Tactical speed can win battle for War


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The Independent Online

Even the bitter certainty that they will occasionally put a rider into intensive care is a reflection on the essential unpredictability of thoroughbreds.

So while the professional community remains preoccupied by the fate of Brian Toomey, the young jump jockey injured at Perth on Thursday, few punters will be relying excessively on the resemblance between the big race at Sandown today and one staged at Ascot 17 days ago.

Yes, three of the seven runners in the Coral Eclipse Stakes filled the frame in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes – over the same distance, on another right-handed track, over similarly fast going. Yet nobody could be surprised if things play out differently today. And that applies even to the trio who reconvene, quite apart from the likelihood that some new opponent will prove competent to intrude.

For one thing, Mukhadram was given an inch-perfect ride from the front at Ascot, suddenly opening up from the last bend after profiting from an artful breather turning in. Even then he was just unable to stem Al Kazeem’s late surge, and he can  hardly hope to be seen to better advantage this time. Having said that, the small field gives Paul Hanagan every opportunity to dominate once again, not least from a draw on the rail; and Mukhadram, still with very few miles on the clock, is plainly improving with maturity.

Al Kazeem, for his part, had been building up to something like that for a good while. The disappointing  performance of Camelot at Ascot put their encounter at the Curragh the previous month in due context, but Al Kazeem has now rewarded the patience of his connections with an unequivocal breakthrough. He also made an impressive reconnaissance of this course and distance in the spring.

The only reservation is the price against a horse contesting his third Group One prize in six weeks. In fact, there is a similar rogue element for all the main contenders, five being obliged to bounce back from a hard race at Ascot and the respected  German raider, Pastorius, returning from a gruelling trip to Singapore a few weeks ago.

The Fugue is very tempting on that account, having been allowed to find her way into her comeback race at Ascot, finishing off strongly for third. She had no chance of winning, given the way the race had been set up, but is entitled to improve for the run and her turn of foot in these conditions makes her look eligible to emulate the success of her stablemate Nathaniel last year.

But the value sooner rests with the fresh blood from Ballydoyle. For one thing, this intermediate trip looks ideal for Mars. He has just lacked the pace to cut down his best contemporaries over a mile, first in the 2,000 Guineas and then in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but shaped extremely well when set plenty to do and then hampered in the Derby. He has already had a tough  campaign for one previously confined to a single maiden at two, but if able to hold his form could make a bold stand for the Classic generation with his weight allowance.

At the odds, however, it is worth stressing that Al Kazeem was not the only one to announce himself as a legitimate Group One performer at the royal meeting. Declaration Of War (3.50) had been backed like one,  before bombing out in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, and showed why with a fine performance in the Queen Anne Stakes. Held up in his run, he burst through late to cut down Aljamaa-  heer and that mile acceleration could just set him apart against these  middle-distance types. He is proven at the extra distance, albeit in lesser grade, and this looks a significant choice of target for a son of War Front with a big commercial future at stud.

As for Toomey, he remains in a stable condition in a Dundee hospital after suffering serious head injuries in a fall at Perth. No further update is anticipated before tomorrow.

Turf Account


Frog Hollow (8.15 Carlisle)


Ashaadd (4.40 Haydock)