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Jamie Lynch's Weekend Preview: Alpha tops the A-listers


Focusing on the true heavyweight in action this weekend, Jamie Lynch delves into some of what makes Alpha Centauri the monster she is, and why the Prix Jacques le Marois is such a meaningful target for her.

In a supermarket the other day, I was drawn by an invisible tractor beam to a craft beer booth that was offering free samples. ‘So, sir,’ said the sanguine salesman, after I’d downed the second shot, ‘in one word how would you describe the flavour?’ Slightly flustered, thinking I was there purely for intoxication and not interrogation, I dropped my car key due to the sweaty palms, which in turn reminded me that I needed to replenish my Lynx stocks.

And then, like a detective suddenly piecing together a puzzle, it hit me what I had inadvertently stumbled across; a ‘Fitzdares Racing Futures’ name generator.

All you have to do to feel in with the influential crowd is to take the model of your latest or favourite car, then hyphen up a one-word description of the flavour of the last alcoholic drink you had with your Lynx deodorant of choice. I’m reliably informed that the Impulse range works equally well for women.

Henceforth, in order to make the cut for the ‘35 over 35’ list next year, I shall be known as Octavia Biscuity-Dark Temptation.  

It nearly works.

Ah, poor old Fitzdares. They say that bad publicity is still publicity, but try telling that to Gerald Ratner or Gerard Butler (not the actor). If, in six months’ time, Sacha Baron Cohen announces a new series entitled Haughty Horsepower then it would all make perfect sense, but it seems, for now, like the list was compiled and the lunch was conducted without the merest whiff of irony, though there’s a certain irony in that the privilege of pedigree is indeed the lifeblood of the sport, only it’s the horses and not the humans, but family ties have family ties.

Miesque was one of the 50 horses profiled in racing historian Jim Bolus’ book Royal Blood: Fifty Years of Classic Thoroughbreds. Electra Niarchos was one of the 35 under 35 on Fitzdares imprudent index.  Guessing at influence is akin to guessing at genetics, because the privileged parts may not amount to a significant sum. It’s easier to scoff but fairer to sympathise with Electra Niarchos, amongst others, for having an entitlement light shone upon her by the lopsided list, leaning on the family line she’s from, in the same way it would have been prejudicial to call out the untried-and-untested Galileo Gal as an impending influencer for the fact she was by Galileo and out of Alpha Lupi, whose grandam was Miesque.

Galileo Gal finished down the field on her one and only start, in a maiden at Woodbine last September. Her year-younger half-sister has done rather more to uphold the domestic distinction, because her year-younger half-sister is Alpha Centauri.

Miesque won the Prix Jacques le Marois in ’87 and ’88, and her daughter, East of The Moon, the next branch on the family tree that has flowered Alpha Centauri, was herself successful in the race in 1994. Since then, the Niarchos family have landed France’s most prestigious mile prize, the Jacques le Marois, a further three times, Spinning World doubling up later in the ‘nineties before Six Perfections graced the colours, and the Deauville stage, in 2003.

Fifteen years have passed without the famous blue silks with the go-faster stripes having passed the post first in the Marois, a race with considerable connotations for the French and for the family, explaining the engagement for Alpha Centauri, in preference to last week’s Sussex or next month’s Matron.

Taking on the males is a new challenge, but a challenge is the opportunity for an athlete to rise, and a rating to rise in her case, a Timeform rating – 127 - that’s already uncommonly high for a three-year-old filly in mid-summer, 1 lb higher than Enable was ahead of the King George last year.

In the one-size-fits-all domain of categorical concessions, it’s almost unethical that Alpha Centauri will get weight allowances for being a three-year-old and a filly, as there’s nothing immature nor feminine about her. A big unit with a big engine, one that’s responsive to revving up in any part of a race, as she proved from the middle of the pack at Royal Ascot and the front of it in the Falmouth, Alpha Centauri is low on pressure points and high on threshold, helping her record – in the Coronation – the fastest timefigure by a three-year-old in 2018.

Given her pace and pliancy, along with the fact she’s at the peak of her powers, Alpha Centauri really ought to be odds-on for the Prix Jacques le Marois, on her way to emulating Miesque more profoundly in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. From Nureyev to Miesque to East of The Moon and Alpha Centauri, the nature of that family has influenced the global game, itself influenced in nurture by the Niarchos family. The history and heritage is equally constructive for Alpha Centauri as it is for Electra Niarchos, and we shouldn’t – as Fitzdares have, in some instances, invited us to – confuse what it means to be named with what a name means.

