The Qatar Goodwood Festival produced some shock results on the first day, including a 100/1 maiden winner and a 50/1 winner of the Lennox Stakes, and 20/1 winner of the Sussex Stakes on day two. Starting off with the juvenile races, we take a look back at the notable performances during the five-day festival.
The Vintage Stakes has a history of unearthing smart prospects, and Expert Eye (up 12 lb to 114p) created a deep impression when winning by four and a half lengths on Tuesday. He looked something out of the ordinary, at least as good a performance that has been put up by any recent winner of this race - which has an impressive roll of honour - and achieving the highest Timeform rating from a two-year-old so far in 2017. The Dewhurst will no doubt be his ultimate aim this season, but his more immediate targets haven't been decided yet. Seahenge, who finished fifth (93p from 94P), seemed held back by inexperience on the day, but he is sure to derive plenty from this, and certainly remains open to improvement.
Torrential rain hit on the second day, further depleting the Molecomb Stakes. The race didn’t look a deep renewal on paper, especially with three taken out on account of the testing ground – including the US-trained filly Happy Like A Fool – but Havana Grey (up 1 lb to 108) proved himself a fast, genuine and talented juvenile by adding a pattern-race success to his two listed wins. Runner-up Invincible Army (remains 101p) shaped well under the circumstances, forced to race wider breaking from stall 1, and paying for a big move into contention from a less-than-ideal position. He remains capable of better than the bare form he’s achieved so far.
The Brian Meehan-trained Barraquero (110p from 101p) was impressive when winning in a fast time at Chepstow and took the rise in class in his stride in Thursday’s Richmond Stakes. There were lots of form lines from the main two-year-old races represented, the winner of the July Stakes in Cardsharp (remains on 109) taking on the runner-up from the Coventry and Superlative with Headway (108 from 110p) and Nebo (up 4 lb to 106), but Barraquero proved more progressive than those rivals. He'll quite rightly have Group 1 targets now, with the Prix Morny a possible option in a couple of weeks, whilst there's also the Middle Park to consider.
Mark Johnston was the Festivals top trainer for the eleventh time, and also unleashed a couple of potentially smart two-year-olds in Threading and Dee Ex Bee, who won maidens on Wednesday and Saturday. Threading (99p) won by six lengths and she looks an exciting prospect, while the market told us to expect a bit from Dee Ex Bee (100p), and he duly delivered, running to the kind of level for a newcomer that marks him down as a pattern performer in the making.
Given how the weather panned out on Wednesday, Breton Rock (up 3 lb to 119) wouldn’t have been out of place in the Sussex Stakes, but even so he proved at least as good as ever when winning the good-ground Lennox Stakes on Tuesday by half a length from Home of The Brave (remains 120). His odds of 50/1 were much bigger than for his two other Group 2 wins, though there was no fluke about his last-to-first surge down the outside, even if it meant he avoided the trouble that worked against some of his rivals. Two-time Group 1 winner Limato (remains 127) didn’t show his best, and they finished in too much of a heap to rate the form as anything better than average, or to expect the result to be reproduced under different circumstances another time.
The Goodwood Cup was raised to Group 1 status this year, but Big Orange (remains on 122) couldn’t quite make it a hat-trick of wins, foiled by Stradivarius (122 from 111p), who became the first three-year-old to win the race since Lucky Moon in 1990. The St Leger is the aim now and the John Gosden-trained colt is already at a standard that will make him a big player, whilst big-race experience like this will also stand him in good stead.
What should have been the first clash of the generations of top milers this season, with the Lockinge and Queen Anne winner Ribchester up against dual-Guineas winner Churchill, ended up nothing of the kind, as the heavy rainfall through Wednesday led to Churchill being declared a non runner, leaving an underwhelming renewal. The winner Here Comes When (up 4 lb to 121) was suited by the heavy rain more than any (long since a mud lover), and his ability to handle conditions was key to this shock Group 1 win. It’s unlikely he will win at this level again. Though Ribchester (remains 131) won the Lockinge on soft ground, these conditions were more testing than he’d ever encountered and they simply didn’t suit him, blunting his speed too much. It was a messy race too, and with less than five lengths covering all seven runners at the finish, there's no question that it's form to take a low view of.
The Nassau Stakes on Thursday was another race which cut up due to the ground conditions, but it still looked a good renewal despite the small field. Winter (remains on 122p) didn’t have to improve to land her fourth straight Group 1, but she did it with the minimum of fuss (value for extra), coping well with the softer ground over the 2f longer trip. The next step will be to take on the colts/geldings, most likely in either the Juddmonte International or Irish Champion Stakes, although there's always the option of dropping back to 1m as well, and wherever she turns up she'll merit the utmost respect. The returning So Mi Dar (120 from 120p) wasn’t at all disgraced under the circumstances, heavy ground possibly not ideal for all she’d won on soft before.
A Group 1 in all but name, Friday’s King George looked a red-hot renewal beforehand, and it was won by the fast-improving three-year-old Battaash (135 from 127+), who blitzed a high-class field and smashed through the 130 barrier in terms of his Timeform rating. So many champion 5f sprinters in recent years have failed to do so, and to do it on soft ground at a downhill track, having won his previous two starts at Sandown (stiffer 5f) on good to firm, highlights a versatility that many sprinters don't have as well. Group 1 winners Profitable (remains on 125) and Marsha (123 from 126) filling the places and last year's 1-2 Take Cover (117 from 120) and Washington DC (118 from 121) chasing up the principals, makes the form about as solid as it could be, and the time was excellent, too. Battaash is a very special talent on the sprinting scene right now, and a clash with the equally exciting Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe will be something to savour.
The Gordon Stakes is often seen as a stepping stone to the St Leger, and it looks to have thrown up another prime candidate, with winner Crystal Ocean (123p from 116p) producing a borderline very smart performance. There wasn’t that much depth in behind, though the form is given substance by the runner-up Khalidi (remains on 114). Sir Michael Stoute’s lightly-raced three-year-old is unlikely to fail for stamina judged on pedigree, and looks a leading contender for the St Leger next month.
The overall competitiveness of the Stewards’ Cup was somewhat reduced by a major bias in favour of those drawn near the far rail, with those drawn higher than the well-ridden winner Lancelot du Lac (118 from 113+) having next to no chance. Dean Ivory’s seven-year-old proved at least as good as ever to land the big prize he’s often threatened, while runner-up Aeolus (up 3 lb to 115) ran up to his best on a rare start in handicaps, and could have even given the winner a race with an uninterrupted run.