With a poor meeting on soft ground at Ayr and a poor meeting on good to soft at Lingfield on the Wednesday, we can move swiftly on to Thursday. The opening 6f 2yo maiden at Goodwood saw another promising run 1st time up for a Hannon newcomer in War Whisper. As previously noted, 1st time is no longer ‘the’ time for Hannon 2yo’s and it proved no different in this case. War Whisper travelled really well and was extremely tenderly handled late on by Hughesy. He is in again there on Friday night and could well be another relatively quick-returning 2yo winner for the yard. The highlight on the card was the Listed Height Of Fashion stakes, saw a facile win for Luca Cumani’s Lady Of Dubai. The notable pre-race pointer here was the weakness of John Gosden’s Jellicle Ball which drifted in ‘this-can’t-win’ style for the 30 minutes before the race. Found to be heavily in season before the 1000 Guineas, better was supposedly expected here, but, she was extremely free early and finished a well beaten 8L third here. Her under-performance does nothing for the solidity of the form and it is likely that, impressive as the winner was, this race will once again have little relevance in Pattern races as the year progresses. Later in the day we saw an interesting 5f maiden for 2yo fillies at Sandown, which looked an obvious chance for Mick Channon’s Kassia to break her maiden and uphold the strong look to the form of the ‘Beshara maiden’ from Ascot. She duly got the job done, but only by a short head from the fast finishing Our Joy. The second was a little outpaced early on this her debut run, but fairly flew home to be narrowly denied. Our Joy is a half sister to a previous star 2yo from the Cox yard in Xtension, she is already Group 1 entered and a 6f maiden should be pretty much a formality wherever she turns up, presuming that she misses Royal Ascot. Another for the notebook in this race was David Elsworth’s Justice Angel. She is well regarded at home and showed nice pace here from an unfavourably high draw before it all got a bit ‘too much’. The experience is unlikely to be lost on her. The other race on the card to interest me was the 1m 2f maiden. Far be it from me to criticise Ryan Moore, but his ride on Dark Deed totally confounded me. It is possible that he may not be entirely straightforward (Dark Deeds that is, we already know about Ryan !) as he wore a hood here on only his third start, but after an admittedly slow start I felt Moore made little effort to ‘put him in the race’ until the race was well and truly over. The pace was moderate and he had no chance coming wide down the middle of the track off the fractions set here from the rear. The form of his second to Storm The Stars has really worked out and he is surely better than this. Given the form of the usually excellent James Fanshawe yard this year (1/54 since February at the time of writing), the performance of second placed Star Storm has to be noted, he was another not ideally placed in a moderately run race (as is Tom Queally’s want) and may well be a horse to follow once the yard hits form again.
Friday saw the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, a race which is rarely the Derby trial it is supposed to be in theory. A good front running ride from the in form Pat Cosgrave saw the previously mentioned Storm The Stars win a shade cosily. Cosgrave clearly got the fractions right in front, but it was still a little disappointing that the highly touted Best Of Times couldn’t pick him up late, even though he was giving the winner 3lbs, the slightly easier ground here should have suited ideally and he just appears to lack another ‘gear’ off the bridle. Much more interesting from a point of view of future ‘punting’ was the 1m maiden run across the card at Haydock. Once again Erik The Red was all the rage (he had been backed into favourite last year for the good Doncaster maiden won by Commemorative), but he came up well short of Saeed bin Suroor’s Racing History who is a full brother to the top class Farhh. Like his brother he appears well suited to a cut in the ground as a ‘galloper’ by Pivotal and was most impressive here in a decent time and was really strong at the finish. 1m 2f looks likely to suit equally well and he could be a proper ‘tool’ in what looked a well above average Haydock maiden. Also of interest from the race is the Alan Swinbank trained Lopes Dancer, he ran a nice race here for a long way at a track the trainer’s runners often under perform at (2/45 last 5 years) and will be of interest should a ‘weaker’ northern maiden be on his agenda anytime soon. Not much of interest at Musselburgh, but I do think Mark Johnston’s Mustaqbal (who won the 7f handicap) is likely to follow up if he remains eligible for 0-75 company after reassessment.
Surprisingly little took my interest in the UK on Saturday with the highlight, arguably, being the success of Michael Dods’ Eastern Angel in the Hilary Needler at Beverley. She looks a real 2yo to my eye and did this really nicely, looking sure to be suited by a 6th furlong in time, I doubt however that this is Royal Ascot form. Of much more interest was the Irish 2000 Guineas card at The Curragh. Whilst the big race itself did little but confirm Gleneagles as the benchmark for the 3yo miler colts this year (and that he looks to be getting progressively lazier) there were 2 performances on the card that I thought of particular interest. The first being the comfortable win for the Godolphin/Bolger 2yo Round Two in the Marble Hill Stakes. Dropping back from a debut 6f success he had little problem laying up over this sharper 5f trip and readily dismissed the O’Brien trained Washington DC looking, as you would expect, particularly strong at the finish and the time was good (but obviously not better) when compared to the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes for older horses 30 minutes later. In this race we might just have uncovered a major player in all of the big Group 1 six furlong sprints to come in Dermot Weld’s Mustajeeb. Ever since the days of Ajdal and Chief Singer I have been a fan of horses with top quality 7f and 1m form dropping back to sprinting and Mustajeeb could well be another to take high honours. He will need to improve again on a 1L beating of Maarek, but there is little reason to think that he won’t. It was also interesting to note the post-race comments of jockey Pat Smullen who said ”I feel a bit vindicated as I’ve been saying for a long time that I feel this is a six-furlong horse. He´s got so much pace and he could be a very good sprinter this year”
Sunday saw the ever-pleasing sight of Roger Charlton’s stalwart Al Kazeem battling to another Group 1 success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but for me the horse for the future from the race remains Luca Cumani’s Postponed. Postponed was a massive improver with each run last year, culminating in an impressive win in the ‘Voltigeur’ and I see this year proving similar. I was at Sandown for his reappearance behind John Gosden’s Western Hymn when he was clearly (even to my untrained eye) in need of the run and would have found the watered ground against him, here, he was forced to make his own running over an inadequate 1m 2 1/2f on ground again on the easy side for him. Given some quick ground at some stage of the season I find it hard to see him not win again over 1m 4f, probably at Group 2 level, but not inconceivably in a group 1.
I was going to comment in depth on the 6f handicap at Leicester on Monday, but for legal reasons it is perhaps best that I don’t…… Suffice to say that I think that Rio Ronaldo (big late drifter under Shane Kelly, anchored in rear, switched very wide, very late) is definitely better than he showed here and that the Godolphin filly Mistrusting will improve for a 7th furlong.
Little of interest on Tuesday apart from an impressive debut win for the William Haggas trained War Department at Leicester. He was slowly away and green until the 2f pole, but once he got the hang of it, he was uber impressive. He’s a smashing mover with a fast ground action and looks worthy of a place against Round Two and the likes in the Coventry, which is not a bad race at all for once raced unbeaten colts.
More next week if time permits.
Be lucky one and all.