Lightly raced colts show their potential in fighting out Sandown Guineas
A pair of lightly raced colts Villermont (All Too Hard) and Peaceful State (Animal Kingdom) showed their potential for further Group success after fighting out a keenly contested Sandown Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) on Saturday.
Villermont, who was having only his fourth race start, came from last to score by a head from Peaceful State, who was trapped wide before fighting gamely for second in a brave effort at only his third race start.
Both colts also impressed with their sectional times.
The fastest closing times of the race was recorded by Villermont with his last 1000 metres in 58.24, last 800 metres in 46.12, last 600 metres in 34.01, last 400 metres in 22.78 with his final 200 metres in 11.80.
The Aaron Purcell-trained Villermont was ridden quietly by Luke Nolen and remained at the tail of the 11-horse field until nearing the home turn. He then put in a strong run in the straight and finished too well to take a narrow but very good win.
While the runner-up Peaceful State also clocked good times, running 58.54 (last 1000m), 46.63 (last 800m), 34.36 (last 600m), 23.06 (last 400m) with his final 200 metres in 11.88.
Peaceful State, a half-brother to multiple Group One winner Weekend Hussler (Hussonet), had been trapped deep most of the way from his outside barrier (11) and his effort in fighting on so well could arguably have been the best performance of the race.
The winner’s Darren Weir-trained stablemate Black Sail (Savabeel) also did well in holding on after leading for a close-up third.
It was Black Sail’s eighth start and his fourth successive placing and while he too looks likely to progress to better things, he does not quite seem to have the potential of the other two colts.
In the other Saturday feature, the Zipping Classic (registered as Sandown Classic) (Gr 2, 2400m) the Irish-bred import The Taj Mahal (Galileo) was most impressive in winning here when having his third start in Australia.
The former Aidan O’Brien-trained three-year-old (by Northern Hemisphere time) demonstrated both pace and stamina after being ridden quite aggressively by Ben Melham, who clearly had confidence in The Taj Mahal’s talent.
After racing in second place, Melham took The Taj Mahal to the front at the 1000 metres and after turning for home with a clear advantage, he was not threatened from that point to defeat 2016 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Almandin (Monsun) by three and a half lengths.
Time for the 2400 metre journey was 2:30.09 (12.50 200m rate) with The Taj Mahal returning strong closing sectionals with his last 1000 metres in 59.19, last 800 metres in 47.07, last 600 metres 34.98, last 400 metres in 23.70 with his final 200 metres in 12.12.
It was only The Taj Mahal’s second win in 19 starts, but he had been placed seven times and that includes being runner-up in the Secretariat Stakes (Gr 1, 1m2f) at Arlington and all his recent racing had been at Group One level, in various countries.
The Taj Mahal looks likely to be most competitive in Group staying races in Australia for some time to come, commencing with the 2018 autumn carnival.
Earlier in the Sandown programme, the Lindsay Park-trained colt Long Leaf (Fastnet Rock) staged a really smart effort in winning the Merson Cooper Stakes (Listed, 1000m) to remain unbeaten after two starts.
After racing close to the pace, Long Leaf showed gameness in holding off the late-closing Tony McEvoy-trained filly Oohood (I Am Invincible) and score by a short head in a time of 57.44 – both juveniles really impressing with their sectional times.
Long Leaf was clocked to run his last 800 metres in 43.76, last 600 metres in 32.97 with his final 400 metres in 21.89 – fast times.
While Oohood returned even quicker closing sectionals with her last 800 metres in 43.18, last 600 metres in 32.40 with her final 400 metres in 21.58.
Both youngsters are lightly raced, Long Leaf has now started twice while Oohood was racing on debut – their sectional times suggesting both are likely to key players in the upcoming two-year-old Group features.
A clear demonstration of the merits of their performances was the comparison of times recorded later in the day by the talented five-year-old sprinter Crystal Dreamer (Stratum) in winning the Doveton Stakes (Listed, 1000m), his ninth win from 21 starts to date.
After being third early on, Crystal Dreamer crossed to the lead approaching the home turn and then raced away to score by just over two lengths in an overall time of 57.16 for the 1000 metre journey.
Long Leaf recorded an overall time of 57.44, just 0.28 seconds slower for the same distance as Crystal Dreamer while Oohood ran faster closing times for her final 800 metres, 600 metres and 400 metres and Long Leaf faster times for his final 600 metres and final 400 metres.
Crystal Dreamer’s times being 43.54 (last 800 metres), 33.10 (last 600 metres) with his final 400 metres in 22.31 – quick sectionals that add further merit to the pair of precocious two-year-olds who even went faster, and at such an early stage of their careers.
While the last word this week goes to the promising Robert Smerdon-trained three-year-old Nature Strip (Nicconi) who really impressed on the watch in winning a Benchmark 70 (three-year-old) over 1000 metres at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
Nature Strip began well but was caught three wide in third place but despite working in the early stages, he dashed to the front on straightening and then drew away to score effortlessly by five and a half lengths in a time of 58.05 for the 1000 metre journey.
The overall time was good with Nature Strip’s closing sectionals really taking the eye – his last 800 metres in 44.61, last 600 metres in 34.03 with his final 400 metres in 22.71 – and he went to the post strongly to win easily despite a difficult trip.
It was Nature Strip’s second win in three starts and his looks a three-year-old likely to be effective in Group class sprints in the future judging by Friday night’s victory.
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