biblical theme to it all. If any family was destined to achieve yet more history and become the first Irish-based trainer to win the race, Aidan O’Brien’s undoubtedly is. As is Johannesburg’s!

Monday Musings: The Legends Behind The Leger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Musings: Fate’s Fickle Fingers

Sometimes when watching a televised race, some of the late action gets missed as producers hone in too tightly on the principals, writes Tony Stafford. On Saturday night, the Arlington Park coverage lingered on the winning line just long enough to catch a spectacular, but horrific, moment when a stricken Permian faltered and fell and William Buick was projected somersaulting over his head.

As I was switching forward and back to my normal Saturday night viewing of yet another overseas series – into its final stage – I didn’t keep up fully with the aftermath, save being pretty certain that the brave Permian’s career was at a tragic end. But until the following morning, I was unaware of Buick’s injury to a vertebra. I’ve known William and his father Walter for a long time and hope and trust that his recovery will be swift.

It befell Charlie Johnston to be on hand to accept family responsibility in the midst of a season of hitherto unparalleled success for the Middleham stable. Permian had been the standard bearer, winning the Dante and King Edward VII before failing by an agonising nose in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

He’d only been uncompetitive previously in the Investec Derby, but for once not because of unsuitability to the track, over which he previously collected the Derby Trial. Here he was beaten a long way from home, the serious leg injury which caused the fall proving an undeserved and premature end to a brilliant career.

The Johnston stable has been in the midst of an exceptional run, most times getting somewhere around 18 wins in the fortnightly portions as reported daily in the Racing Post trainers’ feature.

Among the three most active stables – the others being Richard Fahey and Richard Hannon – Johnston has been winning at a considerably higher rate, both in percentage wins to run terms, and on the winners to horses standpoint.

So far 156 victories have been achieved from 914 runs, with 94 individual winners from 184 horses and a domestic prizemoney tally of £2,333,676. The stable’s best of 216 was managed in both 2009 and 2013, while the most prizemoney of £2,992,112 came in 2014. Both those optimum figures, wins and money, must be within reach given the overall well-being of the team.

To compare and contrast, Fahey stands on 127 wins from 1088 runs with 100 individual winners from 261 horses. His prizemoney of £2,834,692 has been swelled by the exploits of such as Ribchester.

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Hannon’s 126 wins from 846 runs – 96 individual winners from 227 horses – and domestic earnings of £1,926,341 leaves him some way back in third among the three biggest strings. John Gosden always operates on a more selective level. His 78 wins have been earned from only 385 runs and from 62 individual horses of 153 to run. He has earned £3,137,442 and is in line to beat his previous best of £4,241,991 in 2014, given that more mammoth prizes are likely to fall to his champion middle-distance filly Enable.

A cursory look at the official handicap marks of the 84 horses at present in action in Gosden’s stable explains the high conversion rate from runners into cash. Of 84 with official marks, 20 are rated above 110; 20 more in the bracket 100-109. A further 22 are in the 90-99 category; 16 stand between 80 and 89, with only four in the 70’s and just two in the 60’s.

In the face of such an overall high standard from Gosden, and the greater numerical opposition from Fahey and Hannon, Johnston’s achievement of winning so many races already, with a stable of wide-ranging abilities, is outstanding.

The Raymond Tooth team can hardly claim 2017 to be a vintage year in either money or winning terms so far, but there was more than a chink of light from the Mick Quinn-trained Stanhope when he came right back to the form of his Newmarket late June win when a length runner-up to the progressive Dark Power at Leicester yesterday.

That was creditable as Stanhope had been raised to 82 (from 74) after beating the subsequent dual winner Hart Stopper by three lengths on the July Course. Fran Berry, in the saddle on both good efforts, had been unavailable when he trailed home last after losing a shoe in between the Berry runs. He thinks the gelding has another pay-day in him.

Berry was also on the Quinn team when Great Hall – once owned by the boss – fulfilled stable expectations (backed at 20-1 by the trainer in the week, by all accounts) in the Shergar Cup on Saturday, a first Ascot success for Quinny. I know Tony Hind, Berry’s agent had been hoping for a real run at the jockeys’ title this year, but the early-season breach from his retainer with Ralph Beckett – and Silvestre’s ridiculous run of success – disrupted those ambitions.

With Buick likely to be out of action for a while it will be interesting to see developments in the Charlie Appleby branch of Godolphin, but whoever gets the majority of those rides, big-race opportunities will spread further, and after enjoying the publicity of winning the Shergar Cup Saddle, Fran Berry will be in the frame for his share.

