Records Broken – Classics Run – Racing Returns
It seems extraordinary that the flat racing season has been going only for five days before the first classic of the season is run at Newmarket? Obviously the whole of the season so far has been mutilated and several re-drawing of plans have had to be done to allow the sport to get this far. Racing at Newmarket over the four days had a total of 39 races to be run including three Group 1 races. On Friday, the second day of the meeting, The Coronation Cup was run and was moved from its usual slot at Epsom over the Derby weekend, although it was being run at the right time in the calendar. On Saturday, the second Group1, The first classic of the season, The Two Thousand Guineas was run at its usual home bit a month late, and the same went for the third Group 1 and second classic, The One Thousand Guineas for the fillies.
The first day of the meeting saw ten races run during the day, six of these were for two year olds and the other four were handicaps for older horses. As with the races earlier in the week, all the races on the first day were limited to no more than 12 runners in each. Other stringent measures in place to limit any possibility of the spread of Covid-19 were that jockeys would not have many of their usual facilities. No showers or saunas and they were not allowed to socialise in any way during the day, and they had to wear face masks at all times. Trainers too, had to keep their distance and the race course had even put markers on the ground indicating where the jockeys and trainers could stand before the races. No owners or bookies allowed, and of course no public. Even for the TV, the presenters had to present their afternoon’s action from their homes with commentary done remotely away from the race courses. There is one thing certain, that following some flack for allowing Cheltenham to go ahead in March and some believing it badly spread the pandemic, the BHA were determined that no such criticism could possibly be levelled at them again.
On Friday, the first Group 1 of the season was run with seven runners lining up for the Coronation Cup. Of the seven three had already had a run this year with Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath winning his only race to date this year in the UAE in February. William Buick rode him then and took the ride again at Newmarket. The other two runners to have been out this season were Defoe, in the UAE and Desert Encounter. Of the other four runners, our old friend Stradivarius, if he was fit enough, would go very close, and in this quality field, the final worth a mention was Anthony Van Dyke, last year’s Epsom Derby winner. In the event, Ghaiyyath was sent off favourite, backed by his resounding success running from pillar to post in emphatic style in the UAE. The same was expected in this race, and sure he was not to disappoint. He ran out in front and soon took charge over the 1 ½ miles. He was about 10 lengths in front when Frankie Dettori riding Stradivarius started to actively ride about 7 furlongs from home but all in vain. Anthony Van Dyke ran a good race and went with Stradivarius, but was able to have just enough left in the tank to pass The Strad to come second about four lengths behind Ghaiyyath. William Buick, the Ghaiyyath jockey said after the race that it was due to the very high natural cruising speed his horse had which easily won him the day. He also suggested that his horse could be just as potent if he was dropped back in distance. Ghaiyyath broke the track record to boot!
There were two further foot notes which should be mentioned regarding the day’s racing. Cieren Fallon, son of great jockey of the nineties with the same name was running in his first group race riding Oxted in the Abernant Stakes which he won with the riding style of his father. Cieren Fallon is still actually allowed to make claims for weight as an apprentice jockey, but no such claims are allowed in Group races. The second was a spectacular win by Ed Walker trained English King ridden by Tom Marquand. The horse was put as immediate favourite for the Derby itself when run in four weeks’ time.
