Brendan Duke: Racing’s past is history and its future’s a mystery

Our horse racing aficionado casts his all-seeing eye over the weekend's action for future clues of what lies ahead in the Sport of Kings


Champions weekend is done and dusted. Most enjoyable it was too. The weather played ball, particularly on Sunday where a stiff breeze was welcome given the strong sun. As Mike Tyson would say ‘the past is history, the future a mystery’. I will attempt to make sense of what happened and hopefully spot a few clues going forward.

The best three-year-old colt in training furthered his reputation. It’s unlikely Roaring Lion ran to a career-high figure, nearly impossible given the way the race was run, but in showing the heart of a lion we can now be assured his bite matches his bark.


Oisin Murphy bathed the horse in affection post race like a man greeting his rescuer after a week stuck in a well. Well he might, the horse had after all dug him out of a massive hole. I’m never wholly convinced about the merits of team tactics, it often seems to cause more problems than it solves, but this was a masterclass from team Ballydoyle.

Deauville dawdled along in front giving Saxon Warrior the perfect tow into the race. Murphy dithered in behind. Granted it wasn’t easy for him from a wide draw but he never seemed to try and adjust the hand he was dealt. Challenging five wide on the home turn into a quickening pace, all the time giving your biggest rival a healthier head start is a recipe for disaster.

The Lion deserves immense credit for finding a way to win. He will take plenty of beating in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. He will also be a short price though.

Given it will be the eight race of an arduous campaign though, I’m thinking it could be the time to take him on.

Will review this strategy closer to the day.


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The best three-year-old filly in training failed to enhance her reputation. Whether it was the injury or some other factor, Alpha Centauri wasn’t quite herself. A shame for connections and the vast majority of the crowd, who had come to see their Queen crowned on home soil.

It was a thrilling race nonetheless. Laurens always seems to be involved in dramatic races. Having pulled way too hard on her previous two starts, she somehow still managed to win the French Oaks, connections reverted to the front running tactics which had previously served her so well. They worked a treat and Karl Burke’s beautiful, teak-tough filly settled well before clinging on for the win.

She will take plenty of catching in the Sun Chariot Stakes too. Hopefully herself and Roaring Lion stay in training next term. My hunch is she will and he won’t. Saxon Warrior and Alpha Centauri are already headed for the paddocks. Injuries are part of the game and all flesh is grass. Luckily we have the next generation to look forward too. It’s shaping up as a very promising crop.


Quorto got the better of a sustained duel with Anthony Van Dyck (AVD). Both horses emerged with great credit. Another feather in the cap of his trainer Charlie Appleby.

Godolphin have been mired in underachievement for too long. While this is a multi-faceted problem, their retained trainers were a big part of this. Still are in one glaring case.

The Apple looks like the real deal. Long may he prosper. Quorto will head to the Dewhust with a major chance. My hunch is AVD won’t renew rivalries, but this hypothesis depends on a few moving parts.

AVD looks like he needs further. His dam is all speed and has thus far only bred sprinters but on run style AVD takes after his daddy, Galileo.

He could go for the Beresford Stakes over 1m, where he would most likely run into Saturday’s impressive winner Madhmoon. A race to savour for the Naas faithful. What will Aidan run in the Dewhurst? Good question.


The answer is Ten Sovereigns. This outrageous talent spent the weekend tucked up at home. He’s being primed for a tilt at the Middle Park Stakes come the end of this month. I fully expect him to take a wrecking ball to the opposition in that.

The two-week gap between the races is plenty, as evidenced by U S Navy Flag last season. Throw in Too Darn Hot, Sangarius and King of Comedy to name just three and the Dewhurst is shaping up to be a red-hot renewal. Of course they won’t all show up but a few should, the others could make the Racing Post Trophy a particularly strong heat too.

Too Darn Hot was very impressive on Saturday. He breezed into the lead a furlong down, ultimately winning under hands and heels. It was a pity Dark Vision bombed out but Phoenix Of Spain is no mug and the hype around John Gosden’s charge is understandable.

My belief is that Ten Sovereigns is the best two-year-old in training, but it’s impossible to be confident on that.

I’m looking forward to how it all shakes out.

No major upheaval in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe betting. Kew Gardens and Waldgeist booked their tickets to Paris with impressive wins. It would be a surprise were either good enough. Lah Ti Dar wasn’t good enough in the St Leger. She was a bit keen and betrayed signs of greenness. That was understandable on just her fourth start. I still expect her to be top class and hopefully she will get a chance to prove that next season.

The Ayr Gold Cup and Mill Reef Stakes are this weekend’s highlights. The Group race form of Laugh A Minute looks strong. He’s unexposed and should go close in Scotland. True Mason is an improving sort and I’d expect a good run from Karl Burke’s colt at Newbury. The bookies haven’t missed him either though, so maybe keep your powder dry until the weekend.

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