The Top 40 Prospects in Ahead On The Flat has made a lousy start to the season and the trend continued on Saturday with a couple of very disappointing performances. Despite being heavily backed beforehand, Battleground produced a tame effort in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Frankie Dettori's mount appeared to be going well at halfway but once the pace increased, he dropped out of contention quickly. Indeed, all three of the Ballydoyle runners ran well below par finishing eighth, eleventh and thirteenth. Things can only get better.
As regards the business end of the first Classic of the season, it was dominated by two horses who had run earlier this spring with Poetic Flare edging out Master of The Seas by a short head. Ironically, the winner is by Jim Bolger's other Guineas winner Dawn Approach (2013) and he appreciated the step up to a mile just getting the better of the Godolphin owned runner-up. Lucky Vega, a Group 1 winning juvenile, ran a cracker back in third closing all the way to the line. It is difficult to know what to make of the form with so many fancied horses running poorly and seemingly beaten a long way from home. The well fancied Thunder Moon was one of the first beaten and kept the Ballydoyle runners company in rear.
While the Top 40 are struggling to find any form, the Talking Trainers continue in excellent form with Tim Easterby and Andrew Balding flying the flag for the section. Delgrey Boy (9/1) provided the former with another winner at Thirsk, while Nebulosa (6/4) and Bell Rock (13/2) scored for the latter at Goodwood and Newmarket respectively. It was a largely frustrating day for William Haggas but Mohaafeth (2/1) couldn't have won the Listed Newmarket Stakes much easier. The Frankel colt has now won three out of three this term and is an exciting prospect who will be tackling Group company next time.
On the subject of the Great Habton trainer, I thought his horse to follow ran very well and will be hard to beat next time. His rider purposely didn't give him a hard race once his chance had gone. The experience won't have been lost on him and he is most definitely one to keep on side.
Switching codes, the Grade 1 four year old hurdle on the final day of the Punchestown Festival didn't quite live up to expectations but it was won by a most progressive youngster in Jeff Kidder. Rated 67 on the Flat, Noel Meade's gelding won the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham off a mark of 125 before winning a Grade 2 event at Fairyhouse over Easter. A three parts of a length winner here, I was disappointed with Zanahiyr in second either though he disgrace himself. Taken wide throughout, he came off the bridle before the home turn and, while he kept on well after the last, Denise Foster's gelding isn't performing to the same level he showed in the first half of the season. I suspect a physical issue is preventing him from showing his best at present, which will hopefully be rectified during the summer. Taking nothing away from the gusty and improving winner, I would question the overall form - I suspect the leaders went too quickly with Saint Sam and Quilixios disappointing, while Haut En Coloeurs found himself in front too soon.
The Punchestown Festival was dominated from start to finish by Willie Mullins with Ireland's champion trainer sending out a record 19 winners. It is a fantastic achievement with 5 (Tuesday), 3 (Wednesday), 5 (Thursday), 3 (Friday) and 3 (Saturday) being his daily tallies. 9 of the victories came in Grade 1 events. The only thing which came close to Mullins' weekly score was the number of false starts there were over the five days.
False starts v willie mullins
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