Saturday, June 21, 2014

Telescope Comes Into Focus at Royal Ascot


Telescope is a vintage racehorse - his muscularity, length, and elegance are reminiscent of pivotal sires such as St Simon.  The dark colt is a regal, long-bodied figure capable of great inspiration and prowess.

A son of the brilliant stallion, Galileo, Telescope never raced as a juvenile.  However, he showed promise the following year.  As a consequence of injury, Telescope wasn’t able to achieve his connections’ hopes at three, but raced five times, never finished worse than second, and built a solid résumé that includes Group wins.

Favored by the betting public in the 2014 Hardwicke Stakes (Gr-II), the four-year-old had been training well and appeared in good form.  Described as a “free sweater” before his races, he began perspiring in the paddock due to his nerves and the oppressive heat, and was thoroughly sponged down. 

The spectators anticipated this colt would enjoy the good-to-firm ground at Ascot.  Telescope had only two starts this season, finishing second to Frankel’s full-brother and eventual 2014 Tattersalls Gold Cup (Gr-I) winner, Noble Mission, by nine lengths and 2 ¼ lengths respectively on soft turf.  Notably, Telescope’s first-ever start was a narrow runner-up performance last September on Ascot’s good-to-firm ground.

Saturday’s Royal Ascot crowds focused on Telescope as he went to the post for the Hardwicke with Ryan Moore aboard.  The leading jockey of the meet looked to secure his top standing with his ride on Telescope, who he had ridden in all but two of his starts.  Breaking from the eighth stall, the imposing colt settled just off the leaders in fourth through the early stages of the 1 ½ mile event. 

Just inside the three furlong marker, Moore pressured his charge for his best effort.  Telescope responded instantly with an impressive surge, throttling the vanguard and driving clear into the final furlong to win by a dominating seven length score.  The potent colt won the ten horse race with a striking final time of 2:27.45, provided trainer Sir Michael Stoute with his eighth win in the King Edward VII, and completed a jockey/trainer double for closing Saturday.

After the victory, Ryan Moore remarked, “He's got a real good attitude in his races now.  It probably wasn't the strongest Hardwicke, but I was delighted with the he did everything during the race and he stayed on very well. He sees that trip out very well; 10 [furlongs] has just been a bit short for him the last twice.”

Harry Herbert, managing director for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, commented, “He travelled very well at Chester, but when I let him down he struggled on that ground. This was obviously a career best and hopefully he can push on from here.” He added, “He had his ground today and over the right trip it was a hell of a performance. Sir Michael will make the decisions but you'd be pretty bonkers to say the King George [VII and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr-I)] is not the obvious race having performed like that.”

Eagle Top Soars at Royal Ascot


When Kingman won the St James’s Palace Stakes (Gr-I) on opening day of Royal Ascot, few people expected trainer John Gosden would strike again with another bold three-year-old colt in the King Edward VII Stakes (Gr-II) on the Friday card.  Offering one of the most inspiring performances of the Royal Ascot meeting, the flaming red Eagle Top stormed passed the final post with an astonishing last-to-first drive.

The son of Pivotal was the most inexperienced colt of the King Edward VII, having only two starts to his record.  Never sent out as a juvenile, Eagle Top made his career debut on April 12, in a thirteen horse contest on Newbury’s turf.   In the 1 3/8 mile race on good ground, rider William Buick restrained him towards the back of the field through the early stages.  Inside the final furlong, he ran on strongly and took the lead entering the final forty yards.  The muscular colt won comfortably by ½ lengths over Automated, and finished with a final time of 2:27.68.

In his second start, Eagle Top was a close fourth-best in a 1 ½ mile contest at Leicester.  At Royal Ascot, John Gosden explained, “There were a lot of long faces coming home on the bus from Leicester last time, but his blood was upside down when we checked a few days later, so we gave him a long rest.”

The Lady Bamford homebred entered the King Edward VII for his Group class debut, where he would face a promising set of colts.  In his three race career, it was the first time he went to the post without favoritism. 

