Pacy Moonlight Cloud earns her Ennis moment and routs rivals
The showcasing of female athletic talent is not confined to events with an Olympic tag, it seems. Charisma on the racetrack is currently largely the province of fillies and mares – with the honourable exception of the colts Frankel and Camelot – and yesterday Moonlight Cloud, who gave Australia's heroine Black Caviar such a fright at Royal Ascot, confirmed herself pretty much Europe's best sprinter with a with a rout of her rivals in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville.
It was a repeat victory for the four-year-old in the Group One speedsters' highlight of the Normandy season, and in a faster time and by a greater margin than last year, despite softer ground. Twelve months ago, George Strawbridge's homebred had four lengths to spare over Society Rock; this time Wizz Kid, another of "Les Girls", was five lengths adrift.
The result was never in doubt from the moment Thierry Jarnet asked Moonlight Cloud to quicken before the final furlong, and was rewarded with such a response that he was able to ease down the 7-10 favourite before the line. A daughter of Invincible Spirit, she has not yet, nor is likely to, replace the mighty and now-retired miler Goldikova in their Chantilly-based trainer Freddy Head's affections, but she is much appreciated.
She was only a head behind Black Caviar in the Golden Jubilee Stakes in June, on a track that Head considers does not play to her strengths. "She adores the track here at Deauville, which is very flat," he said. "I think Ascot, which climbs at the finish, isn't so much to her advantage. She doesn't quite have the same burst of acceleration uphill. Today she was amazing, winning a Group One race within herself. There will never be another Goldikova for me, but this is still an exceptional filly."
Bloke pride was slightly salvaged by the sole challenger from Britain, The Cheka, who finished a close fourth but was promoted to third after being hampered close home by the horse inches in front of him, American Devil. "Not quite a gold," was his trainer Eve Johnson Houghton's reaction, "but he's on the podium with a bronze."
A colt for whom there were medal hopes early in the season, Akeed Mofeed, put his campaign back on track with an easy, confidence-boosting success at Cork. The son of Dubawi had been fancied during the winter for Classic glory, but assorted physical niggles kept him off the track until the Irish Derby, where he was a distant but creditable fourth to Camelot.
Trainer John Oxx will continue to keep the three-year-old's assignments low-key for the moment. "In a sense we're starting him off again," he said. "He's in the Irish Champion Stakes, but that might be a bit too much."
The Dermot Weld-trained Sapphire, who outclassed her rivals in the 12-furlong Group Three distaff contest on the same card, has the Irish St Leger inked in on her programme, and the Melbourne Cup in pencil.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Royal Aspiration (2.15 Ripon)
His unplaced effort on heavy ground at Newbury last time was better than his two runner-up maiden efforts and there should be further progress to come on the step up to six furlongs in a less hectic contest.
Next Best: Catflap (6.50 Wolverhampton)
Was in front at today's distance in a furlong longer and better contest at the track last week, and races off the same mark for her first try at the minimum trip.
One To Watch: Mister Music (Richard Hannon) was patently very unlucky when third behind Fulbright at Glorious Goodwood on Friday, undone by his draw and traffic problems, and will surely pick up a good prize before the season's end.
Where The Money's Going: Motivado's odds for the Ebor Handicap at York have tumbled across the board. A 20-1 shot before his handicap romp at Goodwood on Saturday, Sir Mark Prescott's charge is now favourite, as short as 4-1.
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