Things We Learned » King George may not be diamond renewal

King George may not be diamond renewal

It is legitimate to compare the quality of a headline race with previous renewals of said race, and today’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (resist the temptation to insert Diamond here) Stakes may not be as strong as the pre-race hype suggests it is.

Golden Horn is top notch.  That is beyond dispute.  The Dante winner, the Derby winner, the Eclipse winner, still unbeaten, an official rating of 130, and Anthony (insert Diamond here if you wish) Oppenheimer’s horse could be even better than he has been able to show to date.

But, outside of the favourite, the race may not be that deep.  Only three of Golden Horn’s rivals – Flintshire, Dylan Mouth and Madame Chiang – have won a Group 1 race.

Flintshire won the Grand Prix de Paris as a three-year-old, and he won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase as a four-year-old, but he was beaten in the other eight Group 1 races that he has contested.  Indeed, the Hong Kong race is the only race he has won in 12 attempts since he won the Grand Prix de Paris.

Dylan Mouth has won two Group 1 races, the Gran Premio del Jockey Club last year and the Gran Premio di Milano this year, but, relative to a King George, they were both largely uncompetitive affairs for which he was sent off at 30/100 and 1/5 respectively.  On the one occasion on which he raced outside Italy, when he contested the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, he finished eighth of nine, 20 lengths behind Eagle Top.

Madame Chiang’s Group 1 win was in the Fillies and Mares Stakes on Champions’ Day at Ascot last year, in a race that was restricted to, well, fillies and mares.  Well beaten in the Prix Vermeille last season and in the Middleton Stakes on her debut this season, this will be her first time to race against colts.  This will be tougher than anything she has ever encountered before.

There are several exciting horses in this afternoon’s race and, consequently, it is a fascinating contest.  It will be really interesting to see if Snow Sky can step forward again from his Hardwicke Stakes victory, or if Eagle Top can get back to his King Edward form, or if Postponed can fulfill his potential and improve enough to be a Group 1 horse, or if The Corsican can continue on his steep upward trajectory.  However, for now, they are all about potential, not proven ability.

Compare this year’s renewal to past renewals.  Last year the Oaks winner won, with the Eclipse winner, an Irish Derby winner and an Irish Guineas/Breeders’ Cup Turf winner behind her.  In 2013, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner beat the (same) Irish Derby winner, with multiple Group 1 winner Cirrus Des Aigles behind.  In 2012, the Arc de Triomphe winner beat the King George and Eclipse winner, with a dual Coronation Cup and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner back in third.

And that is just recent history, that is without going into the vintage vaults of the King George.  This year’s renewal may prove to be top notch with the benefit of hindsight, but, on the evidence that we have at present, it is not a vintage renewal.

Martin watch

If course, it is all about Dermot Weld at Ballybrit this week.  It always is.  But it could also be all about Tony Martin.

Last year, the Summerhill trainer had six winners from just 18 runners at the Galway Festival, and five of his 12 beaten horses were placed.  Also, three of his winners were in 20-runner handicaps, including Thomas Edison in the Galway Hurdle

In 2013, he had nine winners at Galway, and only three of them were Busted Tycoon.

This year, he seems to have assembled a stronger Galway team than he has ever assembled.  It will be interesting to see how this one plays out during the week.

Silver Flash gold

If precedent has anything to do with anything, it could be worthwhile having another close look at the Group 3 Jockey Club of Turkey Silver Flash Stakes run at Leopardstown on Thursday evening.

Last year, the first four fillies home were, in order, Jack Naylor, Agnes Stewart, Qualify and Raydara.

Jack Naylor won a listed race at The Curragh on her next run, giving 5lb to, and beating, subsequent Guineas winner Legatissimo and subsequent Fillies’ Mile winner Together Forever.  Agnes Stewart won the Group 2 May Hill Stakes on her next run and was beaten a half a length by Together Forever in the Fillies’ Mile on her only other run.

Qualify won the Group 3 CL Weld Park Stakes last September and won the Epsom Oaks last month, while Raydara won the Group 2 Debutante Stakes on her next run, beating last year’s Rockfel Stakes winner and this year’s 1000 Guineas runner-up Lucida into second place.

The winner of Thursday’s race, Tanaza, was really impressive, while runner-up Alice Springs could still prove to be top class.  Also, third-placed Turret Rocks was an easy winner of her maiden at Gowran Park at the end of last month and should progress again, while Santa Monica ran a cracker to finish fourth.

This year’s renewal could have a significant influence on the top juvenile fillies’ races later in the year, and on next year’s fillies’ classics.

British riders’ championship

No sooner had the British riders’ championship been thrown wide open than Silvestre de Sousa grabbed it by the throat and said, I think I should be a 100/1 shot, but sure if I win it, I win it.  (Or the Brazilian equivalent.)

At the time of writing, de Sousa has 63 winners from 289 rides, 12 more winners than any other rider.  Interestingly, the average SP of his 63 winners is 5.31, higher than the average SP of William Buick’s winners (4.66) and James Doyle’s winners (4.78) and Paul Hanagan’s winners (4.9).  However, because de Sousa has had more rides than the other three, and because he has maintained a better strike rate, (22% as against 21% and 19% and 18% respectively), he leads the championship.

Run this forward.  If you assume that all riders have a proportionate number of rides between now and the end of the season, and that the SPs of their winners remain constant, and that the number of winners that they ride are determined by the SPs of the horses that they ride, then here’s how it will end: de Sousa will end the season with 128 winners, Hanagan with 115 winners, Buick with 109 winners and Doyle with 106.  Incidentally, Graham Lee, who has ridden 45 winners with an average SP of 5.81 from 375 rides so far, will end the season with 122 winners, second highest after de Sousa.

That said, there are a couple of variables that you have to take into account.  For starters, there is the Godolphin factor with the Godolphin jockeys.  Last year, Saeed bin Suroor had eight winners in May, five in June and 14 in July, but he finished the season with a flourish with 12 in August, 18 in September and 23 in October.  This year, he has had 10 winners in May, 10 also in June and nine so far in July.  If his season picks up this year now like it did last year, James Doyle will be the one to benefit.

For the other Godolphin trainer, Charlie Appleby, September was a big month last year, when he had 20 winners from 85 runners.  William Buick would be the rider to benefit most from a similar surge this year.

You can be sure that de Sousa will keep the momentum up, keep traversing the country in search of winners.  At the root of his success this season is the relationship that he has (re-)developed with Mark Johnston, who is having a phenomenal season.  Johnston has supplied 27 of de Sousa’s winners, more than two and a half times more than any other trainer.

The structure of Johnston’s season is different this year compared to last year, he has far more two-year-olds this year than he had last year.  He had 43 juvenile winners for the entire of 2014, whereas this year he has already had 49. However, it is still worth noting that the Middleham trainer had 19, 32 and 40 winners last year in May, June and July respectively, while in August, September and October last year, he had 21, 25 and three winners respectively.

Silvestre de Sousa may be a 1/6 shot for the title in places, but this one has a fair way to run yet.


Lucky the Godolphin colours have navy seams in Ireland, otherwise you could have called Queen Of Sicily the winner of the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday instead of the Cooper family’s Final Frontier.  And the white cap was a nice touch.

© The Irish Field, 25th July 2015