Art Connoisseur posts masterly show
Bell's sprinter captures Golden Jubilee Stakes by thwarting Cannonball's run
Sunday 21 June 2009
Though it is probably of little comfort to fans of the oval ball, one South African sporting star was vanquished yesterday. The Johannesburg-based J J The Jet Plane started favourite for the Golden Jubilee Stakes but could finish only fourth as, in the face of a thoroughly cosmopolitan challenge, Art Connoisseur finally garnered some respect for the home side in the elite sprint division. But it was a close-run thing; the three-year-old had only a neck to spare over the raider from the States, Cannonball.
Art Connoisseur, trained by Michael Bell in Newmarket, was returning to the scene of his previous best performance. Twelve months ago he became one of the early favourites for the 2,000 Guineas after scorching home in the Coventry Stakes and though his 20-1 triumph yesterday raised a few eyebrows, including those of his trainer, he has clearly found his true metier.
Compared with some of his globe-trotting rivals, Art Connoisseur is but a callow youth, for between his two victories here he has raced only thrice in a career punctuated by injury. After being brushed aside by no less than Mastercraftsman at the Curragh last year, he cracked a shinbone in the Gimcrack Stakes at Newbury. Then after finishing down the field in the Free Handicap – behind another of this week's winners, Ouqba – at his local track in April, he developed soreness in a foreleg.
"It was a bit of a surprise, I thought it was going to be a boy against men today," admitted Bell, "but he answered every call. And he was given a peach of a ride." Step forward, Tom Queally, even if the young Irishman's first Group One success came almost by default. But for a ban, Jamie Spencer would have ridden the colt and next in line would have been Hayley Turner, currently sidelined on medical grounds.
Queally, nearer the back than the front as J J The Jet Plane took the field along, started to make ground through the penultimate of the six furlongs and stayed on past outsider Lesson In Humility in the last 100 yards with enough in reserve to repel Cannonball. "There was a bit of scrimmaging for position early," said the 24-year-old, "so I just gave him time and when I got the split is was do or die up the rail. He'll do anything you ask him, but not much more as he is idle, but in fairness to him when I gave him a couple of cracks he knuckled right down and, thankfully, kept going."
Art Connoisseur's place in the field was a close-run thing. His latest physical problem was a fairly routine one for a racehorse – he developed the sore, bony swelling on a leg known as a splint – but its appearance was ill-timed. After two weeks of weightless exercise in a swimming pool, he had only three pieces of work under saddle. "I would have been more confident but for the splint," said Bell. "I ran him at Newmarket earlier in the year to see if he might stay the mile for the Guineas, but he showed then he was a sprinter pure and simple."
The trainer, to his delight, still part-owns the son of Lucky Story with London art dealer Richard Green, the names of all of whose horses reflect his business. "We turned down a lot of money for him after the Coventry," Bell added, "and although I was slightly regretting it over the winter, it now looks like the right decision."
Next stop for Art Connoisseur will be the July Cup at Newmarket, where he will clash again with J J The Jet Plane and possibly more pertinently with Australian flyer Scenic Blast, so impressive in Tuesday's King's Stand Stakes. International game still on.
Winners come in all shapes and sizes and, as Chaucer observed, handsome is as handsome does and here it was to win yesterday's supporting feature, the Hardwicke Stakes. Stocky little Bronze Cannon is no-one's idea of perfect equine beauty but short legs are no disadvantage if a brave heart is pumping above them.
It took the four-year-old, known as Mighty Mouse at home in John Gosden's yard, until the last three strides of the mile-and-a-half Group Two to catch and master favourite Campanologist.
"Never for one moment does this horse think of not trying to compete," said Gosden. "Yes, he is very small. But the way he lengthens and lays his body down is remarkable."
Equally remarkable must be gauged Caracciola, who made light of his 12 years and 55 previous outings to take the meeting's finale and the calendar's longest Flat race, the two and three-quarter mile Queen Alexandra Stakes. The versatile Nick Henderson-trained veteran has now won nine times on the Flat and six times over hurdles and fences.
Despite Richard Hughes' short-head victory on Big Audio in the opening Chesham Stakes, Johnny Murtagh hung on through his two-day suspension to retain his leading rider title. Both men scored three; Murtagh took it on second-place countback.
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