NEWS filtered through on Wednesday that Group 1 Sprint Cup winner Minzaal (Owen Burrows/Jim Crowley) has sustained a slab fracture of the knee in victory at Haydock, precipitating his retirement. That revelation came as both a shock and a shame, as the four-year-old had overcome previous injury problems to produce a top-class performance at Haydock, belatedly justifying the praise heaped on him as a juvenile.
Sent off second favourite for the Sprint Cup at 7/2, Minzaal produced a flawless performance on the fast turf, travelling strongly in mid-field, and looking the likeliest winner from some way out.
He had to wait for a gap to appear before Crowley could ask the ultimate question, but when daylight arrived with just over a furlong left, the response was immediate and deeply impressive, with Minzaal immediately striking on before pulling just under four lengths clear of 2021 winner Emaraaty Ana (Kevin Ryan/Andrea Atzeni). Rohaan (Dave Evans/Hollie Doyle) typically hit top stride late in the piece, and rattled home for third, a short head behind the runner-up.
Minzaal was widely predicted to be one of the leading sprinters of 2021, but his reappearance was delayed until the start of October due to training difficulties.
Placed efforts in the Rous Stakes and British Champions Sprint at Ascot showed that he had trained on well, however, and he had a chance to race more frequently this season. He ran poorly when tried in headgear in the Platinum Jubilee, but had otherwise performed well, winning the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury, and placed behind Highfield Princess in both the Duke of York and the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, his best effort prior to Haydock.
Despite winning the Hackwood, there was a feeling that Minzaal still had more to deliver based on the indelible impression he had created when swamping his rivals for speed in the Gimcrack Stakes as a two-year-old. He produced a career-best effort to be runner-up in the Maurice de Gheest, and built on that, demonstrating his ability to quicken smartly off a fast pace, to crown his career in style at Haydock.
It’s disappointing that we won’t get a chance to see him gain back-to-back Group 1 wins at Ascot next month, but it was pleasing to see him finally deliver the kind of performance that has long been promised.
KEVIN Ryan couldn’t disguise his delight at the victory of Triple Time (Andrea Atzeni) in the Group 3 Superior Mile on Saturday, and it’s clear that the three-year-old colt is held in high esteem at Hambleton Lodge.
Winner of the Listed Ascendant Stakes at this meeting 12 months previously, the son of Frankel was quietly fancied for the 2000 Guineas, but a late injury meant he had to spend the summer on the sidelines.
Despite showing the signs of keenness you might expect for a horse returning from a year off, the 13/8 favourite produced an improved effort to win cosily by a length and a quarter from Tacarib Bay (Richard Hannon/Sean Levey), with Marie’s Diamond (Roger Fell/Jason Hart) rallying for third having set the pace. The field was decimated by non-runners after predicted rain failed to materialise, and only half of the eight declared runners allowed to take part.
This was, by definition, a weak race for the grade, but that shouldn’t detract from the promise of the winner, who looked in need of the outing, and it was the way Ryan – not one to gush over his horses as a rule – spoke of him as much as the performance that resonated afterwards.
“Triple Time is a very, very good horse – he’s a special talent” said Ryan in the winners’ enclosure. “I was devastated when he went wrong before the Guineas because I thought we had a real chance. He was lame and then we found a tiny stress fracture. We’ve given him loads of time as he’s a big horse and it’s great to get him back.
“This was coming a bit quick for him, and I’d have loved to have had another fortnight. He’s typical of a top-class class horse; he’s got bundles of natural speed.
“He was a bit fresh today – he’s quite an exuberant horse and he’ll probably end up getting 10 furlongs as he gets more relaxed in races. He’s in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Arc weekend and I’ll have to discuss all our options when I speak to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid.”
JOHN & Thady Gosden’s Mostahdaf (Dane O’Neill) looked set for stardom when running out a stylish winner of the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown in the spring, but three consecutive defeats had seen his reputation tarnished, most notably when last of six in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July.
He clearly goes very well fresh, however, and having been given eight weeks off since that disappointment, he bounced back to his best to gain another Group 3 success, winning by two and three-quarter lengths from favourite Dubai Honour (William Haggas/Tom Marquand) having been better placed than that rival when the race began in earnest.
The 6/1 chance is perhaps unfairly maligned, as second-place finishes behind Bay Bridge at Sandown and Broome at Royal Ascot are at least as good on paper as his win from Foxes Tales on his reappearance, and Haggas felt that his underperformance at Newmarket came too soon after a punishing effort in the Hardwicke.
DUNSHAUGHLIN-born Gina Mangan has had a chequered career in the saddle but having almost lost a foot as the result of a gallops fall in 2020, she has gradually rebuilt her confidence, and has ridden a spate of winners in recent weeks, capped by the victory of Island Brave in the Old Borough Cup at Haydock on Saturday. Mangan showed excellent judgement in setting the perfect pace on Heather Main’s veteran and was most composed in the finish when it looked like she would be overhauled.
Her ability to keep her mount balanced in a tight finish was commendable, and her recent successes – a win for Dundory for new boss John O’Shea at Goodwood on Tuesday made it seven wins from her last 21 rides – will surely lead to further opportunities for the woman whose prospects of taking a dream ride in the 2017 Derby were so ignorantly blocked by the BHA.
Another Perth meeting, and another winner for Gordon Elliott on Monday, as The Friday Man justified odds of 8/13 in a novice hurdle dominated by Irish trainers, with runners from the Charles Byrnes and Gerry Quinn stables filling the places.
Naval finds all the Power
THE Listed Ascendant Stakes was uncompetitive on paper, and turned out that way, although winner Naval Power (Charlie Appleby/Will Buick) looked for much of the straight like he might struggle to get out of a pocket on the far rail, and those who backed him at 1/3 would have been sweating until the gap belatedly opened inside the final furlong.
His length-and-a-quarter defeat of Dancing Magic (Roger Teal/Kieran Shoemark) doesn’t represent any improvement on his previous efforts, but circumstances made it difficult for him to look impressive in a race run at a muddling gallop.
“It was another good learning day,” said Appleby with a touch of understatement. “Will got Naval Power into a nice box seat there and he had to fight for his gap, but class prevailed in the end. He’s a Teofilo who loves a sound surface and we’re more likely to go for the Royal Lodge [than wait for the Vertem Futurity]. If he was to run well in that we’d put him away for the year.”