Monday Musings: Of Tens and Sovereigns

Aidan O’Brien wins July Cup again, writes Tony Stafford. Of course he does, and we know what the process is, don’t we? Ten Sovereigns on Saturday became number five, 20 years on from the first – Stravinsky – in 1999 and once again it was the case of another near miss in the 2,000 Guineas, drop back to sprinting and there you go!

Except it wasn’t. Indeed Ten Sovereigns is actually the only one of the winning quintet to have run in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Last year’s hero US Navy Flag contested both the French (Poulains) and Irish 2,000 before his triumph and The Curragh was also Mozart’s path in 2001, second prior to winning the Jersey Stakes at Ascot before the July Cup and Nunthorpe wins ensured the sprint championship.

The Jersey (fourth place) was also Stravinsky’s route to the top, and that race was Saturday’s creditable fifth So Perfect’s Royal assignment too. She was possibly one of the worse sufferers of interference at the entire meeting when well back last month, but showed again on Saturday that further success awaits her.

That is equally true of third-placed Fairyland who had filled the same position in the 1,000 Guineas and was latterly only three lengths fifth behind the now retired Blue Point in the King’s Stand over five furlongs at Ascot.

Those four O’Brien July Cup winners were all three-year-olds, whereas Starspangledbanner (2010) was a Southern Hemisphere-bred four-year-old sent to Ballydoyle with the specific aim of adding European Group One success to his Down Under achievements in the same way as Merchant Navy did last year in the Diamond Jubilee.

Of the quintet, you have to say Ten Sovereigns was probably the best of the bunch as he needed to be to claw back two and a half lengths on Advertise on their running together in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot. Advertise was Saturday’s favourite, under Frankie Dettori, but this time Ryan Moore had his revenge, sending Ten Sovereigns to the front from the start and seeing off his rival with a telling burst up the hill.

The margin of almost three lengths had the trainer setting his sights on the Nunthorpe rather than Haydock’s six furlong Group 1 later in the season and I’d much rather see that course being taken. Haydock in September is liable to offer soft ground and Ten Sovereigns clearly bounced off the July Course’s fast ground on Saturday.

Aidan had been talking earlier in the week of a piece of work when Ten Sovereigns managed four consecutive furlongs under 11 seconds. How does he know? Well, a timer-tracking system accompanies every Ballydoyle inmate throughout their work schedule. No wonder he thought the colt might be winning.

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Ten Sovereigns’ return to top-level success was another triumph for sire No Nay Never, a son of Scat Daddy and now the potential successor and indeed effective replacement for that ill-fated stallion.

His early success is bound to polarise his progeny more into the Coolmore set-up in much the way that Galileo’s initial achievements priced his later offerings out of reach of the work-a-day trainers and their owners. Gleneagles’ son Royal Lytham’s battling success in Thursday’s Tattersalls July Stakes probably ensures a similar process might already be under way for that 2,000 Guineas-winning son of the great sire.

When Dettori unleashed the odds-on Visinari into the lead on the outside of his field after halfway, I was expecting a triumphal march up the hill. Anyone who read my comments after his debut win on the same course last month will realise that as well as the Mark Johnston team, and a horde of clock-watchers, I would not have countenanced defeat.

Hopefully that initial excellence might be revealed again at Goodwood over seven furlongs, but here a dual pincer move by Royal Lytham (far side) and Platinum Star (Saeed Bin Suroor) denied the favourite by a short head and a head.

Ten Sovereigns had been the principal Ballydoyle 2000 Guineas hope over the winter and Japan held a similar position in Derby betting. Stamina fears were always evident with Ten Sovereigns. The problem for Japan was an interrupted preparation and that was palpably obvious when he made the last possible return with a running-on, never in contention five lengths fourth to Telecaster in the Dante Stakes.

Epsom probably came a week too soon, for despite a brave late run, he could do no better than third to stable-mate Anthony Van Dyck in the five-horse (four O’Brien) battle across the line.

His King Edward VII romp at Ascot, generally regarded as one of the outstanding performances of the week, probably manoeuvred him to the top of the stable’s middle-distance team, and yesterday’s slightly-underwhelming but never-in-doubt win in the Grand Prix de Paris kept him there.

Anthony Van Dyck and his shock Irish Derby-conquering stablemate, Sovereign, are due to do battle with Enable in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday week when another possible re-alignment might become apparent. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sovereign were to maintain his advantage over the Epsom champion, while it will be tough for either to unseat Enable.

At a lower level, I continue to believe that sometimes things happen around me out of proportion to their mathematical likelihood. Take for example an incident in the owners’ dining room at Newmarket on Friday.

A chap I’d seen many times but had never troubled anyone to identify, came up to me and asked if he could borrow my Racing Post. Naturally I was happy to concur and when he returned it a few minutes later, as Damon Runyon might have said, “A story comes with it”.

The man, beginning by identifying himself as Michael O’Hagan – “I work for Al Basti Equiworld, who sponsor the owners’ room”. I said I knew that and he went on. “Mr Al Basti owns only one stallion, Intrinsic.” Again I interrupted and said: “I know, his picture is on the wall behind us <a good-looking horse, too> and I saw him earlier in the year at Hedgeholm Stud”.

Michael went on. “Well a few minutes ago I found a ten pound note on the floor and asked around but nobody claimed it so it was suggested to me I had a bet with it. I asked them for a number, somebody said number four, I backed it – and drew £81.

“Then blow me down if that wasn’t Veracious, winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, and she’s a half-sister to Intrinsic, who won the Stewards’ Cup!” Intrinsic’s first runners are due to arrive on the track fairly soon and Andrew Spalding, boss of Hedgeholm, likes what he’s seen.

Peter Ashworth was with me during both conversations and on the way home told his sister Jacqueline about the story. She said: “I lost a £10 note right by the Tote” and the following day when I saw Michael O’Hagan again, related that to him.

In his skilled way he went across to the table where Ms Ashmore and her mother Elizabeth were sitting and asked if he could join them. He quickly offered to show them a magic trick and between the pages of his racecard, produced a tenner! Nice touch, Michael.

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