Instead, it was Adelaide who bettors fancied.  The relaxed dark bay had finished second in the Prix Hocquart (Gr-II) on good to soft ground at Longchamp, then went on to win the Curragh’s Gallinule Stakes (Gr-III) later that month by three lengths on soft turf.  His Ballydoyle connections believed he would fare better on quicker ground, and felt positive about their chances in the King Edward VII.

As the physical standout of the field, Eagle Top looked a picture when galloping to the post with potent legs.  After the start, the colt settled comfortable in last throughout the early stages of the King Edward VII. 

He travelled well over the good to firm footing, and angled into the widest path to pursue the leaders.  When Buick asked for Eagle Top’s quickened turn of foot two furlongs out, the inexperienced colt responded instantly with nuclear speed, but showed greenness by drifting in the stretch.  With striking ease, he overwhelmed the leading Adelaide and was superior by 3 ¼ lengths at the final post.  Eagle Top’s final time was a strong 2:27.98 for the 1 ½ mile race.

Following the victory, William Buick said, “We have so much belief in this horse," said Buick. "He was relaxed, he has all the attributes of a top, top racehorse.  There was a good gallop like you would expect in a race like this, so he was able to make up a lot of ground.” The rider added, “He wasn't up to racing last year, but he's a really classy horse. What we've always liked about him is his ability to quicken and he has a lovely turn of foot.”

Winning her first race at Royal Ascot, Lady Bamford remarked, “I feel weak at the knees.   It was a beautiful ride, set up by a beautiful trainer.  He's very under-exposed, but he really showed his form today.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Leading Light Shines in the Gold Cup


Leading Light - All Photos Courtesy Jason Doyle
 
By denying Estimate’s place in history as one of the few multiple Gold Cup (Gr-I) winners, Leading Light kept to his winning ways under an exceptional ride from Joseph O’Brien.  The impressive Montjeu son provided Aidan O’Brien with his sixth victory in this race – the most any trainer has had in the Gold Cup.  “I'm so lucky to have the horses and work with the people that I do.”  Aidan O’Brien said after the race. “I'm in a very lucky position and the lads have unbelievable horses with unbelievable pedigrees and it (Ballydoyle) is an unbelievable place to train from.”
 
Leading Light after winning the 2013 Gallinule Stakes
At the 2014 Royal Ascot meeting, The Ballydoyle contingent had been struggling, and suffered further disappointment when their well-fancied juvenile, The Great War, gave a lackluster effort in Thursday’s opening race, the Norfolk Stakes (Gr-II).  However, the striking Montjeu daughter, Bracelet, broke the losing streak two races later in the Ribblesdale Stakes (Gr-II), the race prior to the Gold Cup.  

In the daunting 2 ½ mile Gold Cup, Leading Light went to post as the favorite with high hopes of overthrowing last year’s victess, Estimate.  Wearing the silks of Her Majesty the Queen, Ryan Moore rode Estimate down to the start in her attempt to overcome her 240 day break from racing.  Nonetheless, she appeared in fit condition as she loaded into her gate. 

Leading Light started from the second-outermost post slightly awkwardly and jumped to the outside.  However, he did not lose ground and gradually moved closer to the field.  During the early stages, he seemed to cover the ground with a low head and heavy stride, but appeared to become more comfortable as the race progressed.  O’Brien tucked Leading Light in fourth just off Brown Panther’s rump, and the eventual winner strode easily in the peloton of the field. 

As the pace quickened on the final turn, O’Brien angled the four-year-old colt to the outside.  Though he did not get an immediate response when urging Leading Light, eventually the colt quickened his tempo.  Into the home straight, O’Brien was diligent to keep Leading Light straight in his path, tight on the side of a trapped Estimate.  The reigning filly’s jockey, Ryan Moore, searched for running room between Brown Panther and Leading Light, but realized there was no chance of an opening and cut to the inside where he could fully unleash his charge.

