Gorgeous Goldikova coasts home by the sea
Monday 01 August 2011
In a sport that thrives on figures and statistics, the weekend was a particular delight for number-crunching anoraks. Pride of place, of course, goes to the pride of France; yesterday at Deauville, gorgeous Goldikova made it a fourth Prix Rothschild in a row, a win that was her 14th at the highest level and brought up the century in such contests for her rider Olivier Peslier.
And at Goodwood on Saturday there was Hoof It, who set a weight-carrying record in the week's feature handicap, the Stewards' Cup. And Midday, who became the first horse to win three Nassau Stakes in a row, took Sir Henry Cecil to the top of the current trainers' leaderboard at the course's midsummer meeting in the process.
If Goodwood, with its incomparable setting atop the Sussex Downs, is glorious, then Deauville, that elegant Normandy seaside town, must be classed delightful. Certainly it is to Goldikova's taste; she has now galloped to victory five times down the straight mile. Her latest success was the narrowest of her glittering career – it was only by a short-neck that she held Sahpresa's late thrust – but it was by no means the hardest-fought.
Once she eased from her pacemaker Flash Dance's slipstream and quickened clear of her rivals a furlong out, her superiority was never in doubt and Peslier let her coast home. "It was just like a nice piece of work," said the rider of his favourite horse, "and there was plenty of gas left in the tank at the end. She is just exceptional and loves the ambience of this place".
The six-year-old, trained at Chantilly by Freddy Head, is clockwork when it comes to reaching and passing milestones – her 14 Group or Grade 1 prizes is by far the best haul for a horse trained in Europe, and she is the only horse to have won a Breeders' Cup race thrice – but yesterday's effort in her country's top mile race for females was, really, only a record-equaller.
Though technically she is the first to win the same Group 1 race in France four times in succession, such classification has existed for only 40 years. Had it done so earlier, the French equivalent of the Gold Cup, the Prix du Cadran – won by the great stayer Marsyas from 1944-47 – would certainly have counted.
Goldikova, whose prime target this year is a tilt at a fourth Breeders' Cup Mile in Kentucky in November, may return to Deauville in two weeks' time for the Prix Jacques le Marois, which she won in 2009 and lost to Makfi last year. "She is just a wonderful racehorse," said Head, "and there is not much to add about her. She just does what she's used to doing, and has been doing for such a long time."
Yesterday's runner-up, Sahpresa, herself a dual Group 1 winner, comprehensively reversed form with Midday's stablemate Timepiece, who had beaten her in a messy-paced Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last month, and finished two lengths third this time.
Hoof It, the latest star to emerge on the sprinting scene, shouldered top-weight of 10st to take the Stewards' Cup; the previous best had been the 9st 10lb carried by Petong in 1984 and then King's Signet in 1993. The Mick Easterby-trained gelding, who carries the colours of Lee Westwood and his manager Chubby Chandler, is now likely to leave handicap company to play off scratch, with a supplementary entry to the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York next month likely.
Ryan Moore, who broke a humerus and thumb when his mount Verdant was impeded and fell at Goodwood on Saturday, will undergo surgery on his injuries tomorrow. The three-time champion, who is retained by Sir Michael Stoute and has been a regular first choice by Aidan O'Brien for top rides this season, has set the tentative target of being back in action in time to partner Workforce in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October.
Chris McGrath's nap
Rio's Rosanna (3.15 Ripon) Travelled well last time before getting stuck in traffic on the turn to the short straight at tricky Chester and remains on same mark with scope for improvement.
Agapanthus (5.15 Ripon) Now well below his last winning mark and blew the cobwebs away after a two-month break with a spin over hurdles.
One to watch
Though yet to win in handicap company Markazzi (Sir Michael Stoute) has posted two solid efforts in defeat this term and has been showing up well on the home gallops since his third at Newmarket.
Where the money's going
Paul Hanagan is now 4-6, from 6-4, with Paddy Power to retain his jockeys' title in the wake of the injury to one of his chief challengers Ryan Moore.
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