Our columnist reflects on another great weekend for Aidan O'Brien, asks what now for Limato and expects an expensive Royal Ascot flop to bounce back on Saturday.
ANOTHER GOOD WEEK FOR BALLYDOYLE
Aidan O’Brien has won 39 Irish Classics and the 40 beckons with Saturday’s Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh. Extraordinarily, six of his seven entries are by Galileo.
Galileo has been a stallion sensation, the like of which we have not seen before. Finding his successor is a near-impossible task but the Coolmore operation will not stop trying.
On that front, Saxon Warrior’s value is not as high as it might have been straight after his 2,000 Guineas win as he has been beaten three times since. However, it could turn out to be that a mile is his best trip.
Meanwhile, stepping down from a mile has proved to be the answer to US Navy Flag, a son of War Front, whose brilliant win in the July Cup has now made him as a future top stallion, especially as he was already the champion two-year-old after winning the Dewhurst Stakes at two.
Now, Kew Gardens, another son of Galileo, is emerging from the Ballydoyle pack as a serious middle distance performer after taking the Grand Prix de Paris and he will be a valuable addition to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes field a week on Saturday.
Sir Michael Stoute’s duo of Crystal Ocean and Poets Word are waiting for him. No Cracksman, no Enable, but still a great race to look forward to.
Meanwhile, perhaps Aidan may be denied in his quest for a fabulous 40 this Saturday as William Haggas’s Sea Of Class looks more than ready for this step up in class.
She has a terrific turn of foot and her pedigree suggests that the extra distance should suit her. She is a daughter of Sea The Stars, Galileo’s half-brother, who is enjoying another good season with Stradivarius and the aforementioned Crystal Ocean leading the way.
LIMATO – WHAT NEXT?
I am not the only racing fan to have a soft spot for Limato. Over the past four seasons, the sublimely talented six-year-old gelding has lit up the scene with some superb performances at the highest level and over a variety of trips. I have loved watching him race.
When he hacked up in last October’s Challenge Stakes at Newmarket, there was plenty to get excited about for this year. But, it has not materialised at all. After two disappointing runs over a mile in the Lockinge and Queen Anne Stakes, he was expected to bounce back in Saturday’s July Cup, a race which he won in 2016 and finished second in last year.
However, as at Newbury and Ascot, Limato was a shadow of his old self, and beat only two home. He travelled well enough in touch but found absolutely nothing when asked. A peak form Limato always found and always quickened.
This was massively disappointing and must leave Henry Candy and Paul Jacobs scratching their heads. Indeed, perhaps it is all in Limato’s head.
Maybe he just doesn’t feel like it any more. A fifth season at the top level? Not many are up to that.
Sadly his stallion prospects were ended before he even started racing and the hope was that he would keep on going until he was no longer physically or mentally up to it.
No doubt he will be examined from ear to hoof to see if there is a physical problem. Although a fast surface has suited him best historically, are those ageing joints may be just feeling it a bit nowadays? (Trust me, I would know!)
It would be wonderful if he could roll back the years and return to something near his best but there has to be a chance that, sadly, Limato’s best days are behind him.
EQUILATERAL HEADS TO NEWBURY WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE
On the other hand, I am hoping that Equilateral has it all ahead of him. He heads to Newbury for Saturday’s Hackwood Stakes with something to prove after his failure in the Commonwealth Cup.
The son of Equiano returned a bad scope after Ascot and that would explain what I regarded as the biggest disappointment of the week at Royal Ascot.
Remember, he had given an almighty beating to Foxtrot Lady at Doncaster – and once again the Andrew Balding filly further advertised that form last weekend at Newmarket.
That Doncaster performance made a huge impression. Taking it literally, Equilateral must be a very good horse and let’s hope he proves it this time and takes star billing on a quiet domestic weekend.
PAUL MULRENNAN – AS HARD AS THEY COME
Hearing that Paul Mulrennan had fractured three vertebrae in his lower back in a gallops accident on Saturday morning emphasized, once again, the risks involved in being associated with racehorses – even when you are a top jockey.
Just ask Ana O’Brien, a year on from her terrible fall at Killarney.
In Paul’s case, he was thrown forwards over the head of his horse after it put the brakes on. It says something when you regard a triple back fracture as “lucky”.
In the face of these setbacks, it never ceases to amaze me how tough, resilient and defiant these riders remain.
I texted Paul to wish him well on Sunday and his response was simply: “I’m getting out (of hospital) today. Should be grand in a couple of months.”
Quite incredible, really.
SALES SEASON WILL BRING HIGHS AND LOWS
Goffs UK, Goffs, Tattersalls, Tattersalls Ireland, Arqana, Keeneland - all of the top sales companies are gearing up for some of their busiest weeks ahead as we reach mid-summer.
Some of our future stars will be sold and bought, some well, some not so well. We will hear all about the record-breakers and the exciting bidding battles between the bloodstock super powers in the auction ring as the experts and cognoscenti go head to head.
However, it remains a stark and unwelcome fact that most of those bought will be a complete waste of money. That’s the nature of the game.
I was reminded of this after watching the 2.50 race at Chelmsford on Tuesday. It was a three-year-old maiden containing a number of expensive purchases, one a War Front colt called Athaaqib who cost a cool $1.9m as a yearling. This was his third start. He came seventh.
A place in front of him was Cottingham, a 160,000 guinea yearling newcomer who had already been gelded. Moasher, a $190,000 yearling and also already gelded, was tailed off in last. The race went to Done Deal, a relative cheapie at 52,000 guineas.
They were racing for a first prize of just over £4,000.