Aussies running scared

Aussies running scared


Geoff Lester: London – The big Ebor meeting at York is now just two weeks away, and, while John Gosden had hoped that the Knavesmire might see the belated return of last year’s brilliant Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable, it now seems that we might have to wait until next month to see Europe’s 2017 champion back in action.

Enable suffered filling in a knee in May, but defending the Arc crown at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October has always been the sole aim before Khalid Abdullah’s superstar heads to the paddocks and, while she resumed fast work last week, obviously after such a long absence she will need a prep race.

York looks like coming too soon, so Gosden has pencilled in a Group 3 at Kempton on 8 September, and though that would mean returning on the all-weather, Enable trains regularly on the Polytrack at Newmarket.

Furthermore, it was on the similar Tapeta surface that the subsequent five-times Group 1 winner sparkled on her racecourse debut at Newcastle 21 months ago.

It has been a case of “so far, so good” on the comeback road for Enable and Gosden and his team have had to be patience personified with a filly who lit up last summer, not only at Chantilly but also in the English and Irish Oaks and the Yorkshire equivalent – not to mention when beating older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

However, Gosden cannot afford one single hiccup with Enable if he is going to squeeze in a dress-rehearsal before Paris.

Brilliant though she is, it would be inconceivable to expect Enable to run in the Arc after 12 months of inactivity, so another hold-up and the Juddmonte team would be forced to draw stumps and start planning her matings for 2019.

Though only carrying Group 3 status, the September Stakes at Kempton can boast an impressive international roll of honour, with previous winners including subsequent Melbourne Cup hero Jeune, Godolphin’s Prince Bishop, who went on to capture the Dubai World Cup, and Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs. So, here’s hoping that everything goes smoothly for Enable between now and Kempton.

No European team take the Melbourne and Sydney carnival meetings more seriously than Godolphin, who enjoyed a fabulous 2017 in Australia and are already putting together a powerful squad for the trip Down Under in October.

Charlie Appleby has inked in recent Newbury winner Emotionless for the Caulfield Cup – “he was a top two-year-old and we looked upon him as a live 2000 Guineas contender, but he went lame and, though it has been a long road back, we had him gelded and he now looks the horse we always thought he was” – and he also thinks that last week’s Gordon Stakes winner Cross Counter might get a handy weight towards the foot of the handicap in the Melbourne Cup.

Withhold (Roger Charlton) is ante-post favourite for “the race that stops a nation” and with Magic Circle (Ian Williams), Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop) and this year’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe (Joseph O’Brien) also pencilled in for Australia’s richest handicap, the Europeans, successful last November with O’Brien’s Rewilding, have the Aussies running scared.

No decision on Latrobe, who was having only his fifth race at The Curragh, will be made until after he has taken on King George winner Poet’s Word and Eclipse hero Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte International at York, but O’Brien admitted that “both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup look tempting”.

However, doubtless the Australian handicapper will determine whether Latrobe gets on the Qantas plane to Oz.

Meanwhile, trainer Charlie Hills tells me that Battaash, who produced the most electric performance of last week’s five-day Goodwood Festival when leaving scorch-marks on the sun-baked Sussex Downs in the King George Stakes, will be boxed up to the track from the racecourse stables at York before he runs in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

Hills explained: “It has been well documented how badly Battaash took the preliminaries before the York race last year. It is a long walk from the stables and the occasion got all too much for him.

“Therefore, we have opted to put him in the horsebox for the short drive across the track to avoid all the hullabaloo.

“Battaash has definitely improved mentally through the winter and he was much better at Goodwood, but it makes sense to take every precaution possible so that he does not lose his race before the start.”

As short as 4-7 for York with some bookmakers, Battaash produced a career-best performance at Goodwood, but Godolphin’s Blue Point had beaten him fair and square in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and at 6-1 he is too big a price for the rematch.

Charlie Appleby, looking forward to taking on Battaash again, said: “Forget Blue Point’s subsequent disappointment in the July Cup. William Buick insists that Newmarket does not suit him and, back over five furlongs (1000 metres), he’ll be in his element.

“People have made a lot about him being an Ascot specialist, but he won the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes on his one run at York, so I’m not worried about the track bias theory.”

The European highlight this weekend is Sunday’s Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, a race sponsored by the Niarchos family, who own the favourite ALPHA CENTAURI.

Accidental Agent took some big scalps when springing a 33-1 surprise in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, while Freddie Head, who has won the Deauville race 11 times, seven as a jockey and four as a trainer, is adamant that his With You, who was an impressive winner of the Prix Rothschild over the same course and distance, has the class to ruffle the feathers of the Irish filly.

However, Alpha Centauri, who seeks a fourth Group 1 this season, having mopped up the Irish 1000 Guineas, and the Coronation and Falmouth Stakes, is Europe’s outstanding three-year-old, colt or filly, and the fact that she is again likely to encounter her favoured fast ground in France suggests she can put the boys to the sword.

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