Our columnist reflects on QIPCO British Champions Day, Ryan Moore's dash to Australia and a future dilemma awaiting John Gosden.
RYAN MOORE MISSING OUT
Saturday was a good day for Aidan and Donnacha O’Brien but not such a good day for Ryan Moore.
Despatched to Australia to partner Ten Sovereigns in the aptly named (such was his task) “The Everest” at Randwick, the July Cup winner never looked happy at any stage and trailed home in last place in the world’s most valuable sprint.
Meanwhile, just a few hours later at Ascot, Donnacha O’Brien got the leg up, in Moore’s absence, on stablemates Magical and Kew Gardens who went on to land the Champion Stakes and Long Distance Cup respectively.
That must have hurt, even if Ten Sovereigns did pick up some £220,000 just for showing up.
The former champion jockey is not coming back to ride in the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster on Saturday, either, even if Team Ballydoyle is responsible for 11 of the 12 entries at the five-day stage.
Ryan has to remain “down under” to partner Magic Wand in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, which takes place in the early hours of Saturday. Victory in a second Plate (he won on Adelaide in 2014) would surely help his mood and make the trip all worthwhile.
Then it’s off to the Breeders’ Cup where Circus Maximus, Anthony Van Dyck and, possibly, Magical all await. So, it’s not all that bad.
GOSDEN v O’BRIEN – NOTHING IN IT!
John Gosden began Champions’ Day some £700,000 clear of Aidan O’Brien in the trainers’ championship and with so much cash flying around Britain’s richest raceday at Ascot, there were bound to be a few movements of tectonic proportions.
Indeed, Magical’s win in the £1m Champion Stakes, with Coronet disappointing in sixth, has really kept the championship alive with not much more than £110,000 keeping Gosden’s nose in front at the time of writing.
That’s about the same amount on offer to the winner of the Vertem Futurity Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday with the odds heavily stacked in O’Brien’s favour in that one after it emerged that only one of the 12 five-day entries was not trained by him.
There are few races left with decent prize money now, so races like the November Handicap on the last day of the turf season at Doncaster could become an even more important target for both men; that’s a race Gosden has won a record six times.
But the championship doesn’t finish until December 31 so you can expect the Clarehaven trainer to have a few hand-picked runners in the valuable end-of-year AW programme, but don’t be surprised if there’s a few being shipped over the Irish Sea too.
It really is looking pretty tight.
GOSDEN JUGGLING ACT AHEAD
There seed to be universal joy when it was announced last week that Enable would stay in training and have another go at winning a third Arc, following her gallant effort at the beginning of the month.
Of course it is good news but we must be realistic.
It would be Enable’s fifth season in training, so expecting her to be better or even just as good could be asking a lot. She isn’t likely to improve, after all. Of course, Winx was still at it as an 8-y-o and it didn’t stop her but she didn’t race until she was three.
And the other positive thing is that Enable has precious few miles on the clock, with just 15 career starts to date.
One thing there is no doubt about is the task that faces John Gosden in trying to manage the campaigns of all of his middle distance superstars.
Stradivarius has, in Kew Gardens, finally come across one who is going to continue to really test him in the Cup races en route to a possible go at the Arc.
That too will be the target for Star Catcher, who showed so much courage to win her third Group One in a row at Ascot on Saturday.
However, those two are owned by Bjorn Neilsen and Anthony Oppenheimer (who also bred them) respectively. The unbeaten Logician carries the Enable colours of course and, ironically, at this early stage, he is the one that looks the most likely to try and stop her in her tracks in either the Arc or indeed the King George.
What a season it is already promising to be.
DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT FOR KING POWER
Next Sunday is the first anniversary of the tragic death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire owner of Leicester City and the man behind King Power Racing.
So, it was good to see those already familiar royal blue and white colours carried to a first Group One victory by Donjuan Triumphant in the Champions Sprint at Ascot on Saturday. No wonder Andrew Balding and Alistair Donald, the bloodstock agent who assists King Power, were misty eyed immediately afterwards.
The fact that Donjuan was one of the first horses bought privately by King Power (from Middleham Park Racing) gave the occasion an added poignancy.
There is something about Donjuan’s name that I have always liked and meant that he was a horse I always kept an eye on. I never saw him winning a Group One but now that he has, he is guaranteed a lot more interest in his new career as a stallion.
It is the sort of boost that can only be good for King Power who have invested millions in the game over the past few years.
OISIN AND CIEREN – TWO DESERVING CHAMPIONS
Oisin Murphy and Cieren Fallon were crowned champion jockey and champion apprentice at Ascot on Saturday and it was clear to see the joy it brought to both men.
They are at very different stages in their careers but what they have in common is talent and class - in abundance. Both are a pleasure to have anything to do with.
I suspect Oisin will be champion many times over for as long as he wants it but young Cieren, who is still in much demand as he continues to claim 3lb, is going to be a force to be reckoned with as he climbs the ranks.
But for now, Oisin is the man.
The marketing team behind the British Champions Series have put together a lovely film about the Killarney-born champion, entitled “Born To Win” in which he, his parents and others who have had a major influence in his life are interviewed by Francesca Cumani.
It is can be found on YouTube, in two parts, and is well worth a watch:
NORTHERN TRAINERS HOLDING THEIR OWN
Some time this week, Mark Johnston will create a new record of winners in a calendar year, having recently joined joint-record holders Richard Fahey and Richard Hannon senior on 235. What an incredible career Johnston is having. If a record is there to be broken, he will probably break it.
Just casting an eye on the trainers list for the year, it is heartening to see the Scot and Fahey maintaining their places in the top 10, along with David O’Meara who won the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap for the second time last Saturday at Ascot.
Hovering just outside is Tim Easterby who has quietly notched up a personal best this season, moving to 119 after Suitcase ‘N’ Taxi obliged at Southwell on Monday.
It is the second successive season that Easterby has gone past 100 winners and he has also saddled more than 1,000 runners. He has never been busier, nor more successful, on that score and all this without a standout stable star.
Kevin Ryan, Tom Dascombe and Karl Burke all remain in the top 20, providing further evidence that there is plenty of life up north and long may that continue.