With one fell swoop under a trademark waiting ride by Richard Hughes, The Fugue surged to a controlling position inside the final furlong of the Nassau Stakes and finally landed her first Group 1 victory. After a dominant performance in the Group 3 Musidora Stakes at York, a renowned trial for the Epsom Oaks, The Fugue failed to land the prize at Epsom and further heartache was ensued with a second-placed finish in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot behind the runaway winner, Princess Highway. However, victory was back on the agenda for Lord Lloyd-Webber's beautifully bred daughter of Dansili at Goodwood and just two years after the Lloyd-Webbers, Gosden and Buick teamed up for success in Dubai with Dar Re Mi, their sights are firmly set on further Group 1 glory with the initial radar set Yorkshire Oaks glory in just three weeks time. The longer term aim is firmly fixed on the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita on 2nd November 2012 at a track Gosden firmly believes will provide the turf condition that'll see The Fugue thrive.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin/Goodtosoft.co.uk
"I got here in time to walk the final mile before the race and found the ground was on the easy side of good so was happy to run at about five to two this afternoon" said trainer, John Gosden, "I was worried about the ground for her as she has tiny ballerina feet and ballet dancers don't go particularly well in a swamp. It was a 20-day gap between the Oaks and the Ribblesdale [Royal Ascot 22nd June] but she was feeling the effects of about half an inch of overnight rain there. She is smooth and silk and if ever a filly deserved a Group One then it was her. She'll go to the Yorkshire Oaks next - it's a must - with the longer term aim being the Breeders Cup in the Filly and Mare Turf. You're guaranteed a fast track there and it's exactly what she wants". With William Buick opting to ride Izzi Top, a decision Gosden admitted Buick had been considering all week, riding duties fell to Richard Hughes - more widely recognised as the regular rider for his father-in-law, Richard Hannon. "One aim that William and I agreed upon before the race was not to knock each other down. William jumped quicker than me so I sat in behind him and was always going well. The more I was pulling my filly back down the straight the more she loved it and the more likely I was to win. John told me to bear in mind she had a very hard race in the Oaks and at Ascot and I managed to win without giving her a belt". An ultra-cool rider regularly seen winning races in the dying strides, Hughes has received rave reviews from many for his ability to read a race perfectly and time his effort to the second, albeit providing many a heart palpitation for owners and trainers alike along the way. "Hughesie sat calm and has given the winner a lovely ride. He knows where the winning post is. William had the choice but had to pick Izzi Top as she was a Group One winner". Victory for The Fugue saw John Gosden notch up his sixth Group 1 of the season and his fifth with a filly. Fallen For You, Elusive Kate, Great Heavens and Izzi Top have all contributed to Gosden's outstanding win haul in the fillies and mares races this season but Izzi Top could do no better than sixth-placed behind her stablemate in her attempt to win her second successive Group 1 of the season. Exceptional in victory in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland, Izzi Top was the well fancied favourite for the Nassau Stakes but struggled with the lack of pace in today's race; "There was no pace today but that can happen in small fields. Izzi Top got caught out wide when Ryan Moore came forward on Was and after that Izzi ran with the choke out and was too fresh. We'll look at the Prix Jean Romanet [Deauville - 19th August] next for her".
The Nassau Stakes had been dominated over the last three years by Sir Henry Cecil's mare, Midday. With Midday recently retired and last year's third-placed finisher, Principal Role, shipped over to America the task of defending the title for Cecil went to the 2011 Falmouth Stakes victor, Timepiece, who momentarily looked to have stolen the race under a majestic front running ride under Tom Queally. After the race Lord Grimthorpe - racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdulla - agreed with the belief of many; "Timepiece ran really well and I thought for one moment that she might have stolen it. She has done everything right and ran a super race but we were just caught in the last furlong. She's improving all the time and she's a genuine Group one filly. She has various options in France [Prix Jean Romanet] and over here [Yorkshire Oaks] so we will have a think about our options".
The Yorkshire Oaks also looks to draw the Epsom oaks victor, Was, who was seen finishing third today for Aidan O'Brien and the Coolmore operation. Aidan O'Brien also confirmed that Starspangledbanner - winner of the 2010 Golden Jubilee Stakes and Darley July Cup - is nearing a return with a likely return to the racetrack in Ireland due next week. A dual-hemisphere Group 1 winner, Starspangledbanner has returned to training with Aidan O'Brien at the age of six after complications at stud.
Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)