Fancy Blue threat to Nassau Stakes double for Deirdre
Murphy faces strong field in chase for Goodwood repeat St Leger hope Al Aasy looks good for Gordon Stakes win
Deirdre, the Japanese mare who has been sportingly kept in training to be campaigned in Europe for a second summer, can become a rare two-time winner of the Qatar Nassau Stakes today.
Last year, her jockey, Oisin Murphy, the most popular Irishman in Japan, where he rides in the winter, sat out at the back as Mehdaayih and Hermosa tried to set sprint fractions up front in an ultimately pyrrhic contest to get the lead. When they tired, Murphy and Deirdre picked up the pace and swept past to record a rare Japanese Group One victory in Europe.
There does not appear to be nearly so much pace in today’s race and Murphy, with a higher draw, will no doubt want to be a bit closer to the front and ride a different race against a field of younger fillies.
However, having warmed up for this in the Coral-Eclipse when she was beaten over five lengths by Ghaiyyath – just over a length behind the race-fit Magic Wand and just over two behind Enable – she should now be fit and firing. If there is another Group One in her, it is surely today.
“She’s in good shape,” said Murphy yesterday. “Her most recent work has been smart but it’s a very competitive race.”
He is not wrong there. Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand sets a high standard, but with Ryan Moore electing to ride Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue, the French Oaks winEnglish ner, she has the look of Coolmore’s second string today.
Fancy Blue, enterprisingly ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot at Chantilly, got past long-time leader Alpine Star late on to give his young trainer a first Classic before his 22nd birthday. In reality, getting 9lb, she is the one to beat.
But John Gosden’s Nazeef has been highly progressive, as well as developing something of a winning habit, having triumphed in her past six starts, most recently accounting for Billesdon Brook in the Falmouth. This is her first attempt at the trip but there is nothing to suggest she will not get it. Indeed, she might even improve a bit for it.
The John Pearce Gordon Stakes, Goodwood’s St Leger trial, might answer a few questions thrown up by this year’s Derby as four of the six runners, Khalifa Sat, English King, Mogul and Highland Chief finished, in that order, behind Serpentine at Epsom.
Was English King a bit unlucky? Was Khalifa Sat, second from start to finish, just well ridden or was he genuinely the second-best horse in the race? Was Mogul, a big colt, still in need of the race? Did Highland Chief run too bad to be true?
King appeared the unluckiest and is likely to be sent off a warm favourite to give Stradivarius’s owner, Bjorn Nielsen, a second winner of the week.
“He came out of the Derby really well, much better than I hoped,” said his trainer Ed Walker. “I had never had a runner in the Derby before and I envisaged it hitting a horse for six. The race wasn’t run at the normal tempo of a usual Derby.
“It was a very strange race. It was a perfect storm of various factors, not just for English King but for a lot of horses in the race. He came from a long way back and finished strongly. It was just frustrating as you never felt you got a run for your money the way the race developed.
“My gut feeling is that he is not a St Leger horse. He has a lot of speed. He clocked the fastest last three furlongs in the Derby and finished incredibly well in the Lingfield Derby trial where he broke a 30year track record. I would quite like to keep him at a mile and a half.”
Nevertheless, the Derby runners can all be put in the shade today by the William Haggas-trained Al Aasy, winner of Newmarket’s Leger trial, the Bahrain Trophy. That was over a furlong further but he is not slow and can take another positive step towards Doncaster today.
The speed merchants are out in the Qatar Richmond Stakes, which can go to the in-form Roger Teal with his recent Sandown winner Gussy Mac, who should enjoy the extra furlong today.
Winning combination: Oisin Murphy celebrates last year’s triumph on Deirdre