Multiple Group 1-winner Highland Reel, subsequent 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold and Expert Eye, who recently won at Royal Ascot, are part of an impressive recent roll of honour for the seven-furlong Vintage Stakes. This year's renewal wasn't won with quite such a big performance as Expert Eye 12 months ago but it again went the way of a smart, progressive colt in the shape of Dark Vision (up 11 lb to 111p) who maintained his unbeaten record. It is testament to his ability that he was able to overcome a slow start and win so impressively, relishing the extra furlong, and he seems certain to go on maturing, both physically and mentally.
The Lennox Stakes is often one of the most competitive pattern races at this meeting and with all 12 runners within 8 lb on pre-race weight-adjusted ratings, this year's renewal certainly met that criteria. The winner Sir Dancealot (remains on 119) is thriving on another busy campaign, much more consistent this year than last, and better than ever right now. This was the biggest and best win of his career so far, back at seven furlongs, now successful on his last three starts at this trip; he will continue to give a good account.
Defending champion Stradivarius (remains on 127) confirmed himself the best stayer around in the Goodwood Cup, and is now just one race away from landing the new £1 million bonus for stayers. He was made to work harder than at Royal Ascot by Torcedor (remains on 123), but that rival very much had the run of the race. Stradivarius had to dig deep to close him down, but did so in the final furlong, ultimately winning with a bit in hand. The all-important Lonsdale Cup at York is next on the agenda, and, although he will have to carry a 5 lb penalty in that Group 2 contest, it is hard to see past him, a classy stayer who is very much a straightforward ride.
The Molecomb Stakes was a tighter race on paper than the market suggested, but it worked out rather differently, the least exposed runner in the field Rumble Inthejungle (up 7 lb to 110p) taking a big step forward. He had clearly learnt plenty from Royal Ascot, emulating his sire in landing this and simultaneously putting up one of the best winning performances in the race this century. He has a bright future ahead in good sprints; he's an obvious candidate for the Flying Childers and Cornwallis, setting a good standard with this effort, though a try at six furlongs in the Gimcrack might do no harm in the meantime.
The older milers had already shown themselves to be much of a muchness this summer, so it was no real surprise that a pair of three-year-old colts headed the market for the Sussex Stakes, though they came up short. In the end it was Lightning Spear (up 2 lb to 126) who proved better than ever to come out on top, recording a first win at Group 1 level, possessing the best turn of foot in a tactical race. He won readily enough and, Alpha Centauri apart, there is clearly little between an ordinary bunch of top milers and there's no reason why he won't continue to give a good account. Without Parole (down from 125p to 123)proved a disappointment, but he sweated up beforehand, and clearly wasn’t himself. Hopefully this will prove to be just a blip.
A strong pace meant this year's Lillie Langtry field was stretched out from an early stage and it played into the hands of those ridden with some restraint, the principals all coming from mid-division or further back. The tactical bias means the form shouldn't totally be taken at face value but there's no question that Pilaster (up 1 lb to 110p) and Maid Up (110 from 92p) are both on a steep upward curve. The winner is a very likeable - as well as talented - filly, and she can progress further, the Group 1 for fillies on Champions Day likely to be her main target for the rest of the season, although shorter term she might stick to this trip in the Park Hill at Doncaster in which she'd clearly be a big player.
The Richmond Stakes was a competitive race, but with only one of the nine having won a pattern race, the standard of form coming into it was lower than normal. Land Force (up 4 lb to 109) is progressing with experience, suited by the fast track back at six furlongs and, though clearly talented, his excellent attitude looks to be one of his main assets; he will continue to be competitive in two-year-old sprints.
It was a small-field Nassau Stakes for the third consecutive year, and the disappointing performance of Rhododendron (last of six, remains on 121) obviously took away a degree of competitiveness and intrigue, but Wild Illusion (up 5 lb to 116) is rated more or less on a par with the most recent renewals of this race. She was chased home by a recent Group 1 winner/unexposed improver in the shape of Urban Fox (117), and while Wild Illusion had the run of the race out in front, she is a likeable filly who will continue to give a good account at the top level.
Sir Michael Stoute won the first two pattern races on Friday with Mirage Dancer (up 3 lb to 121) in the Sapphire Stakes and Regal Reality (112p from 104p) in the Thoroughbred Stakes. The former was well backed to do so and looks a typical Stoute improver, while Regal Reality also progressed again and looks one to keep on the right side. The Thoroughbred was run to suit with Ostilio (remains on 111) and Chief Ironside (up 9 lb to 109) setting a good gallop, but Regal Reality showed smart form to easily wear them down in the final furlong, and can certainly ply his trade at a higher level.
Battaash (remains on 136) proved there isn't a better horse in training when he's on song with a scintillating effort in the King George Stakes, beating two previous winners of the race to follow up his victory in last year's renewal, again producing a top-drawer Group 1-performance in a Group 2. That was the best sprinting effort seen at any distance in Britain this year, an electric display of speed on one of the fastest five-furlong tracks there is; he beat himself in the Nunthorpe last year, so there is unfinished business there, but he will take the world of beating if on song in both that and the Abbaye later in the season.
The Gordon Stakes is a St Leger trial, but the impressive winner Cross Counter (123 from 115p) was the only one of the quartet that didn’t hold an entry (is gelded, so doesn’t qualify to run in the race). He achieved a high level of form, and clearly boasts a positive profile, the Great Voltigeur at York a likely next target, while further down the line connections have also suggested that a Melbourne Cup bid could also be on the agenda.
There was the usual combination of quality and quantity in the Stewards’ Cup, won by top-weight Gifted Master (up 3 lb to 122), who put up a pattern-class performance to prevail. He led overall until two furlongs out, looking second-best thereafter until digging in very deep to pull the race out of the fire in the final stride, impressing with his attitude. That was his second win from as many starts in handicaps, and he is clearly suited by tracks where it pays to be prominent; he should remain competitive in minor pattern company. Runner-up Justanotherbottle (up 3 lb to 112) had never previously ran at Goodwood, but it was tailor made for him as it turned out, becoming to his style (prominent) and speed, only collared late on.