Wednesday's meeting at Warwick has been adandoned.
The Cheltenham Festival towers over the NH season in a way that means that
the good races prior to that event often get seen as 'trials' and not enjoyed
for the race they are in themselves. In the same way the early Group races
can be seen as just a set of good races to be enjoyed as the season plays
out. But, in a very real sense with horses in their first season, the early
test should be identifying the best horses of the crop and setting an order
between them. You should be looking at the races for signs of real ability
and where the juvenile Group 1 winners will come from and which are likely
to go on to be the best 3yos.
The 2yo season now has 35 Group races scheduled which is up from just 26
in the late 1990s. A 35% increase in Group races is a large one and is
clearly diluting the value of a Group win because it is now much easier
to achieve. The population of 2yos tail away to a very small number at
the top who are really top class. If you took the example of tennis as
another example of how a 'population' will tend to come to a very sharp
(i.e. lacking breadth in numbers) then you have Federer & now Nadal
clearly better than everybody else. Behind them you have a set who probably
don't reach to tenth place who are clear of anything else and can compete
with the top two at times when they are at their peak and the top pair
are a little below theirs. You are soon into a broader range of high class
players but well behind the best and will regularly be put in their place.
With 35 races and big fields we aren't going to have a full set of 'Group
Quality' horses throughout. With Group races starting when less than a
1,000 of the 2yos have even begun their careers (out of 3,000+ each year)
that effect is enhanced. The majority of runners in Group races aren't
up to that class and are handicappers of some sort. Many of those that
win and place at 2yo in these events are not Group class in the fullness
of time as the 3yo & 4yo seasons progress. Which means that when we
are looking for the top few horses (Group 1 contenders for later this year
and 3yo 'real things') we can discard the bulk of those who have run in
Group races imcluding many that have run prominently. A Group Race winner
isn't 'Top Class' by association as many pubications would have it. The
rating figure they achieve will tell that.
The table below lists the Group races run to date along with links to the
results and the winning horses. The notes give a few clues about how the
races are working out. 17 of the 35 Group races have been run with the
Group 3 Acomb Stakes lost along with the York Ebor meeting although the
Gimcrack and the Lowther were re-homed.
|Coventry Stakes (2)
6f, 17th June
|| The winner went on to get beaten by 4.5 lengths by Mastercraftsmen
in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes although just ahead of Bushranger. He looked
well below his Ascot condition and wellbeing when 8th in the Gimcrack and
is now out for the season. Aiden O'Brien has run a range of 3yo Group winners
in the race in the last 10 years but Peter Tchaikovsky finished in midfield
at 11/1 and his later runs have confirmed he is an ordinary one (like Listed
winner Newton who did duty in 2003).
As usual the race seemed to spread the field out into ability
levels and the first five home looked the better types and some have gone
on to better races. The second and third have both been beaten behind Bushranger
(in Ireland & France) which links in with the Phoenix Stakes form.
The fifth - Orizaba - ran below form having been working below his best
prior to the race but came back to this form level to win the Vintage Stakes
at Goodwood. The fourth home - Himalya - ran best of Noseda runners at
Ascot and the trainer closed his stable for a couple of weeks afterwards
because he felt the horses were below form. He remains an interesting horse
in this grade when he returns.
|Queen Mary (2)
5f, 18th June
|| A big field but an ordinary set of precocious sprint fillies
who produced an average renewal. The winner ran well under a penalty next
time when setting the pace and just getting caught in the 6f Lowther Stakes
(transferred to Newmarket). But, she cost £15,000 as a 2yo purchase
and the fillies that beat her in the Lowther cost 9,000 & 10,000 guineas
and look like 2yo sprinters without long term prospects. Not the Fleeting
Spirit & Natagora types.
|Norfolk Stakes (2)
5f, 19th June
|| A mixed field and the race probably over-rated given the performances
of the 4th+ subsequently. The winner has been sold to race ain Hong Kong
so we don't know how he would have developed. On the evidence of his trainer's
previous horses who have run well at Ascot his form would have tailed off
quickly. The runner-up has been unplaced in the Molecomb & the Gimcrack
The third has since won the Richmond Stakes and the runner-up
in that race - Gallagher - went on to divide Bushranger & Lord Shanakill
(the Coventry 3rd) in the Prix Morny in France which looks to tie the various
|Albany Stakes (3)
6f, 20th June
|| An average set of closely matched fillies produced a bunch finish
without any looking outstanding. The closeness (lacking real stars) of
the 5-6f fillies' division has been confirmed by later races. The small
filly Cuis Ghaire from Jim Bolger (a master at getting the best from small
ones, Saoirse Abu etc, etc) won from Pennys Gift who went close in the
Lowther behind stablemate Infamous Angel and just in front of Langs Lash.
