Brendan Duke: Bloodied but not bowed with an eye on the Futurity

An eventful Champions Day left Brendan bloodied but not bowed, with one eye firmly on the Futurity and this 25/1 shot for Saturday ...

Horse-Racing (R)


Champions Day is in the books. Some intriguing races to consider. Alas the intrigue they presented pre-race proved too much for my wits. Stormy Antarctic stretching his neck out to grab 4th in the QE II will likely have passed under the radar of most. It was the difference between a leeching and a bloodbath for me though. A timely reminder that little fish can taste quite sweet.

Cracksman was the star of the show. This time last year the 2018 flat season stretched out before him. His rate of improvement through last season suggested only Enable stood between him and European domination. Unfortunately, while we pondered whether he could join the equine immortals, his thoughts were on more temporal matters. Whether it was the fast ground or fast fillies that caused him to get waylaid we can only guess at.

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On Saturday he sported blinkers for the first time. That and a return to his beloved easy ground saw him deliver a performance similar to last year’s rout. He did hit a flat spot for a few strides after 5 furlongs or so, but after that his supporters were on good terms with themselves. His legacy is another matter.

It’s unlikely connections will care, sports people are thankfully less concerned with legacy than sports fans. I will probably remember a career that could have been so much more with bolder campaigning. He was probably undone by inexperience in the Derby, almost certainly so in the Irish Derby. Had he run in the Dante, instead of being withdrawn due to the soft ground, perhaps he would have had the requisite skills to triumph in both.

He could have run in two Arc’s but ducked both. It must be considered a shame that himself and Enable never locked horns. While both had issues, a more sporting owner would have taken her on in Longchamp. Racing is a conservative sport though. It’s getting less so but old habits die hard. The fluffing that fans endure with top horses avoiding one another hardly comes as a surprise. It’s not like we’re going to stop watching.

Stradivarius confirmed his status as the top stayer. A typically gritty performance from a smashing horse. He will be back to take on all comers next season too. Sands of Mali caused a surprise in the Sprint. Though I suppose a shock in that division doesn’t really register. Magical kept the Ballydoyle flag flying. La Ti Dar was disappointing. I was pretty convinced she’d win beforehand and certain when they turned for home. Perhaps I’ve overrated her – but next season will hopefully see the proof of her capabilities.

Roaring Lion toughed it out to win the QE II. The race was dramatic. The aftermath was hilarious. An object lesson in history being written by the winners. Oisin Murphy couldn’t have done a better job of validating Gosden’s decision to duck Cracksman.

Apologies to readers who took my advice to back the Lion for the Champion Stakes. A horrible misreading of the signals from me. Murphy assured us that Roaring Lion hated the ground. Really?

Granted he’s run 5 or 6 lbs below his best. That could be down to any number of factors though. The likelihood is that his optimum trip is 10 furlongs. He’s had a long season. Perhaps that has shaved a very slight edge off his performance?

Murphy went further though.

“We’d have been in trouble at 10 furlongs,” says he. That was probably a subtle reference to the Champion Stakes.

The obvious retort was that he’d have been in bigger trouble at 7 furlongs. We shouldn’t be too critical though. Frankie won’t be around forever. If Gosden values the ability of his jockey to preach the company line then Murphy will have done his prospects of replacing him no harm.

It now seems the Lion is heading stateside. It would be fascinating to see him take on Enable. It seems that Gosden wants to have a go at the Classic though. Roaring Lion’s sire Kitten’s Joy wouldn’t get many dirt performers. It will all probably prove a bridge too far but whatever race he runs in, the owner must be applauded for the sporting decision to run.

Some good fare this weekend too. Jumps fans will be salivating at their first glimpse of Cheltenham this season. The entries are pretty good, We Have A Dream stands out.

The ground will be on the quick side though and none of the ante-post prices got me excited. One that could be worth a tickle at a big price is Stormwave in the Futurity Stakes at Doncaster.

This is one of three Group 1 races for two-year-olds in Europe this weekend. The other two are in France.

Aidan O’Brien will definitely redirect some of his Donny entrants there. The Futurity favourite is Magna Grecia. He must run.

I may not be great at reading ante-post signals but supplementing a horse for a race and not running would be an act of decadence that might make Marie Antoinette blush.

The value may lie with the other supplementary entry though. Ralph Beckett doesn’t strike me as the Quixotic type and his decision to run must be significant. The horse will need to take a massive step up on his sole maiden win but that’s possible.

His brother Moonrise Landing was very talented. He was most effective on top of the ground and it was fast when Stormwave made his debut. There’s no rain forecast all week in Donny. It will probably ride good on Saturday.

That should be fine and 25/1 looks a big price about a horse connections clearly place a deal of faith in.

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What do you think?