Ben Linfoot looks ahead to potential highlights in the world of racing this autumn, from Enable's date with destiny to Logician's path to glory and plenty more besides.
1. Can the real Champion Sprinter please stand up?
No individual horse has dominated the sprint division this season. Apart from those five days in June when Blue Point won Group Ones over five and six furlongs at Royal Ascot. But he’s retired now so the question remains – just who will be the best sprinter in the land come the season’s end? We might go some way to getting a definitive answer on Saturday in the Haydock Sprint Cup Stakes. We have the Commonwealth Cup winner and the July Cup winner and the Stewards’ Cup winner potentially going head-to-head for starters and those three; Advertise, Ten Sovereigns and Khaadem unsurprisingly head the betting. But this is Haydock, the first sprinkling of autumn and rain is in the air in the north west. Of course it is, there’s an Ashes Test match at Old Trafford. Yet it’s the amount of rain up the road at Newton-le-Willows that could have a major bearing on this Group One sprint and, consequently, just who is the best of the best amongst the 2019 sprinting vintage.
2. Logic says Logician, but…
He won the pre-eminent trial by the best part of two lengths in great style. He’s unbeaten. He’s trained by a man who has won the St Leger four times and is ridden by a man who has won it once more than that. He’s the 5/4 favourite for good reason and the extra two-and-a-bit furlongs that he’ll have to run on Town Moor look more likely to be a help, rather than be a hindrance, as well. With all these factors adding up for Logician in the St Leger, just why is there a nagging doubt surrounding his chance? Well, it’s probably his Prix Niel entry at ParisLongchamp on September 15. Now, a route to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe looks unlikely, because of, you know, Enable, but it’s not beyond the realms for Logician to ‘do a Cracksman’. John Gosden has been here before with a son of Frankel and that one went Voltigeur-Prix Niel-Champion Stakes. The Prix Niel entry might just be precautionary, but it’s just enough to cast a little doubt over Logician’s Leger claims. After all, he has to be in it to win it.
3. Land of the rising son
A superstar heir to Galileo’s throne. It could be Australia, but you sense The Lads are still looking. A Classic winner is the dream ticket. Guineas or Derby or those two and the Leger in a Triple Crown marketing dream, but from this year’s three-year-old crop their Epsom winner now looks behind Japan in the son-of-Galileo-next-stallion-cab-off-the-rank pecking order. A Classic winner he is not, but his Juddmonte International victory last time out makes him a Group One winner over 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs at three and his autumn options have opened up on the back of his Knavesmire success. He could well bid to deny Enable her shot at history in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but before then he looks likely to take in the Irish Champion Stakes and his presence looks sure to light up what is always a superb weekend’s action.
4. Gold going for Gold
The Ayr Gold Cup is a tremendous betting race and this year, even three weeks out, you can pick out a major dilemma for punters; do we take on Dakota Gold? He’ll be top weight and actually 3lb wrong under a 5lb penalty, so naturally his status as favourite looks a little dodgy in a race where the odd pound could count for an awful lot. But here we have a seriously talented sprinter on a steep progressive curve, his wins off 96, 99 and 104 in three usually ultra-competitive handicaps is some hard evidence that he’s capable of winning an Ayr Gold Cup, even off 112. In Michael Dods he’s trained by a man that has a golden touch with sprinters, even one like this who isn’t the easiest to deal with down at the start. He has to go in last, but he’s made a habit of coming home first and he proved last time out that he’s versatile when it comes to ground conditions as well. Like I said, it’s a dilemma.
5. Juveniles take centre stage
Middle Park, Cheveley Park, Dewhurst, Fillies’ Mile. Four Grade Ones for two-year-olds over six furlongs, seven furlongs and a mile, for the colts and for the fillies, all at Newmarket, in late September and early October. It’s that time of year where future champions hint at what's to come and the main protagonists from these races will likely head into the winter prominent in the ante-post betting for their respective Guineas, back on the Rowley Mile, when spring has sprung next May. Living In The Past, Mums Tipple, Earthlight, Siskin, Jessica Harrington’s selected fillies (from Cayenne Pepper, Albigna and Alpine Star), Arizona and Armory are just some of the names that could light up HQ in this quartet of juvenile championships. But if we were allowed to nominate only one two-year-old to look forward to in the coming weeks and months it would be Charlie Appleby’s Pinatubo. His breath-taking wins at Royal Ascot and Goodwood have been well advertised by the horses he beat and the son of Shamardal looks out of the very top drawer. All that’s missing now is a Group One at two, something he’ll be expected to achieve before the season’s out.
6. Enable’s date with destiny
Of all the things to look forward to this autumn, the first Sunday in October has to be top of the list. Some might say it always is, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, with its Parisian setting and its history and its wealth and its prestige. They may be right and they certainly are this year as Enable will bid to become the first horse in the race’s 98-year history to win it for a third time. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances as to why this is the case; eight horses have won it twice and only Treve attempted a third, the magnificent colts that won it on two occasions such as Ribot and Alleged retiring to stud once their job (putting the Classic generation in their place) was done. With mares it’s a bit different, but we remain extremely fortunate to see a horse merely attempt the feat and yet here we are witnessing just that for the second time in five years. Treve failed against a top three-year-old colt in Golden Horn and the biggest dangers to Enable; Japan and Sottsass, are classed in that category, also. The stage is set.
7. Champions Day
Qipco British Champions Day is now firmly embedded within the dying embers of the Flat season, with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes sitting atop a quartet of sturdy supporting races. Indeed, this year’s Champions Day poster boy could well be from one of those with Stradivarius looking one of the star attractions over six weeks out thanks to another unbeaten season over staying trips. With another Weatherbys Million in his back pocket connections nominated Ascot as his final port of call this campaign and he’ll be going for his second successive victory in the Long Distance Cup. His presence on the day looks highly likely, but it’s more difficult to guess as to who will be sharing star billing with him. Plenty of seasonal storylines will enjoy their final chapter, though, with the odd plot twist something to look forward to.
8. Soft options…
And finally, a couple to follow when the ground turns soft. Proper soft. Clon Coulis is one for David Barron. Second by a nose in the Royal Hunt Cup on soft ground in June, she’s only 2lb higher than the mark she ran off that day now off 101 and is worth forgiving her three runs on faster ground since. She didn’t run too badly at York’s Ebor Festival and certainly shaped as though she’ll be one to be interested in again when the weather turns. Snazzy Jazzy is another for Clive Cox. His career form figures on ground worse than good to soft are 1-1-1-3-1 and he’s also worth forgiving his Newbury blip on ground that was quicker than ideal. He’ll have plenty of options this autumn including in the Renaissance Stakes at the Curragh, a track on which he won by three lengths in a sales race when he was a juvenile.
- Sept 7 – Sprint Cup Stakes (G1), Haydock Park
- Sept 14 – St Leger Stakes (G1), Doncaster
- Sept 14 – Irish Champion Stakes (G1), Leopardstown
- Sept 21 – Ayr Gold Cup (Handicap), Ayr
- Sept 28 – Middle Park Stakes (G1), Cheveley Park Stakes (G1), Cambridgeshire (Handicap), Newmarket
- Oct 6 – Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), ParisLongchamp
- Oct 12 – Dewhurst Stakes (G1), Fillies’ Mile (G1), Cesarewitch (Handicap), Newmarket
- Oct 19 – British Champions Day, Ascot