Things We Learned » Three-year-olds rolling

Three-year-olds rolling

We get the first definitive steer on the relative merits of the new three-year-old middle-distance crop when they run the Eclipse.  Three three-year-olds lined up in last Saturday’s Coral-sponsored event, and two of them finished first and second, almost two lengths clear of the third horse, the first older horse home, Time Test.

History tells us that it is not easy for a three-year-old to win the Eclipse.  In the decade that preceded Hawkbill’s victory on Saturday, just two three-year-olds had won it: Golden Horn and Sea The Stars.  The former had won the Derby, and went on to win the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc, while the latter was just a superstar who won everything.

And it is not as if three-year-olds do not try to win the Eclipse.  In those 10 years, 22 three-year-olds ran in the Eclipse, as against 29 four-year-olds and 24 older horses.  With just those two wins and three places, three-year-olds had the worst win and place strike rate by a fair way. 

Roll back to the start of the millennium, and you get just two other three-year-old winners: Oratorio, who went on to win the Irish Champion Stakes, and subsequent 11-length Lockinge Stakes winner Hawk Wing.

It is still early days in the 2016 season, but the Eclipse could be a fore-runner to a three-year-old sweep this year.  This year’s Classic crop of middle-distance horses looks very good.

To Hawkbill and The Gurkha, add Harzand and Idaho and Minding and US Army Ranger.  Add the French filly La Cressonniere is you like.  Postponed stands out as the top older horse at present, and he is joined by Found and Fascinating Rock and perhaps Order Of St George if he drops back down in trip, but the three-year-olds continue to progress.  And remember, they retain a significant weight allowance for the occasions on which they come up against their elders over middle distances.

And it could be a similar situation among the milers.  The Gurkha straddles both divisions, but it looks like the near-perennial Duel on the Downs for the Sussex Stakes will be between two three-year-olds this year, not a three-year-old and an older horse, and you shouldn’t dismiss Awtaad on the back of one defeat. 

At least the sprinting division is safe for the elders.  Unless, of course, Air Force Blue or Quiet Reflection or even Washington DC wins the July Cup this afternoon.

Fine treble for Lynam

Eddie Lynam had a fine treble at Naas on Sunday, three winners from four runners on the day in three races, and all three were given intelligent rides by three different riders. 

Pat Smullen was patient on Whiskey Sour in the three-year-olds’ one-mile handicap.  The champion jockey chose to sit and wait for the gap to appear on the far side and when it did, the rider was strong, he got his colt to pick up and the pair of them got up to win by a short head from favourite Tony The Gent.

Wayne Lordan was similarly patient on Ottilie in the fillies’ maiden.  His filly travelled well into the home straight but, again, the rider had to wait for the gap.  That’s what good riders do, they have the confidence to wait.  When the gap inevitably materialised, Lady O’Reilly’s filly picked up well for Lordan, coming away deep inside the final furlong and putting two lengths between herself and her pursuers by the time they reached the winning line.

And, in a rare ride for Lynam, Ana O’Brien’s relative experience among fellow apprentices was in evidence on Future Icon in the apprentices’ handicap.  Drawn on the far rail in stall one, she got her filly nicely settled on the far side towards the rear of the field.  She didn’t panic when Denis Linehan went for home on the outside on Haqeeba on the run to the two-furlong pole, she just allowed the gaps open in front of her.  She still had fully three lengths to find on the leader as the furlong pole flashed past, but she kept her filly balanced, got her running, she didn’t pick up her stick until the run to the 100-yard mark and she rode her out to win going away by almost two lengths. 

They were three polished rides from three different riders for a trainer who has his team in fine form.

Things we know about Fallon

There are some things that lots of people know about Kieren Fallon.  Like, that he was a brilliant jockey, one of the best in a golden age of flat jockeys.  That he could settle a horse, that he could wait in front or behind, that he was a thoughtful rider, that he thought through tactics and implemented them, that he was patient throughout a race, that he was as strong as they made them in a finish, that he was comparable to Piggott at Epsom, that he was dynamite on the big day.

There are other things that some people do not know.  Like, that, when he is asked to give his time, he gives generously.  That when he is asked to attend fund-raisers, he does so willingly, usually donating items for charity auctions. 

In interviews, he is a giver.  Banal, stock answers are not his thing.  Clichés are out.  He is always thoughtful, considered in his contributions.  He is helpful, natural, unguarded even, often too unguarded for his own good, if unguarded is a thing.

The other thing that most people did not know is that he has had to deal with the beast depression on a daily basis.  It is an all-too-prevalent beast.  It is remarkable that, according to Dr Adrian McGoldrick’s research, almost half the people engaged in Fallon’s profession in Ireland have to deal with the same beast on a daily basis. 

Now most people do know.  Now Kieren Fallon can get the proper help that he needs in order that he can tame the beast.  

Repeat performance

Magical Memory won the six-furlong handicap on the first day of Newmarket’s July meeting last year off a mark of 96.  The handicapper raised him 9lb for that win, but he got to race in the Stewards’ Cup – an early-closing race – under just a 6lb penalty, so he was 3lb well-in, and he duly won that as well.

This year, Magical Memory has won the Group 3 Abernant Stakes and the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes, and he is among the favourites for the Group 1 July Cup this afternoon.  But his serious upward trajectory began with victory in that six-furlong handicap on the opening day of the July meeting last year.

On Thursday, Dancing Star won that six-furlong handicap.  Coincidentally, the Andrew Balding-trained filly was racing off a mark of 96, the same mark as the mark off which Magical Memory raced last year.  We don’t know yet what the handicapper is going to do with her, he may not raise her by as much as 9lb, but he may raise her by close to that.  Either way, she will get to race in the Stewards’ Cup under a 6lb penalty, off an effective mark of 102, Magical Memory’s winning mark last year.

In the long term, Jeff Smith’s filly may not go on to scale the heights that Magical Memory has scaled, but she may get close.  She continues to progress.  In the short term, the Stewards’ Cup is reportedly the plan, and the 14/1 at which you can currently back her for that race – at an idiosyncratic track at which she is one for one, over the Stewards’ Cup distance – looks fair. 

Quote of the week

“Kieren was one of my heroes when he was riding, and he is still one of my heroes now.”

Mark Enright


© The Irish Field, 9th July 2016