Things We Learned » Eight up (again)

Eight up (again)

Now that it is all over, you can look back on the week dispassionately and conclude that this was another phenomenal Royal Ascot for Irish horses.

Another eight Irish-trained winners, to go with last year’s eight, was a serious haul. Sole Power and Domination on Tuesday, Mustajeeb and Anthem Alexander on Wednesday, Bracelet and Leading Light on Thursday, Slade Power and Pique Sous on Saturday.

There were eight as well in 2008, but there was an over-reliance that year on Aidan O’Brien, who supplied six of those winners, with Jim Bolger responsible for the other two. There were six different Irish trainers on the score sheet last year, and there were five last week. Before 2008, there had never been eight Irish-trained winners at Royal Ascot before, not even in 1975, when Vincent O’Brien had six.

Of course, Eddie Lynam stole the week with his three from four, including the Power Group 1 sprint double, but the others were all noteworthy. When Leading Light battled on so gamely to win on Thursday, he was providing Aidan O’Brien with his sixth victory in the Ascot Gold Cup, more victories in the Royal meeting’s signature race than any other trainer has amassed in the 200-year history of the race.

Mustajeeb was Dermot Weld’s 16th Royal Ascot winner and Domination was Charles Byrnes’ first, while Pique Sous was Willie Mullins’ third, providing the champion National Hunt trainer with back-to-back wins in the Queen Alexandra. Landmarks all over the place.

Royal Ascot review

There was an awful lot to consider in reviewing the recordings of Royal Ascot. If you succeeded in adding fewer than 40 horses to your horse tracker for the week, you did better than I did, and I am not certain that I have even got all of them there.

Of course, there were the obvious high-class performances like Eagle Top’s, and there were the obvious hard-luck stories like Queen Catrine’s, but the trick is to try to find horses who ran better than the bare form of his or her run suggests and, crucially, who may not have been noted by the masses. Horses who perhaps chased too fast a pace, or were held up off too sedate a pace, or who did better than they should have given where they were drawn, or given their positioning on the track, or given the fact that they were not at home on the fast ground.

For example, Psychometry. Michael Stoute’s filly travelled well on the unfavoured far side in the Sandringham Handicap, but she was hampered twice inside the final two furlongs before finishing her race off well. Also, she was drawn worst of all, she finished eighth from stall one in a race in which the first seven home were drawn, respectively, in stalls 22, 18, 24, 20, eight, 19 and 23.

Or Glen Moss, who won the ‘race’ on the unfavoured far side in the Wokingham, despite finishing just ninth overall. This was just his fourth run for David Brown (his form figures for Brown before this read 212), and he raced in the Wokingham as if a return to seven furlongs would suit. He goes really well at Ascot, and the heritage handicap run over seven furlongs there on King George day is an obvious target now.

Or Perfect Heart, who raced just behind the leaders in the Ascot Stakes, a race in which it was an advantage to be held up. He was hampered on the home turn as well before keeping on to finish fifth. He can be marked up a fair bit on the bare form, and he will be of interest perhaps returned to a slightly slower surface.

Or the others. Lots of others.

Ascot draw

Back to the draw on the straight track at Royal Ascot: there was a bias. Whether it was a pace bias or a slight bias accentuated by jockeys’ actions or a real ground-based bias, middle to high numbers were favoured on the straight track all week, and that gives us a potential angle for the future.

There are five big handicaps run on the straight track at Royal Ascot: the Royal Hunt Cup, the Sandringham, the Britannia, the Buckingham Palace and the Wokingham, and it is worth considering them all from a draw perspective, one by one.

In the Royal Hunt Cup, eight of the first 10 home were drawn 18 or higher, and one of the two who was drawn lower than 18 – Chill The Kite, drawn 14 – tacked over early on to race in rear on the stands side. The only one of the first 10 home who remained towards the far side was Ayaar, who finished fifth. To compound matters, he was hampered a furlong out as the winner Field Of Dream charted a passage through the field.

In the Sandringham, as mentioned above, six of the first seven home emerged from stall 18 or higher of just 24 runners (25 stalls). The one who raced from a lower stall number was Lady Lara, who finished fifth from stall eight.

In the Britannia, four of the first five home were drawn 20 or higher. The one who wasn’t was Hors De Combat, who finished third from stall 12 and had to do a fair bit of running to get over to the stands side from that draw. Also, five of the first eight home were drawn 20 or higher, and six of them were drawn 12 or higher. The two who were drawn lower (both in single figures) were American Hope, who won the race on the far side, and Madeed.

In the Buckingham Palace, the first nine home were drawn 13 or higher and raced on the stands side. Pastoral Player won the ‘race’ on the far side from stall three, but Hillbilly Boy also deserves a lot of credit for his run on the far side, given that his rider appeared to move to come near side initially from stall 12 before switching back to the far side, thereby covering more ground in the early stages of the race than he needed to.

In the Wokingham, Glen Moss won the race on the far side, but Rivellino also did well to finish third from stall 12, given that the other six horses who, with him, filled the first seven places were drawn in stall 18 or higher. This was Rivellino’s first run on turf since July 2013, he is only four and he still has lots of scope for progression as a sprinter.

Ante post perils (not pearls)

Just shows you how difficult this ante post betting thing is. Take this afternoon’s Northumberland Plate for example. Five of the top 10 horses in the ante post market – including clear favourite Pique Sous – were absent from the field when final declarations were made on Thursday morning.

It wasn’t easy to get a steer on running plans from reported jockey engagements either. On Wednesday morning, Martin Harley was down to ride all three of Marco Botti’s entries, Suegioo, Kelinni and De Rigueur, only one of whom – the first-named – is running. Oisin Murphy was down to ride Whiplash Willie, who is not running, while there was no rider down for Andrew Balding’s other horse Van Percy, who is. With Murphy set to ride.

Also, on Wednesday morning Tom Queally was down to ride both Shwaiman and Lieutenant Miller, neither of whom was declared on Thursday morning. Kieren Fallon was down to ride Earth Amber, Luke Morris was down to ride Alcaeus and Andrew Mullen was down to ride Villa Royale, but all three horses were absent from the list of declared runners on Thursday morning.

Well done if you have backed a runner.

Quote of the week

Interviewer: “So, Eddie, do you think that Anthem Alexander’s future is as a sprinter?”

Trainer: “Well if it isn’t, she’s in the wrong place.”

© The Irish Field, 28th June 2014