The Sky Sports Racing presenter reflects on the weekend wins of Enable and Too Darn Hot and looks ahead to Super Saturday at Newmarket and York.
Enable back with a bang in the Coral-Eclipse – what did you make of the performance?
Well, I said last week that I really hoped Enable could do something special in the Eclipse and I wasn’t disappointed, despite the relative narrow margin of victory.
The Flat season needed a sprinkling of stardust after the retirement of Blue Point and what better combination than Frankie Dettori and Enable to provide it? It’s an incredibly sporting gesture of her owner Prince Khalid Abdullah to keep her in training as a five-year-old as most would surely have packed her off to stud by now with her value as a broodmare stratospheric. However, here she is racing on, with a historic third Arc her autumn target.
Her trainer John Gosden said she was only '85-90%' at Sandown on Saturday, which is understandable given she was last seen eight months ago when beating Magical in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. She hadn’t run over a trip as short as Saturday’s mile-and-a-quarter since suffering her only defeat in a conditions race as a three-year-old, but talent and guts got her through.
We were chatting about Enable at work on Monday and an interesting stat we highlighted when we were on air at Windsor, is that her 11 wins have all come at different venues; she has never run at the same track twice.
That will hopefully change, with a repeat of her 2017 King George win at Ascot at the end of this month named as her next challenge (which you can see live with us on Sky Sports Racing). Is she the best racehorse in the world at the moment? It’s a yes from me and I can’t see what will beat her between now and that record-breaking attempt at ParisLongchamp in October.
Too Darn Hot was just that in France on Sunday. Where now for last year’s champion juvenile?
How thrilling it was to see last year’s leading two-year-old back on top in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on Sunday. I bet Frankie is pinching himself at the moment. His amazing Ascot, Enable and now this chap back where he belongs winning a Group One.
It seemed premature to write him off after the setback he suffered in the spring when being prepared for the 2000 Guineas, then a defeat on his return in the Dante over a trip we now know stretches him and then an attempt to win a Classic (Irish 2000 Guineas) just nine days after that, followed by another solid effort at Royal Ascot.
However, the John Gosden-trained colt had set his own bar pretty high after his unbeaten juvenile campaign and anything other than a perfect 10 this season would have provoked criticism. He couldn’t have won any more easily at Deauville and it was encouraging to see him staying on all the way to the line over the seven-furlong trip on Sunday.
Commercially, a top-level victory over a mile would enhance his value as a stallion, so I imagine something like the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood would be his most likely destination. Unfortunately, seven furlongs isn’t a fashionable trip, it’s rather a specialist trip and there is no Group One in Britain over the distance.
It’s comparable to something like the 800 metres in athletics, in that you aren’t a sprinter nor a distance runner. So not showstopping or headline grabbing. Gosden mentioned the Prix Jacques le Marois back at Deauville and the Glorious Goodwood contest as possibilities, so it seems a step back up in trip will be attempted next.
Nice easy one to end with – what’s going to win the Darley July Cup and John Smith’s Cup on Saturday?
Let’s start with the easy one! As you all know by now I’m a huge fan of Advertise and after his victory in the Commonwealth Cup on his drop to sprinting I’m not wavering now, so he’s my pick for the July Cup at Newmarket.
Trainer Martyn Meade has his team in top form after an enforced absence from the racecourse earlier this season to get his horses back to full health. His patience has paid off and the winners are flying in. Obviously there are other potential stars lurking in the race, such as Wokingham winner Cape Byron and Diamond Jubilee runner-up Dream Of Dreams, but they are going to have to pull out all the stops with the three-year-olds (of which Advertise is one) getting a 6lb allowance from their elders.
The majority of the other three year-olds in the line-up hail from Aidan O’Brien’s stable with Ten Sovereigns heading that list, but I feel he has something to prove against Advertise after their respective performances in the Commonwealth Cup and I’m happy with my selection.
On to the big handicap at York then and this mile-and-a-quarter contest is one I particularly enjoy getting stuck into each year. I’m a fan of horses trained by Jedd O’Keeffe and it could be the plan is coming together with Jazeel.
A 5lb penalty he picked up for a grinding win at Sandown last weekend may not seem ideal, until you see he was unlikely to get into the red-hot York contest without it. So, whilst a run eight days before he lines up may not have initially been on the agenda, he wouldn’t be there without it and the stars may just be aligning for him.
At the time of writing O’Keeffe had won with four of his last six runners, so the team couldn’t be in much better form. He’s 14/1 with Sky Bet. At a bigger price and one I have backed each way is Francis Xavier (25/1 with Sky Bet) for Staffordshire trainer Kevin Frost.
This horse won his first two starts for the trainer last summer after being picked up relatively cheaply for 22,000 guineas out of Hugo Palmer’s yard. One of those wins came over course and distance and this type of track sees him at his best.
He can be forgiven his reappearance defeat at Goodwood and should strip fitter for that and there could be more to come from this lightly raced five-year-old.
My one reservation is the stable form as they are a little quiet at the moment and although they haven’t had a winner for a couple of months, quite a few are running well and just hitting the crossbar. A win here would be a great way to get off the cold list!