Horses to follow
Better with age
There will be plenty of high-class older horses competing for top honours next (ages as of 2023)
Words: Rory Delargy • Photos: Healy Racing / Caroline Norris / Peter Mooney
5 ch c Galileo – Polished Gem (Danehill)
Had a sensational season where he won all six of his starts from 1¾m to 2½m, and his dominance in the staying division was summed up in a 20-length demolition of some shattered rivals in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at ParisLongchamp in October, where he was so far clear in the closing stages that he was able to cross over to the stands rail to give his fans a better view.
A 14-length demolition in the Group 3 Saval Beg Stakes served notice that Stradivarius was in for a fight in the Gold Cup, and while the result of that race was slightly controversial due to Frankie Dettori’s bad day at the office, the Goodwood Cup provided no excuses and proved one of the races of the season, with Kyprios leading in the straight and rallying to regain that lead after Stradivarius had looked to shade the advantage with a strong late run.
Wins at Ascot and Goodwood came against the best on fast turf, but Kyprios looked every bit as good on heavy when taking the Irish St Leger, and the ground was so testing in Paris that horses of the quality of Lonsdale Cup winner Quickthorn ran themselves into the ground. Kyprios is inclined to doss in front as demonstrated by his walkabout in the Cadran and that may disguise his superiority, so it will be intriguing to see just how much more he can offer if pressed harder. Perhaps connections will try him in the Arc given Gold Cup hero Order of St George was third and fourth in consecutive renewals.
VADENI (FR) 130
4 b c Churchill – Vaderana (Monsun)
Danced every dance at 3, winning the Prix du Jockey Club and the Eclipse Stakes against the best available, and arguably enhancing his smart reputation despite suffering subsequent defeats in the Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc.
Defeat at Leopardstown came in a very deep race, and his chance was compromised by overconfidence on the part of his rider, who allowed Onesto to sneak up his inside before the turn and found himself in a pocket when Mishriff improved on his outside. Soumillon had to sit and suffer as the race developed, and by the time he weaved through, the race was over. Vadeni again met some trouble in the Arc and he found himself conceding at least three lengths to the winner before hitting top stride. He was a touch flattered by the eventual half-length margin of defeat but may well have made a race of it if he’d found the gaps earlier.
Versatile regarding ground and trip, Vadeni is trained by a man who doesn’t shy away from tackling top races outside his own jurisdiction, and we should see more of Vadeni in Britain/Ireland in 2023.
MY PROSPERO 129
4 b c Iffraaj – My Titania (Sea The Stars)
It’s dangerous to get carried away with end-of-season form when the leaves, and the going, have turned, but it’s hard not to think that the handsome My Prospero is going to land a massive pot in 2023, and he might have won the Champion Stakes at Ascot if he’d not had to switch around runners, tending to drift left as he rallied and losing second as a result.
Winning the Listed Heron Stakes and the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam marked My Prospero down as a late-maturing prospect, while he did well given his inexperience to be beaten in a three-way photo for the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes. His Ascot efforts came on contrasting ground and at different trips, and he’s done well to show such versatility in his first full season. Likely to be campaigned at 1¼m with the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown a perfect start given he lacks a win at the highest level.
DESERT CROWN (GB) 128p
4 b c Nathaniel – Desert Berry (Green Desert)
One of the disappointments of the season was that we never got to see Desert Crown again after his breakthrough success in the Derby at Epsom. He was described by Timeform after that eased-down 2½-length success as “potentially one of the best Derby winners of the century”. Such hyperbole is realistic since he was seeing a racecourse for just the third time and the prospect of further improvement was undeniable. Unfortunately, he met with a setback and while the injury was described as minor, the decision was made to rough him off for the season rather than rush him back.
Desert Crown played with his opposition in the Dante and the Derby, and the impression he left was indelible. Given he was out at grass long before most of his contemporaries, there’s no reason he won’t be ready earlier, and an outing in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting isn’t out of the question.
Sir Michael Stoute
DESERT CROWN (HR)
4 b c Camelot – Attire (Danehill Dancer)
Seemed to have the world at his feet prior to the 2000 Guineas, where he shaped extremely well in adversity, with an early stumble putting him in a poor position and making his third to Coroebus look more meritorious. An injury put paid to his Derby participation, for which stable confidence was palpable, and he was barely fit when returning to the fray to win the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes unimpressively.
Luxembourg found his chance to shine in the Irish Champion Stakes, which attracted one of the best fields seen in Europe all year, and he justified his reputation with a battling half-length defeat of Onesto, with Eclipse winner Vadeni back in third. That was a first-rate effort against a well-ridden opponent and the form cannot be crabbed. The principals all renewed rivalry in the Arc, with Vadeni faring best, but Luxembourg ran into significant traffic problems during the race and was staying on again when his chance had gone. This big, rangy colt is expected to do even better with a clear path ahead of him, and I’d expect to see him head to the Coronation Cup as an early-summer target, although the Tattersalls Gold Cup may offer a tempting starting point.
