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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Solow was a legend - and here's five more to follow from Head academy

Freddy Head considers Solow "perhaps the best I have trained."
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The irony of Terrakova's win in the Prix Cleopatre was not lost on anybody at Saint-cloud on Tuesday, least of all trainer Freddy Head and Wertheimer racing manager Pierre-Yves Bureau, who less than 12 hours earlier had announced the retirement of Solow, the most recent champion to carry the famous blue and white silks. 

To say Solow was late to bloom would be an understatement, given that he didn't win his first Group race, Deauville's Prix Quincey, until the August of his four-year-old career. 

13 months earlier, persistent physical problems had persuaded connections to geld him after breaking his maiden at the fifth time of asking. 

This Sunday Chantilly hosts the Group 2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier over just shy of two miles, a race in which Solow ran sixth in 2014, the last time Head paid attention to the son of Singspiel's family traits, as opposed to the zip he was apt to display in the mornings. On the same card 12 months later, he would run away with the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan over six furlongs shorter

After each of three victories that followed his re-conversion to a miler that 2014 season, Head was admirably open in his post-race analysis, confessing to a certain amount of bafflement at how his staying cygnet was turning into a speedy swan in front of his and our eyes. 

Then came 2015 and a sequence of races which, much as they were dictated by his gelded status, produced a winning spree that is unlikely to be matched in the modern era. 

Solow and Maxime Guyon win the Dubai Turf

With France's top mile races such as the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Prix du Moulin closed to him, the happy wanderer Head and his equally expansive owner-breeders went on the road, rattling off the Dubai Turf, the Prix d'Ispahan, The Queen Anne Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and finally the QE2 on Champions Day.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Solow was better appreciated in Britain than in France, though Head's fellow professionals recognised just how hard the Solow roadshow was to pull off.  

Head said at Saint-Cloud on Tuesday: "I think that Solow is perhaps the best horse that I have trained. He had a lot of health problems early on and to go on to win five Group 1s on all types of racecourse in all those different countries.

"He is an extraordinary horse. In 2015 he started off on the all-weather in Chantilly at the beginning of March and then went on to so it all - Dubai, Longchamp, Ascot, Goodwood and then back to Ascot - that was fantastic. And he had a lot of problems during his career: I ran him over too great a distance, and then he had leg trouble. But he won his last 12 races straight. You just don’t find horses like that in the modern era."

Indeed you do not. Seasons like Solow's 2015 campaign are very rare. 

In 17 of the last 30 years, the four Group 1s won in Europe by Solow have been won by four different horses. 

The same horse has won two of the four on 11 occasions, including Frankel twice (he surely would have won the QE2 to make it three in 2012 had connections opted for that race rather than the Champion Stakes). 

Only Ramonti in 2007 managed a hat-trick among those four prestigious prizes, reeling off the Queen Anne, the Sussex and the QE2. 

For a while during Solow's run in 2015 it looked like he was lucky as well as talented, with first Cirrus Des Aigles tearing off a shoe in the Ispahan and then Hong Kong sensation Able Friend leaving his form back in Asia ahead of the Queen Anne. 

But here was a horse that adapted to every course configuration and pace scenario and proved, one after another in five consecutive Group 1s, that he was by far the best at around a mile. 

He deserves a long and happy retirement at the Haras de Saint-Leonard. 

And Terrakova makes six...

Freddy Head (right), Pierre-Yves Bureau, racing manager to the Wertheimer brothers, and jockey Maxime Guyon in the winner's enclosure with Terrakova

Terrakova put herself firmly in the Prix de Diane Longines picture with her Prix Cleopatre victory at Saint-Cloud on Tuesday and looks among the leading French fillies to face the British-trained challenge of Sobetsu and Shutter Speed. 

Here are five more residents at the Head Academy - all fillies - that could make their mark this year


The winner of her last two including the Group 3 Prix Texanita over five and a half furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte, this daughter of Head's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere hero Naqoos looks a sprinter to follow in the colours of his wife Sarah. Aladdine is not entered in the Commonwealth Cup but should be capable of climbing the sprinting ladder this year and next. 


The winner of his sole start at Maisons-Laffitte last October on good ground, Hamdan Al Maktoum's daughter of Dubawi has been given plenty of entries during the spring but, much as with Terrakova, Head has chosen to take his time. Upcoming entries in the Prix Finlande and the Prix de Sandringham suggest the trainer retains plenty of faith. 

Gold Luck

Sobetsu (white sleeves) may not have run her race behind Sobetsu in the Saint-Alary

This time a sister rather than a daughter of Goldikova, Gold Luck had looked the stable's first string for the Diane before the Prix Saint-Alary, where she finished fifth to Sobetsu. Notably that performance saw her finish behind both Vue Fantastique and Hebah, fillies she had beaten in the Prix Vanteaux and it would be harsh to condemn Gold Luck on what may have been an off day. 


The daughter of Union Rags had excuses for her third place on seasonal debut and put that performance firmly in the shade with a dominant display of front-running on soft ground in the Prix de la Seine at Chantilly. While the Prix de Royaumont over 1m4f looks an obvious target, don't discount the possibility that Head and Sheikh Hamdan have a shy at the Diane, where Musawaah would not look at all out of place. 


Siyoushake ensured that Jonathan Pease went out a winner with his final runner in October 2015 and the daughter of Siyouni progressed again last term, running fourth to Alice Springs in the Sun Chariot before easily landing the Group 3 Prix Perth at Saint-Cloud last backend. She was last of ten to Jimmy Two Times in the Prix du Muguet on her return to action but it is doubtful that the Perth will prove to have been the limit of her achievements. 

E.W. Terms
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