A disappointing Arlington Million meeting for the Aidan O’Brien – Ryan Moore team, headed up by Deauville’s close third in the big race, did not dampen spirits for long, as they collected a Curragh treble yesterday.

Sioux Nation, contesting favouritism with the Gordon Elliott-trained Beckford in the Phoenix Stakes, got home half a length in front to give the trainer his 16th win in the race – a clear case for a referral to the Irish Monopolies Commission.

That followed the encouraging first win of the $3million Keeneland yearling Mendelssohn, like Sioux Nation, a son of the late lamented Scat Daddy, the cost of whose early death at the start of the 2016 stud season, is being acutely realised. When Washington DC ended his run of near misses by taking the Group 3 sprint later in the card, he completed a rare O’Brien treble. Washington DC (by Zoffany) made it three wins in a day, not unusual, except that none of them was for a Galileo!

As for the Tooth team, at least four trainers are reporting imminent action from a hitherto unraced juvenile. I will probably have news of an intended debutant this time next week, but whether we can expect first-time success is quite another thing.

Phoenix Nights – Party Time for Elliott?

A pair of juvenile events are the highlight of this weekend’s action.

The Group Three Sweet Solero takes place at Newmarket, with several classy fillies on show. And 24 hours later at the Curragh, we have the Group One Phoenix Stakes, so often won by a leading Irish juvenile.

Numerous winners of the Newmarket event have returned to win the Group One Fillies’ Mile later in the campaign, highlighting the quality of filly this race attracts. Certify and White Moonstone completed the double for Godolphin in 2010 and 2012. The John Gosden-trained Rainbow View was another to complete the feat in 2008. In 2002 James Fanshawe’s Soviet Song announced herself as a talented filly, winning both and being installed as favourite for the 2003 Guineas. She became one of the greats, winning the Falmouth, Sussex and Matron Stakes as a four-year-old.

Godolphin look to add to their impressive Sweet Solero record, in the form of race favourite Poetic Charm. She’s trained locally by Charlie Appleby, and made a winning debut when defeating Ballydoyle’s Sizzling at Newmarket. She ran green that day, yet won cosily under a hands and heels ride. She’s beautifully bred, being a half-sister to Teofilo, and looks a potentially high-class filly.

The Richard Fahey-trained Dance Diva was put firmly in her place last time at Ascot by the classy Nyaleti, and now steps up in trip. She did stay-on steadily that day, and had been three from three prior to the loss. Nevertheless, that was a bruising defeat, and it’s likely she’ll find one or two a little too good for her once again.

Mayyasah was an impressive winner on debut at Newbury. The Al Shaqab owned filly displayed an eye-catching change of gear to scoot clear in the six-furlong maiden, and looked as if a step-up in trip would suit. This is a much tougher contest, but she looks to be a leading contender.

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As does Irish raider Mamba Noire, who possibly sports the most impressive form. Though only winning once in five starts, she has twice chased home Clemmie, including a close third in the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge at Newmarket. She got within half a length of Nyaleti that day, and that performance now looks particularly impressive. She was staying on strongly, and this seven-furlong trip should prove ideal. Nations Alexander was third in the Duchess of 2016 before returning to win this. Mamba Noire will hope to do the same.

Poetic Charm looks the obvious choice for this, though it’s possibly a race to watch with interest, rather than get heavily involved from a punting aspect. Mamba Noire looks to be the main danger.

We are likely to see something special in Ireland on Sunday. The Phoenix Stakes is usually contested by the leading Irish juveniles, and was won last year by Caravaggio. In 2015 it was Air Force Blue that won impressively, before taking the National Stakes and the Dewhurst. Those performances saw him start 2016 as favourite for the 2000 Guineas. Sadly, as many of us recall, he was to prove a major disappointment as a three-year-old, and was retired after a string of poor performances.

Aidan O’Brien has an incredible record in this race, having won 15 of the last 19 renewals. Such dominance of a Group One event is simply mind-boggling. But that powerful record is likely to come under serious threat on Sunday from a most unlikely source. Jumps trainer Gordon Elliott looks sure to have the race favourite with his undefeated Beckford. The son of Bated Breath took the Railway Stakes in July, though will clearly need to take another step forward to land this. He’s undoubtedly quick, and is sure to be given a positive ride in an attempt to hold off the Ballydoyle masses.

At the time of writing, we are still unsure as to who takes him on. U S Navy Flag is among the contenders, and was a decent second in the July Stakes last time at Newmarket. He was no match that day for Cardsharp, who has since lost in testing ground at Goodwood. The colt has only won once in six starts, and though he’s clearly talented, his record suggests he’s far from star material.

