THE big Flat Festivals have been dominated by grey skies, umbrellas and Frankie Dettori. But there have been plenty of red-hot performances to light up the track.
Sun Racing’s TOM BULL has picked out his stars of the year so far — and those who promised much but failed to fire. Do you agree? Tweet us @SunRacing with your own tops ‘n flops.
Enable & Crystal Ocean: King George
THE two biggest stars of the season produced an all-time classic duel in the King George.
Only Sea Of Class has run Enable so close in her glorious 11-race winning streak and Crystal Ocean was carrying 3lb more.
Would he have turned the tables at level weights? The neck winning distance would suggest he might, but that is to overlook Enable’s battling qualities and the fact Dettori appeared to have plenty up his sleeve on his beloved mare, who may have been in front earlier than ideal.
It took a career-best from Crystal Ocean to get so close — and you could argue a career-best from the winner to hold him at bay. She will attempt to light up Paris with a third straight victory in the Arc, taking in the Yorkshire Oaks on the way.
Crystal Ocean could also line up at York in the Juddmonte, for which bookies make him 6-4 favourite.
Enable target: Yorkshire Oaks, Crystal Ocean: Juddmonte International
Stradivarius: Gold Cup
THE best stayer since Yeats is as reliable as a Japanese bullet train — though not quite as fast. He gained his second Gold Cup at Royal Ascot decisively, despite being allowed to go off an even-money shot as some questioned the form of his comeback win in the Yorkshire Cup and whether he would relish the easy ground.
Stradivarius travelled sweetly through the two and a half miles until getting into a pocket early in the straight. Cool, calm Frankie Dettori nursed him into the open and he was always able to keep his rivals at bay, holding off Dee Ex Bee by a length.
Trainer John Gosden has marvelled at his ability to “just do enough”. It takes a special kind of dude to pull off that swagger on the biggest stage of all.
Target: Lonsdale Cup
Ten Sovereigns: July Cup
Aidan O’Brien’s beautiful colt has been the apple of the Irish maestro’s eye. Bred like a royal, he has lived up to his mighty pedigree, gaining his second Group 1 win when obliterating the field in this year’s July Cup.
The switch to more prominent tactics worked the oracle at Newmarket and the way he scooted away from some top-class rivals, including Group 1 winners Advertise, Fairyland and Pretty Pollyanna, suggests he’s the sprinter everyone has to catch.
O’Brien said he had been working better than a novelist on a deadline, a claim that spells danger for his opposition in the Nunthorpe if connections decide to drop him in trip. If they don’t, the Sprint Cup at Haydock looks the most likely option.
Target: Nunthorpe, Sprint Cup
SHE may be a Classic winner, but Anapurna remains an unexposed and mouthwatering prospect given she has raced just four times.
Despite that inexperience, the Lingfield Oaks trial winner showed plenty of grit at Epsom, battling hard to see off Pink Dogwood by a neck and proving she has bags of stamina.
The Oaks form has taken a few knocks since but there is the strong likelihood she’ll improve further — although whether she can live with her brilliant John Gosden stablemate Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks is open to question.
Target: Yorkshire Oaks
Blue Point: King’s Stand
GODOLPHIN’s speedster bowed out this summer with no more points to prove.
Blue Point became the first horse since Choisir in 2003 to complete the King’s Stand-Diamond Jubilee double at Royal Ascot and took the breath away when landing the first leg of that double.
Battaash was sent off 2-1 favourite, punters expecting him to scorch home after his thrilling return in the Temple Stakes.
However 5-2 shot Blue Point proved his class with a resounding defeat of Batt-aash by a length and a quarter — almost the same gap that separated them when Blue Point won the race in 2018.
His win over the extra furlong of the Diamond Jubilee four days later was, understandably, less authoritative . . . but confirmed his place at the top of the sprinting tree.
King’s Advice: Summer Handicap
A WIN in a class 5 handicap on the Lingfield sand is an unlikely beginning to one of the success stories of the season.
But that’s where King’s Advice kicked off a six-race winning spree that came to an end in the Northumberland Plate.
He was not disgraced there and quickly got back on track at the July meeting and at Glorious Goodwood.
