Horses To Follow » Special Duty

Special Duty

It is never a good sign when five runners in a race, especially a Group 1 race, are separated by a short neck, a neck, a neck and a head, as was the case in the Darley Prix Morny, run at Deauville last Sunday. The assumption goes that, as they can’t all be champions, the chances are that there isn’t a champion among them, and that is usually a fairly legitimate assumption. However, there are reasons for believing that at least the winner and the second in Sunday’s event, and possibly the third as well, will turn out to be high class. For starters, the race was run in a record time. Also, both Arcano and Special Duty raced like they will improve for the run, while Canford Cliffs raced along the stands rail, on possibly a disadvantaged part of the track. Of the trio, however, it was the runner-up Special Duty who impressed most.

It is not certain whether or not it was Stephane Pasquier’s intention to make the running on the daughter of Hennessy. She had raced prominently when she had beaten the highly regarded Siyouni on her previous run in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, but she had raced handily, she had pressed the leader, so perhaps the intention was to so likewise on Sunday. However, as the race panned out, she found herself in front after they had gone 100 yards, and that wasn’t ideal. Green in the Prix Robert Papin, she was green again here, and she probably went too fast for her own good, so fast, in fact, that Zanzibari was off the bridle after they had gone two furlongs, and fast enough to set up a record time.

Khalid Abdullah’s filly seemed to want to lug to her right through the first two furlongs, with the result that the field raced arrowhead-style down the centre of the track. Pasquier moved her towards the stands rail a little at halfway when she had a clear two-length break on her rivals, and the rest of the field followed. The rider asked his filly to quicken from the front fully two and a half furlongs out, and the response was impressive. Suddenly, she had all of her rivals off the bridle, with none of them really making in-roads into her lead. Canford Cliffs challenged under the stands rail, admittedly perhaps not where you wanted to be, but he never looked like getting there. In fact, it didn’t look like anything was going to get to the leader until 50 yards from the line, when Arcano picked up impressively, and went from a half a length down as they crossed the 50-yard mark to a short neck up by the time they reached the line.

It is probable that Special Duty would have done better if she had been able to take a lead from one of her rivals. She was throwing pricking her ears and hanging in front, and she would almost certainly have settled better if she had had something to chase. She remains a really interesting prospect. Her trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, an expert with young fillies, mentioned the Cheveley Park Stakes as a potential target for Special Duty next, and she would be really interesting if she made the trip. Looking further ahead, odds of 12/1 about her for next year’s 1000 Guineas would be interesting about her if you knew that she was an intended runner in a race that her trainer won three times with Ma Biche, Ravinella and Hatoof.

23rd August 2009

© The Irish Field, 29th August 2009