Features

European Classic results are still refusing to follow the script

A son of Aquis Farm shuttle stallion Holy Roman Emperor (Danehill), the Ken Condon-trained Romanised produced a vastly-improved performance on his first start over 1600 metres, running last at halfway but seeing the trip out really strongly to overhaul long-time leader and Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Gr 1, 1600m) fifth US Navy Flag (War Front) – who set a strong gallop out in front – to win by two and a quarter lengths.

The form of the 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) was represented by Gustav Klimt (Galileo) and Elarqam (Frankel), who finished sixth and fourth respectively at Newmarket before running third and sixth here, the former posting a career-best effort while the latter was disappointing, coming under pressure a long way from home and never looking like landing a blow. Saxon Warrior (Deep Impact) aside, this looks a middling bunch of three-year-old colts.

The same is probably true of the fillies, although Alpha Centauri was a high-class juvenile who looked to need the run on her seasonal reappearance in the 1,000 Guineas Trial (Gr 3, 7f) at Leopardstown last month, while she seemed to appreciate the return to quick ground as well.

Trained by Jessica Harrington, Alpha Centauri also saw the trip out thoroughly in overhauling the Ballydoyle third string Could It Be Love (War Front) with Happily (Galileo), who finished third in the 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket, occupying the same position here, once again shaping like she will be well suited by a step up in trip. A rematch between her and the winner over 2000 metres later in the season would be an intriguing one.  

 

Lancaster Bomber lands much deserved first Group One

Perennial Group One bridesmaid Lancaster Bomber (War Front) gained a first success outside of maiden company with a tenacious performance in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Gr 1, 1m2.5f) earlier on the Curragh card and he could be the foil to Winx (Street Cry) and her bid for a fourth consecutive Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) should his connections look to an elaborate overseas campaign later in the year.  

Returning to the track just eight days on from finishing third in the Lockinge Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at Newbury and with stamina to prove on his first start beyond 1600 metres, Lancaster Bomber was ridden like the trip would not be an issue, setting a strong early tempo, and that proved to be the case as he maintained the relentless gallop to fend off all challengers and win by two lengths.

The bare form of this success needs treating with a degree of caution as both the runner-up, Cliffs Of Moher (Galileo), and the third, Defoe (Dalakhani), have produced their best efforts over further, while Lancaster Bomber was allowed free reign at the head of proceeding on a card whereby it proved advantageous to race close to the pace. However, there was certainly no fluke about the victory and he saw the trip out thoroughly, which opens up a good deal more options moving forward, not least a potential tilt at the Moonee Valley showpiece in October.

Lancaster Bomber in an uncomplicated colt who has already notched high-class international form around a tight track on fast ground, finishing runner-up in both the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf (Gr 1, 1m) at Santa Anita and the Woodbine Mile (Gr 1, 1m) at Woodbine. While the Racing Post Rating of 119 he recorded on Sunday falls well shy of the peak performances posted by Winx, she did not run to her very best in the autumn and pegging back Lancaster Bomber around the sharpest course in the country would be an altogether new challenge for the superstar of Australian racing. This would certainly be a match to savour.

Melbourne Cup aspirations for Magic Circle

Connections immediately nominated the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) as the long-term target for Magic Circle (Makfi) following his impressive six-length success in the Henry II Stakes (Gr 3, 2m) at Sandown on Thursday evening.

A 70,000 guineas purchase at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses In Training Sale last year, Magic Circle made a mockery of a handicap mark of 101 when bolting up in the Chester Cup (2m2.5f) on his first start for Ian Williams earlier in the month and he made a striking transition to stakes company when easily accounting for Red Verdon (Lemon Drop Kid) and Weekender (Frankel), running to mark in the region of 115 and putting himself firmly in contention for a tilt at Flemington in November.

Magic Circle could follow a similar path to Melbourne Cup fourth Trip To Paris (Champs Elysees), who finished runner-up in the Henry II Stakes having won the Chester Cup, by heading to Royal Ascot for the Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m4f) next month, although he would need to be supplemented for that contest.

A six-year-old who has largely been campaigned on ground described either as good or softer, a genuinely fast surface would be something of an unknown quantity for Magic Circle, but he certainly ticks plenty of other boxes and his behind-the-bridle style of racing early lends itself to him producing the strong finishing effort required to triumph at the top table in staying contests.

Merchant Navy impresses on European debut

The sprint division in Europe is more exciting and more competitive than it has been for a number of seasons and the opposition to Redkirk Warrior (Notnowcato) and his tilt at the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) next month took further shape this week as both Merchant Navy (Fastnet Rock) and The Tin Man (Equiano) staked their claims for Royal Ascot with victories at the Curragh and Windsor respectively.

Formerly trained by Ciaron Maher and then Aaron Purcell, while Maher served a six month suspension, Merchant Navy was last seen finishing third behind Redkirk Warrior in the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) at Flemington in March, beaten a neck in receipt of 12lb, and he produced a career-best performance on Racing Post Ratings when notching a figure of 120 on his first start for Aidan O’Brien on Saturday, swooping late to collar stable companion Spirit Of Valor (War Front) inside the final one hundred yards.

This was a taking success for a southern hemisphere-bred three-year-old competing against battle-hardened older sprinters on his European debut and O’Brien commented after the race how little he had done with the colt since his arrival at Ballydoyle, which augurs well for the prospect of further improvement. He will need to progress again to match the level of form shown by Harry Angel (Dark Angel) or indeed to turn the tables with Redkirk Warrior, but that is entirely plausible given his lightly-raced profile and current connections.

The Tin Man won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in a thrilling finish last year, beating Tasleet (Showcasing) by a neck, who incidentally finished two and a quarter lengths adrift of Merchant Navy at the weekend, and he confirmed his well-being with a smooth success in the Leisure Stakes (Listed, 6f) at Windsor on Monday.

However, this year’s race looks to have a good deal more depth on paper than twelve months ago and The Tin Man would have to improve again to defend his crown, which isn’t impossible for a six-year-old but seems unlikely at this stage of his career.