There he found an extra gear in the closing stages to nose ahead on the line. His rating has soared from 71 at Lingfield to 112 and the £1 million Ebor is next for Mark Johnston’s ace.
Pinatubo: Vintage Stakes
GODOLPHIN have had some quality milers, but this fellow could top them all.
Unbeaten in four starts, he followed an impressive Chesham victory with a sensational display in the Vintage Stakes last week, careering away from a top-class field in devastating fashion.
That was over seven furlongs, and it’s scary to think he might be even better over a mile.
Bookies reacted by slashing his 2,000 Guineas odds to around 3-1 with the next horses in the market around 12-1.
Entries in the Champagne Stakes and National Stakes at The Curragh suggest he’ll be kept to the shorter trip until next year’s Classic.
Godolphin have struggled to get their star two-year-olds ready for the Guineas, but this Pin looks sharp enough to make his mark at the highest level.
Target: National Stakes
Too Darn Hot: Sussex Stakes
FEW reappearances have been as hotly anticipated as the three-year-old return of John Gosden’s champion juvenile.
But Too Darn Hot’s season took a little while to warm up. After a setback, he finally appeared in the Dante — too darn far. Then the Irish 2,000 Guineas — too darn soon.
Then the St James’s Palace Stakes — too darn soft. Trainer John Gosden admitted he had got things wrong with the beautifully bred colt.
But things finally dropped into place with success at Deauville followed by a thrilling defeat of Circus Maximus at Goodwood.
That was a return to the brilliance of his two-year-old days, so it was a huge blow that he picked up another injury there, ending his career but ensuring he finally fulfilled his potential at the top level.
Advertise: Commonwealth Cup
HE may not be the most flashy, but Advertise sure knows how to sell himself.
He showed all his talent when dropping back to six furlongs — and with first-time blinkers — to run out a comfortable winner at Ascot from a classy field, including subsequent July Cup hero Ten Sovereigns.
He stamped his authority against an all-age field in the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest at Deauville last weekend and proved there are few with a more potent turn of foot over six furlongs.
Haydock’s Sprint Cup is the most likely port of call, with connections presumably hoping Ten Sovereigns opts for the Nunthorpe route.
Target: Sprint Cup
LATEST IN HORSE RACING
HE produced a master class to win the Derby, but Anthony Van Dyck needs to brush up his act if he is to prove himself again at the top level.
The son of Galileo relished the mile-and-a-half trip at Epsom and forged clear from a decent field, including future Group 1 aces Japan and Circus Maximus.
Since then it’s all gone wrong.
A shoo-in for the Irish Derby, he was given the boot by outsider Sovereign before running a woeful race in the King George.
The latter will have been a little harder for connections to stomach considering he was beaten so comprehensively. He has an entry in Australia’s Cox Plate but the Juddmonte and Irish Champion Stakes are other possibles.
Many did a double-take as Mustashry pounced to land the Lockinge but now the dust has settled it looks pretty flukey.
Sir Michael Stoute has a cracking record with older middle-distance horses and the six-year-old was fancied for the Queen Anne before fading into seventh.
He flopped again in the Eclipse to suggest he is not quite top-class and a return to easier company is surely on the cards. Something like the Joel Stakes at Newmarket in late September could get his confidence back.
Aidan O’Brien mapped out a route to the Oaks for Pink Dogwood with more care than an ordnance survey official.
There were plenty of glum faces when she failed to deliver.
A mid-race move took its toll and she ran out of gas in the final hundred yards. It’s disappointing she has since been well beaten in the Pretty Polly and Irish Oaks.
She has time on her side, though and the St Leger, where she would get that all-important fillies’ allowance, is an option.
Since toppling Too Darn Hot in the Dante, Telecaster floundered in the Derby before running a shocker in the Eclipse.
Those weren’t easy tasks but you’d have expected plenty more from a colt who had looked so promising. With no entries, connections could well have decided to draw stumps for the season
MASAR saw off Roaring Lion and Dee Ex Bee at Epsom last year but then picked up an injury. His return was a forgettable fifth in the Hardwicke followed by a dreadful effort at Newmarket. Clearly a shadow of his former self, Masar has now been packed off to stud.