The four leaders drove across the course.  Under left-handed encouragement, Leading Light squeezed in towards Brown Panther, Estimate, and Missunited, but did not interfere.  The Montjeu son then bolted towards the grandstand, but straightened and moved back in under a correctional whip.  At the final post, Leading Light was a neck superior over Estimate with a final time of 4:21.09 for the 2 ½ mile journey. 

After the Gold Cup, Joseph O’Brien said, “When you win it is always a good ride, there's no such thing as a bad winning ride. I kept a straight line. Ryan [Moore] was looking for a bit of room but I was entitled to keep a straight line.

“He had a little look when he got to the front and then went a bit to his left. He's a big, lazy horse but I think he's better at a mile and six.

“I was rowing away on him but I had loads left, I was trying to hold off asking for everything for as long as I could. Ryan gave me a bit of help by coming up my inside as he pushed me along a bit – this fellow is as tough as nails.”

Aidan O'Brien commented, “He's idle, but he was in a lovely position and settled well.  He was very lazy when he got there. Joseph was trying to keep him with company.”  He continued, “We were worried about two and half miles as he's out of a Queen Mary winner. He's a horse we thought could go back to a King George maybe, but he was up there for the last half a mile and after two miles.  You never know what is going to happen.”


Leading Light had raced only once this year, at Navan on May 18 in the Vintage Crop Stakes (Gr-III).  As the favorite of that event, the brawny bay won the fourteen furlong contest by three lengths over Royal Diamond.  However, his 2013 form is what made him the bettor’s choice for the Gold Cup.  Last year, he won all his outings with the exception of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr-I).  The highlight of his three Group class wins last season was the St. Leger Stakes (Gr-I) in September.

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Prince of Wales's Stakes 2014: The Fugue


The Fugue working at the 2013 Breeders' Cup - BNB Photo
The featured race of Royal Ascot’s Wednesday card, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Gr-I) promised to be one of the year’s best contests.  Last year’s brilliant Arc victress, Treve would be making her first career start outside of France, and she was anticipated to become the first filly to win the race in eight years.  Treve would have to outrun five of Europe’s top older horses:  the striking 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) winner, Magician, and that race’s runner-up The Fugue; the imposing Mukhadram, the consistent Parish Hall, and the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf champion, Dank.

Despite Treve’s awesome talent, she would not become the first filly to win the Prince of Wales’s in eight years.  Instead, it was The Fugue who added her name to the race’s prestigious list of winners.  The Fugue’s final time was a course record-breaking 2:01.90 on good to firm footing.

Trainer John Gosden gave regular rider William Buick the leg up onto The Fugue for her third try at Royal Ascot glory.  Though having a fantastic résumé which included the narrow second to Magician at the Breeders’ Cup, there were some doubts due to her lackluster effort in the Dubai Duty Free (Gr-I) – her only start of the year.  However, The Fugue looked trained to the minute as she galloped to the post.

The dark bay was slow from the starting gates and angled inward behind the leading four as they approached the first turn.  The Fugue raced at Treve’s side, striding behind Magician.  As the field straightened, Elkaayed drew away to fulfill his role as an uninfluential rabbit.  Magician comfortably strode into the pacemaker’s previous position and The Fugue followed.

Into the home straight, William Buick guided his mount into a clear path on the outside.  As other horses tapped into their reserves for a finishing kick, The Fugue calmly maintained her position and, once asked, she willingly passed the leading Magician.  She drew away well under steady urging, and crossed the wire with a 1 ¾ length margin.  In winning the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, she gave John Gosden his second victory of the 2014 meet, and Buick his first.

After the race, Buick remarked, “She's been an absolute star for me and everyone back at the yard. She proved today what she can do against top-class horses.

“When she gets an uncomplicated run it's no bother to her. When she has a clear run at them she's lethal.”