The two bigger Channon fillies were a close third staying on (Danidh Dubai
& midfield in the Princess Margaret) and 11th (Please Sing, won an
ordinary Cherry Hinto then unplaced in the Lowther).
Two Group winners behind with Please Sing and African Skies
(Princess Margaret) but they were both beaten next time to confirm the
view of a closely matched group of fillies without a set of standout ones.
|Cherry Hinton (2)
6f, 9th July
|| Front runners had an advantage through the meeting and Art Princess
set a moderate pace and Please Sing did well to stay on and beat her. However,
the winner was unplaced in the Lowther and the second has been unplaced
in a fillies' Listed race at Salisbury behind Serious Attitude and
it seems likely that if there are higher class fillies in Britain for the
Cheveley Park they may not have run in the early Group races. It would
take one of the fillies to really show improved form to make a good Group
1 winner and not just the best of what turns up (which need not always
be Group 1 level despite the race label). Channon does have a habit of
improving fillies later and perhaps Please Sing & Danidh Dubai have
more to show.
|July Stakes (2)
6f, 10th July
|| Trainers rarely downplay races but Robert Cowell said of this
field before he ran Prime Delivery that he wouldn't be taking on a real
Group race field but this was a just a good Novice or Conditions race.
The profile suggested he had a point.
Aided by an aggressive frontrunning ride on a course favouring
pacemakers Classic Blade never looked like getting caught after getting
3 lengths for free. Hughes on Prolific blamed himself for letting the leader
get the soft lead and his horse proved better next time in the Richmond
Stakes. A solid field with Sayif going on to finish third behind Orizaba
& Lord Shanakill next time to suggest that the Coventry line and the
6-7f form that has followed is the best seam.
The winner was midfield in the Morny Stakes next time nearly
13 lengths behind Bushranger and well behind Gallagher, Lord Shanakill
& even Light The Fire of the British juveniles.
|Superlative Stakes (3)
7f, 11th July
|Firth Of Fifth
|| Never make the same mistake twice. The day after Classic Blade's
romp trainer Dascombe & jockey Kingscote pull off the same trick with
the limited Firth Of Forth. Hughes again leaves his mount with too much
to make up as Weald Park is second. The third made good ground against
the pace bias and went on to win an ordinary Gimcrack dropped back to 6f
and aided by his own pacemaking.
The winner was put in his place at 10/1 in the Vintage Stakes
next time and well being Orizaba and co. from the better form seam.
|Princess Margaret (3)
6f, 26th July
|| Another big field of ordinary fillies with little evidence they
were real Group class. The first two have been beaten in their next race.
|Molecomb Stakes (3)
5f, 29th July
|| Race appeared to be run in a good time and be better than the
general standard of Group races up to that point. Subsequent defeats for
Bonnie Charlie (by a later ordinary Group 3 winner in Elnawin) & Thunderous
Mood suggest the race a little over-rated.
Worth noting Jargelle in third and the - Result
- of the 5f Supersprint. That looks a much more solid race in retrospect
with Jargelle running well here, Infamous Angel (2nd) & Pennys Gift
(7th) fighting out the Lowther Stakes and the 3rd (Senor Mirasol) went
on to be 3rd in the 5.5f Prix Robert Papin at Maisons Lafitte. He, and
the filly Percolator who has won a various races up to Group level in France
after her early season runs in Britain, were beaten by the Italian colt
Lui Rei. He went to the Prix Morny next time and was in midfield behind
Bushranger and short head back from Classic Blade.
|Vintage Stakes (2)
7f, 30th July
|| A solid looking Group event in the context of the season to
date with Orizaba & Lord Shanakill upholding the Coventry seam and
Orizaba looking in better form. The fourth has won at Listed & Group
3 level in France since. The fifth dropped back to 6f to win the Gimcrack
and unplaced Ryehill Dreamer was runner-up in an Irish Group 2. On the
other side the 6th Instalment has run moderately in hte Solario Stakes.
|Richmond Stakes (2)
6f, 1st August
|| Prolific runs to better form and looked a solid race at the
level. The second went on to run second in the Prix Morny behind Bushranger
with Lord Shanakill, Light The Fire & Classic Blade well behind him
to make that a possibility. However, the fourth was beaten further in the
Gimcrack and Gallagher is probably improving with racing.
