Over in the UK, we’ve barely cleaned the Champagne off of our Royal Ascot bowler hats, but we’re already thinking ahead to the next big festival of the flat racing season, Glorious Goodwood.
With big races like the Irish Oaks, the July Cup, and the King George VI Stakes all still to be run over the next month, plenty of water has to go under the bridge before the curtain is raised for Sussex Downs on August 1st. When top-class thoroughbred horses and revenge meetings are on the agenda, however, it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
By the time Goodwood opens its gates for five days of glorious racing and (hopefully) weather, the 3-year-old classics will have been run (aside from Doncaster’s St Leger, which takes place in September), and most of the 3-year-old generation will be able to test themselves against the older horses for the first time. They will get a nice weight allowance, allowing them to get seriously competitive with what are supposed to be their stronger and wiser rivals, and when you’re talking about the best horses of their generation, that few pounds’ difference can be a significant advantage.
If all of the principals can stay healthy and turn up in good form a month from now, these are some of the clashes that we can look forward to seeing:
Ribchester vs Barney Roy & Churchill
The first top-class mixing of the generations over the mile trip this year comes in the Sussex Stakes. Looking back at the winners list, it’s clear that the 3-year-olds have had the edge. They’ve taken seven of the last ten renewals, with names like Frankel, Canford Cliffs, Kingman, Rip Van Winkle, and last year’s winner, The Gurkha. This year, the challenge looks as strong as ever.
That stat makes it easy to get carried away with the chances of Churchill and Barney Roy, but it’s not every year that a 4-year-old of Ribchester’s quality is in opposition. Churchill, with a Guineas double under his belt, and Barney Roy, an impressive St James’ Palace winner, will both need to be taken very seriously indeed, but Ribchester is still improving himself. He was an imposing winner of both the Lockinge and the Queen Anne Stakes already this season. Will the younger pair be able to crack such a tough nut? Recently, older winners Solow and Frankel were both exceptional and proved you don’t have to be from the Classic generation to win, but Ribchester appears to have the ability to join those two illustrious names and make it three Group 1 wins in a row in the process. At 10/11 odds according to bookies, it is probably one of the best you’ll find on Richard Fahey’s runner.
Big Orange vs Order of St George
There’s nothing quite like an equine revenge battle, and that’s exactly what we’ll be seeing on the rolling hills of Goodwood on Thursday, August 3rd. Many an old foe have met on this hallowed turf, and this time around, it’ll feature the 2017 Ascot Gold Cup‘s first- and second-place finishers, Big Orange and Order Of St George. Rarely has Ascot seen such a popular winner than when Oisin Murphy kept Big Orange up to his work to deny the short-priced Ballydoyle favorite just a few weeks ago. Fast ground is a prerequisite for Michael Bell’s superstar stayer, and he should get that over the shorter trip of 2 miles. Plenty will be expecting the Aidan O’Brien runner to gain his revenge over this more conventional test, but it’s a test that Big Orange knows very well, having won the race each of the two previous years. The bookies cannot split them: it’s 5/2 for each as things stand.
Rhodedendron vs Shutter Speed
Ballydoyle’s Rhododendron has entries in all of the top contests over the coming weeks, but at this stage, it seems likely that the Nassau Stakes will be her preferred next engagement, where she’s the current favorite at 5/2 over John Gosden’s Shutter Speed at 11/4. A gallant runner-up to Winter in the 2000 Guineas, Rhodedendron then went to Epsom to take her chance over the extra 1/2-mile of the Oaks and found only Enable too good. Dropping back to 10.5 furlongs for the French Oaks two weeks later looked the right thing to do, but Ryan Moore pulled her up a 1/2-mile from the finish with something clearly not right. Shutter Speed also ran in that race, favored at a shade bigger than 2/1 after three convincing wins from three attempts. She was well-fancied but weakened close to home, so the 10 furlongs at Goodwood will suit her. She skipped Royal Ascot to focus on the Nassau, and it will be fascinating to finally see a proper clash between Rhodedendron and Shutter Speed, with both trainers likely to have them tuned up to the maximum on the day.