Things We Learned » Tough for Talent

Tough for Talent

Strange thing but, in contrast to the relationship that the Epsom Derby winner enjoys with the Irish version (when he attends), the Epsom Oaks winner is often not automatic favourite for, nor most likely winner of, the Irish edition of the fillies’ race.

Last year, Epsom heroine Was was sent off the 5/1 third favourite, and finished fourth. In 2011, Dancing Rain was also sent off the 5/1 third favourite, and finished fifth. Even in 2010, when the recently-retired remarkable filly Snow Fairy completed the Oaks double, she was sent off the 7/2 second favourite behind the Godolphin filly Hibaayeb.

Talent’s position at the head of the market for today’s renewal of the Darley Irish Oaks looks shaky. True, she did really well to win at Epsom as impressively as she did, because she didn’t have the run of the race and she didn’t really handle the track, but, as time goes on, the Oaks form is getting progressively more porous.

Third-placed The Lark was well beaten in a Group 2 race at Saint-Cloud on her next run. Fourth-placed Moth finished down the field in a listed race at Naas. Banoffee was well beaten in the Lancashire Oaks, Gertrude Versed was well beaten in the Ribblesdale, Roz finished second last in the Coronation Stakes, Say finished fifth in the Pretty Polly at The Curragh, and Miss You Too finished third in a listed race at Vichy on Thursday evening. Seven fillies from the Epsom Oaks have run since, and all seven have been soundly beaten.

Of course, you can only ever beat what the put in front of you, but Talent probably needs to step up again on her Epsom form if she is going to prevail today.

Glut no good

The glut of top class racing in Britain last Saturday – and the stark contrast with today’s mid-term-break – has been well thrashed out at this stage, but it is disappointing that racecourses and central authorities allowed it get to that stage.

It is bizarre that Newmarket were allowed to move the July Cup from a Thursday slot, on which it worked really well, first to a Friday and then to a Saturday slot, parachuted in, as it was, on top of excellent Ascot and York cards. If the July Cup merited top billing last Saturday – and it did – it meant that the John Smith’s Handicap, one of the top middle-distance handicaps on the calendar, and the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot, were relegated to supporting roles. Either one of those would have been a highlight were it to be run today. Even Saturday’s Chester card would have demanded attention were it to be staged this week instead of last week.

Very few people were happy. Trainers were unhappy because they had to stretch their resources across venues, and because top riders were difficult to pin down. Punters were unhappy because you only have two eyes and a finite number of hours to prepare. And bookmakers were unhappy because punters only have a finite number of euro in their pockets.

The only people who were happy, it appears, were the people at Newmarket.

It is difficult to see how it is better for racing, as one Newmarket spokesperson suggested and, in a sense, it is difficult to see how it is even better for Newmarket. While the attendance at this year’s July Cup was 12,011, up over 1,000 on last year’s equivalent fixture, the race was run under stone-splitting sun this year, whereas last year it was run in a quagmire. Also, the 12,011 was actually over 4,000 lower than the number of people who went through the turnstiles on Thursday, the day on which the July Cup was traditionally run in what can now be referred to as the good old days.

That is largely irrelevant though. It is simply not good for racing to have so many top races run on the same day. It would be like moving the All Ireland Hurling Final to the third Sunday in September.

The other people who are happy, of course, are the people at The Curragh. It means that there are very few distractions from across the water from an excellent card there this afternoon.

King George thriller

Just two weeks ago, there was a chance that next Saturday’s King George was going to develop into a match between St Nicholas Abbey and Cirrus Des Aigles. Now the race is developing a depth of headline acts.

Jim Bolger has confirmed that Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby hero Trading Leather is on track. Andreas Wohler has confirmed that his Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Novellist is on track. Princess Of Wales’s Stakes winner Universal is a definite runner and a lively outsider, and Hamdan Al Maktoum could be doubly-represented with Eclipse runner-up Mukhadram and Hardwicke Stakes favourite Ektihaam, while Michael Stoute is talking about outlining to owner Evelyn de Rothchild the merits of coughing up the supplementary entry fee for Hillstar.

After a couple of hairy years, the King George is gradually re-claiming its traditional place as the all-aged middle-distance highlight of mid-summer.

Lyons tour

It is no secret that Ger Lyons’ yard is generally populated with horses who like to rattle off fast ground, so it is no surprise that the Dunsany trainer’s stats are high these days.

Since 4th July, Lyons has had six winners and seven seconds, two of them beaten a short head, from 27 runners. As well as that, he sent out the first and third in the big Paddy Power Sprint on Irish Derby day and, with horses like Exogenesis and Burn The Boats and Lily’s Angel flying high, chances are he will continue to make hay.

Duel on

Despite the hyperbolic assertions to the contrary, here are four reasons why the impending re-match between Dawn Approach and Toronado in the Sussex Stakes is not like the King’s Lake/To-Agori-Mou Sussex Stakes of 1981: (Think more Henrythenavigator/Raven’s Pass if you must.)

1. Dawn Approach beat Toronado by seven and a half lengths in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (not at The Curragh), not a neck.

2. There was no stewards’ enquiry after the Newmarket Guineas, the placings were not reversed and there was no subsequent appeal at which the original placings were re-instated.

3. Toronado did not exact his revenge in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

4. And, most importantly, Richard Hughes did not stick his two fingers up on crossing the winning line.

© The Irish Field, 20th July 2013