Last weekend’s racing had more of an eye on next year than anything else, as a number of very classy juveniles strutted their stuff at Newmarket.
Al-Shaqab’s Shalaa had looked imperious in his last few starts when landing a treble of pattern-level contests, most recently the Group 1 Prix Morny.
But he stepped it up a notch at HQ when landing his first British top-level success when landing the Middle Park stakes from Buratino.
Breaking well he took to the fore under Frankie Dettori. He raced somewhat freely in the early-to-mid stages, but his excertions in the opening few furlongs did nothing to stop the son of Invincible Spirit.
Powering clear under his Italian jockey, John Gosden’s colt won a shade cosily from the staying-on Buratino by ½ a length, a distance that probably flatters the runner-up.
The winner’s price didn’t change for his top target next season, the Commonwealth Cup, remaining as the 4/1 favourite, but he certainly did his chances of success no harm whatsoever.
Foundations in place for Derby bid
Clarehaven trainer Gosden had already had a win on the card by the time the Middle Park came around in the shape of the unbeaten Foundation.
The handler looks to have a solid hand to play in a search for back-to-back Derby victories after the Highclere Racing-owned colt battled on well.
An awkward start and keen going nature wouldn’t have helped but a honest pace certainly did as Dettori’s mount took it up approaching the final furlong and stuck to his task well.
While his victory was over a mile, one would question whether he has the turn-of-foot for the 2,000 Guineas, for which he is a 16/1 chance.
Instead, with the same price on offer for the Derby, siding with him to stay another half-mile at Epsom could be the more popular option.
Johnston excited by Lumiere potential
With both trainer Mark Johnston and jockey William Buick describing Lumiere as a horse for next year, she probably would have had her excuses had she tasted defeat in the Cheveley Park Stakes.
Her handler may have been bullish about her potential before the race, but after watching he come out on top of a quality field, the Scot described her as “the best horse I’ve had for a long time.”
The dashing grey’s exuberant nature saw here stride clear in the opening stages, showing excellent early dash.
As the likes of Lowther Stakes winner Besharah and Richard Hannon’s Illuminate chasing, many would have expected her to be swept up in the latter stages, but they would have been proved very wrong.
Buick got to work on the daughter of Sharmadal, and she responded as gamely as you like, sticking her head down and grinding out victory in an extremely brave fashion.
A step-up to a mile will be the challenge next year, and one would expect her to have to learn to save some of her energy to get home, but at 9/1 from 14/1 for the 1,000 Guineas she looks a very live contender for the opening Classic of the season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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