Tag Archive for: Yorkshire Oaks

Arc target intact for Wonderful Tonight – ‘more than ever’

Wonderful Tonight remains on track for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after her fourth-placed effort in the Yorkshire Oaks.

The filly was running for the third time this season, having won her previous two on her preferred soft ground – in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the Lillie Langtry at Goodwood.

Her Group One double in the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot and the Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp last season demonstrated her liking for cut in the ground – but York’s turf last week was good after the forecast rain failed to fall until the final day of the meeting.

Wonderful Tonight still took her chance in the the Group One Yorkshire Oaks, and was beaten eight and a half lengths behind Aidan O’Brien’s emphatic winner Snowfall.

Trainer David Menuisier reports her to be in good form following the run and still very much on track for her principal target of the campaign back at ParisLongchamp on October 3.

“She’s absolutely fine,” he said.

“I am glad we went there, and I thought she had a good run.

“The ground made her work a bit harder than when she runs on soft ground, which is the opposite of most horses.

“That’s why I’m glad we ran. She came out of the race really well and she answered a few of our questions.

“I’m delighted that she did. For now we’ll continue to do the right thing by her and for her and hope for the best.”

Wonderful Tonight is entered in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 11, but Menuisier confirmed all roads lead to Paris in October.

“The Arc is still the target – more so than ever,” said the Sussex trainer.

Snowfall in August delights York racegoers

Superstar filly Snowfall continued her relentless march towards Paris in October with another demolition job in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

While trainer Aidan O’Brien insists the daughter of Japanese ace Deep Impact has always been held in high regard by those closest to her at Ballydoyle, her juvenile form suggested she was nowhere near the top of the yard’s Classic brigade.

A comeback trial win in York’s Musidora Stakes put her in the picture, but few could have envisaged the jaw-dropping 16-length thrashing she would give her rivals in the Oaks at Epsom, while she was similarly stunning in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

Snowfall was the 8-15 favourite to complete a treble last achieved by the brilliant Enable four years ago on the Knavesmire and produced another sensational performance that left even her trainer wondering just how high her ceiling of ability lies.

O’Brien said: “She’s a very exciting filly, isn’t she?

“She’s getting very relaxed and is really going to be ready for the autumn.”

Although her odds made this latest task seem a formality, on paper at least this was a far from straightforward assignment for Snowfall, with a multiple Group One-winning older filly in David Menuisier’s Wonderful Tonight representing her biggest test to date.

Just for a moment rounding the home turn it looked as if Ryan Moore had given his big rival plenty of rope, but Snowfall made up the ground in a matter of strides before finding a gear few thoroughbreds possess to leave both Wonderful Tonight and the rest trailing in her wake.

Connections of Snowfall following another sensational performance
Connections of Snowfall following another sensational performance (Nigel French/PA)

“She was very responsive when Ryan asked her to go there,” O’Brien added.

“Ryan said he saw William (Buick, on Wonderful Tonight) gone and when he asked her (Snowfall) to go with William he ended up being there in two strides.

“I think she caught Ryan out a little bit when he asked her to quicken.”

Just like Enable in 2017, Snowfall’s big aim will now be to beat the boys in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

But while Enable headed straight for Europe’s premier middle-distance contest off the back of victory at York, O’Brien raised the possibility of his filly getting an early taste of the Paris air in an Arc trial next month.

He said: “I’ll have to talk to the lads (owners) and see what they want to do, but we could go to the Arc trial in Longchamp. If we want to have her run in between now and the Arc, that’s where she’ll go.

“This filly has always been exceptional. She’s not ground dependent, trip doesn’t bother her and she has a great mind and relaxes.

“She has really kept thriving since the last day. Physically she’s got very strong and has gone way up on the scales as well.”

It is hard to believe now, but Moore decided against riding Snowfall at Epsom in June in favour of stablemate Santa Barbara.