|Sweet Solera (3)
7f, 9th August
|| A clear win for Rainbow View from handicappers but she has won
comfortably by clear margins on both runs and clearly has the scope to
prove a good winner at Group1-2 level.
|Gimcrack Stakes (2)
6f, 22nd August
|| Solid form dropped back to 6f after an 8th in the Coventry and
then upped to 7f in Group races in between. Beat unproved maiden winners
from the north and Art Connoisseur & Marine Boy ran well below form.
|Prestige Stakes (3)
7f, 23rd August
|| Typically, just a moderate pace and race time. The 'right' filly
won in terms of scope for the future with the placed fillies representing
the Princess Margaret form and looking proven to be below real Group level.
|Lowther Stakes (2)
6f, 23rd August
|| Ordinary form with precocious sprint fillies who would be vulnerable
to better types in a good Cheveley Park Stakes.
|Solario Stakes (3)
7f, 30th August
|| Slowly run and only a little faster than the nursery on the
day which was won by OR79 horse (Swift Chap) and would make the form worth
mid OR80s. Which means the form is suspect and did not realy show what
the horses are capable of. The Cheka may well be capable of much better
form on softer ground and the winner deserves credit because he had been
off with a minor ailment.
Last year's race saw Raven's Pass win by seven lengths and demonstrate
the sort of different ability level that real Group 1 horses have.
The sort of difference and quality we haven't really seen this year in
|Sirenia Stakes (3)
6f, 6th Sept
|| Often a weak Group 3 contested by horses who end up as good
handicappers at 3yo. A close finish with Square Eddie presumably improving.
The relative positions of Deposer, Klynch & Flashmans Papers (a typically
in-and-out John Best 2yo) suggest a normal renewal and behind the best
of the 6f Group form.
In the third year of the Kempton AW the race produced a 2yo
course record but in fast conditions due to heavy recent rain (the turf
meetings on the day were all abandoned). Not the only course record to
go during the week when the track had 4 meetings take place.
So, that's the first half of the Group races run. The table below lists
the 2yo Group races still to be run. If we look back to 2007 where did
the horses that won the four Group 1 races come from? The Fillies' Mile
at Ascot had a first three who were all making their debuts in Britain.
The Irish trained Listen won with the another Irish filly Saoirse Abu in
third. The second was the French filly Proviso. Three British trained fillies
were fourth to sixth and two had made the first 4 in the May Hill Stakes.
None of that three have looked better than Listed Class at 3yo. So perhaps
we haven't even seen the Group 1 horses in this country yet?
The Cheveley Park Stakes was won by the French trained Natagora from Fleeting
Spirit who represented one of the best two 'seams' of British form. That
pair where clear (Federer & Nadal style) and have proved that they
were different with Group wins at 3yo. The Middle Park was won by Dark
Angel without him having to better the form he had already shown in beating
the same group of British colts. To confirm the view of that as a very
soft (as in sub-standard) Group 1 what have the placed horses - Strike
The Deal, Tajdeef & Red Alert Day - done at 3yo to suggest that was
a real 'Group 1'?
The Dewhurst Stakes was won by New Approach on his British debut from Fast
Company who had comfortably won two races including a late season 7f Group
3. The third was Raven's Pass who had demonstrated his Group 1 credentials
with a 7 length win at Group 3 level. The Racing Post Trophy was won by
British trained Ibn Khaldun from City Leader who both won Group races after
mid September to advertise themselves. The other good 3yos were spread
all over that field with River Proud another who began his British Group
race career with a place in the July Stakes as the sole representative
of those early Group races to make his mark. Unplaced in that event we
had the Irish trained Curtain Call (J Harrington then), Frozen Fire &
King Of Rome to show that the better horses, in bulk, came from outside
So, perhaps that feeling that we haven't really seen a good Group1 contender
so far in the British Group races is valid. Perhaps they are in Ireland
& France or possibly hidden away with maiden and nursery form and have
yet to go to Group racing. The way that Art Connoisseur was dealt with
by Mastercraftsmen wouldn't discourage you from that view and perhaps Rip
Van Winkle will provide more evidence if he comes to the Champagne Stakes
at Doncaster on Saturday.. Looking at the likes of Langs Lash & Infamous
Angel as physical types wouldn't discourage the view that something in
the Natagora mould could appear and beat them by 3 lengths in the Cheveley
Park. This doesn't mean that pair cannot win a Group 1 just that, like
Donna Blini for example, they wouldn't be a good victress with longer term
Table following lists the 2yo Group races still to come. The links from
the race names go to the 2007 results. The Group 1, championship, events
are marked with an asterisk.
|May Hill Stakes
8f, September 11th
| For fillies' only and the first test over 8f. Regular stepping
stone to the Fillies' Mile. 8 Declarations for Thursday with Rainbow View
as the obvious better type and a Jim Bolger runner with Aaroness. Latin
Tinge, a very tall filly who ran much better than her immaturity would
have suggested likely an interesting one in the unexposed types.
