So You Think wins new converts
Tuesday 03 May 2011
We in these parts may believe we have a wonder horse; on the other side of the world they know they have one. The beast in question, So You Think, has a cult following back home in Australia and yesterday took his first northern hemisphere steps toward explaining his hero status with an effortless win at the Curragh.
Last year So You Think, under the preparation of Bart Cummings, was five for five, including a second successive Cox Plate, the local equivalent of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, before a tremendous performance to take third place under a huge weight in the Melbourne Cup. He is now based with Aidan O'Brien at Ballydoyle, with the real Arc in his sights.
The dark bay five-year-old, a notably imposing, powerful individual, turned yesterday's outing into little more than an exercise gallop. Starting at 2-13 against five inferior rivals in a 10-furlong Group Three contest, he quickened away through the final quarter-mile, leaving Bob Le Beau 10 lengths adrift. "He took me where I wanted to go, and when, very easily," said his rider, Seamie Heffernan. "He has some amazing speed."
So You Think will revert to top company for his next appearance, the Tattersalls Gold Cup back at the Co Kildare track in 19 days' time, a race also tantalisingly nominated as the seasonal debut for last year's Arc and Derby winner, Workforce. Frankel, Saturday's freakishly impressive 2,000 Guineas winner, may yet have competition as a public icon.
O'Brien himself is already as committed a fan as those who set their alarms for 1.20 in the Antipodean small hours to watch a live broadcast of yesterday's race. "We'd heard how special he was," he said, "but you don't really know, it can be mystery and fantasy until you see it close up yourself. Now we've taken the lid off – even ever so slightly, because all he's been doing at home has been half-speeds and was just about ready to start today – we can see and feel and believe that aura.
"He's a total professional, he settled in the race, quickened when he was asked and went to the winning line as relaxed as if he was going to the start and you couldn't have asked for more. He's an incredible specimen and it's a privilege to have him."
With nothing home-grown coming through the ranks for this season's elite middle-distance programme, John Magnier and his Coolmore partners shrewdly bought a controlling share in So You Think after his Flemington effort; he is, after all, a son of one of their most successful dual-hemisphere stallions, High Chaparral. They had conspicuous success last season with a similar venture, converting top Australian sprinter Starspangledbanner into Europe's champion.
Frankel may have been first on Saturday with the rest pretty much nowhere, but the trainer of the best of them, Dubawi Gold, is anxious that neither he nor, more pertinently, one of his stablemates, is overlooked.
The Guineas runner-up is scheduled to take in the Irish version of the Classic 18 days hence and victory there would put him on course for a rematch with Frankel at Royal Ascot. But his trainer, Richard Hannon, has a bigger gun at his disposal for later in the season, the four-year-old Canford Cliffs.
"I'm told you should never be afraid of one horse, so if Dubawi Gold meets Frankel again in the St James's Palace Stakes, so be it; there is no use in ducking every challenge that looks difficult. But however he gets on, Canford Cliffs will be a whole different kettle of fish."
The focus remains in Ireland today, with the launch of the Punchestown festival a reminder that the stars of the jumping scene are not yet on their summer holidays. Chief among this afternoon's three Grade One contests is the showdown between the Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sizing Europe and the three who followed him home at Cheltenham, in order Big Zeb, Captain Cee Bee and Golden Silver. And tomorrow none other than Kauto Star will be in action in the Guinness Gold Cup.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Pitkin (4.45 Newcastle) Meets some rivals from his last run and can come out on top this time with more experienced hands on the reins.
Adlington (4.15 Newcastle) Can build on last month's first handicap effort, when he seemed to run out of puff.
One to watch
Newmarket runner-up Sea Of Heartbreak (Roger Charlton) looked quite tubby for her seasonal debut and should progress.
Where the money's going
Frankel has drifted to 17-1 for the Derby on Betfair, compared with the 3-1 favourite offered by conventional firms.
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