European Racing Round Up
Rhododendron pipped the luckless Lightning Spear by a short head in a gripping finish to the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Lightning Spear looked like he just about hit the front under Oisin Murphy and was about to spring a 16-1 surprise in the QIPCO British Champions Series showpiece, but Ryan Moore had hit top gear aboard Rhododendron (100-30 favourite) in the centre of the course.
The photo finish revealed Rhododendron, trained by Aidan O’Brien, had won by inches. Lightning Spear had also been second a year earlier, to Ribchester, and was finishing placed in a Group 1 race for a fifth time.
Lancaster Bomber, also trained by O’Brien, who won with Hawk Wing in 2003, was two and three-quarter lengths away in third.
“I haven’t had the wind taken out of my sails like that for a while,” said David Simcock, the trainer of Lightning Spear. “I’m just a little gutted, but very proud of the horse. He was given a great ride – I thought he was going to win at one stage.
“We’re just fond of him and he’s never let us down. He’s been placed in so many Group Ones, you just feel we’d like to have won one with him, but he’s run a great race. Fair play to the filly.”
O’Brien said of Rhododendron: “We’ve been very happy with her since the last day and we were hoping she had progressed.
“Obviously we were going back to a mile and she hadn’t been back there since she ran in the Guineas last year. We thought that whatever she did today she would move up a bit.”
Looking to future plans, he said: “We thought we would come here and then on to Ascot.
“We have the option of a mile or a mile and a quarter. We’ll have a good chat with Ryan, the lads always talk after the races and we’ll see what they want to do closer to Ascot.”
If she sticks to a mile, then a rematch with Lightning Spear in the Queen Anne Stakes will be on the cards. Rhododendron is 5-1 favourite with Ladbrokes for that race, with Lightning Spear available at 14-1.
Stradivarius justified odds-on favouritism in impressive style in the Mansionbet Yorkshire Cup.
The John Gosden-trained four-year-old was sent off the 4-6 favourite and Frankie Dettori’s mount treated his rivals with contempt down the long home straight on the Knavesmire to scure his second QIPCO British Champions prize, having landed the Qatar Goodwood Cup last summer.
Dettori allowed himself a look between his legs over a furlong out and when he asked him to go and win his race, Desert Skyline and Call To Mind had no response.
“He’s a star – it’s very rare you get a stayer with a turn of foot, but that is what he has got. It’s a deadly combination,” said Dettori. “It is a great weapon to have over this distance and he’s a force to be reckoned with now.”
Third in the St Leger and only a length behind Order Of St George at Ascot on Champions day, Stradivarius is set to renew rivalry with Aidan O’Brien’s ace in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June.
Dettori added: “He is the young pretender in the Gold Cup, with fresh legs, and he’s on the way up.”
Gosden said: “That was a proper test first time back and I haven’t been working him like that, I can assure you. He’d only done bridle work so I couldn’t be more happy.”
Looking to Ascot, he added: “I promise you I can’t practice over two and a half miles (Gold Cup trip) at home, so the answer to if he will stay we’ll find out when they turn for home.
“We’ll go for the Gold Cup, but it’s uncharted territory. He switches off and the freshness is out of him, so if you relax and switch off you’ve got a chance.”
The victory also qualifies Stradivarius to challenge for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers Million, a bonus he would land if he could claim the Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup.
Gosden said: “It’s good, isn’t it – we’ve now got the big hurdle (Gold Cup), that was the little hurdle!”
David Elsworth said of runner-up Desert Skyline: “He’s a tough individual, but he wants to go faster and further. We’ll leave him until the Gold Cup now, and he should have a good chance.”
The Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club further expands its partnership with France Galop by allocating from 2018 an additional budget of € 500,000 to promote several top events with, for the first time, the Prix Jean Prat (Gr1). For the first time in 2018, this 3yo mile race will be held at Deauville on the straight course. It is scheduled on July 8.
This race hence becomes the Qatar Prix Jean Prat (Gr1). Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club will be the title sponsor of the day, which also features two Listed races. Thus, the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club will finance a large part of the allocation of the Prix Jean Prat which is maintained at € 400,000.
Dubai World Cup (Gr1) winner Thunder Snow won the last edition of the Prix Jean Prat (Gr1) at Chantilly last year.
In addition to this support for the Prix Jean Prat, Qatar is contributing to the increase in the following races in 2018:
- Qatar Dragon Cup (Gr1-PA) up by € 40,000 to reach € 100,000;
- Prix de l’Opera Longines (Gr1) up by € 100,000 to reach € 500,000;
- Prix Marcel Boussac (Gr1) up by € 100,000 to reach € 400,000;
- Prix Jean Luc Lagardère (Gr1) up by € 50,000 to reach € 400,000;
- Prix de la Forêt (Gr1) up by €50,000 € to reach € 350,000 €.
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