Royal Ascot: Nannina top filly thanks to bravery and Fortune
Saturday 24 June 2006
At the end of last season, despite saddling 92 winners, the man who has already divided his career between California, Newmarket and Manton decided that the time had come to pull up his roots yet again. He returned to Newmarket, bringing with him one of the favourites for the 1,000 Guineas.
Nannina loves firm ground and the gods seemed to be favouring Gosden's latest adventure. "It didn't rain for six weeks and the ground was very fast for the first day of the Guineas meeting," he said. "Then we had an inch and a half of rain in one night and it turned soft. She hated it, but fortunately Jimmy Fortune did not abuse her once that became apparent. We knew there was always the Coronation Stakes."
By yesterday, however, it had become obvious that consolation would only be secured by a much better performance than had sufficed for Speciosa to win the Guineas. The Coronation Stakes was a unifying bout, bringing together the fillies who had passed the post first in five Classics. It really was a vintage field, and as they followed Speciosa into the straight it was clear that the drawing of the cork would be a breathless business.
As it turned out, this was an occasion when bravery favoured Fortune. Crammed against the rail, Fortune saw a gap halfway down the straight and sent Nannina hurtling through. Finishing best on the outside, meanwhile, was Flashy Wings -who kept Price Tag trapped on the bridle - but Nannina had flown. She held Flashy Wings two lengths at bay, followed by Nasheej. Speciosa faded into midfield and will now be given a break, while Nightime trailed in last on this much firmer ground.
"The plan was always to try and get lucky," Gosden said. After all, he had saddled the runner-up in this race three times - in contrast to the filly's owners, Cheveley Park Stud, who had already won it twice. They derived particular satisfaction from this one, however, as Nannina belongs to the first crop of their homebred stallion, Medicean.
No young sire has made a bigger impact than Montjeu, however, and it is defensible to wonder if he might have won the Derby with each of his first two crops if only Papal Bull had enjoyed a clear run at Epsom. This handsome colt certainly has some of the quirks shared by many of Montjeu's better sons, and the narrow margin of his success in the King Edward VII Stakes disguised the likelihood that he could yet rise to the top of his generation. He did not handle the turn well, and seemed keener to intimidate Red Rocks than to stretch away from him - he only won by a neck - but those proposing him as a St Leger colt underestimate his eligibility for even bigger prizes.
Sir Michael Stoute could not volunteer any targets before consulting the colt's owners at Coolmore, whose strong hand with Aidan O'Brien doubtless determined that Papal Bull came here instead of the Budweiser Irish Derby. But the trainer did intimate that he would like to give him a break now.
Frankie Dettori was given a six-day suspension for his use of the whip on Red Rocks, but did at least win his first race of the week, the Albany Stakes for Jeremy Noseda, on Sander Camillo. "It would have been pretty sad to leave without at least one," Dettori said. "It does drain you mentally. The first day I was excited, the second day I was arguing, the third I was fighting. So this is a great lift. This filly's work has been unbelievable and we were shocked when she was beaten first time out. But the smile's back now."
Mark Johnston, another regular winner here, had also arrived in bleak spirits, being concerned about the health of many of his horses. Everything suddenly fell into place, however, when he won each of the last three races - notably the Queen's Vase with Soapy Danger, who might yet prove a rather more plausible St Leger candidate.
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