Though Treve offered a commendable third place, defeated by only 2 ¾ lengths, she clearly did not seem herself when striding down to the start and throughout the running of the race.  Her trainer, Criquette Head-Maarek, said, “I was not happy with the way she was moving. She didn't stretch out like she usually does. Her action didn't please me at all. Maybe we'll find something wrong. We have lost the battle, not the war.”  Head-Maarek continued, “I am going to put her in longer distance races as they'll go slower and it will be easier for her. It is the 18th of June today - the Battle of Waterloo. It is just a French defeat.”

Treve jockey, Frankie Dettori, commented, “When she was going to the start she wasn't the 'real' Treve. In the back of my mind I thought we were in trouble and I thought at the start she would loosen up.  She ran a good third but it is not the Treve we know. Something was definitely wrong.”

Kingman Rules at Royal Ascot

Kingman before winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas (Gr-I) on May 24 - All Photos Courtesy Laura Battles
 
Mankind has harnessed the horse’s power and constantly influences it with the dreams of creating the idealized equine athlete - Kingman.  The bay colt assured his place atop this year’s three-year-old crop when winning the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
 
Kingman winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas
 
In the meet’s opening race, the Queen Anne Stakes (Gr-I), the triumphant Toronado had set a high standard for the promising contenders in his contest’s three-year-old equivalent, the St James’s Palace.  Nonetheless, a strong cast of colts confidently galloped to the post on a sunny day.  Our protagonist would oppose Toormore, Europe’s top rated juvenile of 2013; the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr-I) winning War Command, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) champion, Outstrip, and all contenders would have to race against a stubborn headwind.
In the lineup, Night of Thunder was Kingman’s most threatening rival.  The eventual St James’s Palace winner had faced the chestnut colt in two of his past three starts.  In their first meeting, the Greenham Stakes (Gr-III), Kingman crossed the wire victorious with a dominant 4 ½ length margin over the runner-up Night of Thunder.  
However, the vanquished colt turned the tables on Kingman next time out: in the 206th renewal of the 2,000 Guineas (Gr-I), Night of Thunder won with a ½ length score over his rival.  This Classic victory sparked a debate regarding which horse possessed more prowess, and racegoers eagerly anticipated their rematch in the St James’s Palace. 
With James Doyle aboard in the Juddmonte colors, Kingman broke from the outside post in the seven horse event.  Doyle calmly tucked him behind horses and his mount momentarily matched strides with the last-placed War Command on the rail.  However, Kingman would slightly advance his position. Positioned at the heels of Toormore, he maintained a fluid stride as the field swept around the bend. 
As the field raced towards the noise of the crowd, Kingman naturally quickened his turn of foot.  Nearing the final furlong marker, Doyle summoned Kingman’s amazing drive and instantly throttled past the leading Night of Thunder and the final post victorious by 2 ¼ lengths. 
Thrilled by having given Kingman a trip that would hush the horse’s doubters, James Doyle lifted a silencing finger to his lips as his mount shot across the wire.  Kingman won with a time of 1:39.06, which can be easily disregarded due to the headwind and lack of speed in the track.
A joyous Doyle remarked upon returning to the grandstand side, “It was awesome; that's the best way to describe it.”  He continued, “They just can't go quick enough for him, even when you go it seems as if you're going too soon.”
In the winner’s enclosure, trainer John Gosden stated Kingman will be enjoying small break from his campaign, having already started four times this year.

