Horses To Follow » Virtual


In one sense, Virtual was a fortunate winner of the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. His rider Jimmy Fortune was definitely behind Alexandros’s rider Frankie Dettori as the crossed the line, but Virual’s head was down on the line while Alexandros’s was up, so the verdict went his way. Furthermore, Dettori had his whip knocked out of his hand inside the final furlong, and that probably had an effect as well. Also, this was not a vintage Group 1 contest, as is frequently the case with the Lockinge, with the highest-rated horse by some way, Paco Boy, who was 5lb clear on official ratings, patently failing to stay the mile, and the first three finishing within a half a length of each other and the time of the race being unimpressive for a Group 1.

All of that said, there was a lot to like about the manner in which Virtual battled to land this. He came under pressure over a furlong out and looked like he might finish no better than fourth or fifth at that point, but he ran on willingly all the way to the line. He obviously appreciated the soft ground, and this mile is a minimum for him. John Gosden talked about the Eclipse as his next target afterwards, and that makes a lot of sense. He was really progressive at the end of last season on soft ground, and he is by Pivotal, so there is every chance that he will always be at his best on easy ground, but it could be that he will be effective on better ground over 10 furlongs. He is certainly a really interesting Eclipse candidate at this stage. He remains highly progressive and is probably not finishing improving yet.

16th May 2009