Summer sizzlers – The top ten flat performances of the summer
Our expert takes a look back at a fantastic summer of racing to rank his top ten performances from the last couple of months.
It seems there has been a major flat racing Festival every week during the summer and flat racing fans have been treated to some truly spectacular meetings. Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the July Meeting delivered their usual blend of glitz, glamour and sporting drama, with York’s Ebor Festival proving, once again, that it sits amongst the most elite meetings in the business.
When looking back through the tremendous summer of racing we’ve just enjoyed, certain performances immediately sprint to mind. Now, the following list may be a little controversial to some and there are some notable omissions, but here’s my list of the top ten most outstanding victories on the flat during the summer.
Top 10 Best Flat Performances Of The Summer
10. Elarqam – York Stakes
As ground conditions softened at York, money poured in for runaway Wolferton Stakes winner, Addeybb ahead of the York Stakes. Elarqam, who had been progressing nicely since looking out-of-sorts in 2018, was surprisingly friendless in the betting, but it was Mark Johnston’s colt who proved he was, undoubtedly, the classiest horse in the field.
Knight To Behold went forward to cut out the running, with Elarqam and Addeybb slotted in just behind. Dane O’Neill did a brilliant job of boxing the favourite in on the rail, before asking Elarqam to flex his muscles three furlongs from home. Once the former Guineas favourite turned on the gas, the result was never in doubt, with Elarqam wheeling away from his rivals to secure a superb three-furlong triumph.
9. Star Catcher – Irish Oaks
Frankie Dettori has had the bookies running for cover at several points during the summer, most notably on the third afternoon at Royal Ascot. His finest ride of the season, for me, came at the Curragh, as he guided Star Catcher to a excellent victory in the Irish Oaks.
John Gosden and owner, Anthony Oppenheimer decided to supplement the Ribblesdale winner into the Oaks at fairly short notice, pitching Star Catcher in with three of Ireland’s finest fillies. Dettori took Star Catcher straight to the front and judged his fractions to absolute perfection. Fleeting came through to make the result look respectable, but that half-length margin of victory doesn’t gloss over the fact that Star Catcher dominated the field in that fabled Irish Classic.
8. Khaadem – Stewards’ Cup
The Stewards’ Cup is supposed to be one of the most competitive races of the season, where 20 tightly-matched handicap sprinters enter, all with genuine hopes of claiming victory. The 2019 renewal, however, turned into a procession, as Khaadem proved he was a cut or two above your general handicapper.
Charlie Hills’ charge was backed off the board in the build-up to the race, despite what seemed a tricky draw in stall one. Jim Crowley managed to find some cover and sat some way off the lead as he asked Khaadem to switch on the afterburners. In the final two furlongs, Khaadem put the race to bed with a devastating turn of foot, bounding clear of his rivals to eventually secure a superb three-length success.
7. Ghaiyyath – Preis Von Baden
An absolute monster is how victorious jockey, William Buick described Ghaiyyath following his demolition job in the Preis Von Baden and it’s very hard to argue with that description, when you consider the evidence at hand. Charlie Appleby’s colt, making his first appearance since losing comfortably in May’s Prix Ganay, was taken straight to the front by Buick and, as the field turned for home, Ghaiyyath had already opened up a five-length lead.
Often, when horses have been out in the lead for so long, you see them tie up and come back to the field in the closing stages. In contrast, Ghaiyyath stretched further and further clear of his rivals as the race wore on and was some 14-lengths clear of Donjah and German Derby winner, Laccario as he was eased over the line.
6. Mum’s Tipple – Premier Yearling Stakes
There was a feeling, heading into the Premier Yearling Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival, that Mum’s Tipple would have a little too much class for his rivals. Richard Hannon’s colt held onto the tag of favouritism and was guided into a prominent early position by jockey, Ryan Moore.
As rival upon rival came off the bridle two furlongs from home, Ryan Moore started to nudge away on Mum’s Tipple. A two-length lead turned into a ten-length advantage in the blink of an eye, as Hannon’s colt made a completely mockery of what was billed as a hugely competitive juvenile contest.
