Some quality three-year-olds of note
Some quality three-year-olds of note

Under the radar three-year-olds including Diamond Rain and Highbury

With most people’s attention fixed on Epsom this week, we look to shift the spotlight onto 10 promising three-year-olds taking a different path.

Potential A-listers

Diamond Rain (Charlie Appleby)

Having run in the Nell Gwyn and the 1000 Guineas, Dance Sequence has had a typical Classic spring campaign and it looks like she will represent Godolphin in Friday’s Betfred Oaks, but I’d wager Charlie Appleby has a much better long-term middle-distance prospect on his hands in Diamond Rain.

Not a lot went right for her on her Ascot debut (1m) on May 1 but she still managed to win from another promising filly (Shaha), and she took a massive leap forward when upped to 10 furlongs in a Listed race at Newbury.

Sea Of Class, Eshaada, Nashwa and Warm Heart have all won that event en route to Group 1 success within the past six years and this imposing daughter of Shamardal has every right to get her chance at the top table before long.

Diamond Rain
Diamond Rain

Highbury (Aidan O’Brien)

Highbury’s position in the Ballydoyle three-year-old pecking order – if there were such a thing – must have been a pretty high number going into the winter unraced and I can’t imagine he climbed many places, if at all, after finishing third in a Cork maiden on his debut at the end of April.

What he produced at Leopardstown last time, however, was nothing short of scintillating and you’d love to know where he might end up when the music stops at the end of his Classic campaign.

Epsom was clearly never under consideration but the Curragh and a crack at the Irish Derby might be. Like stacks of top-class Galileos in recent years, he’s out of a quality sprinting mare and has considerable scope to climb the ladder as the year goes on.

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International interest

Calandagan (Francis-Henri Graffard)

Francis-Henri Graffard isn’t averse to travelling with good horses, having done well overseas with the likes of Wasmya, The Revenant and Malavath in recent years, and the gelded Calandagan is reportedly heading to Britain this summer.

The Queen’s Vase had been mooted but he’s bound for the King Edward VII Stakes where he could meet horses like Illinois (109p), plus Saturday’s Goodwood one-two Meydaan (103p) and Space Legend (104p), but the French runner is firmly in the picture with a Timeform rating of 104 following back-to-back Group 3 wins at Longchamp.

Calandagan quickened well to win with loads to spare in the Prix Hocquart last Thursday and he seems a cast-iron stayer on pedigree, as well as the way he’s been shaping up this season.

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Sweet Rebecca (Chad Brown)

Chad Brown tends to lead the pack when it comes to top turf horses in America these days, so it was interesting to hear he’s looking to have his first Royal Ascot starter this summer.

The Coronation Stakes is shaping up to be a hot race with the principals from the English, Irish and French 1000 Guineas all coming together, and the addition of Sweet Rebecca would provide another exciting dimension.

The daughter of American Pharoah supplemented her debut win at Gulstream with a cosy, push-button Listed triumph on a firm track over the mile at Aqueduct late last month, and Brown’s record with fillies and mares needs little introduction, having enjoyed outstanding success with Lady Eli, In Italian, Newspaperofrecord, Sistercharlie, Stacelita, Stephanie’s Kitten and many more over the years.

Sprint sensation?

Raqiya (Owen Burrows)

Half of the 18 three-year-olds Owen Burrows has sent out so far this month have finished in the first three and Raqiya became the fifth winner for the yard during that period when claiming top spot in Salisbury’s Cathedral Stakes on Saturday.

Granted, she was receiving plenty of weight from the year-older, 102-rated, runner-up Funny Story but that one was race-fit too and the way Raqiya travelled through the six-furlong contest left the distinct impression she’s improved a lot for another winter.

There are no fancy entries at this stage and supplementing for the Commonwealth Cup looks a longshot but connections have plenty to look forward to and she’s just the type to find herself competing at a very high level come the end of the summer, which is when she first announced herself with back-to-back novice wins at Salisbury and Haydock last year.