Day Three – Two Thousand Guineas Day
Usually run in the first weekend of May, many think that this weekend and race actually is the proper start of the flat season. As a Group 1, both the Thousand and two Thousand Guineas are allowed to feature runners from outside the UK. There were fifteen runners in front of the starter and the field looked on paper a pretty decent bunch. Godolphin’s Pinatubo by Shamardal, looked the best on paper as unbeaten and winner of the Dewhurst Stakes last autumn and the highest rated two year old since Frankel. Others of note were a brace of colts by No Nay Never from the Aiden O’Brian stables in Ireland, Arizona and Wichita. Also from Kingsclere, the Andrew Balding trained Kameko by Kitten’s Joy and winner of last year’s Group 1 Futurity Stakes was highly touted before the off. With a strong following wind and bouts of rain and no crowds, the day felt rather like a mere pre-season race course gallop as the fifteen lined up. Kenzai Warrior, fractious just before the stalls opened, pecked on leaving and dumped his jockey. Meanwhile the rest of the field went at a pretty fast pace on the good to firm ground. Military March took the lead with the main protagonists racing together just off the pace. As the field went past the bushes, three furlongs from home, Pinatubo was moved into a winning position but was unable to shake off both the Frankie Dettori ridden
Wichita and the Oisin Murphy ridden Kameko. In the final two furlongs, as the race unfolded, Wichita tactically tried to shut the door on Kameko, but the horse showed a really tough streak and pushed his way through to the front. Pinatubo had clearly run out of petrol and came in third with the O’Brian trained Wichita coming in second. This was Oisin Murphy’s first classic and Andrew Balding’s second. Kameko, translated from Japanese as ‘cute tortoise’ demonstrates how the tortoise can beat the hare! Kameko was immediately installed as the favourite for the Epsom Derby in four weeks’ time. He is owed by the Qipco sponsor Quatar Racing and the horse was brought as a yearling at Keenland in Kentucky for a small $97,000. Just a foot note to this race, it was won in record time of 94.72 seconds.
Final Day – Thousand Guineas Day
After the first three days with significant tailwinds and both the Group 1 races winners breaking the course record for both the 1 ½ and the 1 mile tracks, the wind dropped considerably over night. There was also 8 millimetres of rain which changed the going from good to firm to good – in fact perfect racing ground for Thousand Guineas day. There were fifteen runners who went to post. Among them Quadrilateral trained by Roger Charlton and ridden by Jason Watson, who was dumped as the gates opened in the Two Thousand Guineas yesterday. However Quadrilateral was the talking horse for the whole of the winter having won all her three starts last year, including the Bet 365 Fillies Mile Group 1 – and being by Frankel was considered a bonus. Others with some claims for the race were
Aiden O’Brian trained Love, his only runner in the classic this year, most unusual. Another fancy was from Ireland, Jessica Harrington’s Millise ridden by yesterday’s winning jockey Oisin Murphy. Finally, Raffle Prize trained by Mark Johnston and won well last year was singled out as a potential winner. The field broke to a level break except for Raffle Prize who dwelt a little. The Richard Hannon charge Cloak of Sprits with Andrea Atzeni took the lead and made the race a truly run affair. Half way through the race with Hannon’s horse in the lead, there was a block of horses only a length or so behind before Cloak of Sprits kicked on with Quadrilateral and Love (by Galileo out of a Pivotal mare) coming through. Love went on to be a very clear winner and reversed the placings with Quadrilateral from last year, who ended up being third. Cloak of Sprits held onto second. Afterwards, Quadrilateral was reported to have run a bit free in the early stages of the race, but even that was not likely to stop Love, last year’s Moyglare Stud Stakes winner (Group 1) going to be foiled. Love was ridden by Ryan Moore. This was the fourth time in the last five running’s of the Thousand Guineas that Aiden O’Brian has won. Now six in all!
Other Group/Grade races this weekend.
In a further indication of just how worldwide racing has returned with a bang, Group and Grade 1 races and various classics were run around the globe. In South Africa this weekend after two months of total lockdown in the country, the South African Derby was run at Turffontein. The winner was Hawwarm by Silvano owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum. The colt was trained by globetrotting trainer Mike de Kock. In the USA at Belmont Park, there was a Grade 1 race, which was won by Vekoma and trained by George Weaver. The race was run over 7 furlongs on the dirt. Also in the USA at Santa Anita, there were two further Grade 1 races. The Grade 1 Gold Cup was won by Improbable and the Santa Anita Derby was won by Honor AP. Both races were run on dirt. There were two Grade 1 races at Eagle Farm in Australia and both over seven furlongs for two year olds. The winners were Rothfire and Tyzone respectively.