Things We Learned » Irish 1000 Guineas

Irish 1000 Guineas

The feeling before the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas at The Curragh last Sunday was that this year’s renewal could be a high-class renewal, and that feeling was strengthened after it was run.

The right fillies came to the fore. The winner Pleascach had won the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at Naas on her previous run by eight and a half lengths. She had previously split Bocca Baciata, who finished fifth in Sunday’s race, and Cheshire Oaks winner Diamondsandrubies in the Group 3 Salsabil Stakes.

Runner-up Found had won the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac last year, and had shaped encouragingly when just getting run down by the year-older Iveagh Gardens on heavy ground in the Group 3 Athasi Stakes on her debut this term. Devonshire, second to Kissed By Angels in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on her previous run, ran out of her skin to finish third.

You can forgive Raydara her disappointing run, as she was found to be in season after the race, and Kissed By Angels just ran too poorly to be true. But Malabar seemed to run her race, and she helps in the evaluation of it. Mick Channon’s filly was beaten six lengths by the winner in both the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and in Sunday’s race, but she finished fourth at Newmarket and she finished eighth on Sunday.

Pleascach continues to excite. Explosive indeed. Legatissimo dropped back in trip from nine and a half furlongs to win the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and Pleascach dropped back down from 10 furlongs to win Sunday’s race. This could be the beginnings of a trend. It was interesting that her trainer and breeder (and the breeder of her sire as well) Jim Bolger spoke about the Irish Derby afterwards, not the Epsom Oaks nor the Irish Oaks, the obvious inference being that it was a natural target given the relative quality of the three-year-old middle-distance colts this year. The filly Salsabil won the Irish Derby in 1990 while Balanchine won it in 1994, and Pleascach would be a worthy contender against the colts.

Fourth-placed Jack Naylor is the filly to take out of Sunday’s race with the Epsom Oaks in mind, especially given the intriguing possibility that Found will be re-routed to the Epsom Derby. Jack Naylor was held up in the early stages of a race that happened to be run to suit those who raced prominently. Four of the first five home raced prominently, with Jessica Harrington’s filly the only one who was able to get into it from the rear.

This was her seasonal debut, and she was expected to come on for it. She was allowed go off at twice the odds of her stable companion Bocca Baciata, whom she beat by a length.

She was a high-class juvenile last season. She beat subsequent Group 2 May Hill winner Agnes Stewart in the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes over seven furlongs, and she beat subsequent Guineas winner Legatissimo and subsequent Group 1 Fillies’ Mile winner Together Forever in the Listed Flame Of Tara Stakes at The Curragh, giving them both 5lb.

Also, she should improve for the step up to the Oaks trip, given that she is by 12-furlong horse Champs Elysees out of the Nashwan mare Fashionable, a listed race winner over 10 furlongs, and that she is a half-sister to Linkable, a three-time winner over a mile and a half. This year’s Oaks is shaping up to be a really strong Oaks, but Jack Naylor could be a big player in it.

Hills coming alive

Charlie Hills’ horses are worth watching now. With just three winners from 50 runners in April, the Lambourn trainer didn’t have a winner in May until Candlelight won a Class 6 five-furlong handicap at Redcar 12 days ago at odds of 16/1.

In the last 12 days, he has had a total of 17 runners, and he has had five winners. He has gone from a strike rate of 6% to a strike rate of 29%.

Hills’ runners are all worth a second look now. They may be under-rated based on early season form when the yard was not zinging. It might be worth starting with today’s runners Cable Bay and Salt Island.

Mustajeeb is mustard

Mustajeeb was really impressive in winning the Greenlands Stakes at The Curragh on Saturday.

Rider Pat Smullen said that he had plenty of pace, that six furlongs could prove to be his optimum, and that looks highly likely now. That was the Dermot Weld-trained colt’s first run over six furlongs since he ran in the juveniles’ maiden at the Irish Guineas meeting two years ago, and he relished it.

As well as being visually impressive, the Nayef colt clocked a really good time, the fastest comparative time on the day by some way. The fact that Sheikh Hamdan’s horse probably put up the most impressive display of his career to date in winning the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot last year makes him a shortlist candidate for the Diamond Jubilee back at the Royal meeting this year.

