Five Things We Learned: The mile division is red hot

Mohaather sealed a first Group 1 success in a thrilling renewal of the Sussex Stakes.
Mohaather sealed a first Group 1 success in a thrilling renewal of the Sussex Stakes.

Nick Seddon looks back on a thrilling five days of racing at Glorious Goodwood, and picks out five things we learned with the upcoming York Ebor Festival firmly on the mind…

The Arc is on for Stradivarius!

We’re not booking plane tickets to Paris just yet, but there can be no doubting that Longchamp is now firmly on Stradivarius’ radar this autumn. It must be said, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, bearing in mind that the six-year-old has achieved pretty much everything there is to achieve in the staying division. Granted, he can still match Yeats’ imperious record of four straight Ascot Gold Cup wins at the Royal meeting next June, but in the absence of the £1 million bonus this term, the time feels right to have a proper go with Stradivarius at middle distances. Indeed, he certainly showed plenty of speed when finishing a fine third behind Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup back in June - when the winner broke the track record. 

The old argument around stayers in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is that they can really enter calculations if, as it so often does, the ground becomes soft or if the race turns into a proper test of stamina, but while he’s shown he can handle testing going during his career, there can be no doubt that Stradivarius’ best form has come on faster going. Of course, Order Of St George ran really well on his two starts in the Arc, finishing third on good ground in 2016 and fourth on soft ground a year later, and we’ll learn more about Stradivarius in next month’s Prix Foy over the Arc course and distance - a race which has been won by no other than Waldgeist for each of the past two years. Take away the two market principals in Enable and Love, and the Arc picture suddenly becomes wide open, particularly when you note that Ghaiyyath - the current third favourite - is arguably at his best over a mile and a quarter. Stradivarius will certainly deserve his place if he does line up on the back of what has potentially been his best season yet, but the jury is still out on whether he’s got enough of the necessary tools to trouble the big players in the middle distance division. 

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Kameko has unfinished business over a mile 

Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes promised plenty, and although the field was only made up of the seven runners, it was one of the strongest fields that we’ve seen in the mile division for quite some time. Indeed, the ultra consistent Circus Maximus has very much made hay while the sun has shone, but it felt like a changing of the guard when Mohaather overcame trouble in-running to pick up a first Group 1 success, one which felt particularly deserved after he was forced to miss the majority of last season with injury. 

The older horses very much won the day on this occasion, with Mohaather and Circus Maximus occupying the first two places, but there were almost certainly be other days for both Siskin and Kameko. The two classic winners both shaped well in their own way, and there was no shame in Siskin finding just his two older rivals too good on this occasion. However, there certainly seems to be an aurora of hard luck around the fourth-placed Kameko, whose connections will perhaps feel aggrieved that he was unable to give his true running on this occasion. He found himself boxed in by the Ballydoyle trio at a crucial stage, finishing with plenty of running at the line, and while it’s perhaps a stretch to say for sure whether he would or wouldn’t have won the race - the suspicion is perhaps not - he certainly deserves a rematch with the victor. 

Oisin Murphy was both graceful and honest in defeat as he so always is, conceding he was frustrated with the ride he’d provided the three-year-old, and rather interestingly adding that he saw Kameko as very much a miler. It seems likely that he will head to the International Stakes at York next, and a potential clash with Ghaiyyath, and while it could be that a mile and a quarter proves to be his optimum trip - he ran right the way through the line when winning the Guineas - it could be that the temptation to drop him back to a mile for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes proves too much to resist. 

Fancy Blue could be top drawer

We’re used to heaping praise on Coolmore-owned three-year-olds, though it’s certainly a new sensation to be singing the praises of one that’s trained by Donnacha O’Brien, rather than his father Aidan. The fact that this filly is owned by Magnier, Tabor et al meant that O’Brien Jr. could snatch away the services of Ryan Moore from his father in the Nassau Stakes, with O’Brien senior saddling Magic Wand, and on the evidence of what we saw on Thursday, Donnacha could be sitting on a filly in Fancy Blue who has the ability to outgun the classic fillies up at Ballydoyle. 

That of course is a big statement when you cast your mind back to Love’s stunning win in last month’s Epsom Oaks, but there’s a lingering feeling that we’ve not quite seen the best of Fancy Blue just yet, and there could be more potential to unlock when she is inevitably stepped up to a mile and a half. We won’t see her take on the likes of Enable and Love in the Yorkshire Oaks later this month, with the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown reportedly on her agenda next, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her lock horns with the aforementioned pair in the Arc - when like Love, she too would be potentially well-treated due to the weight-for-age allowance. 

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Battaash is getting better with age

While we have always known that Battaash is fast - the fastest horse we've seen this century, perhaps - but consistency was always something which dogged him earlier in his career, and he's blown out to varying degrees at each of Ascot, York and Longchamp at one point or another. One race which has always brought the best out of him is the King George Stakes on Goodwood's ultra fast five-furlong track, and Battash completed a remarkable four-timer in the Group 2 contest on Friday afternoon, smashing the course record In the process. While a performance like that is almost to be expected of him these days, particularly at Glorious Goodwood, it certainly added to the argument that this is a refined model of Battaash that we're seeing, one which has seemingly aged like a fine wine.

It will be the Nunthorpe Stakes at York next for Battaash, where he emphatically broke Dayjur's track record 12 months ago, and while it will almost certainly be his toughest test of the season to date, it's difficult to argue against the fact that the sprinting division is firmly in his grasp at the moment. Indeed, with his hoodoos at both Ascot and York tumbling in the past year, it feels feasible that redemption at Longchamp will be next - and with it, the potential of a perfect season. 

Summerghand produced a Group level performance

Such is the level of prize money on offer for the prestigious handicaps these days (outside of a panedmic), it's often taken a high-class performance to come out on top, and each of the last two winners of the Stewards' Cup have certainly ticked that box - for differing reasons. Last year, it was the improving three-year-old Khaadem, who oozed class when sweeping to victory under a big weight on the far rail. He looked a Group 1 performer in the making that day -  a theory he's backed up since - and while this year's winner Summerghand has a completely different profile, there can be no doubt that he produced a Pattern-level performance on Saturday, defying top weight to come out on top.

Unlike with Khaadem, we knew everything there was to know about Summerghand, and he's something of a hardened veteran in this sphere after several productive seasons for the David O'Meara team. He looked unlucky not to win last month's Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot, and it tells you plenty about the horse that he had run twice since before lining up at Goodwood. It takes a Group performer to defy a mark of 108 in a race as competitive as the Stewards' Cup, and he certainly deserves a try at that sort of level on his next start. Admittedly, he could only finish sixth on his only try in Group company to date, which came on his penultimate start in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury, but he's worth another chance based on this, and considering that O'Meara likes to keep his charges busy, it would be no surprise to see him line up in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

2020 York Ebor Festival
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