Things We Learned » Clash of the sprinting generations

Clash of the sprinting generations

There is a good order to the programme for the top sprinters now, and that is due in no small part to the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup three years ago.

Today’s Darley July Cup is one of the most intriguing July Cups for years: the 1-2-3 from the Diamond Jubilee taking on the 1-2 from the Commonwealth Cup.  It’s a clash of the sprinting generations, and it is fascinating.

Two years ago, the first Commonwealth Cup winner Muhaarar came on to Newmarket after Ascot and landed the July Cup.  Last year’s Commonwealth Cup winner Quiet Reflection finished third in the July Cup behind Limato and Suedois.  It’s a process now, the three-year-old sprinters can gain Group 1 experience against their contemporaries in June before stepping up to take on their elders in July.

You can argue that three-year-old sprinters could run in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, or that they could have run in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot before the instigation of the Commonwealth Cup, until which time it was open to the Classic generation.  And many have, many three-year-olds have won the Diamond Jubilee.

However, there is a chance that connections of Caravaggio or Harry Angel or Blue Point would have tried to stretch out their stamina, run in a Guineas trial, or run in a Guineas, and if that didn’t work out, drop back in trip for the Jersey Stakes, or even take a circuitous route to today’s July Cup.

More than that, though, while many three-year-olds are on the Diamond Jubilee roll of honour – history tells you that 19 three-year-olds have won the race since the Pattern was instigated in 1971 – 17 of those wins were gained when it was a Group 3 race.  No three-year-old won it during its four-year tenure as a Group 2, and just two won it in 13 renewals as the Group 1 Golden/Diamond Jubilee, open to three-year-olds.

We should know today how the three-year-old sprinters compare with their elders, and today is time enough.

Eclipse review

The Eclipse was a race of tribulation for Decorated Knight.  First, he gets hampered by Taj Mahal at the first bend and Olivier Peslier has to check back.  Then he gets hampered by Eminent as that horse tries to shoulder him out of his way on the run to the two-furlong marker.  Not only that but, when it was apparent to Eminent that Decorated Knight would not be easily shifted, he went to take a clipe out of his nose with his mouth.  It was one to forget for Roger Charlton’s horse.

It was also one to forget for Cliffs Of Moher, who was caught in the backwash at the first bend.  The Galileo colt did well in the circumstances to finish fourth.  You can easily put a line through this race for him.

It was one to remember, however, for Ulysses and Sir Michael Stoute and Jim Crowley.  It was Ulysses’ first Group 1 win, and it was a deserved one.  It could be the first of many too, he shapes like a horse who just does enough, he could have had more left to give, and it is interesting that his trainer is determined that he gets a mile and a half all right.

It was Sir Michael Stoute’s sixth Eclipse, and it was a narrower victory even than his first, Opera House, who got home by a short head (they didn’t have noses in those days, but it probably would have been a short head even if they had had noses) from Misil under Michael Kinane in Sheikh Mohammed’s white cap, with Muis Roberts under the maroon cap with the white star on Barathea back in fifth.

It was also Jim Crowley’s first Eclipse, and it might not have been had the champion jockey not been replaced on Eminent, whom he had ridden in all four of his previous races.

Crowley had ridden Ulysses just once before, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, and it was interesting to hear him say afterwards that he learned a lot from that ride, that he got there too soon at Ascot, that he determined that he would ride him more patiently at Sandown, and he did. 

It’s a good angle: jockey riding horse in race for second time.  You can ride them as often as you like at home, but you cannot simulate racing conditions on the Limekilns.  The fact that Crowley had ridden Ulysses at Ascot, and the experience of the horse in a race that he had consequently gained, probably made a difference of more than the nose by which he prevailed in the Eclipse.

Irish Oaks has quality in-depth

It’s very good that Epsom Oaks winner Enable is over for the Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh today, it’s great for the race, and it’s also very good that she hasn’t scared away all the opposition.  The Epsom Oaks heroine is obviously the headline act, but there is quality in-depth.

