London -The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe might only be 11 days away, but John Gosden is keeping his pair of aces at Chantilly up his sleeve until he sees all the likely cards on the poker table.
Gosden has confirmed Enable, the best colt or filly in Europe this season, is on target for Qatar’s jewel in their sponsorship crown, but quite rightly he has instructed Juddmonte not to sign the bank transfer of 120,000 Euros to supplement their superstar until the “last call for boarding” announcement goes out.
Enable has been on the go since April, so Gosden, knowing how fragile racehorses are, won’t leave anything to chance and will ensure the filly is 100% before giving the green light.
Furthermore, both Gosden and owner Anthony Oppenheimer, though still reluctant to run second-favourite Cracksman, have the option of doing a U-turn with the recent Prix Niel winner, though the shorter Prix de l’Opera looks more likely.
Capri, racing for the first time since his neck classic triumph over Cracksman on The Curragh 11 weeks earlier, would be a major player in France should “the lads” give the thumbs-up to O’Brien.
O’Brien, celebrating an 18th Group 1 victory of 2017, said: “Capri has the pace for a mile and a quarter (2000m), but he is most effective at the longer (2400m) trip, so the Arc looks tempting.”
Crystal Ocean, who won’t run again this season, will be campaigned solely over 2400m next year, but his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, who felt he was just out- stayed by Capri, confirmed the Arc remains “very much still on the table” for Ulysses, who sandwiched a second to Elysses in the King George in between winning the Eclipse at Sandown and the Juddmonte International at York.
O’Brien might still be seven winners short of Bobby Frankel’s world record of celebrations at the top table, but that remarkable Aussie racemare Winx is doing even be er, being only five away from equalling Black Caviar’s 25-race winning streak, having extended her spree to 20, including 13 Group 1s, when swooping in that inimitable last-gasp style of hers at Randwick last weeend.
And, while O’Brien is to be congratulated in campaigning his top horses far more often than most of his counterparts in Europe, the Ballydoyle maestro’s policy would probably be considered fainthearted Down Under, with Winx having run seven times this year, three in the last four weeks.
And though a record-equalling third Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on 28 October remains the number one aim for Winx, connections are planning “one, maybe two” more runs in Sydney before heading o to Melbourne for Australia’s most prestigious conditions race.
Meanwhile, O’Brien is shufliing his options for his two-year- old stars, though I’m not sure last week’s Champagne Stakes winner Seahenge would be rated in the same league as stable companions Gustav Klimt (2000 Guineas) and The Pentagon (Derby), who lead the Coolmore classic charge.
Clemmie, who missed Ireland’s Champions weekend because of the testing ground, remains top of the shop in O’Brien’s juvenile fillies department, and I doubt Aidan lost any sleep about a potential Cheveley Park Stakes clash at Newmarket on Saturday week with Heartache, having seen the later beaten by Havana Grey at Doncaster.
Incidentally, while South African star Whisky Baron did work disappointingly in a 1000m gallop up the Rowley Mile on Monday, connections of the Group 1 Sun Met winner can be encouraged by the local weather forecast which predicts warmer and drier weather next week, in time to ensure the going is near-perfect for his UK debut in the Group 2 Joel Stakes at Newmarket on 29 September.
Meanwhile, Dubai Duty Free take centre stage at Newbury this weekend, sponsoring the two day meeting, with the feature be- ing Saturday’s Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes.
Recent Kempton Polytrack winner Invincible Army, who was also runner-up in the Gimcrack Stakes at York, will probably start favourite.
However, the Mill Reef is one of the few two-year-old Pattern races in Britain that Aidan O’Brien has not won, but I feel that in US NAVY FLAG he has a colt who can turn over Invincible Army.
He was impressive when beating two previous winners in a Group 3 at The Curragh on Irish Champions weekend, and with the ground at Newbury drying up looks the one to be on.
SECOND STEP is just preferred to The Queen’s hat-trick seeking Fabricate in the 2200m Group 3 there, and though the big sprint later in the programme look very competitive, local trainer Clive Cox, who has done so well with his speedballs this season, is sweet on the chance of PRICELESS, who drops in grade, having finished h in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York.
Scotland’s biggest Flat day of the year takes place on Saturday, the 25-runner Ayr Gold Cup being one of the major be ing races of the season. It’s a total cavalry charge up the straight 1200m and one that fits the bill is John Gosden’s JOHNNY BARNES.