Lemaire's boldness on Natagora keeps rivals at bay
Monday 05 May 2008
Confronted by the distant horizons of the Rowley Mile, many jockeys have lost their nerve. Its 200th Classic weekend, however, reminded them that they have nothing to fear. On Saturday, New Approach had gone down by a nose after Kevin Manning tried to make all; and yesterday, on a famous afternoon for the French, Christophe Lemaire went one better in the Stan James 1,000 Guineas.
For the trainer of Natagora, Pascal Bary, it was a performance that exorcised haunting memories of the same race in 2003, when Thierry Thulliez infamously wove Six Perfections right, left and centre before rattling after Russian Rhythm. She ended her campaign winning the Breeders' Cup Mile from the widest draw – hardly a playing field as level as this one.
The tactics used on Natagora, rudimentary as they were, would have been too bold for many riders, stuck out in the middle of the track on a doubtful stayer. But Lemaire not only managed to take control of the race, while drifting to the stands rail; he did so without consuming too much of his partner's limited fuel.
Though Spacious, proven over a mile, challenged strongly inside the final furlong, Natagora was always just holding her and got home by a plucky half-length. Saoirse Abu, stablemate of New Approach, finished best for third, beaten a similar distance, with Infallible just flattening out in fourth. Richard Hughes vowed that Nahoodh would have beaten them all but for running out of room inside the final furlong.
Unlike some compatriots, Lemaire is at home on the Rowley Mile and has now steered four of five Group One mounts here to success: Pride and Literato in the Champion Stakes, Starcraft when the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was run here, and Natagora in the Cheveley Park Stakes last autumn.
That exuberant performance had suggested that she would struggle beyond sprints, but she has been expertly settled by Bary. Trainer of five French Derby winners, Bary was saddling his first British Classic winner, back in the town where he learned the ropes under Sir Mark Prescott three decades ago.
"Natagora has done something fantastic," Bary said. "They all came to her, but she ran to the end. She is a fantastic filly. I have dreamed about this since October. She is very brave and moves well – even when she is in front, she doesn't pull or anything like that."
Bary implied she had earned a break. "The way she has won, maybe she'll need a bit of time," he said. "She's done everything right, so I don't want to do anything wrong. She'll tell us."
We will certainly see more of Getaway in Britain after his striking success in the Jockey Club Stakes. Though Sixties Icon looked back to his best when cruising towards the front, Getaway was merely gathering his stride and opened up to win by nearly four lengths. This was a performance evocative of Manduro, who represented the same connections, though André Fabre does not credit him with quite the same pace. "He's a typical mile and a half horse," the trainer said. "He'll go for the Coronation Cup, the King George – all the big money."
Though beaten by Saphira's Fire later on the card, Cruel Sea ran well enough for Barry Hills to propose persevering towards the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York. The big splash in the Juddmonte Oaks betting was instead caused by the Dermot Weld-trained Chinese White, who made an impressive reappearance at Gowran Park and was cut to 5-1 favourite from 12-1 by Ladbrokes.
Nap: Hammer Of The Gods(Warwick 2.15)
NB: Ninefineirishmen (Warwick 3.45)
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