Horses To Follow » Total Gallery

Total Gallery

Total Gallery, bred by Michael Woodlock and Seamus Kennedy at Fethard in County Tipperary, put up a huge performance under a fine ride from Johnny Murtagh to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Sunday. Drawn well in stall three towards the near rail, he got a nice tow into the race from pace-setter Strike Up The Band, who was drawn next door in stall four. The Abbaye is a race in which it is usually difficult to come from too far back, unless it is staged on soft ground, which is more the exception than the norm these days, and Total Gallery had the early pace to lie handy, no more than two lengths off the leader. Strike Up The Band began to struggle about two and a half furlongs out, at which point Murtagh really had no option but to kick Total Gallery through the gap that had remained between the leader and the near rail. Benbaun and Equiano had quickened up on the far side, but Total Gallery’s surge of pace took him past those two rivals and into a lead of just about a length. There was still a furlong to go at that point, however, and Benbaun wasn’t done with. As well as that, Fleeting Spirit was closing on the near rail, Borderlescott was making ground in the centre and War Artist was cutting through his rivals on the far side. Fleeting Spirit got to within a neck of Total Gallery with about 100 yards to run, and looked like a serious threat, but once she did, Total Gallery pulled out more, and the filly didn’t close any more between then and the line, going down by a neck in the end. Borderlescott ran out of racing room at a crucial stage, and War Artist did finish well, but it is very difficult to argue that the best horse in the race on the day didn’t win it.

This was a top class sprint, as the Abbaye invariably is. Four of the five horses that chased Total Gallery home were previous Group 1 winners, and the time was really good, 0.34secs/furlong faster than standard. On top of that, there were a number of things to like about this performance from the Stan Moore-trained winner. For starters, there was the fact that he was able to easily lie up with the leaders in the very early part of the race. Then there was the turn of foot that he showed off five-furlong pace to go from a length down to a length up in a couple of hundred yards. He was a length in front of a ridden-along Fleeting Spirit when he started that surge, and he was three lengths up on her when he got to the front. There was also the resolution that he showed once he got to the front. After he went a length up, watching the race live it looked like he had done as much as he could do, and was clinging on for the line. But actually, on reviewing the race, it now looks like he was only just doing enough. When Fleeting Spirit got to within a neck of him, it looks like he pulled out more to withstand her challenge. He had more left in the tank. On his previous run, in a Group 3 race over five furlongs at Newbury last month, he had raced freely through the early part of the race, and was caught with a sucker punch by Strike The Deal. Longchamp’s five furlongs is a lot sharper than Newbury’s, and that obviously suited him, but he also seemed to be a little more relaxed through the race, which helped him get home better.

Strange for a horse who ran in the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot this year that he now looks to be at his best over a fast five furlongs. Connections were worried beforehand that the ground might be on the fast side for him, but they needn’t have. The official ground on the day was given as good, but the times suggest that it was actually firm on the five-furlong track. That opens up options for Total Gallery for next season. He is only three and he is probably just getting going now as a sprinter. We know that three-year-olds find it difficult to compete against their elders. Carmine Lake was the last three-year-old to win the Abbaye, and that was 12 years ago. In the last 10 years, 47 three-year-olds had run in the race, and none had won. Only three of them managed to run into a place. Compare that with the record of five-year-olds in the race, who recorded six wins and seven places before Sunday from just 28 runners. It is a race for the older sprinters, and that makes Total Gallery’s performance all the more meritorious. He is a Group 1 winner now, but he is a hugely exciting sprinter for next year as a four-year-old. He will probably improve again, he goes on fast ground and on easy ground, he is probably at his best over five furlongs, but he gets six, and he handles all types of tracks. He is a live candidate for the champion sprinter title next year.

4th October 2009

© The Irish Field, 10th October 2009