There is a new star in Europe. The European pecking order changed on Saturday. A four year-old gave two sophomores (winners of the Epsom and Irish Derbies) a thrashing in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and that prompted the pundits to radically change the order. Harbinger, not prominent on the radar, leapfrogged to the top of the list with a romp in England’s midsummer Classic. A son of Dansili, Harbinger, coming off an easy win in Royal Ascot’s Hardwicke Stakes, won the Group I contest (2400 metres on turf) by 11 lengths in a record-breaking 2 26.78 seconds. It was such a compelling performance that William Hill, the British bookmaking company, installed Harbinger the favorite for the Arc de Triomphe to be run at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October. Hill offered even money on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained runner.
Dar Re Mi was a late scratch because of a bruised foot. Six went postward in the Group I King George. British commentators expressed serious reservations about Workforce’s odds drifting to 8-11. At places, 4-5 could be asked. Were the bookmakers privy to information that the fans did not have access to? Workforce was Ryan Moore’s choice over Harbinger who had the services of Olivier Peslier, the French reinsman. Workforce, a King’s Best colt, had registered a run-away win in the Derby at Epsom. Epsom is a demanding course and the consensus was that Ascot, lot less demanding, may not pose enough of a challenge to the Khalid Abdullah-owned three year-old. Harbinger was a 4-1 chance. Cape Blanco, the Irish Derby hero and Aidan O’Brien’s sole representative, was ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, a name familiar to fans in India, and was a 6-1 chance. The other three were in double digits.
Confront, the third member of the Stoute team, set a fast pace. Cape Blanco tracked the leader. Workforce raced outside of Cape Blanco in third. Harbinger lay fourth. Daryakana and Youmzain followed. Cape Blanco hit the front with 300 metres to go. Confront was feeling the effects of his early extertions. Workforce, to the chagrin of his supporters, was unable to find more. The odds on favorite was beating a hasty retreat. Harbinger, in striking range, was steered to the four-path by jockey Peslier. A moment or two passed and the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes had been spotted. Harbinger was in command and was drawing away. Cape Blanco stayed on for second. Youmzain, seldom a winner but a consistent check-getter, took third. Daryakana was fourth. Workforce was fifth and Confront was the last one home. The race was worth 567,700 pounds to Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, a racing syndicate that was having its first runner in the King George. It was the second consecutive win for Sir Stoute in the Group I event.
Harry Herbert, spokesman for the winning connections, spoke. “I will advise anyone to get into owning horses. It reduces grown men into tears.”
I called Peslier an hour after the race. I left a message on the answering system. He told the British racing press. “You feel like you have won at the one furlong marker. The horse is the king today. I know he’s good but he was so well today. He travelled so well.”
Sir Stoute was laconic. “He (Harbinger) just cantered and travelled well. He was a decent three year-old and he has improved at four. The Arc will surely be considered.”
I had a chat with Colm O’Donoghue on Friday. “Tom, thanks for wishing me well. I am hopeful about Cape Blanco. It is a good opportunity but it’s a tough field.”
Our subject changed. “I want to come to India. I think about India all the time. A deal is all I need and I will come to India.”
“Do you have a message for racing fans in India?” I asked. “Tom, tell them I love India. I want to ride there again. Let the fans know that my best riding days were in India. Will I see you soon in Europe? If I come to Chicago to ride at Arlington on Million day, I will let you know.”
Here is a great item about wagering. Coral (UK) has announced that a punter, on Thursday, picked eight winners and used them in different win and place parlays. The total bet was 38 pounds. All the eight horses won-at different tracks. What is the fan getting in return? A whopping 127,000 pounds! The odds on the eight winners were, 7/2, 9/2, 3/1, 5/1, 6/5, 5-1, 6-1 and 11/10. Some bets were 50-pence bets and some others a pound.
Rachel Alexandra was the 1-10 favorite in Monmouth’s Lady Secret on Saturday. Queen Martha set a brisk pace and Rachel Alexandra settled outside of the pacesetter, not more than a length away. Calvin Borel ranged alongside the leader at the top of the lane and gained the lead soon after. Rachel Alexandra increased the margin and won by three lengths in 1 49.78 for the 1800-metre trip on the dirt course.
I saw the Lady’s Secret on a closed circuit monitor at Canterbury Park. The race went off at 4 58 PM Central Time. I will have a report on the claiming crown races at Canterbury in my next blog.
Trainer Steve Asmussen expressed happiness. “I am very pleased with how she went. I was an awfully warm day. She kept her composure. Calvin told me how he loved the way she came home. She is more mature and is carrying a little more weight.”
Jockey Calvin Borel commented. “She won very easily. I let her run a little bit in the stretch to make sure she got something out of the race but we saved a little bit in the tank for the next race.”
Here is an assortment of items you will find interesting. Richard Hughes connected with four winners on Thursday. Hughes won the first race at Sandown (afternoon) with Cadeaux Pearl, the 1/4 favorite. In the Folkestone (twilight) card, Hughes won three races for his father in law, Richard Hannon. Daddy’s Gift was a 7-2 chance. Our Way Only landed 3-1 odds. Sheila Toss was a 6-5 favorite.
At Leopardstown (outside of Dublin) on Thursday, John Murtagh rode two winners before the ban that took effect on Friday. Murtagh won with Zoffany, a 1-7 favorite, and Princess Lomi, a 6-1 chance.
Famous Name, a Group performer with tremendous distinction, landed a short price in the Jockey Club of Turkey Meld Stakes, a Group III race in the Leopardstown card. Pat Smullen rode for Dermot Weld. Famous Name does not make the headlines often but wins races with workman like efficiency. He has been a great servant of Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Patrick Valenzuela is getting a licence to ride in California. Valenzuela has had substance abuse problems. On July 22, the California Racing Board said that a conditional license will be offered if Valenzuela submits to hair follicle testing. Hair follicles show drug concentration levels. Valenzuela won the 1989 Kentucky Derby with Sunday Silence.
Do you remember Tom McLaughlin? Hyderabad fans should readily recognize the name. He rode three winners in the Chepstow (twilight) card on Friday. McLaughlin won with Kingsdine at 3-1 and with Matteroffact at 6-1, both trained by Ms Saunders. The third winner, Clare Glen, 14-1, was trained by Mrs Sarah Dawson.
Ryan Moore had two winners at Epsom (twilight) Downs and was slapped with a two-day ban for careless riding. Moore had one winner in the afternoon at Sandown. Paul Hanaghan, serving a sentence, was not in action on Thursday.
The Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga on Friday (opening day) went to Lemi Geaux, a freshman filly, trained by Richard Dutrow, Jr. The Grade III Schuylerville carried a $100,000 purse. The track was sloppy. Lemi Geaux was six-deep in the stretch and the First Samurai filly rallied determinedly in the hands of apprentice Frederic Lenclud, who could not claim the five-pound allowance because the Schuylerville was a Group race. The time was 1 13.67 for 1200 metres and Lemi Geaux returned $20.20. The Grade I Spinaway on September 5 is on the filly’s agenda.
Jockey Lenclud said, “she learned something today. She failed to break sharply and there was a lot of speed. I had to sit behind the leaders. I got her clear down the lane, she got balanced and she really took off.”
There was heavy rain in the Saratoga area. Three of the five races were off the turf. There were scratches galore.
Del Mar (San Diego) had 45,309 fans on course on Wednesday. The total handle was $12,637,828. It was down four percent from 2009. On track, the total was $3,813,090.
We will take a quick look at what Devil May Care did in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on Saturday. There was a Group I race in Germany at week’s end. All that and more in the next blog.