Horses To Follow » Conduit


Of course, Sea The Stars was outstanding in landing the Eclipse on Saturday. Everything about the performance smacked of quality, the way he handled the preliminaries, the way he travelled through the race, the way he quickened at the two-furlong pole, the way he picked up again when Rip Van Winkle came at him, the manner in which he saw out his race, the quality of the opposition that he beat, the winning time. Flawless. It is difficult to argue that John Oxx’s colt has not made the transition from potential superstar to superstar. However, in all of the scrambling, the performance of Conduit in third place may have gone a little under the radar.

Despite the Ballymacoll colt’s stellar performance in just failing to concede 7lb to Cima De Triomphe in the Brigadier Gerard over the Eclipse course and distance in May, everything about him suggests that 10 furlongs is too short. He is by Dalakhani out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, a half-sister to Spectrum. He is a three-parts brother to Hard Top and Spring Symphony, both winners over a mile and a half at three. He had to step up to nine furlongs to win his maiden as a juvenile, and as a three-year-old he won a St Leger on easy ground and a Breeders’ Cup Turf over a mile and a half in which they went hell for leather the whole way. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that he needs a mile and a half at a minimum to be at his best. There is a great chance that he would be better over even further.

Given all of that, he ran a cracker on Saturday. He missed the kick a little, with the result that Ryan Moore had to settle him at the back as they went fast early, not ideal for a horse who has stamina in abundance. In particular, he raced behind Rip Van Winkle and Sea The Stars, so he was going to have to beat that pair for speed over 10 furlongs. Again, not ideal. Moore took him wide into the straight and he began to make his ground on the outside of all of his rivals, but even so, he got to within half a length of Rip Van Winkle and a length of Sea The Stars before that pair’s turn of foot just took them away from him. He wasn’t near them inside the final 100 yards, but he did keep on well to maintain third spot, five lengths behind the winner but the same distance in front of the highly talented Cima De Triomphe, who was probably racing over his optimum distance.

Trainer Michael Stoute said afterwards that he still didn’t have the four-year-old just where he wanted him, that he improved last year with racing as the season went on and that it looked like he was improving with time this season again. That makes a lot of sense. The King George is the ideal race for him now, and I am not sure why bookmakers pushed him out from 5/4 for that contest before the Eclipse to 3/1 afterwards. Perhaps it was because John Oxx didn’t rule that race out of Sea The Stars’s campaign. It has to be unlikely that the Derby winner will run in that now – Juddmonte International followed by Irish Champion Stakes appears to be the favoured route at present – and you can still get 5/2 about Conduit, which is more than fair. Looking further ahead, 14/1 about him for the Arc would be interesting of he were to take his chance in it. That race may not be on Sea The Stars’s agenda either, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Conduit’s obvious end-of-season objective again, is not until 7th November this year, two weeks later than last year and five weeks after the Arc.

4th July 2009

© The Irish Field, 11th July 2009