The potential for a royal winner at Epsom has added an extra gloss to the race that remains, rightly, the most important of the Flat calendar.
Whatever the outcome of the Derby, the Queen has a thoroughly exciting prospect on her hands in Carlton House, who was a gift to her from Sheikh Mohammed. Despite the sheikh’s constant quest for top-flight success, a Derby winner in Her Majesty’s colours will almost certainly give him a great deal of pleasure, not least because Carlton House is by one of the Darley operation’s biggest stars, Street Cry.
In his relatively short career at stud, Street Cry has already delivered a Kentucky Derby winner, a Melbourne Cup winner and Zenyatta, whose celebrity status helped to propel racing from the back pages to the front pages of newspapers across the States in the build-up to her swansong in last season’s Breeders’ Cup. In a year when there is renewed royal fervour thanks to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Carlton House is a horse who could do the same for British racing.
Though the Queen is not the breeder of the colt, she has enjoyed Group 1 success in that sphere already this year courtesy of Kingdom Of Fife (now racing as My Kingdom Of Fife) in Australia. He was the appropriate winner of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April and has also won the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (beating fellow former Freemason Lodge inmate Glass Harmonium by a neck) and the Group 3 Doncaster Mile Prelude since being bought by Alastair Donald for 60,000gns at last year’s Horses In Training Sale at Tattersalls.
My Kingdom Of Fife is but one of an increasing army of talented stayers from Chris Waller’s Sydney stable who have found their way to Australia from Britain and Ireland. On the same day as his Group 1 triumph, Waller also landed the Sydney Cup with the Irish-bred Stand To Gain, while in South Australia the former Alan Swinbank-trained Stanstill, now with Mick Kent in Cranbourne, won the principal race on Oakbank’s card. Since then, two more of Waller’s Tattersalls purchases, Wazn and Old Bill (formerly named Aneel) have also highlighted their long-term potential with victories at Warwick Farm, with the trainer saying of Old Bill: “He’s got a bright future – not this preparation, next preparation – so watch out for him.”
Adding a line which British Bloodstock Marketing may well want to adopt as its slogan to encourage overseas purchasers, Waller, who has had 25 winners from 32 horses purchased in Newmarket, said: “The best part of the English horses is the best is yet to come.”
The thought of a battalion of British-bred stayers quietly winding up to a tilt at this year’s Melbourne Cup may offer some solace to those proud Poms who have not enjoyed the now regular raiding parties from down under for the big Royal Ascot sprints and July Cup. Though we are not being treated to a visit from the superstar mare Black Caviar, or even her brilliant understudy Hay List, we’re likely to see Star Witness and Hinchinbrook in action here this summer.
The May issue of Australia’s Inside Racing dropped through my letterbox recently and though Black Caviar justifiably has the cover to herself for the second time this year, a double-page spread within is devoted to a ‘wish list’ of horses that Racing Victoria’s international consultant Leigh Jordon would like to attract to this year’s Spring Carnival. It includes Wigmore Hall, Gitano Hernando, Redwood, Mikhail Glinka, Monterosso and Rewilding.
To Jordon’s list I would add, right at the top, a favourite dual-purpose galloper, Overturn. How many trainers could even hope to aim at winning the Grand National and Melbourne Cup in the same year? Though Donald McCain’s feet are planted firmly in jumping country, with a legitimate contender in the versatile seven-year-old Chester Cup winner, the possibility of adding another of the world’s most famous races to the McCain roll of honour is surely an opportunity not to be missed.
Last year’s Spring Carnival revolved largely around one horse: So You Think, a son of the Derby-winning shuttler High Chaparral. Much to the dismay of many Australian racing fans, we now have the pleasure of seeing this outstanding individual racing in these parts.
Aidan O’Brien has successfully converted two Australian imports into dual-hemisphere Group 1 winners, with Haradasun winning the Queen Anne Stakes in 2008 and Starspangledbanner completing the Golden Jubilee/July Cup double last year. Barring a setback, Ascot will also be on So You Think’s itinerary.
Wherever he runs, make a point of going to see him. His trademark long-flowing mane from his days at Bart Cummings’s stable may be gone, but in the flesh this near-black stallion is every inch a superstar.