Things We Learned » King George fillies

King George fillies

Given that the Enable ball in the Will-She-Won’t-She roulette wheel landed on Will She (she will), it was inevitable that the talk would be of fillies’ record in this afternoon’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.  (Still missing the diamond?)

At first glance, it looks positive, with Taghrooda winning the race in 2014 and Danedream winning it in 2012.  That’s two of the last five renewals that have been won by fillies, one of them, the former, like Enable, a three-year-old filly.  And it is no negative that the same Taghrooda was trained by Enable’s trainer John Gosden.

But it gets worrying when you start to delve a little deeper.  The last filly before Danedream?  Time Charter in 1983.  That’s 29 years without a female winner.  Even more concerning, the three-year-old filly before Taghrooda?  Pawnese in 1976.  That’s even more years without a three-year-old female winner.

When we remember the great King Georges of the past, we remember the great male battles: Galileo and Fantastic Light, Swain and Pilsudski and Helissio and Singspiel, Belmez and Old Vic and, of course, the king of them all, Grundy and Bustino.  It is not really a race that ignites memories of great female triumphs.  Time Charter won a cracking renewal in 1983, when she had Caerleon and Sun Princess behind her, but that is 34 years ago. 

Since Time Charter’s victory and Sun Princess’ defeat, the erstwhile unbeaten Oh So Sharp was beaten in the King George, User Friendly was beaten, Eswarah was beaten, Look Here was beaten. 

On the positive side, only five fillies have run in the race in the last decade, and two of them have won it, and Enable does look like and exceptional filly who gets the age as well as the fillies’ allowance today.  But she is short, and it’s not going to be easy for her, just two weeks after her Irish Oaks victory in what looks like a vintage renewal.

King George age

Speaking of King George stats, the age stat looks strong: eight four-year-old winners in the last 10 years, two three-year-olds, no five-year-olds, no six-year-olds.  That makes things easy at first glance, with five of the 10 runners in today’s race aged five or six.

Add to that the fact that there hasn’t been a King George winner aged older than four since Daylami won a relatively weak renewal in 1999, beating Nedawi and Fruits Of Love into second and third places respectively, with Derby winner Oath under-performing behind them in what turned out to be the last race of his career.

But dig a little deeper and, while the stat is still strong, it does not look as bleak for the older horses as it does at first glance.  There have only been 11 five-year-old runners and eight runners aged six or more in the last 10 years.  Unsurprisingly, the race has been densely populated by four-year-olds, with 43 of them lining up since 2007.

That still means, however, that 80% of the winners in the last decade were four-year-olds, from 57% of the runners.  Small sample size of course, but, on this evidence, they are still over-achieving in terms of numerical representation.  Add six places to the eight wins, and that’s 56% of the places for four-year-olds from 57% of the runners.  They still hold their own.

Three-year-olds have won two renewals in the last decade, and have had four places, from just 13 runners.  That’s 20% of the winners and 24% of the placed horses from 17% of the runners, so the Classic generation is slightly over-achieving in recent years.

Galway quality

True, Galway is almost as much about the ‘craic’ (definition withheld) as it is about the racing, and the two feature races are National Hunt races, and you know that quality of Flat racehorse that will be on show at Galway this week will not be up there with the quality that you will see on Irish Champions’ Weekend.  However, if you pay close attention, you also know that you will probably be watching at least a few stars of he future.

You know by now the horses who won at Galway in the past who went on to prove themselves to be top class: subsequent Irish Derby and Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Grey Swallow, subsequent Irish Oaks and Tattersalls Gold Cup and dual Pretty Polly winner Dance Design, subsequent Belmont Stakes winner Go And Go.  But last year’s clutch of Galway Flat horses could be the best yet.

Eziyra won the fillies’ maiden for Dermot Weld on the Tuesday evening, and she went on to win the Group 3 CL and MF Weld Park Stakes.  She beat Hydrangea into second place at Galway, and Aidan O’Brien’s filly was beaten nostrils in the Debutante Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes later last year before winning the Group 3 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown this year and finishing third in both the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes.

Creggs Pipes won the Colm Quinn Mile on Tuesday evening last year, and Andy Slattery’s filly won the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes on Irish Guineas weekend this year.

Tony Martin’s horse Heartbreak City won a handicap hurdle on the Friday, then went to York and landed the Ebor on his next run, and was beaten by the bounce of the ball in the Melbourne Cup – yes, the very race that stops a nation – on his next.  And this year’s Derby winner Wings Of Eagles made his racecourse debut in the seven-furlong maiden on the Friday.

Tithonus won the seven-furlong handicap on the Saturday.  Denis Hogan’s horse won three more handicaps last year, and has now also won his last two, the Rockingham and the Scurry.  He is rated 96 now, 33lb higher than he was rated when he landed that 0-75 handicap 12 months ago.

Of course, la pièce de résistance for the future was also on Saturday, the one-mile maiden, in which the 2/7 favourite Capri beat the 28/1 David Wachman-trained newcomer Rekindling by two and a half lengths.  The Aidan O’Brien-trained Capri won the Beresford Stakes in September last year and is now, of course, an Irish Derby winner, while Rekindling won the Ballysax Stakes on his debut this season, his debut for Joseph O’Brien, and won the Group 2 Curragh Cup on his latest run.

Martin and Meyler Magic

Phil’s Magic probably won’t get into the Galway Plate on Wednesday, at present Tony Martin’s horse needs 19 horses above him in the handicap to come out in order to allow him into the race, despite the fact that he picked up another 5lb for winning the Midlands National at Kilbeggan last Friday evening.

However, that Midlands National is a big pot, almost €30,000 to the winner, which is well worth winning, and the victory was the product of a fine training performance by Martin and a cool riding performance by Donagh Meyler.

The Fruits Of Love gelding was having just his third run for Martin.  He had shaped promisingly on his previous run at Limerick in his first-time tongue-tie, when he ran on well to take third place behind Rock On Fruity and Definite Soldier over two miles and six furlongs.  Stepped back up to three miles and a furlong on Friday, he was well backed in the pre-race market, and his supporters collected.  Just.

Donagh Meyler was superb on him, patience personified, saving ground along the inside and waiting as long as he dared before asking his horse for his effort.  In the end, the Lyreen Syndicate’s horse needed every inch that Meyler saved as he got up in the dying strides to beat Mr Boss Man by a head and record his first victory over fences.

A 5lb hike may not be sufficient to halt Phil’s Magic’s progress.  His new mark is still 4lb lower than his peak over fences and 11lb lower than his peak over hurdles.  He is only seven, and he has a nice progressive profile now.  He may not get into the Plate, but he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Burke and Longsdon link-up

It’s a good link up, the newly-founded association between Charlie Longsdon and Jonathan Burke.  One is a young man on the up in his profession, and the other is, well, a young man on the up in his profession.

It’s a great opportunity for Burke.  He has ridden plenty in Britain in recent years, the Potts horses when they travelled as well as plenty of times for Rebecca Curtis and others, including Longsdon, and hopefully he can put his recent injury woes behind him and have a fair crack at showcasing his burgeoning talent.  Hopefully too, he will be known by his name (Jonathan) and we will not have another struggle like the Tony v Anthony one.  (Although if Burke’s career happened to progress from here like that one progressed, perhaps he wouldn’t complain too much.)


© The Irish Field, 29th July 2017