Aspectoflove Headlines Cape Verdi Stakes

***The following is a preview of the Cape Verdi Stakes, which will be run on Jan. 20 at Meydan Race Course. You can also find this preview on The Blood-Horse website.  I thought I’d also include it here.


Aspectoflove heads a field of 11 older fillies and mares that will go to the post in the Cape Verdi Stakes-Sponsored by Bab Al Shams (UAE-IIT) at Meydan Race Course on Jan. 20.  The Cape Verdi highlights the second day of racing of the 2011 Dubai Carnival.

Trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin, Aspectoflove finished second in this race last year, coming up just a quarter-length short to Soneva.  The 5-year-old daughter of Danetime made seven additional starts in 2010, capturing two listed events over the same eight furlong distance of the Cape Verdi.

Aspectoflove has been training very well of late, and Suroor is looking for big things from her. “She ran well in both her Meydan races last year and we are very happy with her. She is better racing prominently and we expect her to go close.”

Frankie Dettori has the mount.

South Africa’s Mike de Kock, who perennially factors as one of the leading trainers during the Dubai Carnival, sends out the hard-knocking River Jetez.  An 8-year-old mare by the leading South African-based sire, Jet Master, River Jetez is a full-sister to the 2007 South African Horse of the Year, Pocket Power.

A multiple stakes winner in her native country, River Jetez won three of her four starts last year, which was highlighted by a gallant victory in the prestigious J & B Met (SAf-I).  In that ten-furlong contest she not only defeated Pocket Power-who was bidding for an unprecedented fourth straight win in the race-but also Mother Russia, who recently captured the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (SAf-I) at Kenilworth on Jan. 8.

Originally trained by Mike Bass, River Jetez was turned over to de Kock with an eye toward racing in the carnival.  Leading French rider Christophe Soumillon will be aboard.

Deem will be trying to win the Cape Verdi for the second time.  The daughter of Dalakhani, who is trained by Jerry Barton for Prince Sultan Mohammed Saud Al Kabeer, captured the event in 2009.  Last year, the 6-year-old mare claimed a victory over Aspectoflove in the Balanchine Stakes (UAE-IIIT) before finishing a close fourth to Dar Re Mi in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-IT).

Olivier Peslier has the mount, and is looking forward to riding Deem. “She is in good form and seems to thrive in Dubai,” Peslier said.  “We have to be hopeful of a good run and hopefully there will be a decent pace in the race to utilize her stamina.”

The Kentucky-bred My Sweet Baby will be making her first start since May of last year.  The 5-year-old daughter of Minardi captured the Premio Regina Elena (Italian 1000 Guineas, gr. III) in 2009.  My Sweet Baby is a half-sister to champion Gladiatorus, who was undefeated in three starts in Dubai. He captured the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-IT) and the Premio Vittorio di Capua (It-I) on his way to being named champion in both Italy and the U.A.E. in 2009.

Other contenders include Ralph Beckett’s Forest Crown, a half-sister to group I winner Crowded House and the Stan Moore-trained Kinky Afro.

$200,000 Cape Verdi-Sponsored by Bab Al Shams (gr. II, Race 6, 12:45 p.m. EST), Fillies & Mares, 3yo (SH-bred) & Up, 1 mile (turf) (all carry 126 lbs.)

PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer

1. River Jetez (SAf), C. Soumillon, M. de Kock

2. Aspectoflove (Ire), L. Dettori, S. bin Suroor

3. Anam Chara (Ire), C. O’Donoghue, A. Oliver

4. Kinky Afro (Ire), K. Fallon, J.S. Moore

5. Forest Crown (GB), J. Crowley, R. Beckett

6. Ayun Tara (Fr), G. Benoist, X. Nakkachdji

7. Summer Games (GB), T. O’Shea, R. Bouresly

8. Emper Holly (Arg), P. Cosgrave, M. bin Shafya

9. Deem (Ire), O. Peslier, J. Barton

10. Thai Haku (Ire), C.P. Lemaire, M. Delzangles

11. My Sweet Baby (KY), W. Smith, F. Nass



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Canford Cliffs Cruises in Irish 2000 Guineas

Canford Cliffs rewarded trainer Richard Hannon’s faith in his ability with a rousing three-length victory in the Abu Dhabi Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at the Curragh May 22.

