Nathaniel will make things interesting for superpowers
At the midway point of what has already been a glorious Flat season, Nathaniel's thrilling victory in Saturday's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown was just what the doctor ordered.
Up until then, all the marquee events between a mile and 12 furlongs had been won by either Coolmore or Frankel, and mostly with a degree of ease not befitting a Group One. Granted, it's neither the superpower nor the superhorse's fault that they are quite so good. But still.
Bonfire, sixth in the Derby but beaten senseless in the Eclipse, was the latest of many to confirm that, with the honourable exception of Camelot, this Classic crop is dire. Aidan O'Brien's star colt showcased his vast superiority in the Irish Derby, but such a ready win at short odds does little to sate the appetite for high-octane sporting fare.
It's a similar story with Frankel, though with him it has got to the point where it's impossible to lament the facile manner of his victories because he has now spent three years just swatting away all comers. He just doesn't do defeat.
Mind you, it can be a bit like watching an athletic centre-forward career up the pitch with the sliotar on his hurley, before stroking a goal home in the absence of so much as a glancing blow from a defender. Yeah, dainty, but would someone crack a hurley off him or something!
In most sports, competition at the highest level is about pitting the best against the best to establish supremacy at any one time. But, in racing, mainly on the Flat but not exclusively -- as evidenced by Quevega's swerving of Big Buck's -- the commercial demands of a subsequent career in breeding exaggerate the consequences of defeat.
Keeping Camelot and Frankel apart should go a long way to ensuring both finish the year with their unbeaten tags intact, but that fear of defeat ultimately undermines racing as a sporting entity. In the season that is, then, Nathaniel's lung-bursting denial of Farhh offered up something different in the division that traditionally carries most merit.
Moreover, it promised something else still. Now the winner of a King George and an Eclipse, John Gosden's four-year-old is a real middle-distance heavyweight, and the only pity about Saturday was that So You Think wasn't there to give us a further handle on the form.
Nevertheless, under an inspired William Buick, Nathaniel announced his arrival on the 2012 campaign by overcoming a nine-month lay-off in resolute fashion. As the horse that has got closest to Frankel -- albeit on their respective debuts in 2010 -- he might pose a threat of sorts to Henry Cecil's monster if they meet in either the Juddmonte or the Champion Stakes.
In the event that Nathaniel skips York for a tilt at a second King George on Saturday week, he can instead keep St Nicholas Abbey honest. Down the line, there is even the prospect of a clash with Camelot in the Arc. Who knows?
Local glory for Royals
Batterstown-based Edward Cawley sent out Brian Who to land a decent gamble under Rob Jones at Bellewstown on Saturday. Backed from 14/1 into 11/2, Brian Who was already in command when the pace-setting Without The Bop fell two-out, and came home six lengths clear. There was further local joy when Andrew Thornton and Pat Martin, two Navan men, scored with the in-foal Our Nana Rose, the rider's first jumps winner since Lion Na Bearnai carried him to a famous Irish Grand National success on Easter Monday.
O'Brien quest continues
If Aidan O'Brien is to give himself a realistic chance of breaking the American legend Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Group One wins in a season, this could be a big week. The Ballydoyle maestro, who has twice previously totalled 23, has already accrued nine Group Ones in 2012. When he first got to 23 in 2001, he had just seven at the same point in the campaign, though he had 11 at the corresponding juncture en route to that tally in 2008.
At Newmarket this week, his prolific juvenile Maybe will attempt to get back to winning ways in the Falmouth Stakes on Friday, while Excelebration -- 'Frankeled' to death over a mile by now -- reverts to six furlongs for a tilt at the July Cup on Saturday. Later that evening, last year's Irish Derby and Secretariat Stakes hero Treasure Beach will bid to emulate O'Brien's 2011 Man O'War Stakes winner Cape Blanco at Belmont Park in New York.
And speaking of
the Secretariat . . .
Speaking Of Which, meanwhile, could have his next start in this year's Secretariat Stakes. Stan Cosgrave, racing manager to the colt's owner Moyglare Stud, revealed yesterday that Dermot Weld's inmate, a non-runner in the Irish Derby due to the heavy ground, is being considered for the 10-furlong Grade One at Arlington on August 18.
The Wexford card that was abandoned due to waterlogging on Friday is expected to be rearranged for Wednesday. Fairyhouse had already rescheduled its lost Wednesday card for tomorrow, though tweets from the Meath venue over the weekend suggested that the track still had a bit of drying out to do before racing could go ahead.
7 The run of successive winners that Nathaniel's owner Lady Rothschild had by the close of business on Saturday. Rothschild, Gosden and William Buick had a double at Sandown, while Nathaniel's full-sister Great Heavens sluiced up under Robert Havlin in the Group Two Lancashire Oaks at Haydock.
"@Colmansweeney @CoddJJ Cheers kid!! She'll be eligible for a licence just as Nina and Katie are retiring!! #gapinthemarket"
-- This year's Foxhunters' Chase-winning rider Colman Sweeney responds to his colleague Jamie Codd's congratulations after announcing that his wife Niamh had just given birth to their first child, Amelia Kate.