Just twelve months after the retirement of Breeders Cup Mile supermare, Goldikova, Freddie Head is back and he's targeting a reclaim of the Breeders Cup Mile trophy which his stable held dear through three scintillating years of turf mile dominance.
Photo: Yuji Noda
Goldikova was an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime turf mare who dominated the mile races in England, France and America. A winner of a staggering fourteen Group 1 races, Goldikova's career came to a end under the shadows of the twin spires at Churchill Downs last fall when a defence of her Breeders Cup Mile fell agonisingly short as the old warrior, Court Vision, blasted to victory and eclipse the record breaking attempt of his age-sharing foe. As a six year old, Goldikova had achieved exceptional, unthinkable feats in her time on the racetrack and installed a sense of enjoyment into European racing with every passing start. The sight of Goldikova on the Santa Anita worktab, a vision that was an ever present in 2009 and 2010, will not be the familiar presence it once was at this year's Breeders Cup. Instead, Head returns with his new flying filly, Moonlight Cloud, who got to within a nostril of Australia's greatest ever mare, Black Caviar, in early summer at Royal Ascot before dominating all of her races, bar one, since. A four year old daughter of Invincible Spirit, Moonlight Cloud has already notched up three Group 1 victories on her ascendancy towards the top of the class in France. A double victory in the Prix Maurice du Gheest (2011 & 2012) have headlined a career which has shouted a preference for the seven furlong distance. However, Sunday saw Head's filly reign supreme in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin, run over a mile as part of Longchamp's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe trials day.
A four runner race that had drawn intriguing opposition, the Prix du Moulin saw Godolphin's Farhh lead his three rivals through the early part of the race. Turning into the straight Freddie Head's filly, Moonlight Cloud, had relegated herself to third position behind Alan McCabe's Caspar Netscher, a colt who also looks set to target the Breeders Cup Mile. With two furlongs to go, Moonlight Cloud, under experienced rider Thierry Jarnet, began to bear down on Dettori and Farhh and challenge for the lead. A scintillating battle between the two with the lead changing hands on an unfathomable number of occasions ensued with Moonlight Cloud agonisingly thrusting her head in front towards the line and holding off the persistent challenge of Farhh in the shadows of the post.
"She'll miss the [Prix de la] Foret on Arc weekend and go to Santa Anita. She's an extraordinary filly who has evolved" said Head, "She has a lot of speed and now, over a true test of a mile, she has reproduced her best running. She finished really well". The Prix du Moulin was Moonlight Cloud's first victory over the mile distance after an unlucky fourth-placed finish behind Excelebration in her previous race, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
A one-time English 1000 Guineas fancy, the doubts surrounding Moonlight Cloud's ability seem to have been temporarily tossed aside on the lead up to the Breeders Cup. However, the test of a strongly run turf mile such as the Breeders Cup Mile is an entirely different proposition to that of a four-runner Prix du Moulin.
Moonlight Cloud is an exceptionally talented individual, a filly with speed to claw in her rivals in the final stages of a race, but whether the final furlong may prove too greater a test at Santa Anita is a question that will remain a burdening shadow as the filly enters the gate for attempt at reclamation for Freddie Head on the first Saturday of November.
Photos Courtesy of Yuji Noda