Chris Prices’s stars of the 2017 flat season
There is only one place to start on this flat season roundup, that is with the five-time Group 1 winning superstar. Beaten on her reappearance at Newbury this spring, she would go on to win six in a row from the Cheshire Oaks onwards. She didn’t just win her races, it was the manner of victory; with an aggregate of 22.5 lengths across her top level wins, she quickly turned them into non-contests. On her latest start in the Arc she travelled smoothly just off a fair gallop before being let loose in the straight, putting to bed a stacked field of Group 1 winners in no time.
Tactically versatile and successful on all types of ground, she must have every chance of following up in the Arc again next year after fans were delighted to be told she stays in training.
One-time Derby favourite Cracksman has been a work in progress all season. Just beaten in the English and Irish Derbies during the first half of the season, trainer John Gosden was keen to point out that patience was key; he would be a good horse in time. Connections were paid off handsomely during the second half of the year, having been given a break to continue to grow and strengthen he would return to action at York in the Voltigeur with a comfortable success, that would be followed by a further Group 2 win on Arc trials day. With stablemate Enable taking in the Arc it left the Champion Stakes as his only alternative, a drop in trip and a rise in grade was no bother and a seven length win ensured Frankel had his first European Group 1 winner. Whilst it wasn’t a particularly strong field, his final furlong split was the fastest of the day, better than the 6f sprint and mile races, It was indeed a serious effort.Connections confirmed he will be staying in training next season, where he would only get stronger, and a mouth-watering contest awaits with Enable in the King George.
A Group 3 winner last term, Ulysses has grown into a leading middle distance performer. His high cruising speed was seen to great effect when winning the Eclipse and Juddmonte International this term. Not quite at that form in the King George and the Arc on soft ground, he nevertheless produced strong efforts on each occasion to be 2nd and 3rd respectively. It remains to be seen if he is to be retired this winter, but the plan is for one final run this season in the Breeders Cup Turf, with the fast ground likely to suit I couldn’t rule out a third Group 1 success.
This globetrotting superstar has once again thrilled us with a series of great performances over the summer. Wins in the Coronation Cup and the Prince Of Wales Stakes on fast ground were where he was seen to his be at his best. Sadly the weather turned against him on his final two starts of this year, both times at Ascot, but 4th in the King George and 3rd in the Champion Stakes were still far from a disaster. He will likely get conditions much more to his taste when he flies off to defend his Breeders Cup Turf title next month.
At the start of the year not many people had Winter down as one of the biggest stars from the Ballydoyle battalion, but she made everyone take notice with an impressive win in the 1000 Guineas this spring. Three more top level successes followed, including a step up in trip on soft ground in the Nassau at Goodwood to cement her place as one the start 3yo fillies of this generation. Sadly, she finished well beaten in the Arc and that is likely to be her final appearance on a racecourse, with the Coolmore operation keen to start her new career at stud.
Big Orange and Order Of St George
I decided to put these two great stayers together as they were involved in arguably the race of the season in the Ascot Gold Cup. Last years champion Order Of St George came from a long way back to throw down a challenge, but the ultra tough Big Orange showed why he is one of the most popular horses in training, refusing to buckle and holding on by a short head. The Aidan O’Brien trained runner would get his revenge in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day, where he excelled in the soft ground. Racing fans will hope to see another Gold Cup epic at Ascot next summer, and throughout the season over staying trips.
Lady Aurelia and Marsha
Another pair which had to put together are these exceptional sprinters. At Royal Ascot both traded favouritism for the King Stand but it was the American filly which slammed the opposition and turned a red-hot Group 1 into a procession, her second successive Royal Ascot success. On their rematch in the Nunthorpe in August it seemed inconceivable to many that the tables could be turned, Lady Aurelia was sent off an odds-on favourite and looked to have another top prize in her grasp, however Marsha, who looked one of the paddock picks beforehand, ran her down and got up on the line to win by a nose, much to the embarrassment of Frankie Dettori who had celebrated prematurely on the line. With Elite Racing confirming Marsha will head to the Breeders Cup Sprint, we are set for round 3 of this battle in California next month.
Another star sprinter we have to focus on is the Charlie Hills trained Battaash. His exerts on soft ground at Goodwood and a maiden Group 1 win in Chantilly will live long in the memory, winning both races with ease. That precocious power is not without his quirks however, at York in the Nunthorpe he got himself lit up in the preliminaries and his chance had gone. If connections can keep a lid on him, there is no doubt he has the potential to win many big prizes next season. A rematch against Lady Aurelia in the King Stand would be a fascinating contest.
I’ve been impressed by the improvement Harry Angel has shown throughout the year, he was just beaten by Caravaggio at the Royal meeting but seemed at different horse at the July Cup, powering clear having been up with a strong pace. He showed he is adaptable when winning the Sprint Cup on very testing ground next time out. Things didn’t go to plan on Champions Day, having committed for home just after halfway, the petrol tank fell empty as the line approached and he could only muster 4th, adding to his three other defeats at the track. I don’t think connections have got to the bottom of him and with another winter behind him we should an even stronger horse next year in these 6f contests, I wouldn’t rule out finally winning at Ascot if he is to take in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.