It often happens, when there is a stand-out act in a big race, the potential opposition dissolves.  When Alexandrova won the Irish Oaks in 2006, she beat five rivals, with only two other Irish-trained fillies taking her on.  That hasn’t happened today thankfully.

The fact that Enable’s trainer John Gosden is also taking Coronet over is interesting.  The Dubawi filly ran an eye-catching race in the Prix Saint-Alary and, after running no kind of race in the Epsom Oaks, where she seemed to struggle on the cambers, she stayed on strongly to land the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last time.  The Irish Oaks is the obvious race for her, and it is great that the fact that her trainer is also responsible for the favourite has not meant that she has sought alternative targets.

Rain Goddess is also interesting, a little unlucky not to win the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot and second to the seriously upwardly mobile Nezwaah in the Pretty Polly Stakes last time.  Naughty Or Nice is interesting, two for two before everything that could have gone wrong did its best to go wrong – too keen, saddle slipped – in the Ribblesdale.  We still don’t know how good John Oxx’s filly is.

Nor do we know how good Eziyra could be as a three-year-old.  An impressive winner of the Group 3 CL & MF Weld Park Stakes at The Curragh on her final run last season, she shaped nicely on her debut this season in a listed race at Leopardstown last month.  She will have to step up significantly on that run if she is going to be competitive today, but she has the potential to do so.

Of course, Enable is the most likely winner by some way, but the Irish Oaks is a race that has thrown up a few results of late.  Even Song was beaten at odds-on last year, Curvy was beaten in it in 2015, Tarfasha was beaten in 2014.  Only one favourite has won the race since 2009.

Godolphin Oxx link

Good news too that, as revealed in The Irish Field last week, the link between Sheikh Mohammed and John Oxx has been re-established.

Oxx trained many horses for Sheikh Mohammed during the maroon and white days (ref. Opera House above), but the metronomic march of the Godolphin blue all but squeezed out the maroon and white in Europe (except for some small respites) and saw the Sheikh Mohammed/Godolphin horses housed with the Godolphin trainers, Saeed Bin Suroor and Mahmood Al Zarooni and, latterly, Charlie Appleby.

That policy has been relaxed in the last couple of years, Godolphin are having horses with ‘outside’ trainers, and new Godolphin acquisitions, more and more, are remaining with their trainers.  The benefits of that relatively new policy were seen in full Technicolor (blue) at Royal Ascot, with three of the six Godolphin winners, including their two Group 1 winners, trained by said ‘outside’ trainers.

Now John Oxx has five Godolphin juveniles.  You know that they will be given time, taken along gradually at their own pace.   It will be interesting to monitor their progress.

Tommy Carberry remembered

It is difficult to define Tommy Carberry’s greatest feat, there were so many great feats, he achieved so much.

Winning the Gold Cup on L’Escargot in 1970, or in 1971, or winning it on Ten Up in 1975?  Winning the RSA Chase on Ten Up in 1974 or on Tied Cottage in 1976?  Winning the Champion Chase and the Cathcart Chase in 1973 on Inkslinger?  Winning the Irish National in 1975 and 1976 on Brown Lad, or training Bobbyjo to win it in 1998?

All contenders, but his greatest feat was probably his Aintree Grand National feat, training Bobbyjo to win the race in 1999.  Not because he got a horse who won a handicap hurdle at Down Royal three weeks earlier off a mark of 86 to win the most famous horse race in the world, not because he had won the Irish Grand National 12 months earlier with the same horse, not because the horse was ridden by his son Paul in a famous father/son fairytale. 

But because Bobbyjo was the first Irish-trained horse to win the Grand National in almost a quarter of a century, since L’Escargot had won it 24 years earlier, ridden by Tommy Carberry.

He will be missed. 


© The Irish Field, 15th July 2017