The Nunthorpe Stakes here yesterday was not a Group One race. It was a homage and Oasis Dream its idol. This bullet of a colt has arrested a search conducted in British racing for far too long now, that for a soul-lifting sprinter, and the latest trails of fire were left across the Knavesmire yesterday.
Oasis Dream would have broken a record as well as rivals' hearts had it not been for the vanity of his jockey, Richard Hughes. The Irishman slackened off in the closing stages to check his superiority on the infield screen. That meant Dayjur's race best time from 1990 was preserved by four- hundredths of a second.
It is not, however, statistics which define Oasis Dream. It is an impression, a sense of power and cruel speed. "I've been lucky enough to train some fast horses in my time, in America and Europe, Group One sprinters, but I've never trained anything as fast as this," John Gosden said. "He's quick. Seriously quick. What I love about him is that he's got the most fantastic temperament as well. He's the most laid-back horse, a fabulous model. He doesn't give a monkeys' about anything." Oasis Dream's work on the Manton gallops this summer has been swift and solitary. "There is one problem at home," the trainer added. "There is absolutely nothing to go with him."
Such was the impression that the colt first created in beating the Australian horse Choisir, in last month's July Cup, that the phlegmatic Gosden became unusually twitchy.
That sensation came from the realisation that he had become a beefeater of the turf, the guardian of a most rare and valuable property.
"I'm not a man for pressure," he said. "It's important in life not to put pressure on staff or jockeys, certainly not on horses. But I've certainly felt it myself in the last 10 days. It hasn't been a pleasant build-up because when you've got a horse like him you're nothing if you win and an idiot if you get beaten."
The agonising would have vanished yesterday from the moment Oasis Dream emerged from the stalls as if stung. Hughes' knuckles must quickly have become pale. "The amazing thing is that you don't know how fast you are going on him," the jockey reported. "Most sprinters have daisy-cutting actions, but he's a galloper. He bends his knees quite high. Most sprinters take three strides for one of his. Once I grabbed hold of him at the two-furlong pole it was all over."
This execution reminded Gosden of far-off times, when he once worked at the knee of Sir Noel Murless. "If ever there was a horse which made his eyes light up it was Abernant. He said he could just kill them in the first three furlongs. This horse is just the same."
Oasis Dream's next race is predictable enough. The Haydock Sprint Cup is at his mercy. After that though the programme deviates from what could have been the general expectation. He will travel to California and the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, not for the Sprint event, but for an initial crack at a mile.
"In the Sprint, if you don't quite get the break you get dirt in your face," Gosden added. "When that happens you stop thinking about running and start climbing. He's a European turf horse and the two-turn mile there will really suit him."
This might not be the madness it seems. Last Tycoon in the 1986 Breeders' Cup made the transition from sprinter to eight furlongs at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains under a masterful ride from Yves Saint-Martin. In addition, the miling division is not replete with celebrities in the United States this season. At this stage, the French pairing of Domedriver and Six Perfections look more formidable.
Coral's quote of 6-1 about Oasis Dream for America is not the worst value they have ever offered. There was an example of blistering speed also in the afternoon's other Group race, the Lowther Stakes, which fell to Jeremy Noseda's Carry On Katie. She went down to the start more quickly than most of the others came back. "She pissed off for a furlong before I managed to get her back nice and relaxed," Frankie Dettori reported.
Mindful of the volatile creature beneath him, the jockey sat quietly on the nitroglycerine in the race itself and did not twitch until the furlong marker. Then it was over. Dettori's pat of congratulation down Carry On Katie's neck as they crossed the line was as heavy as he got.
"Physically you would say she would definitely be a miler next year, but the way she is so hot and spicy right now I would say six furlongs is just about her limit," he said. "She's very quick. "I like the potential in her. She's not just a quick little two-year-old. This is going to be a nice filly at three."
The bookmakers agree. Carry On Katie, who next competes on her home track in the Cheveley Park Stakes, is a top-priced 16-1 for the 1000 Guineas, second favourite behind Mark Johnston's Attraction.
NB: Caught In The Dark
McCoy back to close gap with arch rival Johnson
Tony McCoy returns to action with two mounts at Fontwell today after two months sidelined with a broken right arm.
The record-breaking champion jump jockey rides Flying Spirit for trainer Gary Moore in the 2.30 and then resumes his position as stable jockey to Martin Pipe on Enitsag in the 3.05. McCoy broke his arm when his mount Kymberlya slipped on the final bend in a hurdle race at Worcester on 18 June. His comeback has been delayed as he needed a total of five operations on his damaged arm. But he has been riding out and is ready to claw back the 18-winner lead (54-36) his arch rival Richard Johnson holds on him.
"It's back to normal, fingers crossed," his agent Dave Roberts said yesterday. "He has the two rides tomorrow and two or three at the moment at Worcester on Saturday."
* Hugs Dancer will undergo tests on his heart after finishing tailed off last behind Saint Alebe in the Ebor Handicap at York on Wednesday. His trainer, James Given, said yesterday: "He is going to have tests as his heart beat was abnormal. We need to find out the cause and what the problem was."Reuse content