Maybe's Curragh cruise creates Guineas certainty
Monday 29 August 2011
It was a rollercoaster sort of weekend in the emotion stakes. There was the crushing disappointment of the retirement from racing of Derby winner Pour Moi, injured during routine exercise in Chantilly. There was the bittersweet defeat of US star Uncle Mo, denied in the last stride at Saratoga on his comeback from a life-threatening illness. There was sheer delight as eight-year-old Marchand d'Or rolled back the years at Deauville. And even Maybe's thoroughly straightforward and professional success at the Curragh in yesterday's top contest, the Moyglare Stud Stakes, had a gut-wrenching twist to it.
Maybe, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is now five for five, yesterday's success in Ireland's most prestigious juvenile filly race being her first at the top level as she has progressed steadily up the ladder. Those who backed her to 8-13 had hardly a moment's worry as O'Brien's son, Joseph, her regular partner, sent her past the Ballydoyle pacemaker Soon two furlongs down and powered away for a comfortable length and three-quarters victory.
Her nearest pursuer was Fire Lily, in the same Michael Tabor colours but from the David Wachman stable, followed in by La Collina. Maybe was already favourite for next year's 1,000 Guineas and now is as short as 3-1. "She's very uncomplicated," O'Brien Snr said. "She just goes at whatever pace you want, picks up when you want, and has the gears. And she's still progressing, and loves her racing."
Even before her close relative Dancing Rain won the Oaks in June, the daughter of Galileo was considered superbly bred, as her yearling price tag of €340,000 indicated. Her breeder, Denis Brosnan of Croom House Stud, who sold her so well a year ago, will have watched her latest triumph with appallingly mixed feelings, for the young goldmine of a full-brother he was preparing for the autumn market broke his leg last week in an accident.
There are constant reminders, though, of the unpredictable road the thoroughbred athlete can tread. Pour Moi struck into his own near-fore ankle with a hind hoof, self-inflicted harm that was severe enough to end his first career but will not prevent him starting his second at Coolmore Stud next year. Namibian, a leading St Leger fancy, is recovering in a veterinary hospital after abdominal surgery to alleviate a bad bout of colic.
Such accidents and illnesses, though regrettable, can be judged occupational hazards. But few could have predicted an ailment like cholangiohepatitis, the rare, debilitating liver disease that struck down last year's champion US juvenile Uncle Mo in the spring.
After a 19-week lay-off, the three-year-old returned to action in the seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday night and, although he could not notch that fairytale comeback victory, both the manner of his defeat – he led a furlong out and went down fighting by a nose to closer Caleb's Posse – and the very fact he was there were testament to his doggedness.
Trainer Todd Pletcher and Uncle Mo's owner Mike Repole teamed up to take the feature Grade One contest on the card, the $1 million (£610,000) Travers Stakes, with Stay Thirsty, but their hearts were fixed on their gallant loser. "To get beat like that was a tough loss," was Pletcher's verdict, "but I'm still very, very proud of the horse."
The progressive Stay Thirsty is the latest to be judged the best of what seems a weak home defence for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Uncle Mo, whose performance was the more creditable as he lost a hind shoe at the start, is still prominent in some Classic lists, but whether his connections will ask anything more from a horse who owes them nothing remains to be seen.
At Deauville yesterday, Cirrus des Aigles paid tribute to Sarafina, who beat him in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June, by running away with the Grand Prix. Sarafina, third in last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is now at the top of the market for this year's Paris showpiece at a general 4-1 in the wake of former favourite Pour Moi's enforced removal.
But the cheers and tears on the last day of the Normandy seaside season were reserved for the much-loved grey veteran Marchand d'Or, who notched his 12th victory, and first for more than a year, in the Prix de Meatry.
* Chris McGrath's Nap
Landaman (3.00 Ripon)
Was a little keen and green on his debut but kept going well and the experience should not be lost on him.
* Next best
Picture Editor (3.40 Epsom)
Has not lived up to the Derby hopes once held for him. Winless this term, he would have been closer in a handicap at Royal Ascot but for a troubled passage.
* One to watch
Phoenix City (Michael Bell) may have had the best of the ground when she got off the mark at Newmarket two weeks ago but has blossomed since and should not be underestimated when she stars in handicaps.
* Where the money's going
Saturday's Goodwood winner Eton Rifles is 12-1 from 25-1 for the Ayr Gold Cup with Blue Square.
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