Thursday 14 December 2017

Heffernan showcases relentless class of So You Think

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

So now we know. After a disappointing reversal in his first proper northern hemisphere test at Royal Ascot, So You Think produced a performance to match the hype in denying Workforce at Sandown on Saturday.

It was the complete display that we had expected of him since he arrived in these parts along with his monstrous reputation. There was no flash of brilliance or explosive burst of speed when he was asked to chase Workforce, but that's not his style.

So You Think grinds his opponents into submission. On Saturday, he galloped relentlessly to the line, overhauling one of Europe's best middle-distance horses.

It was a demonstration of class and resilience that was in total contrast to his unconvincing effort at Ascot.

Seamie Heffernan, given a rare high-profile opportunity for Ballydoyle outside of Ireland, was exemplary in the saddle, riding a race -- as he said afterwards -- that was designed to simply beat his chief rival.

Workforce had a pacemaker but Heffernan revealed that he would have gladly made it if need be. And that was the difference between Sandown and Ascot, where So You Think's fate was bound up in the ability of his pacemaker to carry out his duty effectively.

A horse of So You Think's calibre doesn't need that kind of complication.

On Saturday, this corner suggested that So You Think's Eclipse exploits would be likely to define his European stay. Given what transpired, it's reasonable to expect him to dominate now, at least over 10 furlongs. It's hard to see what might beat him.

Rewilding, his Ascot conqueror, will revert to a mile and a half for the King George, and is probably an inferior horse anyway. A similar comment applies to Workforce.

Aidan O'Brien's biggest problem could be accommodating the exceptional array of talent that he has at his disposal these days in a way that will allow each horse to fulfil all of its potential. Then again, that's a familiar headache for him, and one that he has seemingly managed without too much fuss up to now.

It's worth noting that, following Saturday's win, O'Brien has already trained eight Group One winners this term. In the two previous years that he recorded a massive 23 top-level successes, his tallies read seven (2001) and 12 (2008) at the same point.

That gives him a fighting chance of again getting close to the magical figure of 25 that was set by Bobby Frankel in 2005. He might even accrue one in Australia if, as has been hinted, So You Think were to bid for a third consecutive Cox Plate in October.

Zoffany edged out in France

Having given Frankel a fright at Ascot, Aidan O'Brien's Zoffany came up just short to a Khalid Abdulla-owned horse for the second time in succession when going down by a mere head to Andre Fabre's still unbeaten Mutual Trust in a thrilling Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly.

Last year's Phoenix Stakes winner quickened to challenge under Ryan Moore inside the final furlong, but Mutual Trust fought back bravely to prevail, gaining Abdulla a measure of compensation for Workforce's defeat on Saturday.

Clancy Strand feels the strain

Clancy Strand went down as one to keep an eye on when third on his Roscommon reappearance recently.

Indeed, so eye-catching was his effort under sympathetic handling that the stewards inquired into the run, before noting connections' explanations that centred on the slow ground, a nasal problem, a wind problem and his first run back from injury.

With such a litany of issues, maybe we shouldn't have been surprised to see Clancy Strand drift from 3/1 to 10/3 before being sent off a friendless 7/2 favourite at Bellewstown on Saturday. He ran accordingly, finishing a very disaapointing 13th.

Ride of the weekend

Ken Whelan on Sparkling Tara at Limerick yesterday. Whelan rode a brilliant race to land a touch on John 'Shark' Hanlon's handicap debutant.

Backed from 16/1 into 10/1, Sparkling Tara was poised just off the leaders throughout, before the veteran rider made a decisive move for home at the top of the hill.

With the favourite Suffren challenging, he demanded a pair of fine leaps at the last two to see off the threat by a diminishing neck.


"Sometimes I feel like I'm in a zoo when I walk out to the paddock... 'awwhh look, it's a girl'" -- Hayley Turner's take on what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated profession.

Numbers game

41 Rodi Greene's age. The Tipperary-born jump jockey, who was left partially paralysed by a fall in which he displaced vertebrae in his neck, announced his retirement yesterday.

5 The position in which Michael Owen's Royal Ascot winner Brown Panther finished in the German Derby in Hamburg yesterday.

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