Monday Musings: Autumnal Themes

So far the 2019 Flat-race season has been a re-affirmation that John Gosden knows how to keep his top horses going season after season, writes Tony Stafford. Stradivarius has proved to be invincible once more among the stayers, collecting a second £1 million bonus for owner-breeder Bjorn Neilsen and now Enable is on the brink of a third successive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Prince Khalid Abdullah. By the way, Lord North on Saturday confirmed that whichever three-year-old turns up from Clarehaven in the Cambridgeshire, it is likely to win. The amazing thing about Lord North’s smooth success on Saturday was that he was available at 10-1 in the morning – backed down to 9-2 favouritism on the day.

But one unexpected sidebar to the Gosden pre-eminence, as that is what it has become at the top level for older horses at any rate – Too Darn Hot, until his injury-prompted mid-season retirement to stud and the unbeaten St Leger winner Logician adding to the legend – is that his two-year-olds have been less involved than in previous years.

Obviously there have been successes, 21 wins from 78 runs this year and those 21 victories were provided by 17 of the 37 juveniles sent to the track by Gosden. It was interesting to note, though, that he was unrepresented either in last weekend’s Mill Reef at Newbury or any of the two-year-old Group races run at Newmarket on Saturday. Furthermore, from an entry of 37 for the Dewhurst Stakes, won last year by Too Darn Hot, he has only one possible representative, the unbeaten Palace Pier, twice a winner around Sandown and each time offering promise for the future.

It would not be a total shock if the Kingman colt were to flex his muscles next week, but as he is in the ownership of Sheikh Hamdan, the Maktoum family will probably be anxious for him to avoid the outstanding Pinatubo in that championship-defining contest.

Godolphin now have a second Group 1-winning and unbeaten juvenile on their hands in the Andre Fabre-trained Earthlight, who made it five in a row when confirming earlier Deauville superiority over Golden Horde  in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes, one of three juvenile Group races on the Newmarket Saturday card sponsored by Enable’s owners. The solidity of that heavy ground Prix Morny form had been temporarily questioned when Raffle Prize, who had split the two colts in France, succumbed half an hour earlier to a strong late run from the Irish filly Millisle in the Cheveley Park Stakes, but Earthlight’s workmanlike victory restored the lustre.

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Earthlight, like Pinatubo, is a son of the Darley stallion Shamardal who has been making strides as a solid back-up act to Dubawi for some time. Hugh Anderson, Godolphin’s managing director, was suggesting after the race that having restricted him to “private” with 75 family mares only having access to him in recent years, his services may be thrown open to the wider bloodstock industry.

Shamardal’s exploits, especially in producing two such outstanding juveniles so far into his stud career – he was foaled in 2002 – as well as the outstanding sprinter Blue Point, retired to stud after his Royal Ascot double this June, reflect well on Darley’s handling of him at Kildangan Stud in Ireland.

A son of ‘the Iron Horse’, Giant’s Causeway, he was unbeaten at two for Mark Johnston when his all-the-way Dewhurst success over Oratorio brought championship honours for 2004. Transferred to Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor, his stock briefly slipped when an unplaced favourite finishing far behind a 33-1 stable-companion in the UAE Derby the following spring. That was soon forgotten though when, returned to Newmarket under the stewardship of bin Suroor, he took both the French 2,000 Guineas and Derby before ending his racecourse career with a win in the St James’s Palace Stakes, transferred to York while Ascot was under re-construction. Thus his career ended with a single loss in seven starts.

As with Galileo, whose original two crops were spread around the upper-to-middle echelons of trainers before Coolmore stepped in to take a near-monopoly after his merit became unquestionable, Shamardal similarly provided winners for many stables around Europe from his early crops. It took a good deal longer than was the case with Galileo and Dubawi before his stock became more difficult to secure. I reckon Gleneagles, possibly Galileo’s fastest son and, like Shamardal a champion juvenile and a 2,000 Guineas winner, in his case at Newmarket, will very quickly become a protected species by his Coolmore owners.

His first crop have already produced a couple of Group winners, Royal Dornoch in Saturday’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket (still sounds wrong to me) outbattling favourite Kameko to follow Royal Lytham (July Stakes). The fact that Royal Dornoch’s win came over a mile and in track record time fuels optimism that at three some of his colts and fillies could stretch to a mile and a half with chances of winning a Derby or an Oaks. Whatever the outcome of that always-intriguing question with new stallions, there is no question that the Gleneagles’ are showing similar battling qualities to progeny of their paternal grandfather.

Having so far missed the pleasures of the new Parislongchamp, I’m optimistic I might get a late invitation for next Sunday. It would be great to see Enable one last time – maybe I should have gone to the Newmarket open day to see her cantering up the hill last weekend as many others did.

One of the anomalies of the great mare’s career is that unlike her sire, Nathaniel, and Frankel, his paternal half-brother whom he ran close on their respective debuts on the July Course, she has never raced on either track in the town where she has been trained throughout her career. In that regard therefore, her appearance on the Rowley Mile last week for a gallop in advance of next Sunday’s swan-song was a notable coup for Michael Prosser, Newmarket’s Director of Racing. A top priced 5-4 on chance with the bookmakers for the Arc, she faces strong opposition with the two three-year-old colts, Sottsass for France and Japan for Ballydoyle, the Coolmore team in particular likely to pose very serious examinations for her. If she comes through this test she will be garlanding her amazing story with an appropriate conclusion.

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Thoughts are not quite turning to jumping yet but it was in some ways ironic that the McCoys awards dinner in London last week had to go on without Sir Anthony. The great man, fresh from showing his enduring horsemanship when winning the Legends race at the St Leger meeting, was instead indulging in his other great autumn obligation. Every year he competes alongside but in opposition to his old boss J P McManus at the prestigious Dunhill Links Pro-Am golf event in Scotland. While I’m hardly a golf devotee, I had a quick check on Sunday morning to see how the boys had been going with their respective pro partners. Sadly neither was in contention and matters did not improve for either yesterday.

But Jamie Redknapp certainly was. Partnered with Luke Donald, who went round in 64, eight under par, on Saturday, Redknapp contributed another seven points in their better-ball score, taking his handicap into account. That made for an almost surreal 15 under par 57. He must have been an even bigger blot on that handicap than Lord North in the Cambridgeshire! Unlike Gosden winners of that race who tend to end up winning Group races for fun next time out, Redknapp junior and Donald could not sustain the form and faded away out of contention yesterday at St Andrews.

The Raymond Tooth team, still struggling for runners, will be hoping that the requisite five of the 19 horses at present endangering the participation of Waterproof at Kempton on Wednesday will have the decency to vacate their places. He was raised only 2lb for a good second there two weeks ago and Shaun Keightley was due to school him over hurdles this morning. He had his first “look” at the small ones before that last run at Kempton and showed promise. Hopefully he’ll get a run and win this week and then we’ll be looking for somewhere like Huntingdon for a jumps debut. It would be nice for Ray to have another decent hurdler, although it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever be another Punjabi. Then again, there’s always hope. Then again, it’s the hope that kills you…

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