Alpha is the first of a weekend of ‘A’s, encompassing Ascot and Arlington. There are two types of people in the world: those who don’t buy into the Shergar Cup, and those who ride in the Shergar Cup. Its gimmick of a team game just doesn’t fit with the foundation of racing as an individual pursuit, but it’s one meeting out of roughly 1,500 in Britain per year, only a footnote on a multi-layered menu, easier left than taken offence to.

Things are far more serious over in Arlington, where the ‘A’ theme is accentuated by the A-Team of Analyze It and Athena, the head boy and head girl in the Secretariat Stakes and Beverly D respectively, the support Group 1s to the Arlington Million. Analyze It is a developing dynamo for the unofficial Lord of the Lawn, Chad Brown, and probably only Aidan O’Brien’s Hunting Horn stands in his way in the Secretariat, while the same two powerhouses square off in the Beverly D. Athena was a long-range missle landed by Ballydoyle in the Belmont Oaks, but she faced nothing there of the calibre of Chad Brown’s Sistercharlie, who has a few pounds to play with based on Timeform ratings.

Brown saddles three in the Arlington Million itself, though they’re second, third and sixth in the betting behind Oscar Performance, winner of last year’s Secretariat. As far as the European contingent goes, Century Dream looks tailor-made for whizzing around the Arlington turns, considering his high cruising speed, and he’s now in the premier league of milers in Britain, thought that’s several lengths off a Champions League qualifier like Alpha Centauri.




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Tuesday 21 August
8. APEX KING (IRE) 105
Shane Kelly silk Shane Kelly horse in focus
Richard Hughes hot trainer
3. FENNAAN (IRE) 104
Robert Havlin silk Robert Havlin
John Gosden
David Probert silk David Probert
Andrew Balding
Go to Full Race



1st Declan McDonogh silk 9. PAPAL PARADE (IRE) 16/117
2nd W. M. Lordan silk nk 6. ONE COOL POET (IRE) 16/117
3rd R. P. Downey silk 8. GET OUT OF JAIL (IRE) 7/18
14 ran. NRs: 10  12 


1st Lorcan Murtagh silk 9. HANDY HOLLOW (IRE) 7/24.5
2nd Robert Dunne silk ¾ 8. KINGSTON (GER) 9/110
3rd Lewis Stones silk 5 16. DOLLAR AND A DREAM (IRE) 8/19
J: Lorcan Murtagh (5)  
15 ran. NRs: 5 


1st Ryan Moore silk 5. MIDI 5/42.25f
2nd Adam Kirby silk 6. PETRASTAR 11/82.37
3rd Franny Norton silk 1. ROSE CROWN 50/151
J: Ryan Moore  
All 9 ran.


1st Ben Martin Coen silk 5. TRY AGAIN (IRE) 4/15
2nd C. T. Keane silk ¾ 4. MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS 11/43.75f
3rd W. M. Lordan silk 7. FAUGHILL (IRE) 7/18
J: Ben Martin Coen (7)  
All 8 ran.


1st Richard Johnson silk 1. SILK RUN (IRE) 15/82.87f
2nd James Nixon silk 4. VIVE LE ROI (IRE) 3/14
3rd Miss Abbie McCain silk 3. DANCEINTOTHELIGHT 8/19
T: Tom Lacey  
All 8 ran.


1st Kieran O'Neill silk 7. PORTO FERRO (IRE) 9/110
2nd Lewis Edmunds silk ½ 5. BASHIBA (IRE) 4/15
3rd Adam Kirby silk ½ 4. JOEGOGO (IRE) 7/18
T: John Bridger  
All 8 ran.


1st W. M. Lordan silk 3. ACE COMBAT 12/113
2nd Seamie Heffernan silk hd 7. FREETOWN (IRE) 2/13
3rd Declan McDonogh silk sh 6. CRECERELLE (IRE) 10/111.9f
J: W. M. Lordan  
13 ran. NRs: 12  16  17  5 


1st Sean Quinlan silk 6. RED GIANT (IRE) 3/14
2nd David Bass silk 7 1. NET WORK ROUGE (FR) 10/111
3rd Harry Bannister silk 11 5. GANBEI 16/117
J: Sean Quinlan  
All 10 ran.


1st Gerald Mosse silk 10. UDONTDODOU 10/111
2nd Tom Marquand silk nk 1. SILENT ECHO 9/25.5f
3rd Ryan Moore silk nk 7. OPEN WIDE (USA) 17/29.5
J: Gerald Mosse  
15 ran. NRs: 5 
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