5. Pinatubo – Vintage Stakes
Charlie Appleby’s Pinatubo had already put up the best juvenile performance of the season when he arrived at Glorious Goodwood, having stormed to victory in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. Punters were hoping the Godolphin flag-bearer would be able to recreate that excellent display, backing James Doyle’s mount into short-priced favourite ahead of the Vintage Stakes.
Not only did Pinatubo enforce the burgeoning star quality he displayed at Ascot, but Appleby’s charge thrust himself into solo-favouritism for the 2020 2000 Guineas with a dominant performance. Positive and Lope Y Fernandez were powerless to deny Pinatubo romping to a five-length victory and subsequent stakes victories for the two have bolstered the belief that Pinatubo is the best juvenile in the sport in 2019.
4. Ten Sovereigns – July Cup
Following a limp finish in the 2000 Guineas, Aidan O’Brien dropped Ten Sovereigns back to sprinting distances at Royal Ascot. It seemed his experiment had fallen flat after an untidy performance in the Commonwealth Cup and the former Middle Park Stakes winner arrived at the July Festival with a point to prove.
A huge swell of support 24 hours before the race saw Ten Sovereigns backed in from 10/1 to 9/2 as the stalls burst open. That revised price proved to be an absolute snip just over a minute later, as Ryan Moore’s mount put his rivals to the sword, dictating that sprint from start to finish, beating a dual-Group One winner in Advertise by close to three lengths. An effortless display of pace and raw ability.
3. Battaash – Nunthorpe Stakes
For some unknown reason, the red mist seemed to descend upon Battaash whenever he entered the confines of York racecourse. Charlie Hills’ sprinter had failed on his two previous attempts at winning the Nunthorpe, playing up noticeably before the start, something which would certainly have contributed to those under-par performances.
Battaash, fresh off his hat-trick of King George wins, was much calmer as he entered the stalls ahead of this year’s Nunthorpe and the real Battaash finally stood up on the Knavesmire. Jim Crowley’s mount swept to the head of the field two furlongs from home and needed little encouragement in streaking to a convincing victory, breaking the great Dayjur’s track record in the process.
2. Japan – Juddmonte International Stakes
Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star, the highest-rated horse in Europe, Crystal Ocean expected to claim a second Group One of the season in the Juddmonte International Stakes, baring a truly exceptional performance from one of his rivals. Japan produced just that.
Some, myself included, questioned Aidan O’Brien’s decision to drop Japan back to ten furlongs, instead of treading a path which would have lead to the St Leger. Despite looking a sturdy stayer in the making at Royal Ascot, Japan proved he had class and speed in abundance at York, tracking down Crystal Ocean in the dying strides to snatch a spectacular victory.
Cracksman, Poet’s Word and Enable. Those are the only horses to have headed Crystal Ocean over the past two years. Japan joined that illustrious list at York and, who knows, he could be the horse who finally beats Enable when they clash in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
1. Blue Point – Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Handicappers winning twice at the same meeting has occurred several times at Royal Ascot, with the Ascot Stakes, Queen Alexandra Stakes double proving most popular. It’s extremely rare to see a horse win two hugely prestigious Group One during the same meeting, but that was the incredible feat Blue Point managed at this year’s Royal Meeting.
Blue Point’s first victory was the most impressive, seeing off Battaash with apparent ease in the King’s Stand Stakes. Three days later, Blue Point had to call upon all his guts and determination to hold off Dream Of Dreams, who came flying out of the pack to challenge the leader in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
It’s precisely that which pushes Blue Point’s Diamond Jubilee triumph right to the head of this list. It will be a long, long time before we see Blue Point’s staggering achievement equalled. Happy retirement, champ!
If you disagree with any of these entries or think we’ve missed a worthy candidate out, let us know via our twitter account and we’ll publish your thoughts here #keepitclean