Canford Cliffs, who captured the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) last season, entered the Irish classic off of a third-place finish in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) in his most recent start.   Despite being slightly disappointed with that result, Hannon still felt his colt would prove best a mile, and decided to give the Irish equivalent a try.

Ridden by Richard Hughes, Canford Cliffs was settled in mid-division as two of the Aidan O’Brien-trained runners, Encompassing and Purple Heart, set the pace up front.  The two colts, part of a six-horse O’Brien entry, led the field through most of the early stages of the race.

With just over two furlongs to run, Oasis Dancer took over the lead, with Keredari and Xtension hot on his heels.  Hughes sat motionless aboard Canford Cliffs, as the colt began to pick off rivals one by one.  With just over a furlong to run, Hughes pushed the button and the response was immediate, with Canford Cliffs rocketing to the front and drawing away from the field.

Free Judgement, trained by Jim Bolger, came with a sweeping run down the center of the course to claim second, three lengths behind Canford Cliffs.  Aidan O’Brien’s Viscount Nelson got up for third, another 1 ½-lengths further back.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.64 over a course rated ‘good to firm’.

Richard Hannon Jr., the winning trainer’s son and assistant, told the press after the race, “He relaxed a lot more than usual and was able to finish his race.”

“We probably have three of the best milers in the country (Canford Cliffs, Paco Boy, and Dick Turpin) and people keep saying they are all best at seven furlongs,” Hannon Jr., continued.

“He’ll go to the St. James’s Palace (Stakes, Eng-I) and deserves to take his chance.  He’s possibly the best we’ve ever had, and he’s shown it today.”

Bred in Ireland by S and S Hubbard Rodwell, Canford Cliffs is by the French group I winner, Tagula, and out of the Marju mare, Mrs. Marsh.  He is owned by the partnership of the Heffer Syndicate, Mrs. Roy, and Mrs. Instance.

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A Very ‘Special’ Guineas Double

Special Duty completed an amazing English/French 1000 Guineas double as she was awarded a classic victory once again via disqualification, this time in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I) at Longchamp May 16.

Two weeks ago at Newmarket, Special Duty also claimed victory in the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), after the stewards ruled she had been hampered by Jacqueline Quest, who had finished a nose in front of her.

On Sunday, Special Duty was promoted to first after a storming late run saw her fall a head short of Liliside at the wire.  A stewards’ inquiry was quickly called after the finish, as there had been obvious bumping and interference between several fillies within the final furlong.

After a prolonged delay of well over an hour, the stewards deemed that Liliside had been the instigator of much of the interference, as she had bumped both Full Steam and Rosanara when jockey Jean-Bernard Eyquem switched her out to make her run with under two furlongs left.

Liliside ran on strongly to the wire, holding off a charging Special Duty by a head.  Baine finished another neck back in a blanket finish of six fillies.  Joanna and Rosanara were each just a head behind Baine, with Lady Of The Desert another neck back after having to be taken up sharply by jockey Kieren Fallon.

After the inquiry, stewards awarded Special Duty the victory.  Baine was promoted to second, and Joanna was third.  Liliside was placed sixth, behind Lady Of The Desert.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.40 over a course rated as good.

Criquette Head-Maarek, who trains Special Duty for owner/breeder Juddmonte Farm, now has won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches seven times, and has completed the English/French Guineas double twice, after Ravinella completed the sweep in 1988.