He was back on board at the Curragh, though, and it is a measure of just how impressive she was in completing the Oaks hat-trick that the usually reserved Moore was left wondering if he has ever enjoyed such a thrilling moment in the saddle.

Moore said: “The race started falling apart at the five-and-a-half (furlong marker) really, but as soon as I asked her to go after Wonderful Tonight she got there very quickly.

“She gave me an exceptional feel from the four down to the two and the race was over very quickly.

“Today, the performance was as good as anything I’ve felt.

“She definitely felt like today she was better than when I rode at the Curragh. Hopefully that’s a good sign and she continues to do that into the autumn.”

Snowfall in June, Snowfall in July and now Snowfall in August – it will be a brave man who bets against Snowfall again dominating the headlines on the first Sunday in October.

Snowfall dazzles again in Yorkshire Oaks

Snowfall gave another brilliant display when adding the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York to her two Classic victories this summer.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained filly surged away from the opposition in the final two furlongs to land a third Group One after completing the English and Irish Oaks double in spectacular fashion.

The race went to plan for the O’Brien camp through the early stages, with stablemates La Joconde and Divinely occupying the first two places in the early stages and keeping the gallop honest.

Wonderful Tonight, considered the main rival to the 8-15 favourite, tried to stamp her authority on matters but the faster ground was against her and she could not quicken.

Snowfall was going easily and cruised into the lead in the hands of Ryan Moore to seal it in a matter of strides. Albaflora finished well to claim second place, with La Joconde third.

O’Brien said: “She’s a very good filly and has always done everything very easy.

“She quickens very well and now she’s laid back, she’s starting to really thrive and put on weight.

“She’s going to be really ready for the autumn, I think. She travels very well, gets there very easy and then waits.

“We always thought she was good. Last year was a bit of a mess with everything and she was probably rushed a bit too much.

“She did very well over the winter and she’s by Deep Impact out of a Galileo mare, so she’s got a very good pedigree and was always going to get better.”

Snowfall now heads the market for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and O’Brien added: “I’ll see what the lads want to do, but it’s very possible she could take in another run (before the Arc).

“We’d be very happy to take in another run, I’d imagine. It depends what the lads want to do – whether they want to go to an Arc trial or go straight to the Arc.”

“I’ll see what the lads want to do, but it’s very possible she could take in another run (before the Arc).

“We’d be very happy to take in another run, I’d imagine. It depends what the lads want to do – whether they want to go to an Arc trial or go straight to the Arc.”

Of Albaflora, Ralph Beckett said: “I’m chuffed to bits. There was a great deal of discussion whether we were even going to run (because of the ground), but she was really well and thriving at home. When the ball is at your feet you have to kick it.

All smiles for connections of Snowfall
All smiles for connections of Snowfall (Nigel French/PA)

“We didn’t win, I’m not sure we ever thought we were going to but I was pretty sure she’d run well if things went our way. She enjoys being ridden like that.

“To go and do that today when she’s really a soft ground filly as well is great. We’ll relax and then have a think about where next.”

Wonderful Tonight was fourth under William Buick, but David Menuisier was taking positives from her run.

He said: “William’s report was that she’s not the same filly on good ground as she is on soft. I told him before the race if he felt she wasn’t going on it to look after her. The plan today was to give her a good blow before the next step with the Arc as the target, and that’s what we did.

“I’m really happy with the run, considering the conditions were not in her favour so I think there was no harm done.

“Last year when she ran in the Vermeille on good to firm ground she ran a similar race to today, we know when the ground gets softer she can easily improve by 10 lengths or more. She’s basically the same filly she was last year on this sort of ground and that is why I’m not disappointed.

“We had to give it a go as I wanted her to have two races before the Arc as we saw at Goodwood that when she gets fresh she is keen.

“She switched off lovely today after a furlong and a half so she’s done nothing wrong, it’s just when it comes to the crunch she can’t find the gears whereas on soft she has another two gears – that’s the difference.

