The 2yos – a blog special

27 Sep 16

graeme-d-smithGraeme Smith, lead 2yo Handicapper for the BHA, on how he rates all his big races from last week.

Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting served up a real treat for lovers of juvenile racing. It is fair to say that anyone who found the winners of both Group 1 races is entitled to be on excellent terms with themselves.

The headline act was undoubtedly the devastating Queen Mary winner Lady Aurelia. She then added the Group 1 Prix Morny over 6f on her latest trip over from the states. There had been a doubt following that Deauville race whether her “blast-from-the-gates” style of racing was truly suited to 6f and she duly came unstuck when odds-on favourite for the Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes.

In mitigation it was found that all was not well with Lady Aurelia following a post-race internal examination. There is no doubt at all that she is better than the 109 performance she posted; but I would still question whether 6f is really up her street. I suppose time will tell…

For every loser there is also a winner and Brave Anna cemented her place near the top of the tree of juvenile fillies as she put a couple of lesser efforts behind her. Aiden O’Brien’s daughter of War Front had belied odds of 16/1 when landing the Albany at Royal Ascot and made light of a 25/1 starting price this time as she got the better of a nip-and-tuck battle with her stablemate Roly Poly.

Considering the sectional times posted by not only Lady Aurelia but also those who gave closest chase in Roly Poly and Queen Kindly (even Brave Anna ran a slowish final section), there is an argument that Brave Anna ran the race more efficiently that her main rivals. That leaves an element of doubt over the form. That is something to bear in mind down the line though as these fillies run again.

For the time being there is substance to the result. Historical standards suggested a figure of between 113 and 116 for Brave Anna and a line through Queen Kindly, who admittedly disappointed here, added plenty of flesh to those bones.

Queen Kindly had posted 113 in the Lowther and Roly Poly 114 in concession of 3lb to her. A reproduction of that running for Roly Poly brought Brave Anna out at 115. If we go back to her Albany success, she beat Queen Kindly by just over half a length – which equates to 2lb. With Queen Kindly at 113, that also brings Brave Anna to 115.

Okay – so Queen Kindly was not herself here and nor did Fair Eva reproduce that Lowther figure when beaten in the Rockfel; but Fair Eva does have another 109 performance from the Princess Margaret and I am still happy with that level.

On a historical level Brave Anna emerges as an average winner of the Cheveley Park. Unlike some, however, I do believe she has the physical substance to train on into next year and that she will stay beyond 6f even if her recent record casts a doubt over the latter assertion.

Sticking with the fillies, Spain Burg put herself in the 1000 Guineas picture with an impressive success in the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes over 7f at Newmarket on the previous day. She had already won a listed contest on France and took the next step up with more in hand than the bare one and a quarter lengths margin suggests.

In the hands of Frankie Dettori Spain Burg travelled strongly in mid-field and was clearly going best as she began her forward move. She hung slightly to her right off the bridle but that did not stop her producing a telling burst to run straight past Fair Eva. I have credited Spain Burg with an extra length for the ease of win and have her running to 109. This is the equal of what Fair Eva had done in previous races.

From previous Rockfel winners this century the subsequent dual-Guineas winner Finsceal Beo stands out with a performance of 119. Spain Burg still sits above the average and I can see further improvement coming from her.

While the Cheveley Park was strongly-run the Juddmonte Middle Park was quite the opposite. The sectionals confirm the impression that The Last Lion was the beneficiary of an easy lead. That is not to underplay his achievement as he ran the fastest last furlong of all as he extended his lead.

It was not easy to make ground from behind and Mehmas and Peace Envoy suffered on that score with the latter also losing his action. The race favourite, Blue Point, had his chance though in soon adopting a handy position and getting to The Last Lion’s girth inside the final furlong.

Historical standards suggest bang on 117 for The Last Lion and a line through Blue Point’s Gimcrack success at 115 points the same way. That leaves Mehmas a bit below his 115 best but a combination of a poor position following his slow start and his being eased half a length or so late offer mitigation. I still believe in that figure for him.

There is something reassuring when a horse campaigned fairly aggressively thrives on racing and rises to the top and congratulations go to Mark Johnston and his whole team for the way The Last Lion has developed. I understand why many top horses are campaigned sparingly and saved for the big days but The Last Lion just goes to show that that does not have to be the case. He was not quite the first 2yo winner of the season – there were four races run prior to the Brocklesby this year – but that was an early April start and the Middle Park represented his tenth appearance.

The Last Lion has raced only at 5f and 6f so far and is largely bred for sprinting, but there is hope in his style of racing that his stamina could stretch out further.

The Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes went the way of Hugo Palmer’s Best Of Days. He was all out to repel a much improved effort from The Anvil and his 108-performance pays another compliment to Syphax who had beaten both Best Of Days and the 108-rated Lockheed in the Acomb at York.

Larchmont Lad won out in a fairly tight finish to the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes with a performance of 105. I wonder if there will be even more to come from him when faced with better opposition and a longer trip. Though, saying that, if he goes to the Racing Post Trophy he could well have Churchill to content with who I had running to 118 in the National Stakes in Ireland.

There were a couple of maiden winners who also deserve honourable mentions from the weekend. Talaayeb was by no means the most prepossessing of the fillies in the parade ring prior to the 7f event that kicked off Newmarket’s card on Saturday but there was no doubting her talent. She stormed clear without needing maximum pressure from Paul Mulrennan. That in itself looked a mid-90s performance to me and she will surely be into pattern company next.

Over at Haydock, Richard Hannon’s Barney Roy created a similar impression as he stormed clear in a 1m races for colts. He bounded through the line nearly four lengths clear and looks well worth his place in a higher grade. Further back in third was a promising newcomer of John Gosden’s named Crowned Eagle. He is a half-brother to Eagle Top and Wings of Desire and showed plenty of promise himself considering how green he was.