Horses To Follow » Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco wasn’t over-impressive in landing the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at Fairyhouse on Saturday, he certainly didn’t win it like you would have expected a 1/5 shot to, but Johnny Murtagh said afterwards that he hated the ground, he never seemed happy on it, and it never really looked like he was going to be beaten. This is backed up by his American breeding. The best performance of his best sibling, Mr O’Brien’s career was when he won the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders’ Cup at Belmont Park on firm ground.

Sent to the front from flagfall, Murtagh had to get after Cape Blanco early in the home straight, and if Mister Tee hadn’t been short of room on the far side a furlong and a half out, he might have looked dangerous. However, Cape Blanco stayed on well, he always looked to be in control, and he was going away again at the end. They were never getting to him and he was value for more than the length and a quarter winning margin.

The fact that the runner-up is a 90-rated maiden – fair play to Ger Lyons for having a go – doesn’t to a great deal for the form of this race as a Group 2 contest, but the presence of King Ledley in third gives a degree of solidity to the form. Kevin Prendergast’s colt was third in the Railway Stakes and second in the Anglesey Stakes, and we know that he handles soft ground, so it could have been that Mister Tee improved dramatically for the step up to seven furlongs. The Racing Post Rating of 106 that he was awarded for this performance, 11lb higher than his previous best, backs this hypothesis up.

Just as importantly, the Futurity Stakes is generally a really good pointer to the future. Aidan O’Brien tends to run his best juveniles in it – he has won it with Giant’s Causeway, Hawk Wing, Oratorio and Horatio Nelson in the last 10 years – and the last three renewals have been won by Teofilo, New Approach and Arazan. Cape Blanco is obviously highly regarded at home. He came into this race on the back of an impressive performance to land the Group 3 Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown in July, and he is now unbeaten in three starts. The National Stakes looks like the obvious next target for the son of Galileo, and quotes of 16/1 about him for next year’s Guineas are in no way unreasonable. He will be very interesting the next time he gets to race on good ground.

22nd August 2009

© The Irish Field, 29th August 2009