Donn's Articles » Snowfall


There was a point in Thursday’s Darley Yorkshire Oaks, just over three furlongs from home, when the race changed.  

Snowfall had travelled well through her race for Ryan Moore, in rear for most of the way, second last as they turned for home.  But just after they straightened up, the rider gave his filly a squeeze and, in an instant, she put a distance of ground between herself and the fillies who had been loitering around at the back of the field with her, and bridged the gap to her main market rival Wonderful Tonight.  She quickly left Wonderful Tonight behind too, she careered away from all her rivals and won, eased down, by daylight, posting a time that was just over a second outside the course record.

It was the latest instalment in the Snowfall saga, and it was new.  Before Thursday, she had competed only against her contemporaries.  She took on her elders for the first time on Thursday, and she beat them well.  It was a fourth win for Aidan O’Brien’s filly in four runs this season, a Musidora Stakes, an Epsom Oaks, an Irish Oaks and now a Yorkshire Oaks, by an average of eight lengths and an aggregate of 32, and there is still no knowing how deep her talent runs.

You couldn’t have foreseen the Snowfall story of 2021.  Nobody could.  Not really.  Snowfall was a good juvenile last season, but she didn’t stand out.  More than that, she looked exposed.  She ran in seven races last season, and she won just one of them, a maiden at The Curragh on Irish Oaks weekend.  

She ran in the good juvenile fillies’ races, the Silver Flash Stakes, the Debutante Stakes, the Moyglare Stud Stakes, the Fillies’ Mile, but she was well beaten in all of them.  Fourth, fifth, ninth, eighth.  Good enough to compete against the best, just not good enough to beat them.  And eighth in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October, five places and 10 lengths behind her stable companion Mother Earth, not five places and 10 lengths in front of her, as appeared to be the case at the time.

Ironic that both fillies are now Classic winners, multiple Group 1 winners.  Parallel lines.

When Snowfall ran in the Musidora Stakes at York in May on her debut this season, she was allowed go off at 14/1.  Even when she was impressive in winning that race, one of the main Oaks trials, it wasn’t enough to see her displace Santa Barbara as the Ballydoyle number one for Epsom.  Then she won the Oaks by 16 lengths.

Snowfall’s Oaks win will be one of the landmark performances of the 2021 flat season.  Coming clear of her rivals through the rain-softened ground under an incredulous Frankie Dettori and winning by a record distance.  

Winning distances and degrees of superiority can be amplified on rain-softened ground, but the Deep Impact filly proved that she didn’t need it when she came back to The Curragh and, on good ground, won the Irish Oaks doing handsprings.  And the ground was on the fast side of good at York on Thursday.  It appears that the ground doesn’t matter to Snowfall, that she can perform on all types of terrain, that she is as versatile as she is talented.

It appears that she is still getting better too.  Aidan O’Brien says that she is putting on weight.  Ryan Moore said that she felt better at York on Thursday than she did at The Curragh when she won the Irish Oaks.  That all augurs well for her intended crack at the season’s crescendo, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Bookmakers cut her odds from 100/30 to 9/4 for the Arc after Thursday’s win, and you can understand why.  She is the outstanding filly of her generation, and three-year-old fillies receive the age allowance and the sex allowance in the Arc.  It is not a coincidence that seven of the last 10 Arc winners were fillies, nor that three of them were three-year-olds.

Snowfall will face another new challenge though in the Arc.  She has never taken on the colts before and, all things being equal, she could face two top class Godolphin colts in the Arc.  Adayar has won the Derby and the King George, Hurricane Lane has won the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris.  Ballydoyle v Godolphin.  It could be like old times.

Nor has Snowfall taken on Tarnawa.  Dermot Weld’s filly is five now, but she won the Prix Vermeille and the Prix de l’Opera and the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, and she looked very good in winning the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown two weeks ago on her debut this term.  She is building up to the Arc.

Aidan O’Brien said on Thursday that Snowfall could run in one of the Arc trials, presumably the Prix Vermeille, or that she could go straight to the Arc.  The last filly before Snowfall to win the Epsom Oaks and the Irish Oaks was Enable, and she won the Yorkshire Oaks too before going on and winning the Arc.  

More parallel lines.  

© The Sunday Times 22nd August 2021