“Her next race will be at Longchamp, but it could be the Prix Foy rather than the Prix Vermeille because the fillies are better than the colts this year!”

Snowfall out to add Yorkshire Oaks to her Classic double

Snowfall bids to continue her faultless campaign by providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with a sixth victory in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

It is 15 years since O’Brien’s Alexandrova added to her wins in the Oaks at Epsom and the Irish Oaks at the Curragh with a dominant display on the Knavesmire, and Snowfall will be a very short price to repeat the feat on Thursday.

Alexandrova was actually beaten in York’s Musidora Stakes in the spring of her three-year-old campaign, whereas Snowfall landed that recognised trial before winning by 16 and eight and a half lengths respectively to complete her Classic double.

The daughter of Japanese ace Deep Impact appeared to have her limitations exposed in Pattern company as a juvenile, but O’Brien is not surprised by the progress she has made since then.

“We always thought the world of her last year, but it never worked out,” the Ballydoyle handler told Racing TV.

“From the minute she started this year, everything has gone well, so far, and the lads are all very happy with her.

“She looks very good at the moment. She’s straightforward, relaxes and quickens and also looks like she gets a mile and a half very well.”

Snowfall has also proven herself tactically versatile – dominating from the front in the Musidora, before scything down her rivals both at Epsom and the Curragh.

O’Brien added: “She won at York, making the running herself, and in the Oaks, Frankie (Dettori) ended up dropping her in. We saw what she did there, and at the Curragh Ryan (Moore) took his time on her, and she quickened very well.

Wonderful Tonight is unbeaten in her last four races
Wonderful Tonight is unbeaten in her last four races (John Walton/PA)

“She comes on the bridle at the right time of the race. We haven’t had many by Deep Impact – but they have great minds, they quicken, and they seem to get better.”

The biggest threat to the odds-on favourite is David Menuisier’s stable star Wonderful Tonight.

A dual Group One winner last autumn, the four-year-old has picked up where she left off – landing both the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Lillie Langtry at Goodwood in impressive style.

She has plenty on her plate, conceding a 9lb weight-for-age allowance to Snowfall, with Menuisier viewing this race as a stepping-stone to her ultimate target – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in October.

“If she gets beaten by something on good ground, I won’t lose any sleep,” said the Sussex trainer.

“She’ll run a good race, and it’s another step towards the Arc – that’s how we see it. It will be interesting.

“We don’t really look at the opposition. We’re just looking at our own race and ticking the boxes we want to tick on the road to the Arc.”

John and Thady Gosden’s Loving Dream and the Roger Varian-trained Eshaada renew rivalry in the Qipco British Champions Series contest, having finished first and second in the Ribblesdale Stakes at the Royal meeting.

“She has won a Group Two, and it’s only fair for the filly to run in Group Ones,” John Gosden said of Loving Dream.

“We’re perfectly aware of the quality of the field. But she has done nothing wrong in her career.

“She’s a very genuine filly, and it’s nice to run in a Group One rather than carrying a penalty elsewhere.

“We’ll be hoping for a bold effort from her.”

With just three career starts under her belt, Varian is confident there is more improvement to come from Eshaada.

He said: “Eshaada is still very lightly raced and looks a high-calibre filly.

“I thought we were a touch unlucky when she was beaten at Royal Ascot. Take nothing away from the winner, who won nicely, but we were done no favours by a wide draw – and we covered a lot of ground that day.

“We’d thought the Ribblesdale was the race for her, and it nearly was.

“Eshaada is big and rangy, and she’s got middle-distances written all over her.”

Snowfall and Wonderful Tonight set for Yorkshire Oaks clash

Snowfall will face Wonderful Tonight as she bids to bring up an Oaks treble in the Darley-sponsored Yorkshire version on the Knavesmire on Thursday.

Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall has improved out of all recognition this season for being stepped up in trip. She began her three-year-old campaign with a very impressive victory over 10 furlongs at York in the Musidora and has since won two Classics.

