Never mind Wimbledon, The Ashes or The Open, it’s time to get stuck in to the Great British summer of racing.
A feast of top-quality fare is in full swing -- and Royal Ascot was only the aperitif!
Sandown’s Coral Eclipse meeting graced last weekend. Newmarket’s wonderful July Meeting takes centre stage at the end of this week.
Next comes Ascot’s King George weekend, which paves the way for five days at Glorious Goodwood.
And then all roads lead to Yorkshire in August and September when York stages its vintage four-day Ebor Festival before Doncaster hogs the limelight with its four-day St Leger bonanza.
With such a programme to look forward to, it almost beggars belief that some still believe the Flat season lacks purpose or narrative.
The highlight of a richly enjoyable day at Sandown last weekend was the completion of a quickfire hat-trick of Group Ones by AL KAZEEM when he landed the Eclipse.
Roger Charlton’s five-year-old son of brilliant sire Dubawi is a rarity in that he has returned from serious injury (a fractured pelvis) as good if not better than he was.
After a couple of exacting races on fast ground, he is now to be given a short break before being prepared for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the autumn. It’s a stiff ask for a horse who has been on the go since early season, but his credentials are tailormade for Longchamp. He is already proven over the Arc trip of 12f, he would not mind getting his toe into October ground and, crucially, he is capable of laying up with the pace in what can be a rough race round tight twists and turns.
Making as big an impression at Sandown as Al Kazeem was the progressive three-year-old filly INTEGRAL, trained by Sir Michael Stoute.
After his illness, it was refreshing to see Stoute mincing around like Hercule Poirot at his finest. And the wily smile he released after Integral had bolted from last to first to take a good, competitive Listed Im race on only her second start spoke volumes for his opinion of the daughter of 2003 Arc winner Dalakhani.
She was equally breathtaking on her victorious debut at Goodwood in May, and it’s upwards and onwards now to Group races. It’s worth remembering that her dam, Echelon, improved with age, so Integral has all the makings of a special talent.
As a cricket lover who lives in Nottingham, I must admit I lay myself open to accusations of heresy by not attending the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge this week. But Newmarket’s July Meeting has always been one of my favourites, not only for the racing but also for catching up with old contacts at Headquarters.
I very much preferred the three-day bash when it was confined to midweek and the big race, the July Cup, was staged on a Thursday before we all tootled up north for the John Smith’s (Magnet) Cup at York. Nowadays the two races clash on the Saturday -- and not only with each other. Ascot stages its Group Two Summer Mile on the same day, and Chester also race, creating congestion that can only be described as bonkers.
Even with the godsend that is 48-hour declarations, it is nigh on impossible for discerning punters to study all the cards. So maybe ante-post speculation is the answer. If so, please consider GALE FORCE TEN for the July Cup. He’s a son of one former winner of the race, Oasis Dream (2003), and trainer Aidan O’Brien says he reminds him a lot of another, Mozart (2001), who followed a very similar path to this colt -- running with huge credit in the Irish Guineas before landing the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and then reverting to sprinting.
If he wins, I mught just be able to afford a summer cruise. Where to? Ascot, Goodwood, York and Doncaster, of course!
BY RICHARD ‘SCOOP’ SILVERWOOD