Things We Learned » Levanto going places

Levanto going places

There was a lot to like about the performance that Levanto put up in winning the 12-furlong handicap at The Curragh on Sunday.

She chased a fast pace and found herself in front a little earlier than ideal, and she drifted to her left inside the final furlong. However, fast and all as Zarkiyr finished, and although she only got home by a short head, it always looked like Johnny Murtagh had things under control on Levanto. The visual impression of the performance was good, and the time was fast, over three seconds faster than either of the other two races run over a mile and a half, and the second fastest comparative time on the day.

Willie Mullins’ filly was stepping up from a mile to a mile and a half, but she is out of a half-sister to St Leger winner Rule Of Law, so it was always probable that she would improve for the step up in trip, which she duly did. She is progressive anyway, this was just her fourth ever run, and she should improve again.

The fact that she is trained by Mullins (it was another fine day for the trainer, incidentally, as Levanto was winning just over three hours after Diakali had won the Grade 1 Prix Alain du Breil at Auteuil) means that it is always possible that she will jump hurdles sooner or later, but she is an exciting middle-distance handicapper now at least, and an 8lb hike to a mark of 92 may not be enough to stop her going close wherever she shows up next.

Irish Derby shaping up

It may be a little early to be thinking about the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, but it is difficult to contain enthusiasm for the contest that appears to be taking shape even two weeks out.

Epsom Derby winner Ruler Of The World obviously sets the standard, and a high one at that, but the challengers are assembling. Trading Leather looked really good in winning the Listed Silver Stakes over 10 furlongs at The Curragh on Sunday, and Jim Bolger’s colt should improve for stepping up to a mile and a half.

Epsom Derby third, the David Wachman-trained Galileo Rock, is a possible, and there is a view that Derby runner-up Libertarian should get closer to Ruler Of The World at The Curragh than he did at Epsom. Trainer Elaine Burke has confirmed that he is set to be supplemented. Also, the Patrick Prendergast-trained Sugar Boy has already beaten Libertarian and Galileo Rock, and he will go into the race without having endured a tough race at Epsom. He will be fresher than most.

One other interesting facet to the race at this stage is the fact that Aidan O’Brien has confirmed that Ruler Of The World will probably be the sole Ballydoyle representative in the race. Of course, plans may change, racehorses being the moving, breathing, unpredictable, organic beasts that they are, but it is still an interesting development given the manner in which Aidan has dominated the race in recent years. Not only has he sent out the last seven winners, but since 2006 he has been responsible for the 1-2-3 three times, and he has fielded 29 of the 69 runners.

The Duke’s wife’s race

Time to get your race names excel spreadsheet out again. The race that we now know fondly as the Windsor Forest Stakes, the Group 2 contest for fillies run over the straight mile on Wednesday at Royal Ascot, and won in the past by Peeress and Soviet Song and in 2011 by the Tommy Stack-trained Lolly For Dolly, will, from this year, be known as the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

Perhaps in an act of gender equailty gone into overdrive, the name of the Duke’s wife, the Duchess of Cambridge (strangely), has replaced Cherry Hinton in the title of the Group 2 race for juvenile fillies run at Newmarket’s July meeting. So no more Cherry Hinton, no more Windsor Forest.

There may be a symmetry there now – Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot, Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket – but it doesn’t get away from the fact that it is difficult to keep track these days, nor that every chop and change erodes the tradition and tapestry of the sport just a little more.

Garswood target

It looks like the Richard Fahey-trained Garswood is going to run in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot next week now instead of the St James’s Palace Stakes, and that makes a lot of sense.

Nicely progressive at sprint trips last term, Garswood made a really impressive start to 2013 when he landed the Free Handicap at Newmarket on his seasonal bow. That was over seven furlongs, and it was well worth trying him over a mile in the Guineas. He isn’t bred to get much further than seven furlongs, but he wasn’t stopping at the end of the Free Handicap, and you never know what the outcome of these things is going to be for sure until you try them.

In reality, we didn’t really find out whether or not he stayed a mile in the Guineas. Nothing went right for him in the race. He missed the break, he was hampered just after the start, and he met traffic when he tried to make ground late on. In the end, it was just one of those races that you can legitimately scratch off his cv.

That said, the balance of probability suggests that it is over six and seven furlongs that the Dutch Art colt will be at his best and, with Dawn Approach now a late addition to the St James’s Palace Stakes picture, the Jersey Stakes is the race for him next week. It could be a warm Jersey Stakes this year, with Richard Hannon set to be particularly strong-handed, but, beaten just a head in the Cornwallis Stakes last October after missing the break on his only run at Ascot, Richard Fahey’s horse should be a player in it.

Remembering Henry

Henry Cecil was a significant part of my formative racing years. My grandfather – another significant part of my formative racing years – was a fan, and the the great Cecil horses of the late 1970s and early 1980s (icons like Kris, One In A Million, Le Moss, Ardross) were as much a part of my adolescence as Starsky & Hutch and choke chains and LPs were.

I remember experiencing a whole gamut of emotions when I first met the man. Awe, inferiority, gratitude, incredulity. I wasn’t sure if I should shake his extended hand or genuflect. In the end, I managed to perform some kind of a hybrid of both.

I felt privileged then, a 23-year-old sitting at the kitchen table in Warren Place, swinging his legs like a three-year-old. And I feel privileged today just to have met him.

If there is a Royal Ascot up there, you can be sure that he has one primed already for the Queen Anne.

© The Irish Field, 15th June 2013