Mike Cattermole on Justify's Triple Crown, Royal Ascot, York and more

Justify roars to Triple Crown glory
Justify roars to Triple Crown glory

Racing commentator Mike Cattermole is purring at the prospect of seeing Equilateral strut his stuff at Royal Ascot, where John Gosden is the trainer to follow.

JUSTIFY JUST CHAMPION FOR CHINA

To be honest, although I couldn’t find anything other than stats to beat him, I didn’t think that Justify would become America’s 13th Triple Crown champion. It was too soon after American Pharoah. After all, they don’t come along that quick, do they? The previous gap had been 37 years!

That aside, it was also because I couldn’t quite see his sire Scat Daddy producing a champion over a mile and a half having seen the stallion being responsible for so many top sprinters, such as Lady Aurelia, Caravaggio and Acapulco.

So, so wrong! Scat Daddy, who died in 2015, is looking more missed than ever.

And what a performance from Justify, who was not stopping at the line and benefited from a superb ride from Mike Smith.

I have not been fortunate enough to see Justify in the flesh but he looks, and clearly is, a monster of a horse. And how superbly trained he has been by Bob Baffert, who is assuming legendary status now with a second Triple Crown hero on his CV.

Being unbeaten, we still don’t know how good Justify is. Seattle Slew was also unbeaten when he won his Triple in 1977 but I am guessing that connections won’t be making the same mistake as they did.

The Slew was beaten in controversial circumstances on his next start, just the following month, at the now defunct Hollywood Park and the fallout resulted in his trainer, Billy Turner, being sacked!

Justify is part-owned by Head Of Plains Partners, whose colours were carried in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and the China Horse Club whose red and yellow silks had the exclusive limelight at Belmont and thus ensured that nobody will ever forget them.

The China Horse Club has risen rapidly in the five years or so that it has been investing in the world’s bloodstock market. There is some mystery about the organisation, which is said to boast around 200 investors, and that may be deliberate.

What we do know is that it was founded by Teo Ah Khing, a Chinese billionaire architect, who designed and built the Palm Tree resort in Dubai as well as Meydan racecourse.

Indeed, it was the worldwide research that Khing undertook for Meydan that sparked off his interest in racehorses.

However, the CHC has only dabbled briefly in the UK. Two years ago the Club raced a useful horse in Lockheed, who was trained by William Haggas. They also paid £1.3m at the Goffs London Sale in 2016 for the Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Jet Setting.

Justify looks set to continue to advertise the profile of the Hong Kong-based Club for many years to come because he will be some prospect at stud.

The foundations have been laid and we know that Mr Ah Khing is an expert at completing and finessing a building project.

JOHN GOSDEN - MR RELIABLE AT ASCOT

John Gunther, the man who bred Justify at his Kentucky-based Glennwood Farm and sold him for $500,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, might be cheering home another potential champion at Royal Ascot next week.

Gunther’s unbeaten Without Parole, trained by John Gosden, puts his unbeaten record on the line in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday. It is a race that Gosden has won once before, with Kingman in 2014.

That the Newmarket trainer is going to produce at least one winner next week is almost a given. Since Chicarica won the Chesham in 1990, Gosden has saddled winners at every edition of Royal Ascot with the exception of 2003.

John Gosden - fascinating Guineas contender in Without Parole
John Gosden: Royal Ascot's 'Mr Reliable'

That’s some record and the country’s leading trainer is heading there next week with a very strong team indeed to build on the 43 successes he has amassed so far.

He kicks off with Calyx in the Coventry Stakes on the opening day where it is notable that the stable’s Yarmouth winner Legends Of War is absent.

Calyx created a tremendous impression of finishing speed (confirmed by the clock) when winning on his debut at Newmarket last Saturday and many will fancy him to gain Gosden a second Coventry after Iceman’s win in 2004.

Check him out here but make a note of that high head carriage. It certainly didn’t stop him, though.

With a team headed by Cracksman (Prince of Wales) along with Stradivarius (Gold Cup) and perhaps Lah Ti Dar (Ribblesdale) in support, there must be quiet hopes that this will be his best Royal meeting since he topped the trainers’ list with five winners in 2012.

Make a note also of Tricorn in Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup. Gosden got a kick out of winning his two previous Hunt Cups with Royal Oath in 2007 and GM Hopkins in 2015 and this gelding would have been inked in for this race since his fine third in last year’s Britannia. He is trading at 25/1 with Sky Bet.

CHARLIE HILLS COULD BE TRAINING ANOTHER MONSTER!

The rematch between Battaash and Lady Aurelia, the defending champion, in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes is one of the most eagerly awaited of next week.

It just didn’t happen in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York as Battaash boiled over (and the Lady was beaten on the line) but the Charlie Hills team made sure that Battaash was kept cool in the preliminaries for both the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Temple Stakes and those measures must be perfected again this time.

It won’t be easy as the razzmatazz of Royal Ascot is way up the scale even compared to Chantilly on Arc day and a traditionally busy Haydock.

Hills, who has certainly developed a knack of training top sprinters, then bids to win his second Commonwealth Cup (after Muhaarar in 2015) on Friday with the exciting Equilateral.

The son of Equiano had made a promising debut at Bath but then flopped at York when it was discovered he was suffering from sore shins. Hills told me this week that he regretted running him there.

Back in good health again on his reappearance, he promptly smashed his way into the Cup picture with a stunning eight-length thrashing of Foxtrot Lady at Doncaster last month.

Foxtrot Lady, who was receiving 12lb, has gone on to register two easy wins at Chester and Carlisle and is now officially rated 94.

In my early days, I learned that a length beating in a sprint race over 5f or 6f would be worth about 3lb – that’s without getting too technical and taking times and ground conditions into account. So, an eight-length win represents 24lb and an overall 36lb superiority. That gives Equilateral a rating of 130!

However, it's when you talk to some proper professionals about the Doncaster race that things get even more exciting.

Jamie Lynch has kindly elaborated on Timeform’s analysis of the performance, which does take into account the ground (officially good to firm), distance and time, and came up with a figure of 3.63lbs per length, which converts to a staggering 41lb superiority!

Foxtrot Lady is currently rated 103 with the sages of Halifax, so you can work out the rest...

However, more evidence is needed before we all get too carried away and we should get some at York on Saturday where Foxtrot Lady is due to line up as the favourite for the featured Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap.

Should she run well or even win, then expectation levels will be somewhat elevated for Equilateral next Friday. There may be nothing Equilateral about it – he could be a monster in the making.

YORK’S BIG CHARITY DAY

Speaking of York, I am lucky to be calling them home there this weekend when on Saturday the emphasis will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Since the early 1970s, raising cash has always been the focus of this pre-Ascot meeting and so far over £7.5m has been given to worthy causes, which is astonishing.

The day was founded by the late Reg Griffin, the former Timeform chairman, and it is great to see his partner and colleague Jim McGrath making sure he is still remembered on a day he was immensely proud of, by continuing to sponsor a race named after him on the card (4.40).

Come along and help if you can.

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