It was a King George who described an English summer as “three fine days and a thunderstorm”, so it seems somewhat appropriate that this hot spell is about to give way to heavy rain as Ascot prepares to stage the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday.
Though Britain’s premier league fillies were firmly repulsed by Chicquita in the Irish Oaks on Saturday, at least the second division came home with some honour from The Curragh yesterday.
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Of the weekend’s July Cup heroes, Lethal Force was easily the most relaxed yesterday. The four-year-old enjoyed a lazy lead out to stretch the limbs that had carried him to his record-breaking Group One victory and a prolonged pick at grass to settle his rather fizzy mind, then spent the rest of the day chilling in the cool of his box. Meanwhile his trainer Clive Cox, after sorting out his entries for the rest of the week – it’s back to bread and butter at Lingfield on Wednesday – fielded interminable phone calls of inquiry and congratulation.
Many trainers with limited resources can impress at a corresponding level, but the most instructive measure of their acuity is how they set about making the most of a horse eligible for higher grades. That is when you will often see them exposed, excitably shooting for the moon. In his campaigning of Winning Express, then, Ed McMahon must be commended in both raising and lowering the stakes.
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They did not dare send Frankel here, but at least we have his representative on Earth. And success in a vintage Breeders’ Cup Mile would certainly seal the emergence of Excelebration from the shadow of his nemesis. After all, remarkably enough, he arrives here with the highest official rating of all the horses Aidan O’Brien has run at the Breeders’ Cup.
Everyone else might take a different view, as fatal fissures seem to emerge in his long partnership with Frankie Dettori, but Sheikh Mohammed himself knows that Godolphin's riding arrangements are fairly incidental. Paying such wages, he will never lack a world-class jockey. More fundamental changes are afoot, however, in the supervision of his horses away from the racecourse. And if the Sheikh is relieved that an implied admission of failure is receiving far less attention, then that indulgence is perhaps the least he deserves for quietly grasping some pretty painful nettles.
He's hailed as the greatest horse ever but, says Chris McGrath, it's an ill fit as he's left it until today, the twilight of his days, to ride outside his comfort zone
If Frankel's procession in the Sussex Stakes this week was a no-brainer, punters must now get their thinking caps on to work out the Blue Square Stewards' Cup, the traditional last-day Glorious Goodwood bookmaker bonanza. From the sublimely easy to the ridiculously difficult.
Even before her scare at Ascot, Black Caviar's trainer had taken one look at the undulations of the July Course and abandoned any notion of sticking around for the Darley July Cup. Moonlight Cloud, who so nearly ruined the Australian champion's perfect record, is also safely out of the way, back in France. There is a tempting Group One opportunity, then, at Newmarket on Saturday – and two new hats were duly thrown into the ring yesterday.
Typical. Having finally started to win over those who were treating his career in the northern hemisphere as an anti-climax, So You Think yesterday let them down once and for all. As ever, it was through no fault of his own.
Today's Irish Derby will be no easy addition to Ballydoyle star's CV in heavy Curragh going
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