Things We Learned » Alpha jet

Alpha jet

Alpha Centauri just keeps pushing the bar higher.  She had already confirmed herself as the best three-year-old filly in Europe over a mile with victories in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes.  Then she stepped out of her own age group for the first time in her life and won the Falmouth Stakes. 

Then on Sunday, in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois, she took on the colts for the first time in her life, three-year-olds and older ones, and she beat them handsomely.  She looked as good as ever. 

She clocked a fast time, she went 1.23 seconds faster than Racing Post standard and she went over three seconds faster than Kayenne did in winning the one-mile handicap earlier on the day.  Also, she recorded the highest Timeform rating of her career.  On this evidence, she is still improving. 

Taking on the boys was one new dimension.  Winning on ground that was officially described as good to soft was another.  They said that it was more like good ground, and the times on the day confirm that, but even so, Jessica Harrington’s filly was probably racing on the easiest ground that she had encountered since she was beaten on heavy ground in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in April on her debut this season.

There are two significant constants in Alpha Centauri’s life: Jessica Harrington and her team and Colm O’Donoghue.  The Niarchos family’s filly has been allowed to progress easily through the season by Harrington and her team.  She hasn’t been over-faced.  She hasn’t been asked to do anything that they didn’t think was within her range.  And she has thrived.

O’Donoghue has ridden the Mastercraftsman filly in all her nine races.  He didn’t sit on her until he was legged up on her in the parade ring at Naas before she raced for the first time, on May Day last year.  He knew her well then, he knows her even better now, and he rides to her strengths. 

Ride her handy, keep it simple, use her long stride to her advantage.  The rider was superb on her again on Sunday.  Efficiency in simplicity.  That’s what the best riders do.

Can’t wait for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Stratum a worthy favourite 

It makes sense that Stratum is favourite for next Saturday’s Sky Bet Ebor.  Willie Mullins’ horse looked a little unlucky in finishing third behind his stable companion Lagostovegas in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, on his first run on the flat for the champion National Hunt trainer.  And he gained deserved compensation when he danced in last time in the all-new JLT Cup at Newbury off just a 2lb higher mark. 

The handicapper raised him by 8lb for that win to a mark of 102, but that may not be sufficient, on two counts.  Firstly, it may not be enough to halt his progression.  But secondly, and more pressingly, it may not be sufficient to get him into Saturday’s race.

A mark of 102 leaves him joint 27th on the list for the Ebor, joint 27th of eight.  The new 22-box stalls will not be in operation at York until October at the earliest, so it means that, with a safety limit of 20, Stratum needs at least seven horses above him in the handicap to come out in order to allow him into the race, and possibly as many as 15.

We will know more when we have the six-day entries on Monday, and last year, six horses came out of the Ebor even after that, between six-day entry stage and declaration stage.  Maleficent Queen got into the race off a mark of 101.  Even so, Willie Mullins and owner Tony Bloom will rest a little easier once they know that Stratum is definitely in the line-up. 

Battaash and Blue Point set to clash again

Speaking of York, it looks like Battaash and Blue Point are going to be at it again in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday.

You can understand why Battaash is favourite.  When Charlie Hills’ horse is good, he is brilliant.  He was brilliant in the Abbaye last October, and he was brilliant in the King George (the five-furlong King George at Goodwood, not the 12-furlong one at Ascot) two weeks ago.  

Battaash has been a slower burn than Blue Point.  The day before Blue Point finished second in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket as a juvenile, Battaash finished third in a nursery at Haydock.  The day before Blue Point finished third in the Dewhurst, Battaash finished third in the Cornwallis Stakes. 

Blue Point was six furlongs and Battaash was five, until they converged in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot two months ago over (a stiff) five.  On that day, it was Blue Point who emerged on top. 

There was mitigation.  Battaash went too fast too early.  He just couldn’t sustain it over Ascot’s stiff sprint track. 

Since then Sheikh Hamdan’s horse has put up that scintillating performance at Goodwood, and Blue Point has finished seventh behind U S Navy Flag in the July Cup.  Those two runs have, of course, had a significant impact on their respective odds for Friday’s race.  Recency bias.  If neither horse had run since Royal Ascot, their respective Nunthorpe odds would be very different to what they are now.

Also, there was mitigation for Blue Point’s run in the July Cup.  The Godolphin colt has never been at his best at Newmarket.  He has now run there three times, twice on the Rowley Mile and once on the July Course, and he has never won. 

By contrast, he is one for one at York.  He won the Gimcrack Stakes at this meeting two years ago, when he probably put up the best performance of his juvenile year, albeit over six furlongs. 

Battaash could finish only fourth in last year’s Nunthorpe, over five lengths behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia.  He got worked up before the start that day, reportedly not helped by a barking dog, and he probably went too fast after it.  Even so, he is zero for one at York, and he is an odds-on shot.

Battaash is a best-priced 4/5 for Friday’s feature, while you can back Blue Point at 6/1.  That discrepancy is probably too great.

Torcedor sold

It is a shame that Torcedor has been sold out of Ireland, that he will continue his racing career with top trainer Andreas Wohler in Germany, probably with the Melbourne Cup as his primary objective.  He will be a big loss to Jessica Harrington and her team. 

The Fastnet Rock gelding’s sale also removes one of the main obstacles from Stradivarius’ stayers’ bonus bid.  It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Thought for the week

Surely GB and Ireland should be two teams in the Shergar Cup, not one.  There are enough top class riders around to generate two top class teams.

GB ride in white, Ireland stay in green.  So, you have five teams instead of four, still with three riders on each team.  You have 12 runners in each of the first five races instead of 10, with each rider sitting out one of those five races, and you have 15 runners in the last, with every rider riding in the finale.  Then you have your crescendo.

© The Irish Field, 18th August 2018