After a busy weekend of Group One action in Britain, Ireland and France, John Ingles highlights five talking points
It might not have been a vintage St Leger in terms of strength in depth, with the traditional trials, the Gordon Stakes and Great Voltigeur none too conclusive, but the placed horses from the Derby had the best form on offer and they duly finished first and second. The order was different this time though, in keeping with Hurricane Lane’s improvement since Epsom, and there was no doubting his superiority over Mojo Star this time as he put up a totally dominant performance once sent to the front under two furlongs out for an impressive victory by two and three quarter lengths.
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Out of a two-mile winner, Hurricane Lane’s pedigree suggested beforehand that he’d not only stay the longer trip but could even improve for the greater test of stamina, and he recorded a career-best rating of 126p. That’s not quite on a par with the very best of his generation (stablemate Adayar, who had to miss his intended Arc trial 24 hours later is rated 133, for example) but Hurricane Lane has yet to meet older opposition and there’s every chance he’ll prove himself top-class when the occasion demands it, perhaps as soon as in the Arc, where he’d be a strong second string for his stable. Kew Gardens is the only St Leger winner with a higher rating than Hurricane Lane’s in the last decade (127), though he was only seventh behind Enable at Longchamp in 2018.
A fascinating renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes looked in prospect despite a field of just four and an all-Irish line-up for the first time since 2009. It certainly delivered with a dramatic outcome, with the three principals covered by less than a length at the line although spread across the width of the track after winner St Mark’s Basilica carried runner-up Tarnawa across to the stand side. The stewards maintained the result and, when the dust settled, there was no change to the Timeform ratings either.
The supremely tough Poetic Flare has been judged to have run right up to his very best (127) on his first start at a mile and a quarter in losing out by just a nose on the runner-up spot. Tarnawa, on the other hand, was dropping back in trip and she ran close to her existing rating of 125, with the return to a mile and a half in the Arc sure to suit her at least as well. As for St Mark’s Basilica, he had to work hard for his fifth consecutive Group 1 win, holding on by three quarters of a length, and his very best effort remains his Eclipse victory over Addeybb and Mishriff when running to 132.
It has taken a while this season for a two-year-old to really stamp his authority on the rest of his generation but Native Trail finally did that in no uncertain terms in the National Stakes, recording a rating of 122p. The National Stakes has gone to Aidan O’Brien nine times this century and his unbeaten colt Point Lonsdale was odds-on to become Ballydoyle’s first winner since Churchill in 2016. But recent seasons have seen the combination of Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick send their best two-year-old colt for the race and Native Trail followed in the footsteps of their recent winners Quorto and Pinatubo.
Native Trail is unbeaten himself, though clearly still a work in progress as he still looked green here. He was a narrow winner of the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket when last seen, but he won this with much more authority as he forged clear at the end of a truly-run race to beat Point Lonsdale by three and a half lengths. While the runner-up is crying out for a step up in trip and remains capable of better himself, Native Trail will be hard to beat in the Dewhurst, Pinatubo having done the double two years ago.
Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley took Saturday’s Matron Stakes with No Speak Alexander and the same trainer/jockey combination won the Group 1 fillies’ contest on Sunday too with two-year-old Discoveries who showed much improved form (107p) to win the Moyglare Stud Stakes. She’d finished only third behind Agartha and Sunset Shiraz in the Debutante Stakes over the same course and distance on softer ground last month but that pair chased her home this time as she ran out the winner by three quarters of a length.
If taking after a couple of her siblings, Discoveries will leave her current rating behind in due course as she’s a sister to Alpha Centauri and a half-sister to Alpine Star, both high-class mile winners for her stable in recent seasons. Alpha Centauri finished only fifth when favourite for the 2017 Moyglare, while Alpine Star didn’t run again at two after winning the Debutante in 2019. Discoveries holds entries in the Fillies’ Mile and Prix Marcel Boussac, while the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is reportedly under consideration for her too
The Arc Trials had their share of disappointments – the absence through injury of both Adayar and Wonderful Tonight, sadly a career-ending one in the latter's case, along with the shock defeat of Snowfall at the hands of Teona in the Prix Vermeille – but there was a high-class performance from Japanese colt Deep Bond (126) in the older horses’ trial, the Prix Foy.
Japan’s main Arc hope this year was supposed to have been the mare Chrono Genesis (125), runner-up to Mishriff in Dubai earlier this year, with Oisin Murphy already booked to ride her at Longchamp.
However, Deep Bond’s high-class effort on his European debut means his Arc claims need to be taken a bit more seriously now because his profile at home had essentially been that of a stayer.
On his last two starts in Japan he won a Group 2 contest over 15 furlongs and was second in the spring version of the Group 1 Tenno Sho over two miles. He was able to make all the running in the Foy to beat reliable Ballydoyle yardstick Broome who had himself made all to win the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June. Making all in the Arc is another matter entirely (something compatriot El Condor Pasa tried heroically to pull off against Montjeu), but if stamina is at a premium in three weeks’ time, Deep Bond should give a good account.
His sire Kizuna, incidentally, also won his Longchamp trial, the Prix Niel, before finishing fourth to Treve in the 2013 Arc.