Thoughts on a magical weekend
Gary McKenzie with his take on a magical weekend’s racing in Britain, Ireland and France, the answers it provided and the new questions it posed
I love horse racing but would never call myself an expert. I am more of an enthusiastic amateur. A Miss Marple rather than Sherlock Holmes if you like. But like all fans I have my opinions and I am lucky enough to have this platform to share them.
And today I am going to give my take on the magical racing we had over the weekend. And there are almost as many questions now than there were before. So here goes.
What did I say about Ghaiyyath? As soon as I name him as a winner, he loses his unbeaten record for 2020.
But Magical is so consistent. She has run in nine Group One races over ten furlongs and won six. Only Enable, Crystal Ocean and Ghaiyyath have beaten her at the distance.
Since finishing down the field in the Arc of 2018 she has only finished out of the first two once. In the Arc of 2019. Her rating for her second Irish Champion Stakes has been given as 120.
That is her lowest figure for a Group One over the distance. Her highest is 124 and that, to me, shows her form is solid.
She stayed close to Ghaiyyath and I wonder if, like last years Arc, he did not relish the company.
Or he could be tired after a fairly long season. He first ran in February and he had put in a career best performance at York. Every horse is allowed a bad run. But this was only “bad” compared to what he has been doing.
It would be foolish to write him off after a decent run in a top-class race. The proximity of Armory at the finish will make the form less in some eyes.
Ghaiyyath and Magical are both around 10/1 for the Arc but I would not run either in the race if they were mine (if they were mine. I wish) and a decider in the Champion Stakes would be a clash to savour.
Speaking of the Arc, I think Sottsass ran a decent trial for Longchamp. He needs further, and the going was probably quick enough for him. He has only run twice over a mile and a half and they were two of his best runs. He was always going to be aimed at the Arc and the 20/1 for the first Sunday in October is tempting.
As I said earlier, I am no expert but, like Matt Chapman, I was surprised that Martin Dwyer thought Pyledriver didn’t stay in the St Leger. Events conspired to leave the horse running alone out wide in the home straight. He didn’t look to be stopping but Mr Dwyer is a very experienced jockey so I respect his opinion.
The St Leger has long been my favourite classic and it was another great race.
You have to feel sympathy for Shane Cross who was the intended rider of Galileo Chrome. He tested positive for Covid and is now isolated for two weeks. Tom Marquand was the lucky jockey who got an amazing spare ride and got his mount up close home to gain his first British Group One win.
Berkshire Rocco ran a stormer to come second. He had been beaten by both Pyledriver and Santiago this season but reversed form with both here.
There was just a length and a half between the first four but the winnr is a massive improver and looks a likely cup horse for next season.
Chindit threw down the first two-year-old marker of the weekend when he got the better of Albasheer and State Of Rest in the Champagne Stakes. The front three were seven lengths clear of the rest.
The winner always looked to be in command and was going away at the line. Both first and second were the last out of the stalls and the third horse lost a shoe, so all three overcame minor problems.
But I think we all expected the National Stakes on Sunday to be the race that would frame the market for next years 2000 Guineas.
The first problem was the withdrawal of Battleground, who I am such a fan of. He had a cough.
That left joint favourites in Master Of The Seas and Lucky Vega who could only finish fourth and fifth. Master Of The Seas looked beaten on merit but Lucky Vega got no run at all.
But the winner, Thunder Moon, also had traffic problems but once he got out he quickened well and the winning margin probably underestimates his superiority on the day. That was only his second run so he could be very special. Wembley had to pull widest of all and was powering home.
All the principals from the National Stakes and the Champagne Stakes are in the betting for the Dewhurst next month. Add Battleground, and easy Group Two winner Cadillac, and we are set for an exciting final exam for the two-year-old colts.
Over in France it was a case of the comeback kids ruling. Anthony Van Dyke became the first Epsom Derby winner to gain a victory since Harzand followed up in the Irish Derby of 2016 when he beat Stradivarius in the Prix Foy.
And Mogul finally got his Group One when taking the Grand Prix De Paris and emulating his big brother Japan who won the race last year. This was the third successive season Aiden O’Brien has trained the winner. He is in the Arc at the moment but whether he is good enough to beat Love or Enable I’m not sure.
It was great to see Cayenne Pepper finally get off the mark for the season. She made it look very simple in the Blandford Stakes and my hope is that she stays in training for next season.
While still on Cayenne Pepper she was beaten last time by Tarnawa. That filly won the Prix Vermeille beating hot favourite Raabihah by three lengths.
And she looked very good in doing so. An Arc run is possible but she is also in the betting for what looks a very good Prix L’Opera.
Dermot Weld is the trainer of Tarnawa and he had a big race double when Search For A Song won her second Irish St Leger.
Johnny Murtagh (pictured) was an excellent jockey and is now making his mark as a top level trainer. Champers Elysees became his first Group One winner when she won the Matron Stakes beating the Irish Guineas and Prix de Diane winners.
Murtagh also trained Know It All to be fourth. A young(ish) man who is going places.
Safe Voyage proved he gets a mile when he won the Boomerang Mile. He is as short as 8/1 for the QEII and that puts him ahead of Circus Maximus and Siskin in the betting. He would need to improve again to worry the likes of Palace Pier and Pinatubo though.
Girls ruled in the Flying Five with the first four home all on the distaff side. The race was won by last years Abbaye heroine Glass Slippers and she looks ready for another big run at Longchamp.
She seems to like this time of year. In five runs in the autumn she has won four. Her only defeat was on heavy ground over six furlongs. She has been beaten twice by Battaash this season but we know he can be temperamental on big days.
Sibling rivalry was to the fore in the Moyglare Stud Stakes where Shale beat warm favourite Pretty Gorgeous. Shale is trained by Donnacha O’Brien while Pretty Gorgeous is in the care of his brother Joseph. The two fillies had raced each other twice before with one win each.
Shale’s two wins have been on good ground while Pretty Gorgeous won on soft. They could meet again in the Fillies Mile where May Hill winner Indigo Girl awaits.
We are being so well served at the moment.
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