Dettori and Nahoodh brighten Johnston's day
Thursday 10 July 2008
As he returned to the winner's enclosure after the big race here yesterday, Frankie Dettori must have been tempted to abandon the usual flying dismount in favour of a half-twist and pike. As it was, not even he could restore much frizzante to an afternoon starkly betrayed by the British summer.
In their best raiment – sunshine in one case, frocks and linen in the other – the July Course and its patrons reliably create one of the most decorative milieux of the British Turf. This time, however, they were bedraggled by another day of unsparing rain. True, the flowers round the parade ring and winner's enclosure were no less charming for their dewy glaze; likewise some of the ladies who achieved a bloom of their own as they huddled stoically under their umbrellas.
But perhaps the two classiest females of all found that they had wasted long journeys – Darjina, from France, and Finsceal Beo, from Ireland. The former had been made favourite for the Hydra Properties Falmouth Stakes, but was scratched because of deteriorating ground; while the latter has always been best in fast conditions, and compounded her problems by missing the break disastrously.
She did well to get herself in contention approaching the furlong pole, but the effort told and it was instead Nahoodh who best sustained her challenge from the rear. Dettori's mount cut down the other three-year-old, Infallible, inside the final furlong, and while she restricted Ryan Moore's room for manoeuvre on Heaven Sent, back in third, by that stage Nahoodh had established an incontestable advantage, measured at the line as a length and three-quarters.
Infallible again hinted at porous stamina, having led on the bridle two furlongs out, but all in all this represented a solid result for the younger fillies. Back in the spring Nahoodh was unlucky when fifth in the 1,000 Guineas, over on the Rowley Mile, and she presumably found the ground too firm in two subsequent starts.
She had changed hands in the meantime, and trainers, too, moving from Mick Channon to Mark Johnston. The latter had had her for only a fortnight before Royal Ascot, where a switch to front-running tactics backfired. Johnston admitted that he had been toying with dropping her back to six furlongs, but the lure of a Group One opportunity fortunately proved too strong.
"They say that one swallow doesn't make a summer," he said afterwards. "But it does if it's big enough." This was a bleak commentary on what has been a frustrating season for the Middleham trainer. "These things happen year in, year out," he shrugged. "In the last two years the troughs have tended to be when the horses are underweight and looking poor, but luckily this time the horses were a bit heavier, if anything, so that makes it easier. We analyse a lot, but rarely come to positive conclusions. As usual, you're out of it before you really know what's causing it."
If Nahoodh's success made difficult viewing for Channon, he had the consolation of extending his outstanding record with juvenile fillies by winning the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes – albeit not everyone in his yard will necessarily have prospered. "I think most people at West Ilsley would have gone for Lucky Leigh," he admitted. Instead it was Please Sing who pounced on Art Princess, with Lucky Leigh in fifth. Even those who had burned their fingers will have been gratified to see Eddie Creighton rewarded with the biggest win of his career, less than a year after breaking his leg.
"Three weeks too late," Channon said ruefully. "We thought she had a great chance at Royal Ascot, but they can get caught out there, these two-year-olds, especially second time out. She was beaten after a furlong. I'm glad to see everything come right."
The first two had been beaten out of sight behind Cuis Ghaire in the Albany Stakes – evidence, for any still myopic enough to need any, that the filly is much the best of her generation thus far. With so many of the best Flat horses stabled at Coolcullen or Ballydoyle, it will be instructive today to see what a juvenile Pattern race looks like without them.
On the face of it, the TNT July Stakes looks short of quality, but as such represents a feasible opportunity for a colt beaten at odds-on on his only start. Sayif was heavily backed to beat previous winners at Windsor last month, only foiled in a photo, and has continued to look the part at home. Peter Chapple-Hyam, whose horses are in better form now, has won two of the last four runnings of this race, including with Winker Watson last year. Sadly that colt has since disappeared without trace, but resurfaces today to gallop before racing. For one trainer, at least, the sun seems to be coming out.
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