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European season review Part Three- Older horses

Tim Rowe | 30.11.2017

Ribchester stamps his class on mile division

The Godolphin-raced and Richard Fahey-trained four-year-old Ribchester (Iffraaj) stamped his class on the miling division in Europe during 2017, building on the promise of his three-year-old season to win three times at the highest level.

The son of Haunui Farm shuttler Iffraaj (Zafonic) commenced his campaign with a third in Dubai in the Dubai Turf (Gr 1, 1800m) on Dubai World Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) night at Meydan, but he relished the drop back to a mile when a brilliant winner of the Lockinge Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) second up at Newbury in May.

He thrashed subsequent Group Two winner Lightning Spear (Pivotal) by three and three quarter lengths in the Group One, a race which has been won by the likes of Frankel (Galileo), Canford Cliffs (Tagula) and Hawk Wing (Woodman) in recent years and has been mooted as a starting point for Winx’s (Street Cry) potential European preparation.

The natural progression from the Lockinge Stakes is the Queen Anne Stakes (Gr 1, 1m), the opening race at Royal Ascot, and Ribchester again proved superior to his rivals. He went on to secure the Prix du Moulin (Gr 1, 1600m) in France before rounding out his career with a second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) and a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Gr 1, 8f).

The colt will join the stallions roster at Darley’s Kildangan Stud in Ireland in 2018 for an introductory fee of €30,000.

“We just feel very privileged to have had him and I’m sure he’ll be a super stallion,” Yorkshire-based trainer Fahey said when news of his retirement was announced in October.

Highland Reel and Big Orange star at Ascot

Highland Reel (Galileo) will also commence his new career as a stallion in 2018 after another stellar season on the race track.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained globetrotter, who is out of the Australian Group Two-winning mare Hveger (Danehill), added a further two Group One victories to his impressive tally in 2017 when striking at Epsom on Oaks (Gr 1, 1m4f) day and during Royal Ascot.

He overcame a disrupted journey from Ireland to win the Coronation Cup (Gr 1, 1m4f) in determined fashion under Ryan Moore when arriving at Epsom less than an hour before the valuable Group One.

He followed up less than three weeks later at the Royal Meeting when battling on gamely to defeat some top-class rivals in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f). He will have his final career start in the Hong Kong Vase (Gr 1, 2400m) on Sunday week and will retire to stud as the highest earning horse in Europe.

Big Orange (Duke Of Marmalade), who ran fifth under a big weight in the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) in 2015, also showed plenty of tenacity when battling to a thrilling victory in the historic Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m4f) at Royal Ascot.

The five-year-old made virtually all the running to score a narrow victory under James Doyle, with the son of Duke Of Marmalade (Danehill) lifting bravely inside the final furlong to fend off the strong late challenge of Order Of St George (Galileo), the pair providing one of the races of the season.

“It was an epic race. Order Of St George is a fantastic horse ridden by a brilliant jockey. I can’t describe the feeling of pride I have in my horse,” trainer Michael Bell said after the Gold Cup.

“I was just praying for the line and begging for the line to come. The horse is a superstar – he’s a warrior.”

The James Fanshawe-trained The Tin Man (Equiano) also prevailed in a nail-biting finish to another Royal Ascot feature, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f), when digging in to beat Tasleet (Showcasing) and Limato (Tagula).

The Tin Man is also a potential runner at Sha Tin next weekend for the Hong Kong International Races, with the HK$18,500,000 Hong Kong Sprint (Gr 1, 1200m) his target.

Zarak gives Zarkava a Group One winner

In France, the beautifully-bred Zarak (Dubawi) gained a landmark victory in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Gr 1, 2400m) at Saint-Cloud in July.

The Aga Khan-raced and bred colt gave the multiple Group One-winning champion mare Zarkava (Zamindar), who retired unbeaten after a brilliant win in the 2008 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m), her first Group One as a broodmare.

Zarak had long promised to deliver at the highest level and delivered in great style in the €400,000 Group One, swooping from the tail of the field under Christophe Soumillon to score a decisive success.

Zarak was retired at the end of the season and will stand at the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval in Normandy for a fee of €12,000.

Meanwhile, the leading older German performer of the season was the Markus Klug-trained Dschingis Secret (Soldier Hollow).

The five-year-old performed with admirable consistency throughout 2017, with wins in the Grosser Hanser-Preis (Gr 2, 2400m) in Hamburg and the Prix Foy (Gr 2, 2400m) in Chantilly either side of a victory in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (Gr 1, 2400m), one of the most prestigious races in Germany, at Hoppegarten in August.

Ulysses realises his potential

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses (Galileo) realised his significant potential when landing two prestigious Group One prizes during the summer in Europe.

The Niarchos-bred and raced four-year-old hinted that he was warming up for something impressive when a good third to Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, and he took out the Eclipse Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f) in great style at Sandown in July.

He was far from disgraced when chasing home Enable (Nathaniel) in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 1m4f) on soft ground later that month and gained his second career Group One when an ultra-impressive winner of the International Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2.5f) at York in August.

He went on the run third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, and the son of Oaks (Gr 1, 1m4f) winner Light Shift (Kingmambo) will commence his stallion career next year for a fee of £30,000 at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket.

The Sir Mark Prescott-trained Marsha (Acclamation) also gained a second career Group One at York in August when storming home from off the pace to collar rapid American filly Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy) in the final strides of the Nunthorpe Stakes (Gr 1, 5f).

Marsha went on to make 6,000,000 guineas at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale and she was Lot 1848.  

The Roger Charlton-trained Decorated Knight (Galileo) was behind Ulysses on a couple of occasions during the season, but gained ample compensation with wins in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Gr 1, 1m2.5f) at the Curragh and Irish Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f) at Leopardstown.

He too will head off to stud in 2018, with the Irish National Stud set to stand the triple Group One-winning son of Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) for a fee of €15,000.

Order Of St George ends year on a high

Having been narrowly foiled in the Gold Cup at the hands of Big Orange in June, the Lloyd Williams part-owned Order Of St George (Galileo) ended his season on a high.

The five-year-old ran out a wide-margin winner of the Irish St Leger (Gr 1, 1m6f) at the Curragh in September before digging deep to land the British Champions Long Distance Cup (Gr 2, 2m) at Ascot in October.

He is likely to remain in training for the 2018 season with the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot his likely chief objective once again.

The John Gosden-trained four-year-old filly Persuasive (Dark Angel) also delivered a tough performance on British Champions Day at Ascot last month when landing the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr 1, 1m).

The daughter of Dark Angel (Acclamation) had gone close on several previous occasions at the highest level but delivered in great style under Frankie Dettori when lowering the colours of Ribchester (Iffraaj) and Churchill (Galileo).

There was also a notable success on the valuable Champions Day meeting for trainer Dean Ivory, as his Librisa Breeze (Mount Nelson) outgunned several high-profile rivals to win the British Champions Sprint Stakes (Gr 1, 6f).

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