I read with interest a recent blog posting on another racing website in which the writer lamented, “Where are all the stars?” The subject matter concerned the North American racing scene, which seems to be lacking in some serious ‘star power’ so far this season.
Quite honestly, I can see exactly where the writer of the article is coming from. I’ve been a fan of this sport since I was a young girl, and to be blunt, I could care less as to who or what has been running so far this season here stateside. Earlier this month, I spent several days in Louisville prior to the Kentucky Derby; usually, in addition to being a week filled with long days of being out at the track for morning works and hanging out with friends, there’s always a certain buzz in the air. This year, for all intents and purposes, I really would’ve rather have stayed home and watched it on television. A real snooze-fest, if you ask me.
So---where are all the stars? Why should anyone have to ask? There’s no question that they are all ‘across the pond’!
In Europe, the flat racing season has only been in full swing since the end of March/first part of April. Regardless of that fact, there’s already been an abundance of stars that have appeared on the scene. One of the first to debut was the fabulous Frankel, who remains undefeated in six career starts.
Frankel picked up right where he left off last season, with a victory in the totesport.com Greenham Stakes (Eng-III) at Newbury April 16. That win set him up perfectly for the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) on April 30. Sent off as the heavy favorite for the first classic of the British racing season, Frankel turned in a scintillating performance to win by six lengths. At the halfway point of the one mile contest, the son of Galileo had opened up a 10-length lead.
Henry Cecil, who conditions the Juddmonte Farm colorbearer, has indicated that he believes Frankel might have some distance limitations, and will not run in the upcoming Investec Derby (Eng-I). He will be instead pointed to the St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I), an eight furlong contest run on the opening day of Royal Ascot. Keep in mind that the Investec Derby is run at 12 furlongs (1 ½-miles). Cecil has no doubt that Frankel can handle a 10 furlong (1 ¼-miles) race, and more than likely will point the 3-year-old to several group I races at that distance later this summer.
If kept at a mile, Frankel will surely line up at some point against the likes of Canford Cliffs and Goldikova, both of whom made winning debuts recently. Goldikova added another group I victory to her resume when she captured the Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I) last Sunday. That brings her win total to 16; 13 of those have come in group I company. Owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer have kept the 6-year-old daughter of Anabaa in training this year, with intention of going for an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) this fall.
Canford Cliffs showed no signs of rust when he rolled to an easy 1 ¼-length victory in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) on May 14. The 4-year-old colt was making his first start since winning the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) at Glorious Goodwood last July. It was the fourth straight group I win for Canford Cliffs, who also notched victories in the Abu Dhabi Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) last year. He is being pointed to the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot, where he could very well meet Goldikova.
A new star in Europe is the Aidan O’Brien-trained So You Think, who captured the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) May 22. Named champion 3-year-old colt in his native Australia, the son of High Chaparral notched five group I wins Down Under before being transferred to O’Brien. So You Think has won from distances ranging from seven to 10 furlongs, and will be pointed next to the 10 furlong Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot.
Prince Khalid Abdullah not only has the superb Frankel racing in his colors, he also has two of the best older horses in training, in the form of Midday and Workforce, both of whom made winning 2011 debuts.
Midday, a 5-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, returned to the winner’s enclosure on May 12 when she won the Middleton Stakes (Eng-II) at York by two lengths. She is set to make her first start against the boys in the 12-furlong Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I) on Friday. Her long term objective is another try at the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), a race that she won in 2009 and was second (beaten just a neck) in 2010.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Workforce returned to the racecourse last week, charging to a one-length victory in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Eng-III). Workforce was lightly-raced as a 3-year-old last season, in a campaign that saw him winning two of Europe’s most prestigious races, the Investec Derby (Eng-I) and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I). A defense of his Arc title is in the works for this year, with his next start possibly coming in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
Stoute also has a rising star in the form of Carlton House, a 3-year-old colt by Street Cry. Owned by The Queen, Carlton House earned Derby favoritism when he charged to an easy victory in the Dante Stakes (Eng-II) earlier this month. A major prep for the Derby, the Dante has been used as a springboard to Derby glory by the likes of Workforce, Authorized, Motivator, and North Light. This certainly could be a banner year of sorts for the royal family.
Finally, one horse who I feel certainly deserves a mention-even though she doesn’t race in Europe-is the super mare Black Caviar. The 6-year-old mare is undefeated in 13 starts, and has captured six group I victories so far. We can only hope that this incredible mare not only keeps her perfect record intact, but will at least race in Europe at some point in her career.
So, in closing, if you are lamenting the lack of real starpower in North American racing, never fear! Just cast your gaze upon the racing scene across the pond!