Declan Rix

Doncaster, Leopardstown and the Curragh hosted top-class racing last week, and a number of key juvenile races caught the eye of Declan Rix.

  • Wednesday 16 September
  • Blog
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An exciting week of juvenile performances

Well, what a week that was; four days at Doncaster, two days of Irish Champions Weekend and a fantastic Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trials day at ParisLonchamp. The results, of which there were many, saw ramifications across plenty of divisions; from the juvenile landscape taking further shape to Enable and Love likely strengthening their respective positions in the Arc, despite not running.

There were some seriously impressive juvenile performances across the five days, in a division that that tends to hot up at this time of year. Those early, quick and precocious types didn’t get a fair crack at this year’s Covid-19-affected season, and are now operating at a time of the year when real Classic hopefuls kick into gear.

Doncaster, Leopardstown and the Curragh all played host to the future stars of the game and below, are the performances that most caught my eye.

You’ve got to Love Shale’s profile

The Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes were both run back-to-back at the Curragh on Sunday. It was a case of ladies first with the former a prelude to the boys’ race, which went the way of the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Shale, who turned over an old foe in Pretty Gorgeous by three-quarters-of-a-length.

While this race didn’t leave the same visual wow factor created by Thunder Moon in the National Stakes, the winning time posted by Shale was comfortably faster. The fillies’ race was run in a stronger manner, which aided a quicker time, but the closing sectionals posted by Thunder Moon (didn’t have a clean run) didn’t exactly eat hugely into the deficient, suggesting the fillies’ race could be strong form.

Not only does the time look a positive, the ‘right horses’ filled the first two places. In the Group 2 Debutante Stakes on soft ground, Pretty Gorgeous was a commanding winner over Shale, but back on a much faster surface, the form was emphatically turned around. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given the fluent action of Shale, who really does glide across the ground.

A daughter of Galileo and out of a super impressive 1000 Guineas winner in Homecoming Queen, we are now talking about a horse who may well emulate her own dam in winning the second Classic of the 2021 British flat season.

In a small way, Shale has a similar profile to this year’s 1000 Guineas winner, Love, who was also well held in the Debutante on soft ground before bouncing back to win the Moyglare on a much slicker surface.

At this stage of their respective careers, Shale looks a sharper and better filly than Love did. I’m not for one second saying Shale will be better than Love, but as a juvenile, she looks a superior horse. For context, in winning last year’s Moyglare, I had Love running to 109, but Shale hit 113 on Sunday. In winning this year’s Guineas, I had Love running to 113p, with the caveat she can easily go higher, given the impressive style of her victory.

With class now assured – I hope - you look to other characteristics like attitude, ability to travel and stamina; and concerning the 1000 Guineas, Shale looks to have it all. In her last two races this season, I don’t think she has travelled as well as she can – maybe due to the ground and/or maybe suggesting she is ready to go back over a mile again - but her will to win has always got her into the mix.

With so much to like, I have had my first ante-post bet for the 2021 flat campaign; Shale to win the 1000 Guineas at 12/1.

Although turned over here, there is still much to like about Pretty Gorgeous, too. She was only beaten three-quarters-of-a-length and I really rate the form. Her trainer Joseph O’Brien went to 525,000 Guineas to secure her at last year’s Tattersalls October Book 1 yearlings’ sale, which, considering her sire Lawman only stands for €15,000 (at the time), goes to show what kind of individual she is.

She has scope to improve on her 111 rating given her size and with her in good hands, I too have backed her for next year’s 1000 Guineas at 14/1.

Jessica Harrington’s Oodnadatta is another to take from the race, back in third. She got no cover or a good lead here, so I thought her run deserved a small mark up. She looks ready to step up to a mile on the back of this. A daughter of Australia and out of Bewitched, she is closely related to Group 3 winner Pablo Escobarr (by Galileo) and the fact she is part-owned by John Magnier catches the eye.

Promising colts throw hats into 2000 Guineas ring

While I won’t be rushing to back any horse ante-post for next year’s 2000 Guineas just yet, given the open and competitive nature of the race as it stands, a number of colts – in defeat as well as victory – increased their stock last week.

It was a great weekend for Joseph O’Brien; winning the St Leger at Doncaster with Galileo Chrome (113+) and the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday with Thunder Moon. I thought the former maybe lacked one race in terms of experience and nous to win a Classic on what we had seen this season, but O’Brien called it superbly, letting his inmate run; who obviously then won.

O’Brien’s call to supplement Thunder Moon (110p) proved another big decision that he got right, and this son of Zoffany put up an incredible visual performance in overcoming a torrid run through, before producing a fine change of gear to win by 1½ lengths.

He was so impressive in how he hit the line, and while the overall time of his win was quite a bit slower than what Shale produced, for a horse just having his second on track career start (has reportedly ‘ran’ in a barrier trial, too) he is an exciting prospect, especially as I feel he will be even better over a mile.

Thunder Moon thankfully put a positive spin on what was a disappointing race in some respects. The National Stakes was shaping up to be a cracker pre-race, but with Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground (108p) declared a non-runner, Master Of The Seas (108p) pulling too hard and Lucky Vega having an awful run through, the race was somewhat unsatisfactory.

I wouldn’t be giving up on Master Of The Seas just yet, while I look forward to seeing Battleground run again, especially if getting on quick ground with a fast pace to run at.

The Group 2 bet365 Champagne Stakes run at Doncaster on Saturday saw three nice colts fight out the finish. Chindit got a lovely ride from Pat Dobbs to win, maintaining his unbeaten record, which now stands at three.

Off what looked a sound gallop, Dobbs got his mount plenty of cover into a headwind, and exposed Chindit to the elements later than Jim Crowley did aboard the promising runner-up and race favourite, Albasheer.

We touched on Chindit when he won the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot – a race that has worked out well subsequently - and he has obviously improved since then. He is a likable colt; straight-forward, strong-travelling and possesses a good attitude.

I can’t see a mile being any problem to him, but with the 2000 Guineas in mind; whether his hold-up style and Pat Dobbs’s generally cold style of riding will suit the Rowley Mile remains to be seen.

Albasheer took a huge jump forward from a slow-run maiden win to a sound-run Group 2 and adapted brilliantly. Given this was only his second start and the ever-so-slightly less-effective ride he received, there is likely to be little between him and the Hannon-trained winner going forward. Twenty-twenty has been a good season for Owen Burrows and he has plenty to look forward to in 2021 with this colt.

Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest came into the race with more experience than the aforementioned pair, and put it to good use, running a sound race. He may now be ready for a step up to a mile.

It is also worth bearing in mind, that the time of the Champagne stands up very well to what older horses did in the Group 2 Park Stakes later on the card over the same course and distance. 

This year's 2000 Guineas runner-up Wichita won that race carrying the same weight as Chindit, but considering he got no cover throughout into a head wind, the time of the juvenile race may not be as strong as it seems.

I just think it is worth keeping in mind.

Finally, Jessica Harrington’s Cadillac (114+) put up a seriously impressive performance to win the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes by 3½ lengths, despite having an awful trip out wide for the entire contest.

It may not have been the strongest Group 2 on the day; the winner looked to be taking on a number of slower maturing types, whereas, this son of Lope De Vega looks a real, sharp 2yo performer, blessed with class and pace.

This was a Win-And-You’re-In race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and that is an invitation Jessica Harrington and the horse’s owners should take up. Granted decent going in Keeneland, this horse looks good enough and adaptable enough to shake up the best of what North America has to offer.

Declan Rix
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