Firstly she powered through the rain to win the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom by 16 lengths before adding the Irish Oaks, where she triumphed by eight and a half lengths.

She will, however, face by far her toughest test to date in David Menuisier’s popular four-year-old Wonderful Tonight – herself a dual Group One-winner last season.

This term she has won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Lillie Langtry at Goodwood.

Wonderful Tonight sets a high standard but she must concede a 9lb to Snowfall.

William Buick will maintain his partnership with Wonderful Tonight
William Buick will maintain his partnership with Wonderful Tonight (John Walton/PA)

Menuisier had alternative options in France for Wonderful Tonight, but has decided to head for the Knavesmire.

He said: “Obviously I’m hoping there’s a bit more rain, but if the ground is good we’ll give it a go.

“I’ve been in Deauville for four or five days and I’ve found that the ground is pretty chopped up. The weather forecast is not that positive for downpours and I’m sure the ground will be better in York than it is in Deauville.”

Menuisier revealed a fortnight ago that he had booked leading French jockey Olivier Peslier to ride Wonderful Tonight in October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, with William Buick – who has steered her to her last three victories – likely to be required to ride for Godolphin.

The Newmarket-based Frenchman had hoped Peslier would also be available to partner his stable star in her prep races for Europe’s premier middle-distance contest, but Buick will be on board on Thursday.

Explaining the reasoning, Menuisier added: “William has been riding her in the UK first of all and Olivier just had a little operation yesterday (Monday) – he had to get a little chip removed in his knee.

“Olivier is actually sidelined for a week or 10 days and I’m delighted to have William on board on Thursday.”

O’Brien also runs Irish Oaks runner-up Divinely and La Joconde.

John and Thady Gosden run their Ribblesdale winner Loving Dream and she will meet Roger Varian’s Eshaada once again, who was second to her at Ascot.

Owner Kirsten Rausing runs the Ralph Beckett-trained Albaflora rather than Sir Mark Prescott’s Alpinista, who was second to Love in the race last year.

Andrew Balding’s Sandrine is the star attraction in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes.

Sandrine and David Probert have struck up a good relationship
Sandrine and David Probert have struck up a good relationship (David Davies/PA)

She has been very impressive to date in winning the Albany at Royal Ascot and the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket, striking up a good partnership with David Probert.

Ismail Mohammed’s Zain Claudette and the Stuart Williams-trained Desert Dreamer dominated the finish to the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot and clash again.

Hello You has her first start for David Loughnane since leaving Beckett, while Karl Burke’s Illustrating is another likely contender given the way she won at Goodwood.

Snowfall on the radar for York

Snowfall is one of 10 fillies left in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York on Thursday.

Brilliant in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom when winning by 16 lengths, she followed up when winning her second Classic in the Irish Oaks by eight and a half lengths.

The daughter of the late Deep Impact already has a win at York to her name when taking the Musidora Stakes in May.

Her trainer Aidan O’Brien has also left in Love, last year’s Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks winner. She was last seen finishing third in the King George at Ascot behind Adayar.

Divinely, the Irish Oaks runner-up, is a third possible for Ballydoyle, with La Jaconde another.

David Menuisier’s Wonderful Tonight would be a fascinating runner should she be given the green light.

Having ended her three-year-old season with a brace of Group One wins she has won at Ascot and Goodwood so far this term – but there must be sufficient cut in the ground to enable her to run.

Owner Kirsten Rausing has Sir Mark Prescott’s Alpinista, who has won all three of her starts this season including a Group One in Germany, and Albaflora, trained by Ralph Beckett.

John and Thady Gosden could run Loving Dream, winner of the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, while Roger Varian’s Eshaada, second in the Ribblesdale, could take her on again. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Bharani Star is another possible.

Sandrine will head the market for the Lowther Stakes
Sandrine will head the market for the Lowther Stakes (Tim Goode/PA)

The Rausing-owned Sandrine is one of 17 fillies in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes.

