Things We Learned » Another duel

Another duel

Another Qatar Goodwood Festival, another Duel on the Downs.  (If you still call it Glorious Goodwood, go to the back of the class.  Seriously.)

We have been here before. 

Frankel v Canford Cliffs in 2011 was the original, it was the Duel in the Sun, the Thrilla in Manila, only it wasn’t either, in the sun nor in Manila.  It was the contest for which the phrase was coined: the three-year-old Frankel against the four-year-old Canford Cliffs, the 2010 Sussex Stakes winner.  As things panned out, however, it wasn’t as much a duel as it was a Frankel soliloquy.

There was no duel in 2012 – you can’t have a duel when you have a 1/20 shot – as Frankel continued his inexorable march, but there was in 2013, Toronado v Dawn Approach, two three-year-olds.  And that was a duel, as Toronado got home by a half a length from Dawn Approach, the pair of them two and a half lengths clear of the four-year-old Declaration Of War.

And while Toronado was the conqueror in 2013, he was the vanquished in 2014, with Kingman picking up impressively off the sedate pace inside the final furlong and getting home by a cosy length.  Then last year, the duel became a uni before it had even started, with Gleneagles’ defection leaving the way clear for Solow to provide the French with their first Sussex Stakes since the Elie Lellouche-trained Bigstone won it in 1993.

This year, all the duel talk is of Galileo Gold v The Gurkha, two three-year-olds, the English Guineas winner versus the French Guineas winner.  It is Round Two after the St James’s Palace Stakes, in which Galileo Gold emerged victorious but which left The Gurkha with unfinished business.  It is a cracking contest, and the Ascot third Awtaad should not be discounted.  There may be more to this duel than just the duo. 

Hard to look past Riches

You can look for the plot horses in the Galway Plate all you like, but you have to begin your assessment with Road To Riches, and it is very difficult to move past him.

So the Gigginstown House horse has top weight, he will have 11st 10lb to carry, which will be 9lb more than his highest-weighted rival, and history tells us that it is difficult for horses to carry big weights to victory in the Galway Plate.  Ansar in 2005 is the last Plate winner to carry that type of burden.  That’s 11 years ago.  Indeed, Ansar is the last winner to carry 11 stone or more.

But that does not tell the full story.  Not many horses carry big weights in the Galway Plate.  Last year, just six horses carried more than 11st and just one carried more than 11st 5lb.   In 2014, just five horses carried more that 11st, no horse carried more than 11st 5lb and Spring Heeled, who carried 11st 4lb, finished fourth behind the same Road To Riches.

Also, Road To Riches has won a Lexus Chase and finished third in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.  It is rare that a horse of his class runs in a Galway Plate.

We know that Noel Meade’s horse goes well at Galway.  On the only other occasion on which he has run at Galway, he won the Plate by 11 lengths under Shane Shortall.  So he raced off a mark of 149 then, in 2014, and he will race off a mark of 162 on Wednesday, but it is difficult to argue that he would not have won the Plate in 2014 with 13lb more on his back.  He probably had even more in hand than the 11-length winning margin. 

And he is a better horse now than he was then.  He has won his Lexus Chase and his Chase and he has finished third in his Gold Cup and in his Ryanair Chase since then.

Two miles and six and a half furlongs at Galway, with its sharp turns and its stiff incline, could be close to optimum for Noel Meade’s horse.  He could be the first horse to win the Galway Plate twice since the afore-mentioned Ansar, and the first to win it in non-consecutive years since Royal Day in 1967 and 1969.  

Potensis dispersis

And while you still have your National Hunt cap on, the Potensis dispersal should cause a fair stir at the Goffs UK August Sale at Doncaster next month.

You won’t find Silviniaco Conti or Zarkandar in there, but you will find others.  Like All Yours, winner of the Grade 1 juveniles’ hurdle at Aintree last year and surely with more to offer than he was able to show last season; and Activial third in the Betfair Hurdle and the Coral Cup last year and, again, surely set to build on his first season over fences last term; and Mick Jazz, still winless but still exciting, even if his race record suggests that he is still fragile; and Jessber’s Girl, winner of a Grade 2 mares’ hurdle at Sandown in February and second to Jer’s Girl in the Grade 1 mares’ novices’ hurdle at Fairyhouse in March.

Zarkandar and Silviniaco Conti will reportedly race on as they are, they will continue with Paul Nicholls and they will continue to be owned by Jared Sullivan’s Potensis Bloodstock and Chris Giles.  But the red Potensis colours will be less visible next season than they have been for a while.

Churchill could rule

The Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore/Galileo treble at Leopardstown on Thursday evening was a fine treble, and Churchill was probably the highlight. 

Churchill wasn’t the most visually impressive of the triumvirate – that accolade went to the maiden winner, the regally-bred Douglas Macarthur – but there was a lot to like about the attitude that Churchill showed, about how he battled back when he was challenged by Alexios Kommenos (who traded at 1.52 in-running), and he clocked the fastest comparative time of the night.

As well as that, Churchill was building on his Royal Ascot victory, on his game win in the Chesham Stakes, and he was winning the Group 3 JRA Tyros Stakes.  The Tyros Stakes boasts an impressive recent roll of honour, which includes Deauville, Gleneagles, Zoffany, Cape Blanco, Rip Van Winkle, New Approach and Teofilo, and if you go back another few years you get to Guineas winner King Of Kings in 1997 and to Belmont Stakes winner Go And Go in 1989.

Add that to the fact that three of Aidan O’Brien’s recent Chesham Stakes runners – Maybe (a full-sister to Thursday’s Silver Flash Stakes winner Promise To Be True), Dick Whittington and Ballydoyle – won Group 1 races as juveniles, and the future looks decidedly bright for Churchill.

Thought for the week

If they raced on the jumps track at Royal Ascot, where would they put the picnic tables?


© The Irish Field, 23rd July 2016