Michelangelo to embellish glorious vista
Tuesday 31 July 2012
For those who sighed over Danny Boyle's version of long-lost, bucolic Britain, perhaps a visit to Goodwood is the answer. This isle's most glorious setting for a race meeting is now into its third century as a venue. And just as in 1802, when Pantagruel galloped six miles in three heats to win the first race on the third Duke of Richmond's estate atop the Sussex Downs and when peasants still wore smocks, the English Channel still shimmers silver to the south and rolling ripe cornfields glitter gold to the north.
In such an environment, it perhaps matters less who wins or loses than where the game is played. Which is perhaps just as well, for there is no other top-flight course that produces so many genuine hard-luck stories in running. Idiosyncratic is one of the kinder words to describe the oddly- contoured track that hugs the local topography to combine twists, turns, banking, changes of direction, gradient and camber in an equine roller coaster. It all provides a test where the competitors' usual qualities are at a premium. The horses need balance, athleticism and tactical speed; their riders need not only good judgement but luck like nowhere else.
Though the most enchanting of the summer racing festivals, the Goodwood fixture is by no means the one with the greatest concentration of quality, the presence tomorrow of Frankel notwithstanding. For the second time the world's highest-rated horse, attempting to take his unbeaten run to 12, will face just three rivals in the Sussex Stakes, one of only two Group One contests over five days. His opponents are headed by Godolphin's representative Farhh and include his own pacemaker Bullet Train, with Gabrial also guaranteed a share of the £300,000 purse.
Today's opening card offers three lesser Group races, three handicaps and a maiden. The day's richest purse is the £140,000 Bet365 Lennox Stakes, run over the particularly tricky, turning, downhill seven furlongs. This is a relatively new contest that has a few times provided a springboard to better things for a progressive three-year-old, notably its first winner in 2000, Observatory, and Paco Boy four years ago, but the sole representative of that generation, Foxtrot Romeo, failed at Royal Ascot to build on his career-best previous effort.
The Richard Hannon operation, responsible for Paco Boy and last year's winner Strong Suit, relies on Libranno this time. The four-year-old, fourth 12 months ago, has won twice on the course and accounted for two of today's rivals, Edinburgh Knight and Majestic Myles, narrowly but comfortably at Newmarket last month.
Chachamaidee (3.10), undone by a slow start at Ascot last time, is also a course winner, in a fillies-only contest over today's distance at last year's meeting. Her trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, does not pitch females into open-sex company for the hell of it and the hint should be taken.
Two of the past six winners of the Gordon Stakes, Sixties Icon and Conduit, followed up in the St Leger, as did Arctic Cosmos, third two years ago. The last-named's John Gosden stablemate Michelangelo is, at around 7-1, the shortest-priced of those testing their credentials today for a shot at odds-on favourite Camelot in the final Classic, with Noble Mission, Frankel's brother, a 25-1 shot.
An intriguing challenge comes from Germany in Girolamo, representing the connections of last week's King George heroine Danedream, with his Deutsches Derby third place looking better since the runaway Group One success of the Hamburg winner Pastorius on Sunday. But Michelangelo (2.35), who did not race last season but is repaying the patience taken with him this, can continue his upward mobility and the red-hot form of his trainer.
The day's third Group prize, the Molecomb Stakes, brings together strands of the speediest Royal Ascot juvenile form. The downhill, five-furlong sprint can tempt jockeys to go too fast too soon but trust Frankie Dettori, whose first winner, Lizzy Hare, was at Goodwood 25 years ago, to keep enough in the tank on Jadanna (3.45).
Chris McGrath's Nap: Jacob Cats (4.50)
At the top of his game, as he showed with the victory six days ago that ensured his presence today, and demonstrably sharply progressive since his step up to a mile.
Next Best: Beadle (2.45 Ayr)
Not given a hard time on heavy ground on his first run for this trainer ahead of today's nursery debut.
One To Watch: Spey Song (James Bethell), a slightly unlucky runner-up at Newmarket on Friday night, has yet to win but has dropped to a mark off which she can rectify the omission.
Where The Money's Going: Address Unknown has been more than halved in price for the Ebor Handicap at York next month since his second place at Ascot on Saturday, 20-1 from 50-1 with Coral.
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