There’s little doubt that Telescope’s victory in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last week proved that his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is right in his judgement that Telescope is a very good horse. But is he top quality, by which I mean can he compete effectively at Group 1 level?
Remember, this is the horse that was the Derby favourite throughout last winter, before injury ruled him out of the Dante Stakes and a poor racecourse gallop at Lingfield demonstrated that he had not recovered sufficiently to take his place at Epsom.
No sooner had he won at York than he was installed as favourite for the St Leger, even though he was not entered for the final Classic of the season next month. True, he was offered “with a run”, and anyone who took up that option must be glad that they did this morning. Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing had said before last week’s run that, “All roads really lead to next year with this horse.”
He hadn’t changed his view yesterday, when he said, “I wouldn’t be at all convinced about him staying a mile and six at Doncaster, and my gut feeling is that the Leger is unlikely. It isn’t black and white and I don’t want to second guess what a genius like Sir Michael, but what I say to people is don’t back him for the St Leger unless it’s with a run, because Sir Michael may want to go a completely different route with next season in mind.”
That might lead you to think that having got Telescope fit and winning at Group level, Stoute might cool things and save him for next year but not a bit of it. Herbert was asked about the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He replied, “I wouldn’t rule that out at all. It’s a big difference - a mile and a half to a mile six. If you get it wrong in the Leger you can really bottom out your horse. That really is the worry.”
As for next season, he was bullish about the campaign Telescope would be aimed at. He said, “He’s an exciting prospect and hopefully he can go to wear in the races we dream about having runners in, like the King George. I’m also sure there will be opportunities to bring him back in trip as well. You can’t right him off at a mile and a quarter off the back of one bad run.”
That bad run was in the Haydock’s Rose of Lancaster Stakes a fortnight ago, where he was a beaten odds on favourite. If the Leger and Arc are both ruled out then there’s a strong possibility that Telescope could be back to ten furlongs, as he has entries in both the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes and the QIPCO Champion Stakes, both run over that distance.
It seems to me that there’s still some uncertainty in Stoute’s mind as to what the right distance is for Telescope. That’s perhaps come about because he didn’t have the early season races that had been mapped out for him, and so connections are still learning about him.
Cane Geegeez help them out? Do you think Telescope should be aimed at the St Leger or the Arc? Or do you think he’s versatile enough to win at ten furlongs? Perhaps you don’t think he’s up to Group 1 standard at all. Do tell us.