5f, September 12th
| With no 5f Group 1 race and the Cornwallis often run on softer
ground this often is the mosy important 5f Group race of the year. 27 entries
for Friday's race and the usual group of horses from the existing set of
sprint 2yos. The, officially, highest rated colts are Bonnie Charlie (109)
& Lord Shanakill (108) representing the Molecomb and the Coventry/Morny
seams of faorm. The highest is Amour Propre (110) though who has done two
fast times in small fields but hasn't actually run agaisnt higher class
horses. Highest rated filly is Madam Trop Vite (104) who's win at Newbury
did look like a real step forward on her previous efforts.
7f, September 13th
|19 entries for Saturday's race with Aiden O'Brien choosing from Rip
Van Winkle, Westphalia & Drumbeat. Usual group of exisiting Group race
reps like Shaweel & Weald Park and interesting newcomers to the grade
like Zacinto, Playfellow & War Native.
|Firth Of Clyde
6f, Ayr, Mid-Late Sept
| Fillies' only. Recent Listed upgrade and rarely of longer
|Mill Reef Stakes
6f, Newbury, Mid-Late Sept
| Occasionally has a moderate field but has a solid record of
producing 3yo sprinters (Firebreak & Galeota) & milers (Zafeen
& Excellent Art) from the winners
|Royal Lodge Stakes
8f, Ascot, Late Sept
| Colts & Geldings only. Run on the same day as the fillies
8f championship race but effectively a second division race with the Racing
Post Trophy as the males 8f championship. That event is run so late and
often on heavy ground that this race ought to get solid fields. Recent
record is not that strong though.
8f, Ascot, Late Sept
| Fillies' only. The Championship for the females over 8f.
Good recent record with winners since the millennium inclduing Gossamer,
Soviet Song, Nannina & Simply Perfect.
7f, Newmarket, Early Oct.
| Recently upgraded. Milk It Mick (Dewhurst & US Grade 1),
Aussie Rules & Where Or When are recent winners have gone on to Group
|Middle Park Stakes(1)
6f, Newmarket, Early Oct.
| Colts championship over 6f.
Stakes (1) *
6f, Newmarket, Early Oct.
| Fillies' championship over 6f.
|Oh So Sharp Stakes
7f, Newmarket, Early Oct.
| Fillies' only.
5f, Ascot, Mid Oct
| Captain Gerrard's win last year broke a run of three relatively
moderate winners following on from Majestic Missile.
8f, Ascot, Mid Oct.
| Recently Upgraded.
7f, Newmarket, Mid-Late Oct
| Record of winners has impoved in the last five years with the
four to have raced again winning at Group or Grade 1 level at 3yo or older.
The last three winners include the Derby winners New Approach & Sir
7f, Newmarket, Mid-Late Oct.
| Fillies' Only with no Group 1 confined to females. With the
general increase in number of Group events and the way those we have are
promoted to higher Groups this might go to Group 1. Another race where
the recent winners would help a Group 1 claim with Maid's Causeway, Speciosa
& Finsceal Beo winning between 2004-6 beofre Kitty Matchem won last
year to return to the ordinary winner type of the previous priod.
|Racing Post Trophy
8f, Doncaster, Late Oct.
| 8f Championship but run late in the season and often on very
soft going. Aiden O'Brien targets the race and even when he doesn;t win
it those that do run often do well at 3yo as the three reps in 2007 can
attest. Last four winners made up of two small 'no shows' at 3yo and two
Derby winners in Authorised & Motivator.
|Horris Hill Stakes
7f, Newbury, Late Oct.
| Hmm, when you see it at the bottom of a table like this you
wonder how this fits into the Group race 'Pattern'. Looks more of an historical
Group 3 than one that is required. The last 10 winners have been mostly
anonymous as older horses to add weight to the 'legacy' view.