Horses To Follow » Balthazaar's Gift

Balthazaar’s Gift

There may be a little bit of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted in putting up Balthazaar’s Gift as one to follow after he won the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. It was, after all, the 42nd time he faced the starter. However, it was also probably the best run of the six-year-old’s life, and there are reasons for believing that there is more to come.

This may not have been the best Group 2 race ever run, especially when you consider that the favourite, Evasive, disappointed many, not least of all the people who had backed him in to 10/11, despite reportedly doing very well on the gallops since joining Godolphin.

That said, this is not a race in which three-year-olds do well, he may have been up against it anyway, and it might be a mistake to mark Balthazaar’s Gift’s performance down too much. For starters, he didn’t have the race run to suit. The son of Xaar has always been at his best when he has been able to come through horses off a fast pace. Just as with Kite Wood in the Geoffrey Freer a half an hour earlier, Plum Pudding was allowed his own way up front under Richard Hughes, a man who is just about as lethal as Dettori when he is allowed set his own pace. They didn’t go a great gallop early on, which suited those who raced up with the pace. Actually, Plum Pudding and Regal Parade, who raced in first and second places throughout, finished third and second respectively, and the winning time was only 0.2secs faster than the time that Swift Gift clocked in the Class 3 handicap run over the same course and distance a half an hour later, all of which adds up to a slow early pace for a Group 2 contest. Balthazaar’s Gift was held up in joint last place of the nine runners, at least eight lengths off the lead after they had gone a furlong, which wasn’t ideal when they were going so slow up front. Robinson aimed Balthazaar’s Gift at a gap between Prime Defender and Palace Moon a furlong and a half out, and the horse picked up impressively. He burst his way through the gap and got out after Plum Pudding and Regal Parade. Robinson had to switch him to the near side, which could have ended his challenge, wise old monkey that he is, but the manoeuvre seemed to invigorate him, and he quickened really impressively on the near side to win by an ever-extending three lengths.

Although this was Balthazaar’s Gift’s 42nd run, it was just his fourth for Clive Cox, and it looks like he is improving again, it looks like Cox has found the key to him again. It looks like he is at his best now over seven furlongs, and he doesn’t mind some cut in the ground. He is a live contender for all the good seven-furlong races between now and the end of the season, the Supreme Stakes at Goodwood at the end of the month, the Park Stakes at Doncaster in September and the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in October. He could be under-rated in any or all of them, given that he is a six-year-old who has run 42 times, and he will be interesting in whichever he contest.

15th August 2009