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Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Flying fillies, course specialists and breakthrough performances

Centre stage: Wings Of Eagles returns after winning the Investec Derby
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St Nicholas Abbey the second

Highland Reel does not get the credit he deserves. He has sneaked under the radar a little bit but Friday's Coronation Cup was his fifth Group 1 victory. He raced nine times last year, eight of which were at the highest level. He goes from the front, wears his enormous heart on his sleeve and maximises every ounce of his ability.

He has raced 22 times, with eight wins, six seconds and amassed £5,549,394 in prize-money. He is St Nicholas Abbey, mark two, and those six seconds include a Prix du Jockey Club, a Hardwicke Stakes, a Juddmonte International, an Arc and a Hong Kong Vase.

In the Coronation Cup he not only overcame a high-class field, but a horrendous journey that took ten hours and meant he arrived an hour before the race. As Aidan O'Brien said, it certainly was not an advantage. Yet he took it all in that big long stride of his and fought all the way to the line. Highland Reel is some horse. 

Course form crucial

The Dash is a mad race; a downhill five furlongs along an off-camber rail. Unsurprisingly, it suits a very specific type of horse – a type of horse that happens to be called Caspian Prince.

You wouldn't know it on his breeding; he is by 2007 Arc hero Dylan Thomas, but he is all speed. Current trainer Tony Coyle opined: “If there were races over four furlongs he would probably be unbeaten!”

If they were all at Epsom he almost certainly would as this was his third win in the Dash. 2013 winner Duke Of Firenze was third in a photo-finish, with 2015 winner Desert Law beaten less than two lengths in seventh. 

Beggy takes his chance

The Padraig Beggy story is remarkable. A successful apprentice for Kevin Prendergast, he struggled when riding out his claim and moved to England then Australia.

In Australia he got himself into a spot of bother after returning a positive test for cocaine and so he returned to Ireland to ride work. Two friends got him a job at Ballydoyle and from there he has worked hard to earn his chance.

Beggy is clearly a very capable rider, just as Wings Of Eagles is clearly a very capable horse, but as he said himself: "Nine times out of ten if you're on the best horse you'll win." The coolness of judgement he showed on the biggest ride of his life was the most impressive element, but he also highlighted the problem many so-called journeymen jockeys face.

Good horses make jockeys look good and while there are plenty of lads capable of steering a horse to Derby glory – there is only one horse a year capable of passing the post in front. Getting on said horse is by far the hardest part.

This year's fillies look top class

The pre-race drama on Oaks day proved just that – a prelude to the main show – as Enable and Rhododendron locked horns to produce an epic spectacle on the Downs on Friday. The pair engaged in combat two furlongs from home, but it was Enable who conquered, as she strode to a remorseless win.

Enable: won an epic renewal of the Investec Oaks to the delight of Frankie Dettori

The females have proved they are more than capable of beating the colts in the most prestigious races, with the likes of Found, Treve, Taghrooda and Minding taking full advantage of their fillies' allowance in recent seasons.

Dual Guineas winner Winter cemented her status as an exceptional miler last weekend and now the stage looks set for Enable, and indeed Rhododendron, to take on the colts this season. After taking the Cheshire and Epsom Oaks, Enable has the class to compete in races like the King George and the Arc.

Brametot reminiscent of Almanzor

Brametot did not win the French Derby by a superior margin to Wings Of Eagles, and he came from a similar position, but the impression created was that if the two were to meet he would wipe the floor with the Epsom winner.

He cut down quickening rivals with a blistering turn of foot, winning by a cosy short head. It was a sensational performance, marked by the sort of acceleration that carried his stablemate Almanzor to three Group 1 wins last year. 

Expect Brametot, now a dual Classic winner himself, to follow a similar route and therefore free up Almanzor for a crack at the Arc.

It was a sensational performance displaying the sort of acceleration that carried his stablemate Almanzor to three Group 1 wins last year
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