TRUESHAN (FR) 128
7 b g Planteur – Shao Line (General Holme)
There is nothing new to say about Trueshan, who landed a third consecutive Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October. Alan King has had far more brickbats for not wanting to chance his star stayer on quick ground that he got bouquets for running such a good horse in the Northumberland Plate in consecutive years, and that’s a shame because a lack of class horses running in handicaps is to the detriment of horse racing in Britain and Ireland.
Trueshan ran in the Goodwood Cup behind Kyprios, but the ground there was quicker than the clerk of the course claimed, no doubt with a view to enticing his participation. That saw him run below his best, and he wasn’t letting himself down in the Doncaster Cup when next seen. King will be even less keen to consider running him on anything quicker than good to soft (or standard) in 2023, so he may again miss some of the big staying events. It would be great to see him get his conditions over 2m+ to facilitate a clash with Kyprios, and he's the only horse in training capable of outstaying Aidan O’Brien’s star.
HIGHFIELD PRINCESS (CN)
HIGHFIELD PRINCESS (FR) 126
6 b m Night of Thunder – Pure Illusion (Danehill)
Could finish only fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on her final start, but she needs no excuses having been on the go since February, with Keeneland representing her tenth run of a busy campaign. Beaten on handicap debut off a mark of 57 in August 2020, she’s since won a dozen times, smashing through the pattern race ceiling in the latest season to prove herself the best sprinter in Europe.
Highfield Princess was beaten in the Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot but notched a late-summer Group 1 hat-trick comprising the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, the Nunthorpe at York, and the Flying Five at the Curragh. That’s a remarkable haul given the drop to 5f was deemed to be against her at York, while her prospects of winning in Ireland were complicated by bog-like conditions and a low draw. She coped admirably with those challenges, and her versatility means that she should have another remunerative campaign for owner John Fairley, who is trainer John Quinn’s landlord.
AL HAKEEM (GB) 125
4 b c Siyouni – Jadhaba (Galileo)
Just shy of the best in his age group in 2022, Al Hakeem has shown progress with every start, and ran his best race on his first try at 1½m when a good fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on his final outing. Travelled as well as anything before being outkicked by Alpinista, giving hope that he will improve again as a four-year-old, where there are opportunities aplenty for him from ten to 12 furlongs.
Al Hakeem fared best of those held up in the Prix du Jockey Club behind Vadeni before winning the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville, beating Junko, who was beaten just a head in the Group 2 Prix Dollar on his subsequent start. His formlines last term have been franked so there can be no doubting he’s capable of making the breakthrough at the highest level. Handles soft ground but his wins have come on Polytrack and good turf, and he’s likely to be at his best on summer ground, with a drop back to 1¼m likely given the programme in France.
KINROSS (GB) 123
6 b g Kingman – Ceilidh House (Selkirk)
Kinross proved better than ever as a five-year-old, picking up four races, including two - the Prix de La Foret and the British Champions Sprint – at the highest level. Not only did he prove that he could win a top-class contest over six furlongs at Ascot, but he was arguably unlucky not to end his campaign with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he ran on best of all from a poor position to be beaten three-parts of a length behind Modern Games.
The new-found versatility Kinross showed in 2022 augurs well for his next campaign, and while he will always be ideally suited by seven furlongs, his prospects of further top-level success either side of that trip now look rosier. He’s suggested in the past that he’s best with some dig in the ground but ran as well as he ever has on firm ground at Keeneland, and Frankie Dettori suggested during the season that he has developed more of an understanding of the horse in recent times, and that has led to better results. Ralph Beckett may consider the Lockinge as a starting point before dropping back to 6f at Royal Ascot, with the 6½f at Deauville making the Maurice de Gheest an ideal late-summer target.
4 b f Galileo – Lillie Langtry (Danehill Dancer)
Tuesday looked for a while as if her Oaks victory on her third birthday was flattering, but she put that notion to bed with a devastating performance to take the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, with Oaks third Nashwa further in arrears, and it was intriguing to hear Aidan O’Brien say that he had let her “dally through the season” with an eye specifically on that Group 1 contest at Keeneland.
A full-sister to 1000 Guineas/Oaks winner Minding, Tuesday is bred in the purple, but could only run once as a juvenile, when second to subsequent Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Discoveries. She only won her maiden at the end of March and did well to be placed in both English and Irish 1000 Guineas given she was a late foal. Some considered her lucky in the Oaks given Emily Upjohn’s poor start, but Tuesday was also slowly away, and a draw in stall 1 made it harder for her to make ground due to the topography of Epsom.
O’Brien held his hands up for getting the tactics wrong in the Irish Derby, and a length defeat by Alpinista in the Yorkshire Oaks looks a smashing performance in retrospect. Tuesday didn’t seem to relish softer ground in the Prix Vermeille and the Prix de l’Opera on her next starts, so may be best kept to good or quicker turf.
*Ratings reproduced by kind permission of Timeform