Donn's Articles » York review

York review

It rained at York on Wednesday morning.  The ground turned from good to firm to good, then to good to soft, then to soft in places, and we worried for the fast ground horses.  It’s not for nothing that they call it the Knavesmire. 

The easy ground presented no problems for Cracksman, however, in the Great Voltigeur Stakes on Wednesday afternoon.  Frankie Dettori did have to get after his horse a little at the top of the home straight but, once the John Gosden-trained colt found his rhythm and stretched, he hit a power-surge that burst his rivals and took him clear.

It was not certain that Cracksman would cope with the conditions.  He did win his maiden at Newmarket last October on easy ground, but he was withdrawn from the Dante at York in May when his trainer was concerned about similarly easy conditions.  The net result was that he went to the Epsom Derby on the back of just one run this season and two in his life, high on talent, shy on experience.

There is a theory that Anthony Oppenheimer’s horse could have won the Derby had he run in the Dante.  That the magnitude by which he would have progressed in terms of experience and racetrack nous for running in the Dante would have been greater than the length by which he was beaten by Wings Of Eagles at Epsom.  That may well be the case, but it may not be the case.  We just don’t know.

What we do know is that the son of Frankel stepped forward from Epsom to run a cracker in the Irish Derby at The Curragh, going down by just a neck to Capri when he didn’t have an ideal run through the race, and that he progressed again from then.  Wednesday’s run was another career-best.

The Great Voltigeur is often a good pointer to the St Leger, so it was interesting that John Gosden all but ruled out a tilt at the final classic for Cracksman.  He doesn’t even hold an entry in the race.  The talk was more of next year, about the four-year-old that he could be.

There was muffled talk of a possible Arc de Triomphe bid this year mind you, and that would be fascinating because, if he were to make the trip to Chantilly on 1st October, he would be a travelling companion for his stablemate Enable.

We did not learn anything new about Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday.  She may have run out a five-length winner of the Group 1 contest, but it was expected that she would win well. Odds of 1/4 told you as much.  She was entitled to beat her rivals as easily as she did. 

That said, every time you see the Nathaniel filly, she impresses.  She was impressive in the Cheshire Oaks, she was impressive in the Epsom Oaks, she was impressive in the Irish Oaks.  Name an Oaks and she has won it impressively.  Now add the Yorkshire Oaks.

It is the performance that she put up in winning the King George at Ascot last month, however, that sets her apart as potentially exceptional.  She took on top class colts that day, she took on her elders for the first time, and she beat them pointless.  She beat Ulysses by four and a half lengths, she powered clear of Sir Michael Stoute’s horse inside the final furlong.  It was a performance of class and power and courage and speed at the highest level.

You can argue that Enable’s prospects of winning the Arc de Triomphe in October were enhanced at least as much by Ulysses’ victory in the Juddmonte International on Wednesday as they were by her own victory in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday.

Ulysses was very good.  He tracked the three-year-olds Barney Roy and Churchill early in the home straight and was moved towards the near side by Jim Crowley.  No doubt mindful off the Galileo colt’s tendency to do no more than he has to do, the champion jockey waited for a few strides before asking his horse for his effort and, when he did, the response was impressive.  Ulysses came clear of his younger rivals to win by two lengths, a greater margin of victory than any of his since he won his maiden at Newbury in May last year.

It looks like the Breeders’ Cup Turf is Ulysses’ primary goal now, not the Arc.  He was only fourth in the American race last year behind Highland Reel and Flintshire and Found, but he is a seriously improved horse this year.

Enable’s win in the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday was a consolidation, a reminder run.  It gave people the opportunity to write about her more and to talk about her again.  Comparisons with the great middle distance fillies of yesteryear were unavoidable, Allez France and Dahlia were mentioned, and Frankie Dettori refused to dismiss the notion that she could be the best that he has ever ridden.  Wait until she runs in the Arc, Dettori said.

Can’t wait.


© The Sunday Times, 27th August 2017