Trainers do not often regard missing a Classic as a blessing in disguise, but in the case of Trade Fair, the emphatic winner of the Criterion Stakes here yesterday, Roger Charlton is probably perfectly correct. Khaled Abdullah's colt was winter favourite for the 2,000 Guineas but was ruled out of contention just a week before the race because of a bout of bleeding in his lungs.
Charlton's softly-softly approach with Trade Fair since, allowing the hugely talented three-year-old to mature physically and mentally, has paid dividends, and may yet hit the jackpot. His demolition of a competitive field of older horses in this Group Three contest was achieved in a style that implied that Group One success, so important for a stallion of the future, was a matter of when, not if. As soon as Richard Hughes pressed the button, the imposing bay quickened and in a matter of strides through the last of the seven furlongs had put four lengths between him and Just James, with King Of Happiness and Meshaheer following on.
Given that Trade Fair's immediate victim when he was similarly impressive in another low-key race on his comeback on the Rowley Mile course last month, Membership, had gone on to take the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, perhaps the only surprise was yesterday's generous starting price of 10-11, with evens having been available on course. "This is a proper horse," Hughes said. "He is growing up all the time in his mind. What was particularly pleasing was the way he settled. Before, he had been inclined to be a bit free with me, but today I was almost niggling him to stay on the bridle at one point. And when I asked him the question, his acceleration was electrifying."
Trade Fair, a conspicuously handsome son of Zafonic, has been his own worst enemy, as his previous tendency to get uptight and buzzy has contributed to his physiological vicissitudes. "I think the bleeding stemmed not so much from any real defect in his lungs, but more from hypertension," Charlton said. "He can get quite agitated, and one of the most pleasing things today was the way he remained calm both on the journey here and in the preliminaries. Missing the Guineas meant we could take our time with him. And although, in retrospect, he would probably have won the Jersey Stakes had we chosen that route, skipping Royal Ascot and its razzmatazz was the right thing to do for the horse too."
A logical next step would be the Group One Sussex Stakes over a mile at Goodwood next month, but Charlton was not ready to commit Trade Fair yesterday. "There are many possibilities," he said. "We are not sure of his distance. He travels really well and shows plenty of speed but then, he didn't appear to be stopping up the hill at the end today. For a stallion, a Group One win over a mile is better; one over six furlongs is almost devaluing. Another factor to consider is whether he will be in training next year."
No such big-business considerations attach themselves to the winner of yesterday's most valuable contest, the two-mile Northumberland Plate at Newcastle. Although the winner, 10-1 shot Unleash, runs in the colours of one of the Flat game's high-rollers, the Cheveley Park Stud, the cut has already been made as far as his future is concerned. The four-year-old was gelded last autumn on his transfer from Sir Mark Prescott to Philip Hobbs' jumping yard, whence he has won thrice over hurdles.
Yesterday's success, with its £101,500 first prize, gave Hobbs by far his biggest Flat success after Jamie Spencer kicked on two out and kept enough in reserve to hold the fast-finishing Sentinel at bay by half a length, with Zibeline third for the second successive year and Red Wine fourth. "I got a beautiful run through," Spencer said. "They went a good gallop and I was perfectly happy to take up the running when I did, as I knew I was riding a stayer."
The poor record of Prix du Jockey-Club winners in the Irish Derby should not prevent the Aga Khan's Dalakhani winning this afternoon's 138th edition of the Curragh showpiece. Of the 12 who have gone to Co Kildare, only four have succeeded and just two of those, the 1998 and 1999 heroes Dream Well and Montjeu, were based in France. But Dalakhani, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupré, has outstanding credentials for this afternoon's mile and a half test; unbeaten in six, he showed all the hallmarks of a top-class operator when he put his rivals to the sword at Chantilly four weeks ago.
The Aga Khan will have two live chances today with the news that his Derby third, Alamshar, from John Oxx's local yard, now seems likely to line up after a back muscle pulled on Friday has responded to treatment. The colt was able to take exercise yesterday morning.
Aidan O'Brien will be mob-handed in his tilt at an unprecedented third Irish Derby in a row after High Chaparral and Galileo, with six of the 10 runners, the greatest number ever fielded by one stable in the Curragh contest. The Great Gatsby, a short-head in front of Alamshar at Epsom, is Mick Kinane's pick.
At Longchamp, another milestone is on the cards if the ground is deemed suitable for Sulamani to run in the Grand Prix de Paris. Victory would mark the 100th Group or Grade One winner worldwide for the Godolphin team.Reuse content