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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Cracksman could reappear in Sheema Classic as Gosden sets agenda for superstars

Frankie Dettori raises his whip in triumph passing the post in the Champion Stakes
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Cracksman could be in line for a tilt at the valuable Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan early in a season intended to feature a thrilling autumn bid to wrest the Arc crown from stablemate Enable.      

Both came up short in the race to be world champion racehorse of 2017, but they are set to square off in pursuit of the 2018 title in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October.

The devastating Champion Stakes winner is on cantering duties in Newmarket, with connections having entered him for the Meydan contest that trainer John Gosden won for the second time when Jack Hobbs struck last year.

Cracksman is a best-priced 2-1 favourite with William Hill to claim the March 31 showpiece, but after seeing him named joint-third in the sport's final rankings for 2017 on a rating of 130, Gosden stressed Anthony Oppenheimer's colt will have his season geared around missions at Ascot and Longchamp.

Similarly, it was revealed at the Longines World's Best Racehorse ceremony that superstar filly Enable – fifth in last year's champion's table on 128 – will be targeted principally at the Juddmonte International and Arc, a contest she captured spectacularly last autumn, helping it achieve the title of the world's best race in 2017.

Other numbers to note . . .

  • Harry Angel, on 125, has become the first European-trained outright champion sprinter since Oasis Dream in 2003. While he has been placed joint-seventh in the rankings, brilliant Prix de l'Abbaye winner Battaash is chasing him up in co-12th on 123
  • Godolphin's excellent year was highlighted by Sheikh Mohammed's operation finishing with three horses – Harry Angel (125), Cloth Of Stars (125) and Ribchester (124) – in the global top ten. Arch-rivals Coolmore had none
  • Six horses trained in Britain or Ireland finished in the top ten, compared to only two in 2016
  • Ascot had three of the world's top nine races in 2017 – the King George, Prince of Wales's Stakes and Champion Stakes
  • Four of the world's top ten races are within the Qipco British Champions Series, which also accounted for 24 of the top 100 races
  • Saturday's odds-on Pegasus World Cup favourite Gun Runner showed exceptional consistency at the highest level by achieving a rating of 130 on four separate occasions in 2017, the marks being given for his wins in the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney Stakes, Woodward Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic

Gosden declined to comment specifically on a trip to Dubai, but said: "Cracksman will start when he tells us he's ready to start. The way he behaved this morning I might run him next week at Newcastle! He did three bucks and a rear before his canter, so we're very happy with him.

"All options are open. Mr Oppenheimer and I are very clear we would like to run in the King George, a race his family sponsored for years, and the Arc. We're looking at those two races. Anything before, in between or after those is not as important.

"With Enable we very much see the Arc as the key race and we're looking at the Juddmonte International beforehand. What happens before that – because there will be nothing in between the Juddmonte and the Arc – the horse will tell us."

Oppenheimer added of Cracksman: "I hope he's going to go on improving. We're looking forward to meeting Enable, maybe in the Arc, maybe earlier."

Cracksman shared third position with Gun Runner, both being adrift of Australian winning machine Winx, who finished the year on 132.

Winx's part-owner Debbie Kapitis said: "There's always a little disappointment to not be the top but she's the top outright filly or mare and also the top turf horse. That's very satisfying.

"It's wonderful and great for Australian racing. Without Arrogate, she wins, so we have to be pleased and proud." 

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