Head-Maarek thought justice had been done following the change of result.  “Amazing-that is the word,” she told reporters.  “It feels very good and to win two Group Ones is incredible.”

“The stewards have made the correct decision as I got the race, but it was the right decision overall as Liliside stopped the Aga Khan horse (Rosanara) from being closer.”

Head-Maarek continued, “It is always a shame in these big races and leaves me with a bad feeling, especially when the result involves a small trainer from the country.”

When asked where Special Duty would run next, Head-Maarek replied, “I think I’ll give her a break now—I feel Ascot would come too soon.  She could run in the Prix d’Astarte (Fr-I) at Deauville.”

Special Duty, who was champion 2-year-old filly in England last year, races as a homebred for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm.  She is by Hennessy out of Quest To Peak, by Distant View.  Her dam, Quest To Peak, is a full-sister to multiple grade I winner Sightseek, and a half-sister to grade I winner Tates Creek.

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Paco Boy Dazzles in Lockinge Stakes

Paco Boy notched his third group I victory with an impressive performance in the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) at Newbury Racecourse May 15.

Fourth in the race last year–after which it was discovered that he had an infected foot–Paco Boy was settled comfortably in mid-pack by jockey Richard Hughes as Stimulation led the field of nine through the early stages of the eight furlong contest.

As the pace began to quicken with three furlongs left to run, Hughes still sat motionless aboard Paco Boy, as Zacinto, Ouqba, and Lord Shanakill all began to make their moves on the leader.  As the field entered the final furlong, Hughes finally pushed the button and Paco Boy responded with an amazing turn of foot to take command.

Ouqba made a late move to challenge for the lead but was no match for Paco Boy, who won by three-quarters of a length while being geared down.  Lord Shanakill plugged on for third, another 3 ½-lengths behind Ouqba.

Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:37.31 over a good to firm turf course.

The Richard Hannon trained 5-year-old will now be pointed toward Royal Ascot and a defense of his Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) crown, which he won by 1 ½-lengths last year.  One of his challengers at Royal Ascot will more than likely be two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) champion Goldikova, who is scheduled to make her seasonal debut next weekend at Longchamp.

A delighted Hannon told the Racing Post after the race, “He’s a better horse this year than last year and he will be a hard horse to beat.”

“He is such a lovely horse to deal with and has grown into an old favorite – I’ve got pictures of him all over the place,” Hannon continued.  “He’ll definitely go for the Queen Anne next.”

Paco Boy is a 5-year-old horse by Desert Style, out of Tappen Zee, by Sandhurst Prince.  He was bred in Ireland by Joan Browne and races for The Calvera Partnership.

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Group I Winners Clash in Lockinge Stakes

Group I winners Paco Boy and Lord Shanakill head a field of nine that will go to the post on Saturday in the Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I).

The eight furlong contest, run over a straight mile at Newbury Racecourse, will mark the seasonal debut of Lord Shanakill.  The 4-year-old son of Speightstown will be making his first start for Sir Henry Cecil, who has taken over the training duties from Richard Mandella.  Lord Shanakill was sent to California last year to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, with the long-range plan of staying stateside.  That plan was scrapped after the colt’s disappointing twelfth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup. (on a side note, one of Lord Shanakill’s maternal relatives, the 3-year-old filly Aviate, won the Musidora Stakes (Eng-III) on Wednesday at York.)

Paco Boy will be making his second start of the year on Saturday.  The 5-year-old horse captured the bet365 Mile (Eng-II) at Sandown in his most recent outing.  Paco Boy will again be ridden by Richard Hughes; the pair teamed up to take the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) last year at Royal Ascot over a high-class field by 1 ½-lengths.

Juddmonte Farm’s Zacinto will be making his first start since his disappointing performance in the 2009 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT).   Prior to that, Zacinto had captured the Celebration Mile (Eng-II), and had finished a good second to Rip Van Winkle in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I).  The lightly-raced son of Dansili has won three of his six starts, with his only out of the money finish occurring in the Breeders’ Cup.

