Things We Learned » Taghrooda target

Taghrooda target

The announcement that Taghrooda would not run in this evening’s Darley Irish Oaks was a surprise when it came on Thursday morning. All the market vibes on Wednesday were that the John Gosden-trained filly would run and that perhaps the other Sheikh Hamdan filly, the Dermot Weld-trained Tarfasha, might not. Trading odds-on ante post is a precarious business.

It is a pity for the Irish Oaks to lose the Epsom heroine, but the fact that Taghrooda will now be aimed at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes instead is an intriguing prospect. She was a hugely impressive Oaks winner, she won with plenty in hand, and that was just her third ever race, so it is reasonable to expect at least a little improvement from her. Add to that the fact that she is a daughter of Sea The Stars, and it is not unrealistic to expect even a little more.

Her presence in the King George field next Saturday will ensure that the Classic generation is well-represented, even if Eagle Top is not supplemented – which may be a little less likely now than it was on Wednesday evening, given that John Gosden also trains the King Edward VII winner – and that is no bad thing. The King George, which has suffered from a relative dearth of three-year-olds in recent times, is billed as the mid-summer, middle-distance, clash of the generations. In order to have a clash of the generations, you need the different generations to be represented.

The fact that the Epsom Oaks winner is preparing to take on the colts in the Ascot showpiece does make you think that it is a pity they didn’t think to take on the colts a month earlier in the Irish Derby. You would have loved to have seen her take on Australia then, in receipt of 3lb. If she had, there probably would have been a significant reduction in the number of column inches that the ‘Irish Derby problem’ generated.

She will have a real chance of winning the King George too. Before Danedream two years ago, you had to go back to Time Charter in 1983 to find the last filly to win the King George, and you have to go back to Pawnese in 1976 to find the last three-year-old filly to do so. But not that many have tried in the interim, and very few with Taghrooda’s credentials. Indeed, the last Oaks winner to run in the King George as a three-year-old, in 2005, was Eswarah, who was also owned by Sheikh Hamdan.

Like Eswarah, Taghrooda will receive a total of 15lb from the older colts, and that gives her a big chance.

Bunbury blitz

There were four races run over seven furlongs at Newmarket on Saturday – the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, the Bunbury Cup, a juvenile fillies’ maiden and a Class 2 nursery – and a comparison of their respective sectional times makes for interesting reading.

It should not be surprising that the Bunbury Cup was the fastest of the four races, given that it was the only race that wasn’t confined to juveniles, but it was the magnitude of the difference that impressed. The Bunbury Cup was run in a time that was over a second faster than the exciting Estidhkaar clocked in winning the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, and it was three seconds faster than the maiden and four second faster than the nursery.

It does not end there either. The Bunbury Cup was faster than the average sectional of the four seven-furlong races for every one of the seven furlongs. The Bunbury Cup field were 0.34secs faster than the average figure through the first furlong, 0.72secs faster through the second furlong and a really impressive 0.83secs faster than the average for the four seven-furlong races through the third furlong, when they covered the distance from the five-furlong pole to the four-furlong pole in 11.11secs.

That was their fastest furlong, but it was almost matched by their sixth furlong, which they covered in 11.14secs. The reality was that they set a fast pace in the Bunbury Cup, and they were able to sustain it throughout the race, with the result that they were able to clock a time that was marginally faster, comparatively, than the time that Slade Power clocked in winning the Group 1 July Cup.

Conclusions? The Bunbury Cup was a hot race, and many of the protagonists could be worth following in the near future. The winner Heaven’s Guest is obvious, but Ertijaal did well to last as long as he did in front, having set breakneck early fractions of 11.74, 11.11, 11.49 and 11.55 in his first-time blinkers.

Also, Hoodna did really well to finish third, having made ground through the hottest part of the race after missing the break and tacking over from her high draw – she clocked 11.06secs for the third furlong – while Absolutely So also did well to finish out his race as well as he did to take second place, having raced just behind the pace from early. All three horses may be worth a second look whenever they run next.

Cover story

Take Cover is interesting now. David Griffiths’ horse showed blinding speed through the early stages of the Listed five-furlong John Smith’s City Walls Stakes at York on Saturday, yet he still had enough in reserve late on to withstand the challenge of the progressive G Force. He was actually going away again at the end.

The Singspiel gelding is seven years old, but he is a lightly-raced seven-year-old. He didn’t make his racecourse debut until October of his four-year-old year when he was trained by George Margarson. Such is the speed that he shows, he will always be of interest over a fast five furlongs on fast ground. That speed would have his rivals in trouble at any level.

That makes him a potentially interesting outsider if he takes his chance in the Nunthorpe Stakes back at York next month. The Nunthorpe is obviously a Group 1 race, it is a massive step up in class from a listed race, but the fact that it is run over the City Walls course and distance gives him a chance. Interestingly, Hamish McGonagall won the City Walls in 2012 and finished third in the Nunthorpe, while Jwala won the City Walls last year and sprang a 40/1 shock in the Nunthorpe the following month.

Both horses disappointed in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in the interim, so, although Masamah did do the City Walls/King George double in 2011, it might be a good idea to wait until after Goodwood before you consider backing Take Cover for the Nunthorpe.

Rockingham raiders

It might pay to start your assessment of tomorrow’s Rockingham Handicap with the raiders. Four of the last six renewals of the Rockingham have been won by British-trained horses, including last year’s winner Whozthecat, trained by Declan Carroll, who is back for more tomorrow racing off a mark that is just 3lb higher than the mark off which he won last year.

There is a chance that the British sprint handicappers may have the edge over their Irish counterparts these days. In the Paddy Power Scurry, the Premier Handicap run over an extended six furlongs at The Curragh on Irish Derby weekend, there were just six British-trained runners, and three of them finished first, third and fourth. Also, admittedly there was just a smattering of Irish runners in the big straight-track handicaps at Royal Ascot, but none of them even threatened to get involved.

There are four British-trained runners in tomorrow’s Rockingham, Caspian Prince, Green Door and Sir Maximilian, as well as Whozthecat. They are all worth a second look.

Thought for the week

With so many of the top Irish National Hunt jockeys set to be ruled out for the Galway Festival (including Ruby Walsh, Paul Carberry, Bryan Cooper, Mikey Fogarty and Philip Enright for sure, and possibly Andrew Lynch, Robbie Power, David Splaine and Mark Enright as well), be sure to throw your boots and your helmet into the back of the car before you set off on Monday week. You just never know.

© The Irish Field, 19th July 2014