» Future Champions

Future Champions

By Rory King

We may never again see a horse run in both the Middle Park and the Dewhurst, now that they have been run on the same day for the first time this year (can either really be considered a championship event now?). You can probably rule out any horse to have run in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere from running in either race as well, under the present schedule, there being just six days and a Channel crossing between Arc day and Future Champions day. That can’t be good for the idea of the Dewhurst being the championship juvenile race of the season. No less than 17 horses since 2000 had run in the Lagardere and the Dewhurst, including Rock Of Gibraltar, who won both. Dabirsim was the highest rated juvenile in Europe before Saturday (he still is) and surely the idea of a championship day of any kind has to attract the best horses from all over Europe (it seems as if Ascot are facing a similar problem for their all new super-duper day on Saturday).

Anyway, let’s ignore the way the autumnal racing programme has been moved around with apparent disdain and focus on the day itself. Did we see any future champions?

The three year-olds who won the first and last races of the day, Strong Suit and Bubble Chic respectively, both look like high class horses. Strong Suit heads for the Breeders’ Cup Mile now and must have a great chance there given the ease with which he travelled and quickened here, handing out a four-and-a-half-length beating to the very useful pair Chachamaidee and Maqaasid in a smart time. Amazing what a breathing operation can do. Bubble Chic looked more than useful too. After finishing second to Pour Moi in the Prix Greffulhe he emerged from the Prix du Jockey Club with huge credit having stuck close to a strong pace and just getting run down late by Reliable Man, and he can go on and prove himself a high class horse next season over 10 furlongs. It is not hard to see him improving enough to come back over for the Champion Stakes next year. So far we’re looking pretty good on the future champions front then, and we haven’t even got to the two year-olds.

It was good to see 16 runners for the Middle Park, and Crusade won quite nicely. He had the pace to be prominent down the middle of the track, he pulled clear of the others down the middle, and he had enough in hand to hold on once he had got to the front. Still, hard to see him being top class next year.

The Dewhurst has a rich history for providing top class three-year-olds and this year’s renewal is probably no exception. Power set a high standard, he already had a Group 1 to his name, and he was heavily backed. He may have been a little unlucky and he has been on the go for most of the season, but Parish Hall probably won on merit and has potential for much better yet over longer trips. He is surely a Derby horse, whether he will go for a Guineas beforehand as Bolger’s New Approach did, remains to be seen.

If there was a Guineas horse in the race it might just have been Most Improved. He came here with just two runs under his belt, both here at Newmarket, narrowly beaten on his debut before running out an impressive winner second time. He came to join Parish Hall a furlong out on Saturday and looked like he might go past before he ran around a touch and was probably beaten through lack of experience, the winner having run four times and the runner-up five. He has followed the same route as Delegator, who was also trained by Brian Meehan in his younger days, thus far (Delegator could finish only fifth to Intense Focus, another Bolger winner of this, in 2008). Delegator came out and won the Craven Stakes impressively at three before going on to finish second to Sea The Stars in the Guineas. You can see Most Improved doing a similar thing (funnily enough it may well be Sea The Star’s half-brother Born To Sea he has to contend with in May).

And then there was Wading. Aidan O’Brien’s filly travelled smoothly in the Rockfel Stakes, went past the front-running Grey Pearl easily and picked up again when given a couple of smacks of Ryan Moore’s whip (well I almost got to the end without mentioning the word ‘whip’) to record a marginally faster time than the colts clocked in the Dewhurst. She is by Montjeu out of Cherry Hinton, who herself is out of Urban Sea, making her a three-parts sister to Sea The Stars and a half-sister to Galileo. Cherry Hinton managed to finish fifth in the 2007 Oaks, and so Wading has a middle distance pedigree through and through. She must be a seriously classy filly then to travel and pick up as well as she did here over seven furlongs. Four winners of the Rockfel went on to win the 1000 Guineas, most recently Finsceal Beo and Speciosa, and while no winner has gone on to win the Oaks. That could well change now.

So two winners on the day now at the head of the betting for the Derby and the Oaks, and throw in Perennial, a half-brother to Redwood out of a dam from the family of Dancing Brave, who ran a promising second in the Autumn Stakes, a race won by Nashwan and Nayef in the past, and a race in which Masked Marvel could finish only sixth last year, and you may just have another horse capable of developing into a Derby and St Leger contender next year.

All in all, a strong possibility that we saw a future champion then.

By Rory King