FILLIES' MILE REVEALS TOP-CLASS PROSPECT. AND IT ISN’T NECESSARILY QUADRILATERAL
There was a great amount of top-class Flat racing in recent days, but the post-race analysis of one race in particular stands out as being worth discussing. The race in question is the Fillies’ Mile which took place at Newmarket on Friday and I’ve been quite surprised by the way the race has been covered.
Prior to the race, the Roger Charlton-trained Quadrilateral was the focus of most people’s attention and it was understandable why that was the case. She was unbeaten in two starts including a nine-length victory in a Conditions’ race at Newbury, she is by Frankel, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, trained by a popular handler and had been supplemented into the race for £40,000.
Thus, her profile ticked every box up along the “sexy scale” that tends to dictate how much a horse grabs the attention of the racing public and media alike.
So, when Quadrilateral came from an unpromising position to seize the day by a head in the dying strides under Jason Watson, it again was understandable that she would be the focus. The narrative was immediately set that she had done very well to go from looking beaten to finding a way to win in dramatic style.
She was cut into clear 6/1 favourite for the 1000 Guineas and everyone was seemingly delighted.
Yet, I’m surely not the only one that thought what was clearly the best filly on the day and arguably the best prospect going forward was the one that finished second?
The Hugo Palmer-trained Powerful Breeze had a very similar profile to Quadrilateral coming into the race. She was unbeaten in two starts, except the second of her wins had come in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster, and she had also been supplemented for the race.
The prelims didn’t go overly smoothly for Powerful Breeze, as she managed to get loose in the parade ring, but was thankfully caught before doing any damage to herself. Having arrived safely down to the start, she was loaded early into the widest stall.
While she had been a shade slow to start in both of her previous outings, she was playing up as the stalls opened on Friday which led to her losing in the region of four lengths at the start. Ridden with restraint, she took a strong hold in the slipstream of Love towards the outside wing of the field.
Clearly travelling best from three furlongs out, Powerful Breeze and James Doyle were content to get a tow into the race from Love until just over two furlongs out. When Doyle edged his mount to Love’s outer, she responded immediately for hand riding and quickened up impressively to lead.
However, once she got there, Powerful Breeze edged to her right, leading to Doyle quickly switching his stick into his right hand and giving her two reminders to straighten her. Once she seemed to have straightened, Doyle perhaps sensed that his nearest pursuers were on his right rather than his left, so he switched his stick back to his left hand to keep her there rather than edging back into the middle of the track.
However, at that stage, Powerful Breeze seemed to be idling quite notably, edging right, then left, then right again. Meanwhile, Quadrilateral had hit top stride up against the far rail and having drawn upsides Powerful Breeze, she edged slightly left and gave her rival a slight bump on her way past.
With only four or five strides remaining in the race from that point, it was very telling to my eye that Powerful Breeze rallied in those dying strides and was coming back at the winner and going away from the third as they hit the line. With the benefit of another few strides, Powerful Breeze is likely to have got back up and regained the lead.
No doubt many will disagree, but for me, Powerful Breeze shaped like the best filly in the race bar about 20 metres of self-inflicted vulnerability. Unfortunately for all concerned, the winning post was crossed in those 20 metres. There haven’t been many more unfortunate losers in a Group 1 in this part of the world this season.
It should go without saying, but none of the above is intended as a knock on Quadrilateral. She took a substantial step forward from her previous start at Newbury and even if one takes Powerful Breeze out of the equation, she has put a Group 1 winner in Love and multiple other Group winners to the sword in authoritative style.
Her pedigree very much suggests that she will be a better filly next year and she is a top-class prospect, with longer trips than a mile likely to be within her range. However, on most other days, it would have been Quadrilateral rather Powerful Breeze that lost her unbeaten record in this contest.
A rematch between them back at Newmarket in the 1000 Guineas will be a race to savour and hopefully we get to see it. That Powerful Breeze looks more of a pure miler in the making and yet is double the price of Quadrilateral for the first fillies’ Classic of the season doesn’t appeal as being an accurate reflection of their prospects in that race at this stage.
For a review of this depth, positive mention must also be given to the Jessica Harrington-trained Cayenne Pepper. She is another that went into the race unbeaten, with her having impressed in the Flame Of Tara Stakes at the Curragh on her previous start. This was the strongest-run race and the trickiest track she had encountered and both variables seemed to contribute to her undoing on the day.
Having raced prominently, she was caught a shade flatfooted when the race heated up. She then got a little bit unbalanced on the descent into the dip and was then crossed by Quadrilateral just outside the furlong pole. Switched to the wide outside, she rallied up the rising ground and made up significant lengths in the final half furlong.
It isn’t something that is talked about a lot, but I always like to watch the 100 yards after the line if at all possible and in this case, it was Cayenne Pepper that was much the strongest in that zone, suggesting she would have had more to give in the race had the circumstances allowed her to do so.
While Cayenne Pepper should be sharper with this experience under her belt if her connections wish to try her at a mile again, she looks like one that will be better still over longer trips. She could well be an Oaks filly in the making. She is also likely to be better suited by firmer ground than she got at Newmarket on Friday.
All told, this year’s renewal of the Fillies’ Mile was a tremendously exciting horse race, but it also promises to be very informative going forward. While many seem focused on the winner, in my opinion it would be ill-advised to assume that she is the best prospect going forward.