Winner of the Albany at Royal Ascot, the Andrew Balding-trained youngster followed up in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes and must shoulder a 3lb penalty.

Zain Claudette and Desert Dreamer could meet again having dominated the finish of the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot, while Hello You could have her first start for David Loughnane.

Monday Musings: Lies, Damned Lies, and…

Don’t look now, but York starts on Wednesday and every year for me that means the beginning of the end of summer, writes Tony Stafford. The nights start to draw in; evening race meetings begin at 4 p.m. and if they want to stage ten-race cards as they have been doing recently, they’ll need to be over by 8 p.m. at the latest, except on all-weather.

I’m still not going racing, instead waiting for the day that, like the French, the British (and Irish) public can attend. Harry and Alan are going up to York and have got a great deal in the Marriott at the mile and a half gate. All they need now are some of the highly-regulated owners’ badges to go their way. Wednesday looks good apparently, but some of the other days are more questionable. It might be a case of watching on the hotel telly.

There’s been a fair amount of goalpost-moving lately. I’m delighted that I can get back from today to ice-rink chauffeuring. In the end Mrs S and her skating chums didn’t have to resort to chaining themselves to the Downing Street railings like latter-day suffragettes to get their pleas heard. Now she needs to see if she can still skate after six months off since her latest leg operation.

But the biggest movement, and one more than relevant to someone who has meticulously – as you all will be aware – kept the Covid-19 UK daily death figures since mid-March, immediately after the conclusion of the Cheltenham Festival, is how they are reported.

Spikes and the now seemingly-defunct “R” number have kept us all in check – bar the odd quarter of a million on Bournemouth, Brighton or Southend beaches when it got really hot. But in the middle of last week, suddenly the Government finally proved that there really are “three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics” as commonly attributed to the American writer Mark Twain, though whose true origin may predate that great wordsmith.

Back in mid-April, in the week to April 12 there were 6,425 recorded Coronavirus UK deaths, an alarming figure that mercifully began to reduce steadily. By mid-July we were in the realms of below 500 a week and still falling. During the same period, testing was increasing exponentially from the starting point of barely 10,000 tests – in other words, at that time people were really only tested when it was obvious they had the virus. But, by July, between 100,000 and 200,000 tests were available every day.

Then suddenly last week, the Ministry – amid renewed local lock-downs where clusters of positive tests were revealed – concluded it would no longer count as Coronavirus deaths, anyone tested as having the virus but who died more than 28 days afterwards.

So from July 31, when the brave new world came in, and when positive tests were going back up again to 1,000 plus each day the daily deaths in the UK were not. Starting on the last day of July the number of deaths has been 5, 1, 18, 14, 18, 12, 3, 5, 17, 14, 20, 18, 11, 3 and 5. Those numbers are probably smaller than many other routine causes of deaths in a population of 60 million. In all honesty, if that is the basis by which it’s judged, shouldn’t we be getting back to normal?

If they don’t yet have a vaccine ready, shame on them. There have been plenty of people willing to act as paid guinea-pigs, especially if their jobs have disappeared. You might even say if the figures can be presented thus, what’s all the fuss been about?

To the racing. It’s expected to be fast ground at York – amazing news for anyone who has been waiting for the action to start at the Test match at Southampton over the past few days, and they are the conditions I prefer to see on the Knavesmire. Frankie Dettori won’t be there but as the great man approaches his 50th birthday in December, he is showing a rare facility for making correct choices.

While the racing goes on at York, he’ll be staying in Deauville having had the news on Friday that the newly-re-imposed 14-day self-isolation period for people returning from France and some other countries has been modified for elite sportsmen. They, it seems, need only face a seven- or eight-day spell under specific conditions in self-isolation at home before resuming full activity.

Frankie was anxious not to miss either Mishriff, the French Derby winner, impressive again at Deauville last Saturday, or the unbeaten St James’s Palace hero Palace Pier in yesterday’s Prix Jacques Le Marois. That fast-improving colt came through to beat Alpine Star with the older horses led home by Circus Maximus, and best of the home team, Persian King, well beaten off. He is now being lined up for the QE II Stakes at Ascot in the autumn.

