Things We Learned » Ton up

Ton up

When Pat Smullen was booting Brooch to a half-length victory in the Group 3 Denny Cordell Lavarack and Lanwades Stud Stakes at Gowran Park on Sunday, he was notching up his 18th Group race win of 2014 but, more importantly, he was notching up his 100th win of the season in Ireland.

Smullen said afterwards that reaching the ton for the season was just a personal landmark, that it was just a private thing and, in one sense, he is correct. There are no cash prizes for 100 winners in a season, no trophies, no laurels. In another, however, he is not. Statistics and landmarks identify achievement, and this was just another milestone that defines Smullen as one of the most accomplished riders of his generation.

Characteristically, Smullen deflected the achievement, thanked the people who helped him reach the landmark, most notably Dermot Weld, who has supplied the vast majority of his winners (72%). Even so, to ride 100 winners in a season in Ireland is a massive achievement. Only Michael Kinane and Joseph O’Brien have done so this century. To put it into context, you will often win the jockeys’ championship with eighty-odd winners. Kinane won it with 79 in 2002. Smullen himself won it with 67 winners in 2005.

Smullen’s figures are impressive. He reached his total of 100 winners from 461 rides. That’s a strike rate of 21.46%, higher than any other rider who has had more than 12 rides. He has ridden 75 individual winners from 151 horses. He has won on half the horses he has ridden.

And it is not just about this season either. Since the turn of the millennium, according to Smullen has ridden 1,282 winners in Ireland, 380 more than any other rider.

While the figures do not lie, it is not only about the figures for Smullen. He has been superb in some of the top races this season. On Mustajeeb in the Jersey Stakes, on Alexander Anthem in the Queen Mary Stakes, on Pale Mimosa in the Lonsdale Stakes, on Tarfasha in the Blandford Stakes. No dramatics, he just keeps it simple, rides efficiently and maximises his horse’s chance of winning. That is what top class jockeys do.

It is remarkable that it took his ride on the Hugo Palmer-trained Short Squeeze in the Clipper Logistics Handicap at York’s Ebor meeting for Smullen to begin to gain traction in Britain. William Haggas is well aware of his talents and uses him regularly. Kevin Ryan has been using him for a few years now, likewise Richard Fahey and Ed Dunlop. Now add Hugo Palmer, David Brown, Olly Stevens, Roger Charlton.

Today, as well as riding Anthem Alexander for Eddie Lynam in the Cheveley Park Stakes, Smullen rides Gabrial’s Kaka for Richard Fahey in the Cambridgeshire and Runner Runner for George Baker in the fillies’ nursery. He has never ridden for George Baker before.

If you were to close the book on the 2014 season right now and write The End, it would still have been some season for Pat Smullen. But the end may be a fair way off yet, and there could be another page or two for Pat Smullen to write.

Quartz time

Quartz will presumably always have a special place in the O’Brien household, given that he is the horse who carried young Donnacha to his first success as a rider. But it may be that the Fastnet Rock colt’s claim to fame will, in time, extend beyond that, as he looked really good in providing the young rider with his second victory at Gowran Park on Sunday.

Settled just behind the leaders and along the inside through the early stages of the race, Quartz made nice progress on the inside of early leader Stransfield Lady early in the home straight to hit the front at the furlong pole. From there, under an accomplished drive from his 10lb-claiming partner, he stayed on well despite hanging to his left to win by six lengths.

There were four races run over this course and distance on Sunday, and Quartz clocked the fastest time of the four, over three seconds faster than the time that Salariaq clocked in the maiden and marginally faster even than the time that Brooch clocked in the Group 3 fillies’ race.

This was just Quatrz’s third ever race, he appeared to improve for the step up to nine and a half furlongs, and he is bred to improve for stepping up even further in trip, a notion that is supported by his racing style. He will be interesting if he races again this season over 10 or 12 furlongs, and he should be even more interesting as a four-year-old next term.

Kingman retired

It is always a shame for racing fans when a top class racehorse is retired from racing. It would have been great to have seen Kingman contest the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot, it would have been fascinating to have seen him and Australia race against each other over a mile, and he would obviously have been a really exciting four-year-old.

You were within your rights to hope that you would see him as a four-year-old, given that his owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, kept Frankel in training at four, when the potential downside to his value as a stallion was probably even greater than the potential downside to Kingman’s.

Kingman was obviously a top class racehorse, beaten just once in eight attempts, a quadruple Group 1 winner over a mile, a winner in Britain, a winner in Ireland, a winner in France. However, the mantra that he had nothing left to prove does not stand up.

When he beat Toronado in the Sussex Stakes, he was in receipt of 8lb and he beat him by a length. When he beat Anodin in the Prix Jacques le Marois, he was in receipt of 5lb. Had he raced on as a four-year-old, he would have had to concede weight to the upstart three-year-olds, the next generation. Also, he could have been campaigned differently, he could have been aimed at the July Cup, a race that was often mentioned in the same sentence as Kingman this year. That would have been fascinating.

Arc updates

So the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is taking shape now. The three Japanese runners are on track, and Gregory Benoist has chosen to ride Ectot instead of Avenir Certain.

Incidentally, that means that, despite the fact that his boss Sheikh Joaan has three big contenders for the race, Frankie Dettori still does not have a confirmed mount. Benoist is on Ectot – whom Sheikh Joaan owns in partnership with Benoist’s boss Gerard Augustin-Normand – Thierry Jarnet will ride Treve and Joseph O’Brien will probably ride Ruler Of The World. Strange times for Dettori.

Listowel attendances

After the success that was Irish Champions Weekend two weeks ago, total attendances at the Listowel Festival last week were also up. Last year’s total for the week of 87,996 grew to 92,046 this year, an increase of 4.6%. Good news stories all over the place.

© The Irish Field, 27th September 2014