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More fillies to follow

Romantic Style (Charlie Appleby)

Having beaten 1000 Guineas third and fourth, Ramatuelle and Tamfana, on her seasonal debut in the Prix Imprudence, the Appleby-trained Romantic Style arguably failed to match that level when fourth in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, but there’s no denying circumstances conspired against her in the Longchamp Classic.

Drawn one from the outside in stall 14, she was brightly away but used up too much petrol racing keenly three-wide on the turn out of the back.

She had what looked a perfect sit just behind front-runner Kathmandu as they headed for home but wasn’t quite as strong as the others through the final furlong which shouldn’t come as a great surprise as she’s bred to be all speed.

Romantic Style copes well with cut in the ground but won her novice on good going last year and, with a return to seven furlongs no doubt being considered, she looks tailor-made for the Jersey Stakes at Ascot.

Romantic Style returns in triumph
Romantic Style returns in triumph

Lope De Lilas (Willie Mullins)

Bought for 90,000 euros at the Arqana Deauville sale in 2022, Willie Mullins waited a little over a year to introduce Lope De Lilas in a Galway maiden last autumn but she didn’t go missing the market, sent off the 6/4 favourite.

It didn’t go to plan in the end, the Lope De Vega filly only plugging on to be fifth behind Everlasting and Kisiyra, who dominated throughout. Everlasting ran in Sunday’s Irish Guineas, while the third home that day was Rubies Are Red, who is second-favourite for the Oaks, so it was a strong race of it’s type and Lope De Lilas did her bit for the form with a clearcut comeback win in a Leopardstown maiden recently.

The sound surface seemed to play to her strengths as he picked up stylishly from near the back to win going away and she has an eyecatching entry in the Irish Oaks. Her dam Golden Gazelle is a sister to 2011 champion Golden Lilac, who won the French Guineas and Oaks, so she’s bred to be a bit special and is obviously in the right hands. Her next race will reveal plenty.

Mother Nature (Aidan O’Brien)

Another filly with an Irish Oaks entry, Mother Nature also still holds an engagement in the Ribblesdale Stakes at the Royal meeting, but first up it could be the Munster Oaks at Cork this Friday evening.

That’s not been a rich source of future Classic winners over the years but the past four three-year-olds to win it were all trained by Aidan O’Brien and it would be a huge vote of confidence were she declared for the Group 3 on the back of her short-head debut defeat at Dundalk last month.

The lack of previous experienced appeared to cost her victory first time out and she got a bit lost in the straight before battling back and just missing out, but she’s from that brilliant Lillie Langtry family that has produced the likes of Minding, Tuesday and Empress Josephine, and she may be destined for big things too before the year’s out.

Handicap heroes

Two Tribes (Richard Spencer)

A list of three-year-old dark horses would not be complete without a couple of handicappers to note and the first of which is Richard Spencer’s Two Tribes.

He’s only had four starts on turf and his form figures on the grass read 2122, the latest runner-up effort coming at Newmarket earlier this morning following a 225-day layoff.

He was a bit clumsy coming from the stalls and then met trouble two furlongs out when looking to start his run. He was no match for race-fit winner James’s Delight but raced more towards the far side, some way away from the first and the third, and everything about the run suggests he wants marking up.

The handicapper has gone with a 1lb rise – I’d argue that won’t be enough to stop him going one better and while he won’t make the cut for the Wokingham off 91, compensation awaits somewhere along the line.

Trainer Andrew Balding
Trainer Andrew Balding

Dambuster (Andrew Balding)

Dambuster hated the Dip at Newmarket when thrown into the deep end against Arbian Crown on his second start towards the end of last season, but he’s now 2-2 aside from that Zetland Stakes no-show and should slot into a nice handicap in the coming weeks from his opening mark of 90.

Gelding during the winter, the son of Kingman justified a short price in a Beverley novice event on his return to action in April and, being out of a Singspiel mare who got 10 furlongs well, he may even benefit from a move up to a mile and a half.

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