Latrobe sets up potential trip to Australia after Classic win

Trained by Joseph O’Brien, who added a first Classic success to his burgeoning record which also includes the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) victory of Rekindling (High Chaparral) for the same connections last season, Latrobe improved markedly on the form he had shown in three previous starts this campaign to get the better of the enterprisingly-ridden Rostropovich (Frankel), who led home a quartet of Aidan O’Brien trained colts from second place down to fifth, by half a length.

Once again, Saxon Warrior (Deep Impact) failed to live up to the form he showed when winning the 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m), finishing third, and while the retrospective explanation for his defeat in the Derby (Gr 1, 1m4f) at Epsom last month – that he was undone by the idiosyncratic nature of the track – was plausible in that context, the same could not be said here, with the Curragh offering a much fairer test on beautifully fast, but safe, summer ground.

However, a nagging doubt remains over the suitability of this trip for a colt who is out Maybe (Galileo), a top-tier seven-furlong winner as a juvenile who seemingly did not stay twelve furlongs at three. Given Saxon Warrior galloped all of the way to the line, it would be folly to suggest he does not stay a mile and a half, but equally he does not seem as effective over this extended stamina test and perhaps a drop back in distance might see him in a better light.

Despite the likeable attitude shown by the winner, this is not form to get too carried away with on the whole, the relatively steady early gallop ensuring those who were ridden prominently gained a definite tactical advantage, while Derby runner-up and second favourite Dee Ex Bee (Farhh) did not replicate that run in seventh. Although the first three pulled a little way clear in the closing stages, the remainder finished in something of a bunch and the presence of two 108-rated colts in fourth and fifth holds this form down to a degree, with the Racing Post Rating of 117 awarded to the winner falling 5lb shy of the mark given to Masar (New Approach) for his win in the Derby.

That said, Latrobe hit the line strongly on his second start over his trip and it will be interesting to note how far this colt stays – while his sire won the corresponding race in 2012 prior to finishing runner-up in the St Leger (Gr 1, 1m6.5f), the bottom half of his pedigree contains plenty of influences for speed. Should his stamina capabilities allow, it would be no surprise to see Latrobe follow a similar path to Rekindling, who finished fourth in the St Leger prior to triumphing at Flemington as a three-year-old, and he could prove another live candidate for an owner who has become synonymous with Melbourne Cup success in recent seasons.

Withhold gallops into Melbourne Cup contention

The European challenge to the Melbourne Cup was further bolstered at the weekend as the Roger Charlton-trained Withhold (Champs Elysees) ran out an impressive winner of the Northumberland Plate (2m½f) on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle and a tilt at the Flemington showpiece was subsequently nominated as the long-term target for the five-year-old.

A 170,000gns purchase from the Tattersalls Horses-In-Training Sale in 2016, Withhold was an emphatic winner of the Cesarewitch Handicap (2m2f) on his second outing for these connections last autumn and he made light of a 12lb higher handicap mark with a two and three quarter-length success at the weekend, despite having reportedly suffered an interrupted preparation in the build-up to this contest.

Withhold received an enterprising ride by jockey Robert Winston, breaking smartly from stall 11 and dictating a modest tempo through the first three quarters of the race before impressing with way he stretched the field in the straight, putting the race to bed long before the two-furlong marker and proving value for a good deal more than the overall winning margin. From a handicapping perspective, this performance is likely to fall in the region of 110, a level of form which puts Withhold on the fringes of competing with the best stayers in Europe.

Despite the visually impressive nature of this win, there a number of caveats to the strength of the form, most noticeably the sedate early tempo, reflected in an overall time that was significantly slower than the preceding handicap run over the same distance. Indeed, Winston noted in the aftermath how his fellow riders had ‘gifted’ him the race on the front end, particularly as the three-day meeting was characterised by very few hold-up horses making significant inroads from the rear. While there are no qualms about Withhold returning to turf, he has secured both of his heritage handicap successes by bullying inferior rivals from the front and it will be far more difficult to execute such forcing tactics as he steps up in class.

However, he is proving a most progressive horse for these connections and a potential clash with Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m4f) winner Stradivarius (Sea The Stars) in the Lonsdale Cup (Gr 2, 2m) at York next month would provide much more concrete evidence of just how far he can climb the ladder.

The Ed Dunlop-trained Amazing Red (Teofilo), who is a half-brother to three-times Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux (Cadeaux Genereux), finished tenth in the Northumberland Plate, but he is worth another chance to prove himself significantly better than this piece of form, a tardy breaking meaning he occupied a virtually impossible track position towards the rear of the twenty-runner field. He is likely to be well suited by the return to turf.

American Pharoah’s brother shows promise

Outstanding Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof The Nile) will return to Coolmore Australia for the second time in 2018 and his brother, St Patrick’s Day, made a promising European debut for Aidan O’Brien when finishing third, beaten three quarters of a length, in the Celebration Stakes (Listed, 1m) at the Curragh on Saturday.

A winner on dirt when trained in the US by Bob Baffert, the three-year-old took a little while to hit top gear on his first turf start, but he hit the line nicely enough and shaped like he will improve further when stepped up to middle-distances. An imposing colt with a long stride, St Patrick’s Day looks sure to win at stakes level across the course of the summer, no doubt inspiring plenty of confidence in breeders that his illustrious sibling will be capable of producing high-quality performers on turf as well as a synthetic surface.