Kempton was lit up on Saturday by the presence of superstar filly Enable (remains on 134), who made her eagerly anticipated return in the four-runner September Stakes, which also featured Crystal Ocean (132). Match races don't get much better than this, a pair of bona fide top-class horses having their trial run for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, impossible not to be impressed by Enable on her belated return, who beat Crystal Ocean by three and a half lengths.
Frankie Dettori was keen to ensure Enable had a proper race in preparation for the task ahead, taking a keen hold in front, before quickening early in the straight and keeping on nicely in the final furlong; she was shortened significantly in the Arc ante-post lists and will be the one to beat as she defends her crown in what looks a race to savour.
Crystal Ocean was also having his Arc trial, meeting the winner on unfavourable terms and running at least respectably, but was no match for her and it's hard to see why he should reverse the placings next month.
Also at Kempton, Kessaar (up 6 lb to 108) landed just an average renewal of the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes, while War Glory (up 4 lb to 104) landed the final of the London Mile Handicap series. Traditionally one of the most competitive all-weather handicaps of the whole year, the race turned on tactics, the winner given a superb ride to land his first handicap at the twenty-third attempt, only the runner-up landing much of a blow at him, several of those behind not seen to best advantage, Lawmaking (fourth, up 1 lb to 96) and Ptarmigan Ridge (tenth, up 1 lb to 91) to name but two.
At Haydock, last year's emphatic Sprint Cup winner Harry Angel (down 1 lb to 131) was bidding to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals since Be Friendly in 1966/67. He was the key component to the race, a standout on form if back to his best but unseen since blowing the start and his chance at Royal Ascot almost three months earlier. In the end, he drifted in the market close to the off and ran well below his best, harried for the lead by Hey Jonesy which lit him up, the pair of them going too fast at the head of affairs and setting it up for those coming from off the pace.
"I hope he's in one piece after this and then he'll go to @Ascot!"— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) September 9, 2018
James Fanshawe targeting #ChampionsDay with The Tin Man after impressive Sprint Cup win 👇https://t.co/rSL0SDkNu8 pic.twitter.com/lN7QvwDGbr
The winner, The Tin Man (up 1 lb to 125), who had been third behind Harry Angel 12 months earlier, has a pretty faultless temperament, and was suited by the strong pace he got to aim at. After travelling well and making good progress after halfway, he swept through to lead entering the final furlong and then kept on gamely when Brando (remains on 123) got to his quarters, recording the best timefigure of the weekend in the process (see table below). The Tin Man has held his form better this year than he did in 2017 and looks certain to be a big player in the Champions Sprint at Ascot, a race he won two years ago.
Earlier on the card, only six turned up for this year's Superior Mile and, though it was a good field on paper, the key factor was an ability to handle such deep conditions and it was a proven mudlark that landed it. Here Comes When (118 from 115+) showed that he retains all of his ability for a first win of the campaign, doing so despite being keen early and travelling strongly throughout. He's had a light campaign which should help him to hold his form into the autumn, granted similar ground of course.
Runner-up Circus Couture (remains on 115) was suited by the test and ran up to his best; his third in the Hunt Cup shows that he's not one to take lightly in top-end handicaps even from such a high BHA mark and the Cambridgeshire should be an ideal test for him. Favourite Regal Reality (116p) ran creditably under a penalty, just not picking up like he did when impressive on a sound surface at Goodwood the time before; he's still a very smart prospect, the sort to flourish in his four-year-old season, like so many do from the yard.
While it may not have been a stand-out day of racing in Berkshire, there were several handicap performances of note.
Ripp Orf (up 2 lb to 106) won a terrifically competitive seven-furlong handicap that should have a significant bearing on similar events over the coming months; a fast pace favoured those held up. The winner was landing his second big C&D handicap of the season (and his fourth race of the year overall), and there's every reason to think he'll go well again, with obvious options for him at this track next month over this trip (Challenge Cup) and a mile (Balmoral). Runner-up Cape Byron (up to 115) keeps shaping well and will surely have his day in a big handicap when things drop right, beating all the ones he raced with this time; he's near the top of the shortlist for the Balmoral.
Other winners on the card include Simply Breathless (up 4 lb to 101), who wasn't asked to lead this time and posted her best effort yet, and First Eleven (113+ from 109), who beat a bunch of horses all arriving on the up and/or in top form. He showed why connections felt justified in elevating him to a higher grade last time, looking a cut above; he should be suited by trips in excess of 1½m and may well do better still now he's back on track, looking one to keep on side. Melrose winner Ghostwatch (110 from 106), who was runner-up, ran at least as well this time. Fille de Reve (up 6 lb to 106) only got up in the last stride of the sprint handicap, but left the impression she was a bit more superior than that suggests; she'll remain of interest, either in handicaps or back at listed level.
While Limato (up 2 lb to 124) continued his renaissance with a straightforward listed win at York, making it back-to-back wins for the first time since his two-year-old days, Sunday’s focus was on the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp.
It was a competitive renewal, plenty no doubt keen to avoid Alpha Centauri by coming here, none more so perhaps than connections of Recoletos (up 1 lb to 126) who had chased her home at Deauville.
What a finish to the Prix du Moulin at Paris Longchamp!— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) September 9, 2018
Recoletos, who was second behind Alpha Centauri in the Prix Jacques le Marois in August, just denies Wind Chimes to land the Group One feature. 👏
Results ➡️ https://t.co/7iJOPsdIyZ pic.twitter.com/3X9IBwGjW2
The race was strongly run thanks to his pacemaker and Wootton, this much the quickest of four races over the trip on the card, and the first three came from off the pace, eventual third Expert Eye (remains on 123) having to come through traffic in contrast to the winner.
The first and third will presumably go for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes next, both their chances largely dependent on whether Alpha Centauri goes there too, though Recoletos is also in the Champion Stakes in which he was fourth last year.
The filly Wind Chimes (up 11 lb to 123) split the pair in second, showing much improved form, but that wasn't a complete surprise given her earlier promise, notably her narrow defeat in the Pouliches. She's sure to win more races, certainly back against her own sex, though would need supplementing for the Sun Chariot. Lightning Spear (126) never looked like improving on his modest record outside of the UK, finishing fifth, one place ahead of Without Parole (122) who bettered recent efforts to run close to his best but still didn't make much impact.