Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Doings at York

Thursday’s Group One Yorkshire Oaks, figures to be a sensational affair with three of the very best fillies in the world, Snow Fairy, Sariska, and Midday, ready to rumble. Competing at 12 furlongs over the York course, each look to prove who is the top distance running filly in Europe by winning the historical race which dates back to 1849. The three fabulous fillies have combined to account for the last two runnings of the Epsom and Irish Oaks, as well as, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mare Turf.

The slight betting favorite may be Sariska, a four-year-old daughter of Pivotal. Trained by Michael Bell, Sariska has won 5 of 9 lifetime starts and pulled of the prestigious double of Oaks victories in 2009. She has only run twice so far this year, but has a sharp win over Midday at York, and finished second to current Arc de Triomphe favorite, Fame And Glory in the Group One, Coronation Stakes last time out.

Midday, also a four-year-old, is well known to American race fans thanks to her front running victory in last Fall’s Breeders’ Cup, but she has yet to get the better of Sariska in each of their three meetings to date. She finished 2nd in the Epsom Oaks and 3rd in the Irish Oaks to Sariska last year, and finished 2nd again to her in this May‘s Middleton Stakes, in what was both fillies opening race of the season. Midday followed that solid effort up with a sharp score in the Group One, Nassau Stakes at Goodwood on July 31, highlighting both her class and current form.

If youth is to be served tomorrow, it will be Snow Fairy who is the beneficiary. After winning only 1 of 6 races while sprinting as a juvenile, the Ed Dunlop trained sophomore is undefeated in three starts and has been more impressive each time. In emulating the dual Oaks feat of Sariska, Snow Fairy absolutely crushed her foes when winning the Irish Oaks by 8 lengths in her latest start.

A meeting of three standouts like this does not happen everyday, so the Yorkshire Oaks will be a must see, much the way yesterday’s Juddmonte International proved to be.

Rip Van Winkle awakened his massive talents yesterday to run his best race in at least a year, if not ever. Displaying an irresistible closing run, the four-year-old Aiden O’Brien trained colt swooped by in the closing strides to get up over the Prince Khalid Abdullah duo of Twice Over and Byword in a rousing stretch run. The victory at York once more elevated the reputation of Rip Van Winkle as one of the world’s best horses. The International was his first in three starts this year, and his connections said he could be headed to America once again for a Breeders’ Cup attempt.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Videos of an Overdose Romp and Makfi Defeating Goldikova

The Budapest Bullet …

Makfi surprises Goldikova …

Monday, August 9, 2010

Harbinger Will Be Missed

It was announced today that Harbinger, the world's top-rated horse by both Racing Post and Timeform, has been retired. Despite successful surgery to his fractured cannon bone, it was decided that calling it a career would be the best course of action for the son of Dansili. Thankfully, news from his ownership has been good since the injury. Harbinger is recovering well, and should begin a happy second career as a stallion next year.

Owned by the partnership of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, Harbinger certainly goes out a winner. His 11 length tour-de-force victory in the historic King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes was one of the most spectacular performances of the 21st century.

A group 3 winner as a three-year-old, Harbinger was far from the star he became this year. Beginning with the Finest Surprise Stakes in April, Harbinger became first a consistent winner, and then race by race progressed into the monster we saw last month. A promising win in another group 3 stakes followed his four-year-old debut, and it would be on to Ascot for the Sir Michael Stoute trainee. And it would be at Ascot that Harbinger would be first considered a potential superstar. A smashing victory against a solid field in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June opened the world’s eyes, and then the absolute dismantling of a stellar bunch in the Group 1 King George left mouths agape.

Overall, Harbinger won six of his nine starts and earned nearly $1.2 million.  The bay colt was injured in a workout preparing for York’s Juddmonte International on August 17. A win there would have sent the four-year-old colt to huge races such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and possibly the Breeders’ Cup Turf as a strong favorite. After such a marvelous performance like his last, you always want to see the horse come back and repeat that form. It is a shame that Harbinger will never get that chance.

Photo by Alan Crowhurst of Getty Images