They say that the world is getting smaller, but tell that to someone travelling economy class from Sydney to London or vice versa – Australia and the UK seem a million miles apart.
It was the 16,800km journey which prompted connections of Winx, the best racehorse on the globe and earmarked for an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on 27 October, to cancel plans to bring their record breaking Aussie mare to Britain this year in an attempt to conquer Royal Ascot.
“If Winx had taken the travelling okay I have no doubt that she would have won the Queen Anne,” declared Hugh Bowman, who has ridden the 18-times Group 1 winner in 25 of her 33 races.
However, neither Bowman nor trainer Chris Waller have any regrets about not making the trip and Winx, who has been on holiday since clocking up her 25th straight victory in April, looked better than ever when enjoying an early morning breeze on Sunday in readiness for a return to action in the re-named Winx Stakes at Randwick next Saturday.
We have our version of Winx in Europe this year in Jessie Harrington’s Alpha Centauri, who, having put her own sex firmly in their place in the Irish 1000 Guineas, Coronation and Falmouth Stakes, gave the colts a lesson in who is boss among this season’s classic generation when winning her fourth Group 1 in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.
Alpha Centauri, a big, scopey mare who could be mistaken for a colt, has the perfect temperament for the big stage, and Colm O’Donoghue admits that she is a “dream ride” as you can sit off the pace, lie handy, or make all the running.
She was awesome in France in a race that her owners sponsored but the ultimate target all year for Alpha Centauri has been the Breeders Cup Mile, which the Niarchos family have already won six times, twice with the mighty Miesque but also with Karakontie, Domedriver, Six Perfections and Spinning World.
Maybe 2-1 is short enough for Churchill Downs as Alpha Centauri has been on the go since the spring, but, hopefully, there is still a bit of juice left in the lemon, and the plan is for her to have just the one more run before Kentucky, the Matron Stakes just down the road from her stables at Leopardstown at next month’s Irish Champions meeting.
The Mile is traditionally the European’s most successful race at the Breeders Cup, but, despite those 14 victories, we have only won one of the last nine, though provided Alpha Centauri is still on a high come 3 November I’ll be looking for the Queen of Ireland to pay for my upgrade back home.
Between Glorious Goodwood and next week’s big Ebor meeting at York, the quality of racing in the UK always takes a dip, but the one exception is Saturday’s £150,000 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.
This Group 2 is one of the few Pattern races in Europe which Aidan O’Brien has not won, and he seeks to fill in the void with his “nearly horse” Gustav Klimt.
Having blown out when second- favourite for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Gustav Klimt has since finished in the frame in four Group 1s, the Irish equivalent, the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Again one of the market leaders for Saturday’s race, Gustav Klimt is fast becoming the bookies’ best friend, and, while he’ll probably be in the mix again, for win purposes I’ll always take him on.
My cash would have gone on Librisa Breeze, a six-year-old gelding who has mixed with the best and come out smelling of roses, with the Group 1 Champions Sprint at Ascot last back-end on his CV.
However, whereas it rained cats and dogs before Ascot and Librisa Breeze got his favoured soft ground, with the
south of the country still enjoying this barmy British summer, the going looks like being too fast for last year’s unlucky runner-up.
In contrast, Sir Dancealot, who has improved 6kg since fi nishing a close finish 12 months ago, loves to hear his hooves rattle and he’ll be in his element on the likely underfoot conditions.
Don’t expect to see Sir Dancelot prominent early in the race. He has a potent finishing kick, as we saw in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood, which was his third win this season.
Gerald Mosse knows the four-year-old well and stable-confidence is high.
Godolphin have been flying up in the clouds since the Dubai Carnival, but D’bai, their representative here, is held on the formbook by both Librisa Breeze and Sir Dancealot, so, like Coolmore, this might be one of those rare days when racing’s two superpowers make up the numbers.
However, it is not only Charlie Appleby who has been rattling up the winners for the boys in blue, with Saeed bin Suroor, though relatively quiet since Dubai, bouncing back with Best Solution in a Group 1 in Germany last weekend.
Best Solution is another who keeps himself in the best company – he ran in both the Epsom Derby and the Sheema Classic – so this first win at the top level was richly deserved.
And Bin Suroor, who must have watched with envy as Appleby cleaned up in Melbourne and Sydney last autumn, has pencilled in Best Solution as one of his squad to go Down Under in October, with both the Caulfi eld and Melbourne Cup on the agenda.
We’ll have a detailed look at York in next week’s column, but John Gosden’s Juddmonte International candidate, Roaring Lion, enjoyed his first gallop on grass since winning the Eclipse at Sandown in early July when working before racing at Newmarket last Saturday.
It was such an impressive piece of work which had plenty rushing off the stands to take the 3-1 for the Knavesmire feature next Wednesday as he kicked a more than useful stable companion out of the way. I suggest you join us.