Saturday 3 December 2016

Strong hints offered by tomorrow's stars

Ian McClean

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

Frankie Dettori and Shalaa win The Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket
Frankie Dettori and Shalaa win The Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket

'This is a tomorrow horse" is how champion trainer elect John Gosden described Foundation, his Royal Lodge contender from yesterday at Newmarket. Indeed Gosden could have been dictating the PR for the triumvirate of juvenile Group races that back-boned the card at headquarters insomuch that however focused an eye racing had on events over the Rowley Mile yesterday, there was at least half an eye reserved for tomorrow.

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After all, the delight of hosting a single programme that features two Group Ones and a Group Two purely for juveniles is that you get the double helping of present capability in one layer topped up with future potential in another, all in one irresistible bite.

Not only were present champions revealing themselves, but clues to future champions were likely to be in evidence before this prestigious batch of blooming equine youth disappears to winter quarters.

Shalaa had won four in a row even before yesterday and with a rating of 120 was already almost certain to be champion two year old at least at the sprint distance. Described by Frankie Dettori as the fastest juvenile he has ever ridden and bracketed by the normally circumspect John Gosden in the same category as Oasis Dream, anything other than comprehensive victory in the Middle Park would have been a deflation.

Whilst the son of Invincible Spirit did manage to deliver by a cosy half-length from Coventry hero Buratino, his performance lacked the crushing dominance of either the Richmond or the Prix Morny. Saying that, vanquished rider Ryan Moore volunteered after the race that (led by Shalaa) he had never been as fast over the first four furlongs of the Rowley Mile in his life. In addition, Frankie Dettori confirmed what was evident from the stands: that his mount had lost momentum through changing legs in The Dip at a critical stage yet still managed to dispatch a Coventry winner with the minimum of fuss.

The question with all Middle Park winners is inevitably one about stamina for the Guineas trip of a mile back at the same venue next May and it would appear as if Gosden saw nothing yesterday to persuade him that Shalaa is anything other than a champion sprinter in waiting, as opposed to a miler.

Therefore, his "tomorrow" sights will be focused first and foremost on the Group 1 Commonwealth Sprint at Ascot as opposed to the Guineas next season.

The Cheveley Park brought together the three fastest fillies in the UK (with a few old scores to settle) and an intriguing Aidan O'Brien filly with credible Group 1 aspirations.

The fact they all turned up, and in addition all ran to form, led to a thrilling and fulfilling outcome as the four best horses uncharacteristically filled the first four places home. There were only scraps of fractions dividing all the protagonists on paper beforehand, and so it proved in the race. However, it was Mark Johnston's Lumiere that had progressed just enough since her last outing to overturn the form with her Lowther conqueror Besharah, with Illuminate dividing the pair in second.

Like Shalaa, Lumiere led all the way and at one stage looked like she might have gone too fast as she poached a considerable lead from her seven rivals. However, she held just enough in reserve to repel her challengers when, as inevitable, they descended in the last furlong.

A big, rangy grey filly having just her third career start, (unlike Shalaa) connections are highly optimistic she will see out the mile and the 1000 Guineas next May is very much where the Shamardal filly's tent will be pitched next season.

Mark Johnston won the 2000 Guineas with Mister Bailey's way back in 1994, and the 1000 Guineas with Attraction the following decade: perhaps Lumiere can be the one to light up the Newmarket classics for him in this decade.

The Royal Lodge Stakes also attracted two colts of particular potential from either side of the Irish Sea. They finished 1-2 but once again it was another John Gosden juvenile that flourished at the finish. Like many Gosden middle-distance types, Foundation is very much a work-in-progress. But the progress is swift on yesterday's evidence as the Zoffany colt comprehensively outplayed his market rival Deauville in the closing stages.

Unlike the two Group 1 winners who are off to winter quarters, Foundation has one more dance left on his card this season in the Racing Post Trophy where victory would certainly see him to the head of the market for the Guineas, the Derby or both. They named him well when they chose Foundation. Perfect for a "tomorrow horse".

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