Friday 24 March 2017

Coolmore sets hectic gallop with relentless first-half show

Coolmore's stranglehold on the marquee races shows no sign of abating in a dominant year for the operation, writes Ian McClean

The Newmarket July meeting, whilst hardly amongst the top seeds of Flat racing festivals, was nonetheless notable for a few things last week.

The Bahrain Trophy illuminated somewhat a murky looking St Leger picture; Frederick Engels demonstrated more capitalism than communism in the July Stakes; Frankie Dettori returned from an enforced holiday to pick up the Cherry Hinton for Godolphin; while arch-rival Coolmore was notable for its absence at a fixture which yielded the featured July Cup with Starspangledbanner in 2010. Yesterday Coolmore didn't have a runner of note.

Having just past over the crest of June, roughly half-way through the 2011 Flat campaign, perhaps the Coolmore principals were taking time out for a mid-term review. If so they will be pleased with the details of their report. Under practically every key performance indicator heading the Co Tipperary-based global operator finds itself in positive green-light territory and if it can maintain the gallop for the remainder of the season, 2011 could well be a proper annus mirabilis.

On the racetrack, Aidan O'Brien (pictured) has a characteristically unassailable lead in the domestic trainers' championship (over €2.8m in prize money, almost five times his nearest pursuer). Same old same old, one might say. However, he also leads the British trainers' championship on the back of just 10 winners there with a strike rate (24%) bettered only by one UK trainer in the league table, rookie Roger Varian.

If Newmarket in July is dispensable so far as major showcasing is concerned then Royal Ascot in June is for all purposes where you want to perform. With four winners O'Brien emerged as leading trainer in spite of falling down in the Prince of Wales with the heavily anticipated So You Think.

Three of those wins came in high-profile Group races whilst the other was a significant Listed race. It must be especially gratifying that in Fame And Glory O'Brien seems to have unearthed an almost immediate heir to history-maker Yeats.

If the Royal Ascot spoils were divided evenly between two-year-olds and older horses, it is certainly not because Coolmore has an empty locker amongst the Classic generation. In fact, of the seven Classics run so far this year in the UK and Ireland, Coolmore has won four; and been second in two; registering a 1-2-3 in the Irish Derby and a 1-2-4 at Epsom.

A further entry heading in the mid-term report is that of 'Investments' and subsequent events seem to suggest that acquiring significant shares in Canford Cliffs (from beleaguered BHA chairman Paul Roy) and So You Think (partners with Malaysian tycoon Dato Tan Chin Nam) have and will continue to pay handsome dividends.

Each horse has won at least one Group One since the acquisition and both promise a great deal more through the second half of the season.

As well as quantitative analysis a bit of qualitative reflection would certainly lead to a wry smile that Andre Fabre, who is effectively in the stable of Sheikh Mohammed, should have his first Epsom Derby winner provided to him by Coolmore. And that while legendary Aussie trainer Bart Cummings (former trainer of So You Think) is giving off that northern hemisphere racing "isn't worth two bob," he can look forward to his former inmate being turned back on him as a naturalised northern hemisphere representative in the Cox Plate (quarantine nit-picking notwithstanding) later this year.

Of course stallions are the fulcrum of the Coolmore operation and, reverting to Royal Ascot, Coolmore sires were responsible for Group winners Frankel, Fame And Glory, Society Rock, Lolly For Dolly, Banimpire, Nathaniel, Await The Dawn and Samitar. Further exploration of the stallion impact would require a piece all of its own.

The Coolmore jockey situation has been a major talking point throughout 2011 but it hasn't been a barrier to success with the four classic winners, as one example, having been ridden by four different jockeys -- none of them interestingly named Ryan Moore, who has been Coolmore's pilot-of-choice when available.

Looking to the future, the first half of the year has served up a tasty appetiser for the remainder of the season -- and beyond -- for Coolmore. The older horses in particular look tantalising. St Nicholas Abbey -- early Golden Boy of 2009/'10 -- has resurrected his reputation and goes in search of another Group One in the King George in a fortnight.

So You Think should continue to make waves on both hemispheres. Await The Dawn is being geared for a crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic in an effort to avenge the unlucky defeat of his sire Giant's Causeway in the same event.

With the depth of the current classic crop, the odds of Coolmore lifting one or all of the remaining three Classics (Wonder Of Wonders is already a short price for the Irish Oaks) is reasonably prohibitive. And looking further ahead, Ballydoyle currently house the favourite for next year's 1,000 (Maybe) and 2,000 Guineas (Power).

Eaten bread may be soon forgotten but never, I suspect, at the Coolmore bakery.

Sunday Indo Sport

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