Though the three-year-old fillies take on the older generation in today’s Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, it’s no more than a cautious step into the realms of all-aged competition.
The absence of the prolific reigning champ Goldikova consigns the race to standard Group 1 status rather than the elevated grade it would have reached in her presence.
Goldikova’s compatriot, the English and French 1000 Guineas winner Special Duty, represents the best of this year’s Classic form but she was awarded both races in the stewards’ room. Even allowing for the interference at Newmarket, the proximity of the deposed winner Jacqueline Quest added to the unsatisfactory feel of the race. It’s inarguable that those drawn on the near side (as the first five were) also enjoyed a significant advantage over their rivals.
In the French equivalent, Special Duty quickened up from well off the pace to again take second place but, similarly, the form looked nothing special as the first six home were covered by less than a length. By default and with the aid of the stewards, she became a dual Guineas winner. Today’s race offers an opportunity to prove her true worth at this level over this trip.
There were doubts about her stamina prior to the Newmarket race and, if that was inconclusive, so too was the French race. Class brought her from last to near first at Longchamp but incontrovertible evidence of her stamina remains elusive.
Gile Na Greine, who looked well held when passed outside the furlong pole at Newmarket, battled back to be beaten just a neck. Jim Bolger’s filly left behind her a subsequently disappointing effort in the Irish 1000 Guineas when finishing second behind Lillie Langtry in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.
She was given a brilliant ride from the front that day but the winner had her mastered all the way up the straight and won with something to spare. It’s hard to find a reason why she may reverse the form here and, with Jersey Stakes winner Rainfall in the field, she’s also unlikely to be allowed a soft lead.
The lightly raced and progressive Rainfall showed a most willing attitude to see off Red Jazz at Ascot but she was all out to hold off the 2000 Guineas also-ran over seven furlongs. Despite plenty of stamina on her dam-side, there’s some uncertainty about her ability to get the mile today. She and her trainer earn a healthy respect but, regardless of stamina concerns, it may be a bridge too far at this stage of her fledgling career.
Music Show ran well in both Guineas but she was outpaced mid-race in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot before staying on late into fourth place. Even if evidence of her pedigree suggest otherwise, she appears to lack the pace that is the difference between winning and losing at this level.
The Sir Michael Stoute trained Strawberrydaiquiri heads a triumvirate of older fillies with their hats in the ring. She’s progressive and game but rather unspectacular. Her short-head defeat of another of today’s runners, Spacious, at Ascot was rather more comfortable than the winning margin implies but that was at a lower level and she must find improvement. A fast pace that demands stamina will bring her into the fold but her price is a fair reflection of her chance and no more.
Spacious was beaten just a length behind Goldikova in this race last year but it’d be wrong to take that form literally. Her trainer, James Fanshawe, has won the race three times in the last ten years but she was allowed the run of the race last season and was well held. Even though this renewal looks easier, she could struggle in a race she’s unlikely to be able to dominate.
Lahaleeb makes up the trio of older horses but her only previous success at this level came last October when she caused a huge upset in the E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in Canada.
That leaves just favourite Lillie Langtry, who seeks to build on her Coronation Stakes victory at Royal Ascot. Having suffered a serious injury at the Breeders’ Cup meeting last year, she was in need of her comeback run in the Irish Guineas where she was a fast finishing fifth behind Bethrah.
She readily reversed the form with third-placed Music Show when they met in the Coronation Stakes. On a line through third-placed Jacqueline Quest, she appears to hold Gallic raider Special Duty. Also, the modest early gallop of that race did not truly bring out the best in Aidan O’Brien’s filly and, despite today’s small field, the assertive nature of some of her rivals should ensure a strong gallop from the start. There should be plenty more to come from her and she will take all the beating.
Perhaps it’s a little disconcerting that Ladbrokes, the firm with the perceived knowledge of Ballydoyle’s runners, offer the biggest odds at 9-4 but that’s not enough to dissuade me from believing that Lillie Langtry, bred by Kevin Lynch in Fermoy, is potentially a cut above today’s rivals.
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