Things We Learned » Winter is this year’s Minding

Winter is this year’s Minding

So Winter is this year’s Minding.  The similarities are uncanny.  Both trained by Aidan O’Brien, both ridden latterly by Ryan Moore, both by Galileo, one out of a Danehill Dancer mare, the other out of a mare who is by a son of Danehill Dancer.  Both superstars at three.

Minding was beaten by Ballydoyle in the Debutante Stakes as a juvenile, and she was only fourth in the betting behind her stable companion in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, but she won that well under Seamie Heffernan, beating said stable companion by a cosy three parts of a length.  Then she won the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, and she was the winter rage for the Guineas. 

She won the Guineas too on her debut at three and, after getting beaten by Jet Setting on soft ground in the Irish Guineas, she rattled off the Group 1s: Oaks, Pretty Polly Stakes, Nassau Stakes.

Winter was a slower burn as a juvenile.  Trained by David Wachman last year, she shaped encouragingly in two maidens before she got off the mark under Wayne Lordan at Dundalk in August.  She didn’t race after August as a juvenile.

Moved to Ballydoyle after David Wachman hung up his trainer’s licence, the Galileo filly again shaped encouragingly on her debut at three in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial in April, going down by just a head to her stable companion Hydrangea.  She hasn’t been beaten since.

She was impressive in winning the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket under Wayne Lordan.  She raced out towards the centre that day as her stable companion and Guineas favourite Rhododendron met traffic on the stands side.  There was a school of thought that said that Rhododendron might still be the better filly, although that school does not appear to have many students these days.

Winter was even more impressive in the Irish Guineas at The Curragh than she had been at Newmarket, before she went to Royal Ascot and landed the Coronation Stakes doing handsprings.  Then on Thursday at Goodwood, she moved into a new dimension when she won the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs on soft ground.

There are differences too.  When Winter won the Nassau Stakes on Thursday, she was notching up her fourth Group 1 win.  When Minding won her Nassau Stakes last year, she was recording her sixth.

Also, by the time Minding won the Nassau, she had already proven herself at middle distances.  She had already won the Oaks over a mile and a half and the Pretty Polly Stakes over 10 furlongs. 

When Winter passed the two-furlong pole at Goodwood on Thursday, she was taking a step into the unknown, a step beyond a mile, with the soft ground testing her stamina.  It was a test that she passed with distinction. 

That victory over 10 furlongs blows her options wide open.  Strange for the daughter of a Wokingham winner, you can talk middle distances with her now.  You can definitely talk Champion Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs, and it would be remiss not to have a look at the Arc now over 12. 

Minding skipped the Arc.  Aidan O’Brien didn’t need her on the team, he had the 1-2-3 without her.  She went to Ascot instead and won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.  That’s another option for Winter. 

Plate winner could step forward again

Balko Des Flos was very good in winning the Galway Plate on Wednesday, and Davy Russell was very good on him.

It is easy to say that a winning ride is a good ride.  It was successful, you couldn’t have done any better, you achieved 100% success with the ride that you gave the horse, ergo it was a good ride.  That is not always the case, but it is usually the perception. 

This was a good ride.  Davy Russell excels in the simple, which is what the good riders do.  Keep things simple, ride your horse with maximum efficiency, minimise your expenditure of energy, maximise your chance of winning.  He may have been on the best horse in the race, but he still maximised his chance of winning, got him into a nice even rhythm early on, got him jumping, got him settled in a position in the race in which he was comfortable, allowed him ease clear on the run around the home turn before asking him to stretch.

You can argue that Shaneshill was a little unlucky, that he was travelling well when he made that bad mistake at the second last fence.  He was, and he did well to ship that mistake, and Ruby Walsh did well to have him balanced again before he jumped the final fence just six strides later, but it is probable that the winner won with plenty in hand.  It is probable that Shaneshill was the second best horse in the race on the day.

It is obviously a significant win, a Galway Plate – “that was the plan” – but this victory also ignites the promise of more.  Henry de Bromhead obviously had the Gigginstown House horse primed for Wednesday, but there is also the potential that it unlocks.  Remember, Balko Des Flos finished fifth behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2016, belying odds of 40/1, and he was running a big race in the JLT Chase at Cheltenham in March when he came down at the fourth last fence.

The Balko gelding is only six, and he has raced just seven times over fences in his life, so he has the scope to go higher still.  Carlingford Lough won the Grade 1 Topaz Chase and the Grade 1 Growise Chase during his Galway Plate-winning season, and he went on to win the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish Gold Cup twice. 

Road To Riches won the Champion Chase and the Lexus Chase during the season after his Galway Plate win, before going to Cheltenham and finishing third in the Gold Cup.  You never know how high Balko Des Flos could go now. 

Fahey family feats

It has been a good Galway for the Fahey brothers so far.

On Tuesday, Peter sent out the well-backed Serefeli to win the one-mile handicap, the Footstepsinthesand gelding staying on strongly for Billy Lee to get home by a half a length and a neck from Usa and Zippy.

Then on Thursday in the two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle, the Paul Fahey trained Oakly – the trainer’s only runner of the week – got up close home under Paddy Kennedy to beat long-time leader Robin Des Foret by a half a length and, later on the day, Peter notched his second winner of the week when Dayna Moss – who had finished fourth in the bumper on Monday – won the bumper under Richie Deegan.

Peter also saddled Peregrine Run for the Grade 3 novices’ chase on Thursday, and he ran well to finish third behind Rathvinden on ground that was surely softer than ideal for him, and Lucca ran well for Jarlath Fahey to finish fourth in the one-and-a-half-mile handicap on Thursday.  It has been a good Galway so far, and they may not be done yet. 

Glorious uncertainty

Goodwood is a great meeting, glorious even (or it used to be), but there is also the glorious uncertainty of it.

You could cite the weather as the uncertain element(s), as evidenced by Wednesday’s deluge, almost 50mm, and the people who bought at 8.5mm had a Klondike.  But there is also the uncertainty of getting a run.

Tuesday’s Lennox Stakes encapsulated that uncertainty in a minute and a half.  One-third of the field didn’t get a run.  Aclaim was squeezed, So Beloved couldn’t get a run, Suedois had to switch, Librisa Breeze was hampered twice.  Even the winner Breton Rock had to ease Jungle Cat out of his way in order to get a run down the outside.

It may be the case that he best horse in the race won it but – and not just because he was a 50/1 shot who was racing on ground that was faster than ideal for him – it may not be the case.  You would love to see the race run again to find out.

Headline of the week

British raiders at Galway: The Ballybrits


© The Irish Field, 5th August 2017