British Jockeys’ Championship

Interesting kicking some stats around on the British Flat Jockeys’ Championship, comparing the stats this year so far with the stats for the 2014 season in its entirety.

Richard Hughes won the championship last year with 161 wins from 914 rides, which represented a strike rate of an impressive 18%. Ryan Moore finished second with 155 wins from 756 rides, a strike rate of an even more impressive 21%. Six fewer wins from 158 fewer rides and a near 17% higher strike rate.

A glance at this year’s table tells you that, before racing yesterday morning, Ryan Moore was leading the championship with 22 wins, while William Buick was second with 21 wins each, Moore from 97 rides, giving him a strike rate of 23%, Buick from 90 rides, giving him also a strike rate of 25%. It’s impressive stuff. Hughes is lurking though, his three wins on Thursday bringing his tally to 17, just five behind Moore.

It is correct that the betting on the jockeys’ championship should centre around Hughes and Moore. Between them they have captured five of the last seven championships and six of the last nine, and you would have got the exacta up for the last two years.

Also, the changes this year enhance both riders’ chances of winning the championship. Hughes because it is his last season in the saddle, and because you can be sure that he will therefore be more determined than ever to win one last championship, take his three-in-a-row to four-in-a-row. Moore because the shortened championship period this year, from Guineas weekend to Champions’ Day, means that he will not miss out when he is fulfilling the inevitable demands for his services in Australia and America and Japan and Hong Kong in the late autumn and early winter.

Moore was as big as 7/1 for the championship before he rode that terrific five-timer at Newbury on Lockinge Stakes day and followed up with a treble at Nottingham. Easy in hindsight, but that was big. Indeed, you could argue that the disparity between the two main protagonists in the market is still too great. The greatest disparity is with Paddy Power, 4/9 Hughes, 5/2 Moore. They should probably be a little closer than that.

Hughes and Moore ride the best horses. Their talent dictates as much. Last year, the average SP of Moore’s winners was 4.03, the lowest of any rider, while the average SP of Hughes’ winners was second lowest at 4.25. The next lowest average SP was William Buick’s 4.91, over 15% higher than Hughes’.

This year so far, at the time of writing (see above), the average SP of Moore’s winners is 4.3, while the average SP of Hughes’ winners is 4.33. Buick is next after Hughes again on 4.8. All broadly similar to last year. With one exception: James Doyle’s average of 4.08 so far this season is lower even than Moore’s.

Doyle’s situation has changed of course this year. Last year he rode for owner Prince Khalid Abdullah and most of his winners came from the Roger Charlton and Sir Michael Stoute yards. This year he is riding for Godolphin and most of his winners so far have unsurprisingly been supplied by Saeed Bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby. That said, he has retained good relations with other top trainers like John Gosden and Roger Charlton. Like Hughes and Moore, Doyle is a top class rider who is constantly in demand.

Last year, Doyle had 116 wins from 657 rides, 45 fewer wins than Hughes from 257 fewer rides, which represented a strike rate of 18%. More importantly, however, the average SP of his winners was 5.52. This year so far, it is 4.08. That is a drop of 26%.

His total of 657 rides last year was just 72% of champion Richard Hughes’ total of 914. Doyle probably didn’t ride enough horses to give himself a chance of winning the championship. This year’s total of 84 rides, however, is 82% of Hughes’ 102. Of course, it is relatively early days in the championship, lots will change over the course of the season, but we are a month into the championship season, and remember that it is only five and a half months long this year. The trends that are being set now may not change too dramatically during the course of the season.

The probability is that the British Flat Jockeys’ Championship will come down to another toe-to-toe between Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore. That is how it should be. However, James Doyle is worth watching, his chance of winning the championship is probably a little better than current best odds of 50/1 suggest.

Pharoah or Pharaoh?

Teacher: Can anyone spell Pharaoh?

Student: Is that the Egyptian Pharaoh or the American Pharoah?

Teacher: Exactly.

(He’s Different Gravey.)

© The Irish Field 23rd May 2015