I’m a fan of Sioux Nation, and should the ground be on the quick side, I’d fancy him to run a huge race. Fast enough to win the Norfolk at Royal Ascot, he’s by Scat Daddy out of an Oasis Dream mare, and should be well suited to six-furlongs at the Curragh. If he runs, I’ll be a follower.

The last British trainer to make a successful raid was Mark Johnston back in 1997. Tom Dascombe is set to send Frozen Angel across the Irish Sea, and he should not be discounted. The son of Dark Angel is a class act, as he showed when only just missing out at Maisons-Laffitte last time. He has a bit to find with Sioux Nation on the Royal Ascot run, but is clearly a talented sprinter and could easily find himself in the shake-up.

If he runs, I’ll be having a small punt on Sioux Nation. If he fails to turn up we may well see a very happy National Hunt trainer celebrating a sensational success.

Who’s the Daddy

In the aftermath of another terrific Royal Ascot, it is worth taking a look at the stallions that made an impact in the most prestigious Flat meeting.

As ever the mighty Dubawi and Galileo had their fair share of success, but one sire, sadly no longer with us, continues to make an impact at the royal meeting. The American Stallion Scat Daddy, collapsed and died in 2014, at the age of 11, when walking from his paddock at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Despite his tragic demise, his bloodline is set to make an impact at the highest level in the coming years. He has proven especially effective with juvenile sprinters, claiming a number of prizes during last week’s five-day extravaganza.

Scat Daddy was trained by Todd Pletcher in America having been purchased by Michael Tabor as a yearling. He was an impressive juvenile, winning the Sanford Stakes and the Champagne Stakes, and completing his two-year-old campaign with a fourth place finish in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

His three-year-old season began with a third-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes before winning the Fountain of Youth. He then took the Florida Derby, and headed for the Kentucky Derby as a well fancied contender. He failed to shine on that occasion, finishing down the field in 18th. It emerged that he had damaged a tendon during the race and sadly his racing career came to an end. In eight starts, he had won five and earned $1,334,300.

He started his career as a stallion in 2008 at the Ashford Stud in Lexington, Kentucky, initially commanding a fee $30,000. He also stood in Australia and Chile, becoming the leading sire in that country in 2013/14. His progeny hit the racetrack in 2011, and in America he made a terrific impact. With more than $1.5 million in progeny earnings, he ranked third to top US sires Kitten's Joy and Smart Strike.

He has been responsible for American Oaks winner Lady of Shamrock and the UAE Derby victor Daddy Long Legs. He was also responsible for the El Derby winner in Chile, in both 2014 and 2015, thanks to Solaria and Il Campione.

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But it is his Royal Ascot victories that have been particularly eye-catching. No Nay Never was an outstanding juvenile sprinter in 2013. Brought over by Wesley Ward, he took the Norfolk Stakes in stunning fashion, before winning the Group 1 Prix Morny in France. His final appearance as a three-year-old in 2014 saw him chinned on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He now stands at Coolmore’s stud in Ireland.

Acapulco followed in No Nay Never’s hoofprints, with a stunning success at Royal Ascot when winning the Queen Mary Stakes. She then came close to winning the Nunthorpe as a juvenile. Sadly, the great British weather kept the flying filly away from Ascot last week, and her future targets are yet to be confirmed.

In her absence, American trainer Ward unleashed yet another outstanding juvenile filly. Different in stature, but possibly even more talented, Lady Aurelia ran away with the Queen Mary Stakes in double-quick time. Her seven-length demolition job had jaws dropping, with Frankie Dettori saying: “That was breathtaking from the top. To win by seven lengths at Royal Ascot was sensational and I've never seen or experienced anything like it especially for a two-year-old.”

Ward feels that the filly lacks the stature to take on older horses, and therefore the Prix Morny looks the likely short-term target.

Another Scat Daddy juvenile to scorch the turf was the Aidan O’Brien trained Caravaggio. He was successful in the Coventry Stakes and has been installed as favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas. His performance was all the more pleasing for connections, as he proved his stamina in very testing conditions.

O'Brien had concerns over the ground, and after the win said: “We were worried that he was so quick that we maybe should have had him in the Norfolk when the ground got so soft because he is very, very rapid at home. When a horse is that quick you are never sure that they are going to last out over six in soft ground, but he got it and he got it well.”

Whether he proves to be a realistic guineas contender, or a top-class sprinter, only time will tell. But Caravaggio is clearly a class act, and will be hard to beat in the coming months.

Scat Daddy was a huge loss to the bloodstock industry, but his progeny look set to carry the name forward in some style, with Acapulco, Lady Aurelia and Caravaggio in particular, likely to strike again at the highest level.