Horses To Follow » Pastoral Player

Pastoral Player

There is a chance that Pastoral Player’s performance in finishing a close-up second in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday may be under-rated because attention, both before and after the race, was on Carlton House. Also, the race may be under-valued because it was won by a 33/1 shot trained by an unfashionable trainer (in Ascot Group race terms), but that would be a mistake.

The time was good, faster than Racing Post par, and comparatively only 0.03secs/furlong slower than the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Although Carlton House probably wasn’t suited to the way the race panned out, that shouldn’t detract from the merit of those who beat him, and in particular the front two, Fanunalter and Pastoral Player. Neither horse had an ideal passages through the race, but Pastoral Player was probably slightly more disadvantaged by the way the race panned out and he has the more scope of the pair to go on from this.

The Pastoral Pursuits gelding was awkward leaving the stalls, he just jumped a little in the air and then caught the side of the stall on the way out, causing him to jink. Although he is a hold-up horse and he was always going to be dropped in on this step up in trip, that wasn’t ideal, it must have cost him at least a little energy, possibly enough to make a difference between winning and losing in the end, given that he was only beaten a neck.

Hughie Morrison’s gelding raced at the back of the field, he was still last with two furlongs to run, an unpromising position given that the pace to that point hadn’t been as strong as it might have been, but he picked up really impressively up the rail into a quickening pace. He looked like winning 100 yards from home, but Fanunalter, who had not had the clearest of runs himself, got out in time to get up close home. Pastoral Player was actually in front a few strides after the line though, dispelling any doubts about his stamina for a mile, and it was probably just a combination of his awkward start and having to make up so much ground into a quickening pace that cost him.

He had stayed seven furlongs strongly for his two most recent wins, the Challenge Cup Handicap at Ascot last October and the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock at the start of June, and he can do even better than this at a mile now that connections know he stays the trip. Perhaps he won’t have to be ridden quite so patiently. He is still on the upgrade and Morrison was understandably delighted with this run afterwards, mentioning the Prix du Moulin in mid-September and the Prix de la Foret on Arc Day, both Group 1 contests at Longchamp, as possible targets now. Those races may not be over ambitious targets on this evidence.

If he were to stay closer to home then something like the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood at the end of August could be on his agenda and, looking further ahead, given that he does go particularly well at Ascot and that Frankel is more likely at this stage to run in the Champion Stakes that the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, it could be worth allowing him have a crack at the latter contest.

22nd July 2012