Jack Hobbs strolls home in Arc warm-up
Jack Hobbs looks like the main threat to Treve in next month's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after a low-key but successful return to action at Kempton. The Irish Derby winner has had a quiet couple of months with an autumn campaign in mind and gave every appearance of being the better for it as he sauntered home, clear of six outclassed rivals.
John Gosden has yet to commit him unreservedly to the Arc, with Ascot's Champion Stakes also a possibility, but there is no doubt that the Newmarket trainer is leaning in the direction of Paris. His colt is a 7/1 shot for the Longchamp race but those odds are now offered by one major firm, having been widely available on Saturday morning.
"There's no reason not to go to France with him," Gosden said. "We're perfectly aware he's given this 7lb penalty away, he's won well and we're happy to get a nice prep race at home rather than travelling for it and then having to come back to travel again. I think he's an improving horse, like his father (Halling). He handles soft if it goes that way in France, so there's no reason not to look in that direction." Gosden seemed especially encouraged that, although Jack Hobbs was predictably fresh on his way to the start after his summer break, he "switched off and relaxed" as soon as the stalls opened. "That's very important. You've got to relax in this game," said the handler.
William Buick, who has had the ride since Jack Hobbs was second in the Epsom Derby behind his stablemate Golden Horn, said his mount had filled out and is now clearly a much better animal. "He's taken leaps and bounds forward. He's a very exciting horse. Obviously, we learnt nothing today about his ability. All we know is that he's very well and he's on course for Paris," he said.
Gosden reported that Golden Horn had worked well in the morning and was being aimed at next Saturday's Irish Champion Stakes, provided the course does not take too much rain.
"Leopardstown drains well and it's good ground at the moment, so fingers crossed, we can all go there and race there, I hope we can. But we're certainly happy, very happy with the horse."
Asked if Jack Hobbs and Golden Horn might meet again in the Arc, the trainer said: "Very possible. Anything's possible but we'll see."
The betting market certainly seems to feel that Golden Horn is a more likely runner in the Champion Stakes, for which he is high as 4/1, than the Arc, for which you can get 10s.
Haydock's Sprint Cup provided a thrilling finish, with Twilight Son edging out Strath Burn by a short head with Magical Memory coming in a close third after looking the likely winner a furlong out. Twilight Son's trainer, Henry Candy, took this prize with Markab five years ago, while his jockey, Fergus Sweeney, was landing the first Group One of a 20-year career.
"I wish I'd taken a picture of him last year as he's twice the size now that he was then," Candy said. "I would imagine the owners would like to race him on next year, but if he has one more run it might be the Champions Sprint at Ascot."
A thrilled Sweeney said: "I thought this might come a year too soon, this sort of level, but I couldn't believe the ease with which he travelled. I'd have loved to have had a lead for longer but nothing was good enough."
Strath Burn deserves particular credit for getting so close from stall 16 on a day when those drawn high at Haydock seemed at a disadvantage. His owners, Qatar Racing, may not have the fondest regard for this race, won last year by a horse they had previously sold for 25,000 guineas.
Sunday Indo Sport