Defeated in only one start, Kingman has always shown bright potential.  He made his first-ever start in late June 2013 at Newmarket.  In the seven furlong event on good ground, he faced ten other juveniles.  The Invincible Spirit son led over one furlong out and charged on to win with a 6 length score over Adhwaa.  With Ryan Moore in the irons, Kingman stopped the clock in 1:24.30.
He did not start again until August 31’s Solario Stakes (Gr. III) at Sandown.  While the post-time favorite would race at the same distance as his career debut, he would be ridden by James Doyle for the first time.  Kingman was steadied and held up after the start, but linked with the leader two furlongs out.  Under urging, he quickened and gained the advantage one furlong out.  Though Kingman was in command, he showed his immaturity and drifted out nearing the final post.  Winning by two lengths, he completed the seven furlong event on good-to-firm footing with a final time of 1:28.38.
The Juddmonte home-bred would make his three-year-old debut in the Greenham on April 12.  The John Gosden trainee was sent off again as the favorite with James Doyle in the saddle.  During the early stages, he was restrained to the rear of the ten horse field, but made a smooth ascent to the lead when let loose.  Into the final furlong, he quickened and drew away with extraordinary ease and won with a 4 ½ length margin and time of 1:26.95.
After a respectable second to Night of Thunder in the 2,000 Guineas, Kingman had his penultimate start in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (Gr-I).  Though the ground came up as soft to heavy at the Curragh, he would win by five lengths over Shifting Power, but had a glacial final time of 1:47.29 for the one mile trek.

Kingman winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas

Friday, May 23, 2014

Olympic Glory a Geniune Threat in Prix d'Ishpan


Olympic Glory at Santa Anita for 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile - BNB Photo
Owned by Al Shaqab Racing and bred by Denis McDonnell, Olympic Glory demands attention as a top-class force in the 2014 racing season.  In this Sunday’s Prix d’Ishpan (Gr. I) at Longchamp, he will be facing one of his toughest rivals yet in Cirrus des Aigles, who narrowly defeated the incomparable Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr. I) winner, Treve, in his last start.  While favoring Cirrus des Aigles in the Prix d’Ishpan, Olympic Glory presents a genuine threat to win the race.

Olympic Glory offers a respectable record of consistency as he enters his third year of racing.  The son of Choisir has started twelve times, winning seven races, and placing second three more times.  Olympic Glory has finished out of the top three in only two outings during his entire career and has earned in excess of £1.2 million.

The bay four-year-old made his 2014 return on May 17 in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Gr. I) at Newbury.  The track came up as good to firm for the one mile contest, where he faced seven other quality horses.  Olympic Glory crossed the wire victorious by 2 ¼ lengths over Tullius and was another 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Verrazano in third.  Olympic Glory stopped the clock in 1:36.98 in his seasonal debut.

After the win, jockey Frankie Dettori remarked, “That was as easy as riding work.  He's a jockey's dream to ride.”

Trainer Richard Hannon commented, “I felt a bit of pressure today, but to see him travel and win like that is hugely encouraging.  These good horses get us all going, they don't come along very often.

“He doesn't need soft ground; he's able to act on this and goes on pretty much any ground. He's in the Queen Anne and the Prince Of Wales at Royal Ascot, but we'll have to wait and see.”

Olympic Glory enjoyed a successful campaign last year.  He made his 2013 debut in late April’s Greenham Stakes (Gr. III) at Newbury.  On the course declared good to soft, Richard Hughes rode the colt to a one length victory over Weary.  Next time out, Olympic Glory finished eleventh in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Gr. I). He was defeated by five lengths to the triumphant Style Vendome on Longchamp’s turf course, rated as good. 

Olympic Glory would not start again until August 11, where he would be a contender in one of the most impressive races of 2013.  On Deauville’s turf course, Frankie Dettori would get the leg up to ride the bay colt in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le Buffard-Jacques le Marios (Gr. I).  Olympic Glory’s opposition included the exceptional mare, Moonlight Cloud, Intello, and the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) fourth-placer, Declaration of War.

Olympic Glory settled in the back of the field, but gradually moved up in rank.  As he quickened his stride three furlongs from the wire, he was trapped behind a wall of horses and had to cut to the outside for running room.  Two hundred meters out, Olympic Glory matched Dawn Approach’s stride and moved into second.  He ignited a brilliant turn of foot to gain ground on the leading Moonlight Cloud, but just missed at the final post.  The pair crossed the wire with a time of 1:33.39.

About one month later, Olympic Glory added another runner-up finish to his record in the Qatar Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Gr. I). In this one mile race on soft ground, he was beaten five lengths by Maxios.