Another to watch out for is Pipedreamer, a group II-winning son of Selkirk.  The hard-knocking 6-year-old has been mixing it up with top company over the past few years, finishing in the money to such high-class runners as Duke of Marmalade, Campanologist, Tartan Bearer, Mount Nelson, and Twice Over.  In his last start of 2009, Pipedreamer finished a close fourth (beaten just two lengths) in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (Eng-I).

Dante and Middleton Stakes Share Top Billing at York

Thursday’s card at York features two 10-furlong, group II stakes races—the Totesport Dante Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Middleton Stakes for fillies and mares.

The Dante Stakes long has served as a strong prep for the Investec Derby (Eng-I) in June.  In the last decade, the race has produced Derby winners Authorized, Motivator, and North Light.  Other notable Dante/Derby winners include Shahrastani (1986), Reference Point (1987), Erhaab (1994), and Benny the Dip (1997).

This year’s renewal features a small but select field of six, led by Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Blanco.  The chestnut son of Galileo will be making his seasonal debut in the Dante.  Cape Blanco is undefeated in three career starts, with his last victory coming in the Galileo E.B.F. Futurity Stakes (Ire-II) last August.

Sir Michael Stoute sends out the highly-regarded Workforce, a bay colt by King’s Best.  The Juddmonte Farm-colorbearer has only started once, winning his debut last September at Goodwood.  Workforce is certainly the ‘buzz’ horse; word has gotten out that he has been training extremely well at home.

The early favorite for the Dante is Godolphin’s Chabal, a bay son of Galileo.  Chabal captured the 10-furlong Classic Trial (Eng-III) last month over Azmeel, who recently came back to win the Dee Stakes (Eng-III) at Chester.

The Dante Stakes may actually take second-billing to the Middleton Stakes, which marks the 2010 debuts of group I winners Midday and Sariska.

Midday notched victories in both the Blue Square Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) and the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) last year, and finished second in the Investec Oaks (Eng-I) to Sariska.  The daughter of Oasis Dream has won four of her 11 career starts, and has finished in the money nine times.

Lady Bamford’s Sariska will be making her first start since finishing third to Twice Over in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes (Eng-I) last October.  The daughter of Pivotal notched an Oaks double last year, taking both the Investec Oaks at Epsom and the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I)—also over Midday—at the Curragh in July.  She will be partnered once again by Jamie Spencer.

Two other fillies that should not be overlooked are Flying Cloud, a daughter of Storming Home who won the Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) in 2009, and High Heeled, a group III winning daughter of High Chaparral who spent most of last year knocking heads with both Sariska and Midday.  High Heeled was recently purchased by George Strawbridge and transferred to trainer John Gosden.

Both York races could very well set the stage for an exciting racing season.

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Nothing to Sneeze At—Pollen Takes Park Express Stakes

The European racing season got underway this weekend with several listed and group races in England, Ireland, and France.

On Saturday in England, Tranquil Tiger captured the 10-furlong Winter Derby (Eng-III) at Lingfield Park for trainer Henry Cecil and owner Juddmonte Farm.  The 6-year-old son of Selkirk improved his overall record to 10 wins from 25 lifetime starts, and notched his first group victory.  Tranquil Tiger had seven previous stakes wins, all coming in listed stakes.

The chestnut horse has won three straight stakes races, beginning with the Churchill Stakes last November.  Tranquil Tiger is now three for three on the ‘all-weather’.

Breaking alertly from the gate, Tranquil Tiger raced comfortably in second, just off the pacesetter, Suits Me.  The first two runners kept their placings for the first mile.  As the field swung into the home straight, jockey Tom Queally gave the cue and Tranquil Tiger surged past Suits Me to open up a two-length lead.

Once he got to the front, however, Tranquil Tiger began to idle, and Suits Me began to cut back into the lead.  Tranquil Tiger had plenty left in the tank to hold off the challenge, spurting away to easily win by three-quarters of a length.

