Donn's Articles » Pathfork


So how good is Pathfork? Difficult to know, impossible to tell after just two runs, but the most important thing to establish about a brand new racehorse as early as you can is that he isn’t bad, and we now know that about Pathfork for sure.

The potential upside of an untried thoroughbred is always limitless, pedigree and conformation serving to increase or reduce probability rather than restrict potential, and the boundary of Pathfork’s prospective capability has not come into view yet, stretching into the ether now – two wins from two runs – like a flashlight shone into a cloudless night sky. Anything is possible.

Actually, we probably had a fair idea that the son of Distorted Humor wasn’t bad even before he made his debut in that maiden at The Curragh on Irish Oaks day, when the preamble contained snippets about beating Laughing Lashes – second in a Group 3 contest three days previously – at home on the gallops.

His performance there was the performance of a potentially really smart horse. He travelled well through the race on the easy ground, he picked up nicely two furlongs out when Shane Foley asked him to, he took it up at the furlong pole and he came clear to win easily by a four-length margin that could have been six or eight. And while the performance looked good on the day, subsequent events have shown it to be even better than we thought at the time. Runner-up Robin Hood went and won what is historically a good maiden on the opening evening of the Galway Festival on his next start, while fourth-placed Mawaakef won his maiden at Killarney on Friday and eight-placed Honey Of A Kitten won at Cork on Sunday.

That maiden at The Curragh on Irish Oaks day is a maiden that attracts a lot of attention these days – Teofilo and New Approach both kicked their respective careers off by winning it, while Sea The Stars finished fourth in it in 2008 – so it was mildly surprising that Pathfork was not the subject of more talk than he was after this year’s renewal. Of course these things are easy in hindsight, but you wouldn’t have expected the 33/1 that William Hill offered after the race about the Jessica Harrington-trained colt for next year’s 2000 Guineas to have lasted until last Saturday morning.

Perhaps the clue lay in the trainer. What was the last Classic winner that Jessica Harrington trained? Tough one. What was the last Classic winner that Paul Nicholls trained? Or Willie Mullins, or Noel Meade? Same thing. Perhaps it was difficult for punters and bookmakers to get their heads around the prospect of Moscow Flyer’s trainer with a Guineas contender.

Here’s the thing: it shouldn’t have been. Mrs John Harrington’s ability with National Hunt horses is obviously beyond question, but she has been gradually and typically matter-of-factly going about her business on the flat as well in recent years. She won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes with Curtain Call in 2007 before he was re-housed at Luca Cumani’s yard, she won a listed race at The Curragh last June with Long Lashes before that filly was snapped up by the Godolphin snapper-uppers, while multiple Group race winner Jumbajukiba has been a standing dish of the Irish flat scene since stalls were introduced.

This year, the McElroy Syndicate has replaced Long Lashes with Laughing Lashes, and Harrington sent her out to win the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at The Curragh two weeks ago. And then there is Pathfork. If she can do it with eventers at Burghley and Badminton, and she can do it with hurdlers and chasers at Cheltenham and Punchestown, then why not flat horses?

Pathfork looked good in the Futurity Stakes on Saturday, as good as he had looked on Irish Oaks day, and in better company. In Glor Na Mara he was taking on a colt who had finished a half a length behind the current Guineas favourite Zoffany, and a short head in front of erstwhile Guineas favourite and Coventry Stakes winner Strong Suit, in a Group 1 contest on his previous run, and he beat him at least as comprehensively as the one-length winning margin suggests. The fact that Glor Na Mara finished second, two and a half lengths clear of the talented Samuel Morse, adds further solidity to the winner’s performance in a race that Teofilo and New Approach both won on their respective second starts, and which Hawk Wing, Oratorio, Giant’s Causeway and St Jovite all used as a springboard to even better things.

Pathfork is one of the most exciting young colts in training in Europe now. His sire has already sired a Kentucky Derby winner, he is out of a three-parts-sister to Spinning World, and he has the attitude and potential ability of a future champion. Tread a little warily, however, if you are thinking that the 14/1 that Ladbrokes are still offering about him for next year’s Guineas is too big. He is owned by Kentuckians Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton, and it has emerged that there is a chance he will be running for the roses at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May instead of running down Newmarket’s Rowley Mile. For now, anything is possible.

© The Racing Post, 24th August 2010