Things We Learned » Perfect start

Perfect start

The week got off to the perfect start for Godolphin when Ribchester won the curtain-raiser, the Queen Anne Stakes.

They never really had a sweat either. The Richard Fahey-trained colt always travelled well for William Buick. There may have been a little bit of a wobble when he started to hang to his left, that he would let Mutakayyef in, but he finished off his race like the top-class miler that he is and all at Godolphin could exhale.

The week got better too as it progressed. Even the day got better as it progressed. Barney Roy won the St James’s Palace Stakes and Sound And Silence won the Windsor Castle, chased home by fellow Godolphin horse Roussel. Then on Thursday, Benbatl won the Hampton Court and Atty Persse won the King George V Handicap, a race that Godolphin have now won three times in the last four years, with another Godolphin horse First Nation getting up for second place.

Interestingly, the first five Godolphin winners were all trained by different trainers. Richard Fahey (Ribchester), Richard Hannon (Barney Roy), Charlie Appleby (Sound And Silence), Saeed Bin Suroor (Benbatl) and Roger Charlton (Atty Persse). It’s a function of their relatively recently-introduced policy of leaving horses with their incumbent trainers after they have been purchased. Times were when they would be whisked off to join one of the Godolphin trainers.

It makes sense. The incumbents know their horses. Benbatl and Sound And Silence were bred by Darley/Godolphin and have raced in Godolphin blue from the start. However, Ribchester raced twice for David Armstrong before he joined Godolphin and won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes, and Barney Roy won on his racecourse debut in the colours of Sullivan Bloodstock at Haydock last September, while Atty Persse won his maiden on his racecourse debut at Sandown last September in breeder Bjorn Nielsen’s colours before he was bought by Godolphin.

A couple of years ago, those three horses probably would have left their respective trainers. They may have won at Royal Ascot this week anyway, but they may not have.

Cap doesn’t fit

You can’t read anything into the Godolphin caps any more. Ribchester was favourite for the Queen Anne Stakes, and William Buick wore the blue cap, fair enough. Atty Persse was second favourite for the King George V Handicap, and his rider Kieran Shoemark wore the blue cap, also fair.

But Roussel was a shorter price than Sound And Silence for the Windsor Castle, and it was the latter’s rider William Buick who wore the blue cap. In the St James’s Palace Stakes, Barney Roy was always well ahead of Thunder Snow in the market, yet it was Thunder Snow’s rider Christophe Soumillon who wore the blue cap, with James Doyle wearing white on Barney Roy. In the Britannia Handicap, Capezzano was a 33/1 shot, a bigger price than Leshlaa, a bigger price than Leader’s Legacy, yet it was Capezzano’s rider William Buick again who wore blue.

Maybe it’s a rider thing, maybe William Buick always wears blue, in the same way as Bryan Cooper always wears the maroon cap with the white star. But that doesn’t explain why Christophe Soumillon wore blue on Thunder Snow. And that can’t be right anyway, because Buick wore white on Bay Of Poets in the Hampton Court Stakes as Oisín Murphy booted Benbatl home.

So we’re back to trying to figure out which horse can run fastest.

No bias

Just when you thought that there was a draw bias towards the near side (Wednesday night), along comes Ryan Moore (Thursday afternoon) and boots Sioux Nation home on the far side.

It is easy to subscribe to these prophecies that become self-fulfilling. There is a perceived bias towards the near side, ergo jockeys congregate on the near side, ergo you have more runners on the near side, more chances of victory and the probability of a stronger pace and more cover, ergo the near side does better, and the perception of bias becomes stronger.

Ryan Moore said after he won the Norfolk Stakes on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Sioux Nation that his primary concern was about getting cover for his horse because he feared that most of his rivals would drift towards the near side. His fear proved to be well founded, as only four horses went far side. Moore still managed to find cover behind his three rivals and, on a fast horse, a son of Scat Daddy, who bounced off the fast ground, from stall two, added further credence to the theory (Newton or somebody) that the shortest distance between two points is in a straight line.

Horses to note

There are plenty of horses to note from the week so far. Chessman probably ran better than his finishing position in seventh place suggests in the Jersey Stakes, Qemah may not have got due recognition for her Duke of Cambridge win as a lot of the focus was on Usherette’s troubled path, Remarkable was unlucky again in the Royal Hunt Cup and there is surely a big (Ascot) handicap in him off his current mark, Drochaid did well to finish fourth in a hot King George V Handicap.

Also, King George V Handicap winner Atty Persse is surely worthy of his place in a Group race now, and it could be worth following all four of the horses who filled the first four places in the Hampton Court, Benbatl, Orderofthegarter, Mirage Dancer and Taj Mahal.

And there will probably be many more.

Not Ladies’ Day

So Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot is not Ladies’ Day any more, it’s just Gold Cup day. Not that it ever was Ladies’ Day really. Not officially anyway. There are so many Ladies’ Days now, a veritable proliferation, and they’re not very Royal Ascotish. It’s like when the cool kid, who was the first one to bring a fidget spinner to school, decided that fidget spinners just weren’t cool any more. And how many fidget spinners do you see these days?

© Irish Field, 24th of June 2017