It’s pretty much odds-on that the names of the winners of next year’s first Classics are already in the form book; of the last dozen heroes and heroines of the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, only five of the 24 had not yet been seen in public by this time of year. Whether Aktabantay, who snatched yesterday’s Solario Stakes at Sandown Park by the width of his whiskers, goes on to glory remains to be seen, but as far as Hugo Palmer is concerned he has already taken the biscuit.
The colt gave his young trainer, whose family’s fortune was based on the teatime confectioneries produced by the once-ubiquitous Huntley & Palmer firm, the first Group winner of his upwardly mobile fledgling career. It was a close-run thing, though, as it took the very best of Ryan Moore to force victory by a short head from the 5-4 favourite, Future Empire, in the final stride.
Moore, forced to sit last of the five runners after being slightly squeezed for room at the start, had to work hard on Aktabantay after the outsider Lexington Times pinched first run on his rivals in the straight, but in fairness the son of Oasis Dream responded, even though he needed all of the seven furlongs and 16 yards’ distance with its stiff uphill finish to get his cheek-pieced head in front.
“They didn’t go mad early and I got the split I wanted between horses about two and a half [furlongs] out,” said Moore. “He was going nicely and I thought I’d win comfortably. But the one in front took a length or two and mine took a while to get going. But he’s still a bit green and he hadn’t raced round a bend before, which was different for him. I should think he’ll come on for the experience.”
Aktabantay’s narrow success caused few ripples in the 2,000 Guineas market: he remains a 40-1 outsider. Though the Solario Stakes, a Group Three prize, has been won by some subsequently high-class performers, the only two to go on to Guineas glory have been the filly Oh So Sharp in 1985 and the colt To-Agori-Mou in 1981. But last year’s winner, Kingman, this term’s top-rated three-year-old, finished second in the Classic on the Rowley Mile and three years earlier Native Khan – owned, like Aktabantay, by the Turkish industrialist Ibrahim Araci – came in third behind Frankel.
Palmer, 33, in his fourth season with a licence, has some ambitious autumn targets for the progressive pride of his Newmarket stable, including top two-year-old races on both sides of the Atlantic, the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita. “I think a stronger gallop would have suited him,” he said, “and I dream and hope that as we go up in grade they will go faster and that will get him going.”Reuse content