Donn's Articles » York review

York review

York’s Ebor meeting is a perennial amalgamation of destination and journey.  There is a sense of the end of the summer and the start of the autumn: the Flat season’s summer accolades awarded, and manoeuvrings just about complete in preparation for the big autumn prizes.

Roaring Lion was impressive in winning the Juddmonte International on Wednesday.  He did get the run of the race.  The field moved all the way over to the stands side at the top of the home straight and left favourite Poet’s Word short of racing room against the stands rail.  Poet’s Word did well in the circumstances to extricate himself from the pocket and finish second but, such was the magnitude of Roaring Lion’s superiority, it is difficult to argue that John Gosden’s horse was not the best horse in the race on the day by a fair way.

It was another career-best by Roaring Lion.  On his last run before Wednesday, the Qatar Racing colt won the Eclipse at Sandown, beating Saxon Warrior by a neck and taking the score in their private rivalry to 2-2.  That was the best run of his life up to that point.  Then on Wednesday, under another excellent ride from Oisin Murphy, he stepped forward again.

Gosden mentioned the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown as a possible next target, and that makes a lot of sense.  The timing is right, a three-and-a-half-week break, and 10 furlongs is probably his optimum trip, at least for now.  The bookmakers have installed him as ante post favourite for the Leopardstown race, and that is as it should be.

Sea Of Class was brilliant in winning the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday.  James Doyle bided his time on the Sea The Stars filly, waited out the back for as long as he dared, then unleashed her searing turn of foot.  She ended the race as a contest in a matter of strides.

This latest Sea Of Class act wasn’t quite as dramatic as her Irish Oaks act, when she came from last and just got up on the line to beat Forever Together by a neck.  Trainer William Haggas said afterwards that he asked his rider beforehand to try to get there just a stride or two earlier this time, reduce the stress levels for the trainer on his birthday, if not necessarily for the rider. 

Sea Of Class has now won her last four races, an Irish Oaks and a Yorkshire Oaks among them, and she is thriving under Haggas’ patient approach.  She does not hold an entry in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but that is the obvious race for her now, and it would be surprising if her owner Mrs Tsui did not come up with the supplementary entry fee.  The Tsui family have a deep association with the Arc, having won it with Sea Of Class’ sire Sea The Stars in 2009, and with her paternal grandam Urban Sea in 1993. 

Some 40 minutes after Sea Of Class, another high-class middle-distance three-year-old filly Lah Ti Dar returned from a spell on the sidelines and pulverised her rivals in the Galtres Stakes.  Her setback ruled her out of the Oaks, but the Lloyd-Webbers’ filly could be in for a lucrative time of it this autumn.  She holds an entry in the Arc, but there was talk of the St Leger in the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s race.  Either would be a legitimate target for her now.

Aidan O’Brien has had a trying time of it of late, a bug in his yard has laid most of his horses low.  But the manner in which the champion trainer has communicated as much has been exemplary, and there were chinks of light at York this week: Fairyland’s victory in the Lowther Stakes, Kew Gardens’ fine run under a penalty in the Great Voltigeur.  Hopefully the bug will be long gone in time for the autumn campaign.

Stradivarius followed the script and landed the Lonsdale Cup on Friday, adding to his Yorkshire Cup and Ascot Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup, and bagging the £1 million stayers’ bonus that was up for grabs for any horse who could complete the stayers’ set.  John Gosden’s horse was not at his best on Friday, the money-buyers who availed themselves of odds of 4/11 had an anxious moment about three furlongs out, but he got there. 

Mark Johnston got there this week too.  Poet’s Society’s victory in the Clipper Logistics Handicap on Thursday took his total number of winners in Britain to 4,194, more than any other trainer in the history of British racing. 

The Middleham trainer won the 2000 Guineas with Mister Baileys and he won the 1000 Guineas with Attraction, and he trained Double Trigger to win the stayers’ triple crown, and he trained Shamardal to win the Dewhurst Stakes, but it was fitting that the record should be broken by a horse who, racing for the 26th time this year, made all the running in a tough handicap.  It is that toughness and durability that defines the Johnston horses.  And Frankie Dettori did a flying dismount.

© The Sunday Times, 26th August 2018