On British Champions’ Day on October 19, Olympic Glory returned to winning form.  With Richard Hughes aboard, the Choisir son faced eleven others in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr. I) on Ascot’s soft turf course.  His opposition included Top Notch Tonto, Ballydoyle’s Kingsbarns, the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Gr. I) winner, Dawn Approach, the consistent mare, Elusive Kate, Maxios, and the South African star, Soft Falling Rain.

In the one mile race, he settled into the back of the field and gradually drifted away from the grandstand as the race progressed.  However, he was forced to angle closer to the grandstand when searching for running room.

 Coming into a clear patch, Olympic Glory was jostled in tight quarters between horses, but got the lead as he entered the final furlong.  He had drawn away under vigorous urging by the final sixteenth, and was hand-ridden to the wire.  Winning by 3 ¼ lengths, Olympic Glory had a final time of 1:44.18 for the one mile race.

Olympic Glory faced a difficult turnaround to run stateside in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI).  On Santa Anita’s concrete turf course, the Richard Hannon trainee was challenged by a respectable lineup, headlined by the eventual 2x Horse of the Year, Wise Dan.  Olympic Glory could not overcome these obstacles, and finished ninth, defeated by 7 ½ lengths to Wise Dan.

OLYMPIC GLORY HOSTS CONSORTIUM OF BLOODLINES

Olympic Glory presents a most interesting pedigree, as he is the result of crossing Choisir with the Alzao daughter, Acidanthera.

Though Choisir is an Australian stallion and has an Australian dam line, his bloodlines include some strong influences from Great Britain and North America.  His sire, Danehill Dancer, was by the Danzig son, Danehill, and out of a mare by the attractive miler, Sharpen Up.

Acidanthera adds to these impressive traits.  Her sire, Alzao, is a son of Lyphard and a Sir Ivor mare, while her dam’s broodmare sire is the Bold Ruler son, Bold Lad.  Shirley Heights contributes the fantastic genes of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Mill Reef, who carries a deep and rich heritage within, boasting Nasrullah, Princequillo, Djebel, Bimelech, and Hyperion.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Horse in the Derby – California Chrome


With California Chrome and groom Raul Rodriguez - BNB Photo
I said goodbye to a part of my heart less than a week ago – my inspiration, my dearest friend, my beloved, Polka.  It was his blood that brought me to horseracing.  In him ran the blood of the great Native Dancer.   It was through this door I entered the realm of my passion.
I led his wobbly, fragile frame to the cold, cavernous hole after we both stood together and watched its excavation.   My mother offered to take his lead if I wanted to leave.  I refused with a glance.  She rubbed my shoulder and stood with me.  
I placed a final kiss goodbye on the bridge of his nose.  I locked my eyes deep into Polka’s and there my gaze remained until I could no longer see his soul.   I slipped his halter off his heavy head.  I brushed my hand over his delicate eyelashes, down to his soft muzzle as it gasped a few final breaths.
Just days away from heading to Churchill Downs for the most celebrated event in North American horseracing, my soul felt hazy – a little lost.  My chest carried a heavy heart, my suitcase was void of a Derby Hat and my face portrayed a smile.
On Thursday morning, after the works, I was humbled by the opportunity to visit Derby favorite, California Chrome, at his stable.   
Upon arriving at his shedrow, I was escorted to his stall.                                   
He stood safe, protected from the chaos beyond his walls.  I stood honorably quiet watching the stunning athlete gradually lower his head in relaxed slumber.  His delicate eyelashes began to lower to half-mast over his dark eyes and his soft nostril hypnotically acquiescing to the gentle push and pull of air.     
This brave horse will be asked to complete a difficult quest on Saturday.  He will obey the command of his rider to enter a gate of the likes he has never experienced.  He will break from this gate into a thunderdome at the urging of over 160,000 exuberant onlookers.  As he does so, I will watch every stride, every breath.
I will stand with him.
I know who he is  - with his soft, delicate eyelashes and gentle curve of his muzzle.


 BNB Photo