It was a weekend which promised plenty but proved to be a disappointing one for the Top 40 Prospects in AOTF. Bay Bridge went close in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot last month when tackling Group 1 company for the first time. However, Sir Michael Stoute's four year old didn't enjoy the fast ground and was jarred up as a result. Therefore the underfoot conditions in the Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday weren't expected to be to his liking even though he was well supported beforehand. Positioned close to the steady gallop set by Alenquer, Ryan Moore's mount led briefly entering the final couple of furlongs but it soon became apparent he wasn't going to withstand the challenges of those in behind. Beaten four lengths in fifth, the son of New Bay wasn't disgraced but wasn't able to show his best. Likely to be given a mid summer break, I haven't lost faith in him and expect to see him at his best in the Autumn when the ground eases. It may also be time for him to step up to a mile and a half. The Arc in October could bring out the best in him, although his stablemate and Epsom Derby winner Desert Crown may have something to say about that.
The most frustrating performance of the weekend came from Gaassee who should have won the Old Newton Cup at Haydock Park. Backed as though defeat was out of the question, William Haggas' four year old was slowly away and that proved to be his downfall. He was therefore forced to spend the majority of the race in rear and his jockey elected to stay on the inside when the runners turned for home - the outcome would have been different had the field come down the middle of the track but that wasn't the case. By the time Gaassee had found space on the outside inside the final furlong, the winner Get Shirty had struck for home and built up an unassailable lead. Cieren Fallon's mount was only a length and a half and a head behind David O'Meara's winner. The way he finished suggests an extra couple of furlongs won't be a problem which means the Sky Bet Ebor at York (21st August) will almost certainly be on his agenda with Tom Marquand reunited. Fallon has come a long way in a short space of time and is a Group 1 winning rider but his CV should also feature a St James's Palace Stakes and Old Newton Cup.
The most impressive performance over the last couple of days was provided by Free Wind in the Lancashire Oaks earlier on the card at the Merseyside track. A four times winner last term, including the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster, she overcame an absence of 296 days and trouble in running to win going away by two and a quarter lengths. Tightened up by Eshaada at the two pole, Robert Havlin was forced to pull his mount back and around Roger Varian's filly. With ground to make up on Sea La Rosa, the Galileo filly quickened up smartly before putting distance between herself and the runner-up. It was the performance of a top-class filly who looks destined for something like the Yorkshire Oaks next month - depending on what the plans are for stablemate Emily Upjohn. Effective on fast and slow ground, she is another who wouldn't look out of place in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe in the Autumn. The stewards' decision to ban Havlin rather than Jim Crowley who rode Eshaada is baffling to say the least. The latter knew exactly what he was doing when edging to the far rail when Free Wind was starting her challenge.
The Newmarket July meeting, which commences on Thursday, will hopefully see a change of fortunes for the Top 40 - it is much needed after a lousy weekend. In the meantime, I am continuing to work on the new edition of One Jump Ahead. I have collected most of the information and putting together lists for the Talking Trainers section. The amount of new recruits purchased by the likes of Nicholls, Mullins, Elliott, De Bromhead etc is frightening. Field sizes have been an issue on the Flat this spring/summer but there isn't a shortage of money at the top level in the National Hunt game.
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