Alpine Star had been narrowly pipped in the French Oaks by the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Fancy Blue who went on to take the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood with authority. Jessica Harrington trains Alpine Star, and the two Irish fillies – along with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Peaceful – comprise a formidable trio of mile/ten-furlong star sophomores.

None of them will be at York, but the best of the lot among the Classic generation of females will be.

Potential opposition to Love in Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks again seems to fall principally on Frankly Darling, who disappointingly failed to provide much of a test at Epsom for the Coolmore filly as she added the Oaks to her 1,000 Guineas honours in spectacular style. The four-year-old Manuela De Vega is smart but conceding lumps of weight? Hardly! Dettori’s absence from York – he’s staying en France an extra week – tough! – to wait for a Wesley Ward runner in next weekend’s Prix Morny.

That will still give him time for the requisite eight and a few more days before teaming up with Enable in Kempton’s September Stakes, a cleverly-thought-out target from John Gosden which obviates the need to tackle Love before the Arc. Enable won the September Stakes two years ago as a prelude to her second win in Paris in October. How they would cherish a third as a six-year-old after the shock of being caught close home by Waldgeist last year.

The York meeting opens with another Gosden star, Lord North, the major loss this week for Dettori judged on the four-year-old’s upward-mobility this summer. Winner of six of his nine career races with two seconds and a luckless eased last of eight in the other, Lord North has progressed from a laughably-easy Cambridgeshire winner to outclassing his Prince Of Wales’s Stakes opponents at Royal Ascot. James Doyle is the beneficiary, as he was at Ascot when Dettori rode Mehdaayih. Who’s to say Lord North cannot progress enough to beat Ghaiyyath, as well as the 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko and possibly Magical in the Juddmonte International?

We won’t have Saturday’s Ebor Handicap runners until around 1 p.m. today and I can’t wait to see which potentially top-class horse Messrs Gosden, Haggas or Varian will have lined up to win it. Even though the total prize pool has been slashed from £600,000 to a relatively frugal £250,000 I’m sure there will be enough horses to fill the 22 available stalls. It would be great if a hard-knocking horse from the North could see off the aristocrats from Newmarket.

Another race that I’m looking forward to is Friday’s Nunthorpe Stakes, not least because Wesley Ward is bringing a lightly-raced but clearly talented juvenile to tackle Battaash, Art Power and A’Ali. His Golden Pal, runner-up after making the running to The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes will be going there as a maiden with form figures of 22, having earlier been beaten when favourite for a Gulfstream Park maiden in the spring.

He will be echoing to a large degree the pre-Nunthorpe record 13 years ago of the John Best-trained juvenile Kingsgate Native, a 66-1 debut runner-up in the Windsor Castle Stakes and then second again in the Molecomb at Goodwood.

Backed down to 12-1 (among many, by me!), Kingsgate Native easily beat Desert Lord with future stallions Dandy Man and Red Clubs the next two home. I note the weights will be unchanged from then, so Battaash carries 9st11lb; three-year-olds Art Power and A’Ali 2lb less and Golden Pal only 8st1lb. He will have Andrea Atzeni, who rode him at Ascot, back on board.

I know the other three are highly-talented, and it would be another feather in the Charlie Hills cap if Battaash could win a second Nunthorpe, but I’d much prefer Wesley’s undying love for British racing to get a reward after a couple of less than wonderful years. He certainly seems to have all his ducks in line this time.

So in conclusion, I say enjoy York, if you are, like Harry and Alan, fully documented-up. If not, the wonderful coverage – free and flourishing on ITV though I still doggedly stick to Racing TV – deserves watching for all four days. Please then, start taking off the restraints, Mr Boris. Five months using only two tanks of fuel has been sacrifice enough.