Goldikova back to shining best
Four-year-old filly wins Prix Rothschild with electric performance at Deauville
Monday 03 August 2009
Unlike those commercially driven, demeaning occasions now prevalent at feature race meetings, yesterday was a ladies' day with a degree of dignity attached. At Deauville, the four-year-old filly Goldikova won the European weekend's most valuable prize because of her deeds, not her looks. Her class as an athlete was being judged, not the style of her plaits or the colour of her saddlecloth.
But in truth, she took her earnings to nearly £1.3m and her haul of top victories to five with little more than a catwalk parade in the Prix Rothschild, the first Group 1 contest of the swanky summer season in Normandy. Ridden, as she always has been, by Olivier Peslier, she tracked her faithful domestique Only Green through six and a half of the eight furlongs before bursting clear with the instant change of gear that was her trademark last season.
The searching pace set by Only Green on behalf of her celebrated stablemate had most of the rest of the field in trouble early on rain-softened ground, including the British raiders Eva's Request, Lady Marian and Lahaleeb. The only one able to detach herself from the pack in pursuit was the three-year-old Elusive Wave who, hard driven, got within a length and a half of the eased-down winner.
Goldikova won for the first time at this level in the same race 12 months ago, after which she established herself as the best specialist miler of her sex, and very nearly of either. Her finest hour came when she beat colts in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita last October; the $1.5m contest is her prime target again.
Yesterday's electric performance in an all-female affair was a matter of some relief to both her rider and her trainer Freddy Head, for the brilliant Wertheimer family colourbearer had turned in a dull effort on her debut this year before a narrow, if reasonably comfortable, success in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last month.
"She is right back to her best," said a broadly smiling Head. "She had a lovely lead and was always cruising the whole way. Olivier said she now feels exactly as she did last year. She's an extraordinary filly who deserves to be compared with the best."
In that department, Head cannot be accused of hyperbole; in his days as a jockey he did, after all, ride the amazing Miesque – still his favourite horse – to all of her 10 Group or Grade 1 wins, which included two Breeders' Cup Miles. Goldikova will go for her sixth elite success back at the scene of yesterday's triumph 13 days hence in the Prix Jacques le Marois, in which she will once again take on the boys.
Keeping a top-class filly in training as a four-year-old is a policy fraught with risk; often they become hormonally challenged and do not reproduce their form. So it is gratifying that Britain's best three-year-old distaffer, the dual Oaks winner Sariska, is likely to be around next year to entertain us.
The next venture for the daughter of Pivotal – whose standing was further enhanced when her immediate Epsom victim Midday took Saturday's Nassau Stakes – will be to the Knavesmire two weeks on Thursday for the Yorkshire Oaks, and her trainer Michael Bell yesterday reported her in rude fettle. "She's in good form," he said. "We could have run at Goodwood but we want to keep her fresh and well for the autumn. The plan is that this year she'll have three more runs – at York, then the Prix Vermeille and the Arc – and she'll stay in training. She had only one run as a juvenile and her pedigree says she'll improve at four."
Bell was, with good reason, delighted by the Nassau Stakes third place picked up by Sariska's understudy, Moneycantbuymelove, who now has the EP Taylor Stakes in Canada in her sights.
Still with fillies, Night Magic yesterday became the season's third imperious Oaks winner, after Sariska and France's heroine Stacelita, when she took the German version of the Classic at Düsseldorf by a wide margin. And Fleeting Spirit, who justified the decision to give her a third year's competition by shooting to the top of the sprint division in the July Cup, has been installed at favourite for the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Weeping Willow (6.30 Windsor)
A sister to winning juvenile and smart three-year-old Deposer, this daughter of Kheleyf holds some smart entries and has been looking the part on the gallops.
Quell The Storm (2.30 Newton Abbot)
Ran into a progressive subsequent winner last time and the step up in trip should suit the French-bred five-year-old, who is closely related to top-class First Gold.
*One to watch
Lightly-raced Class Is Class (Sir Michael Stoute) has progressed with time and distance and, after taking his maiden over a mile, finished an eyecatching third over 10 furlongs at Newmarket on his handicap debut.
*Where the money's going
After Seta's impressive winning debut at Newmarket on Sunday, the 25-1 offered by Paddy Power for next year's 1,000 Guineas did not last long. The Luca Cumani-trained Pivotal filly is now 10-1.
*Chris McGrath's Nap
Prince Of Johanne (7.30 Windsor)
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