INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: GEOFF LESTER
LONDON – SO YOU THINK, making his farewell appearance before he returns to Australia to take up stallion duties, can join the likes of Mtoto and Halling by becoming a back-to-back winner of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday, thus providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with a sixth success in this prestigious Group 1 race.
The Aussies are not slow to hype up their horses and it took the Brits a long time to accept their declaration that So You Think, twice a winner of the Caulfield Cup “Down Under”, was their “best middle-distance performer since Phar Lap”, but even the cynics amongst us were finally convinced after So You Think clocked up his 10th G1 victory – and far and away his most impressive display since he arrived in Europe – when carrying off the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
So You Think, who beat Workforce, the previous season’s Derby hero, in last year’s Eclipse, could not have been more professional at the Royal meeting, snuffing out a promising-looking challenge from the Queen’s Carlton House halfway up the straight to score with real authority.
O’Brien was quick to blame himself for “being a slow learner”, claiming that it took him a year to realise how he should be training So You Think. He observed: “I was too hard on him in the mornings and since Ascot we have done next to nothing with him, which seems to be the right formula.”
Godolphin’s Farhh, who finished third at Ascot, re-opposes, but that was a massive improvement on previous form in what was his first run in Pattern company and the boys in blue might have better prospects with Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso.
However, Monterosso has been off since that memorable night at Meydan in March and, like Nathaniel who was so impressive when winning last year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, he is likely to need this race to blow away the cobwebs after such a lengthy absence.
One cannot help but feel that John Gosden is using this as a preparatory race for Nathaniel before he attempts a repeat at Ascot later this month. The colt could also find this 2000m on the sharp side and the drying ground a negative.
Maybe, the one for the Exactas is Henry Cecil’s Twice Over, now seven years old but certainly not ready for his pension book.
Twice Over won this race two years ago and showed last season that he was still very much a force to be reckoned with when beating stablemate Midday in a titanic scrap for the Yorkshire Oaks.
He ran creditably in horrible ground against Colombian in the Gordon Richards Stakes here in April and by all accounts has been working with plenty of zest at Newmarket recently.
STARSCOPE, who chased home stablemate Fallen For You in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, is a banker bet for the Coral Distaff on the same programme, while I would also advise you to stay around for AMBIVALENT in the closing handicap.
She went up 13 points for slamming Dutch Diamond at Nottingham, but is a smart filly who has improved no end since connections decided to fit her with a hood and even off a mark of 85, she has to be followed.
With Twice Over going for the Eclipse rather than the Gala Stakes on the Esher slopes 24 hours earlier, the Listed race now looks within the compass of AFSARE, who drops back in class, having finished second in a G1 in Italy last time.
Afsare had previously found the 1800m too sharp in the Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket’s Craven meeting and he can come into his own over this stiff uphill finish. Tazahum, who finished behind Afsare at Newmarket, looks the main threat.
Meanwhile, we can top up the weekend kitty by backing REGAL AURA to make it third-time lucky for the Gosden-Buick team in the 2400m maiden tonight at Kempton. Godolphin’s IBTAHAJ, so impressive when sluicing home from a bad draw on the Polytrack last week, should make light of a six-point penalty in the finale.
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We have waited 42 years for another Triple Crown winner, but bookmakers make Camelot a 1-4 chance to emulate the legendary Nijinsky by adding the St Leger to his classic CV following the Coolmore champion’s hard-fought success in atrocious conditions in the Irish Derby at The Curragh last Saturday.
Class horses who settle give themselves every chance of getting any distance and surely CAMELOT, who will be trying 2900m for the first time, is poised to take his place in racing’s history books.
Camelot, starting at the prohibitive odds of 1-5, hated the testing conditions on the plains of Kildare, but O’Brien, who has now sent out a record 28 Irish classic winners, is adamant that this horse is the best that he has trained and he had the quality to get through a quagmire and win by two lengths from equally brave Born To Sea, who will also now have a break before returning for the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Coolmore boss John Magnier said: “It would have been easy to have pulled out as the ground was pretty bad out there, but we would have let down the sponsors and the racing public, so we gave it a go and, happily, we got away with it.
“Camelot showed he has amazing speed when winning the 2000 Guineas, he then showed his class when winning the Derby at Epsom and here he had to dig deep and show his courage.
“It takes a special horse to be able to boast those three qualities, but Camelot is the real deal and the plan now is to give him a break and then hopefully go to Doncaster. We have a statue of Nijinsky at Ballydoyle, so it would be fitting if Camelot could pull off the treble, too. We are looking for the next Sadler’s Wells at Coolmore and we might just have found him in this fellow.”
However, when you mention the St Leger, you immediately think of Gosden, who has won three of the last five runnings of the world’s oldest classic. He produced another likely lad for the race in Michelangelo, who, judged by the way he warmed to his task at the end of his race when winning the £150,000 Tattersalls Million at Newmarket on Saturday, should be well suited by the stamina test at Doncaster.
Libranno was the other Newmarket star, clocking up his fourth victory at HQ when repeating last year’s celebrations in the Criterion Stakes and he will now take on the big boys again in the July Cup, a race in which he finished a respectable fourth 12 months ago.