Tranquil Tiger was bred in England by his owner.  He is out of the stakes-placed Distant View mare, Serene View, and hails from the immediate family of grade I/group I winners Contredance, Skimming, Wince, Quiff, and Pryka (Arg).

Pollen Completes Memorable Day for Trainer

Pollen completed a memorable day for trainer Tommy Stack by winning the Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes (Ire-III) on the opening day at the Curragh on Sunday.  The victory by Pollen made it four wins from four starters on the card for trainer Stack.

Pollen, a 5-year-old mare by Orpen, was held up in mid-pack by jockey William Lee, who was content to let Rare Ransom set the early pace.  Pollen swept by the early leaders with just under two furlongs to run, and was able to fend off the late challenge of favored Devoted To You.

The Park Express marked the first stakes win for Pollen, who is out of the Chief Singer mare, On Air.

First Starter—First Winner for Holy Roman Emperor

The opening race at the Curragh was a five-furlong affair for 2-year-olds, making it the first ‘baby’ race anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. (I’ve done a bit of research on this, and haven’t found any 2yo races listed yet in England or France, and none so far in the US.  However, if I’ve missed a baby race at Calder or Santa Anita, please let me know) **Editor’s Note**: As you may notice in the comments, a sharp reader pointed out that there have been a couple of baby races so far at Sunland Park.  I knew I had to have missed some!  Many thanks, Trifectabox!

There were two colts in the race sired by Holy Roman EmperorHigh Award and Emperor Hadrian. Holy Roman Emperor, a top-class son of Danehill, captured the Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I) and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-I) as a juvenile, and was named the high-weighted colt in France that year.  He was pressed into ‘emergency’ stud duty by Coolmore Stud as a 3-year-old, when it became apparent that the retired champion, George Washington (also by Danehill), was having fertility problems.

High Award, who is conditioned by Tommy Stack for Susan Magnier, rated in fourth under jockey William Lordan as Clondinnery (by Choisir) went to the front.  High Award assumed the lead with just under a furlong to go, and won easily by three-quarters of a length over Suntan (Bachelor Duke).  Clondinnery held on for third.

Emperor Hadrian was never a factor, finishing seventh.

High Award is out of Tarascon, by Tirol.  After capturing the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I) as a juvenile, Tarascon was named champion 2-year-old filly in Ireland in 1997.  She added the Airlie Coolmore Irish 1000 Guineas (Ire-I) to her resume the following season.

Tarascon’s third dam, the unraced Never Say Die mare, Cake, was a tremendous producer herself.  One of her daughters, Icing, produced nine winners, including Al Hareb (colt by El Gran Senor, winner of the William Hill Futurity [Eng-I]) and Dr. Somerville (colt by Chief’s Crown).  Snowtop, a daughter of Icing, is the granddam of Myboycharlie, champion 2yo colt in France.

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St Nicholas Abbey Soars in Racing Post Trophy

St Nicholas Abbey cemented himself as the early favorite for the 2010 Investec Derby (Eng-I) with a dominating performance in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) at Doncaster Oct. 24.

The Aidan O’Brien trained-colt remains undefeated in three starts in his young career, having also captured the Juddmonte Beresford Stakes (Ire-II) and a maiden race at the Curragh in his two prior starts.

The Racing Post Trophy brought together a field of 11, with three of the most highly-rated 2-year-old colts in England and Ireland meeting for the first time.  Besides St Nicholas Abbey the field included Al Zir, an imposing son of Medaglia d’Oro who was making his stakes debut for Godolphin, and Elusive Pimpernel, an undefeated son of Elusive Quality who captured the Acomb Stakes (Eng-III) in his last start.

Ridden with great confidence by Johnny Murtagh, St Nicholas Abbey tracked Elusive Pimpernel towards the rear of the field as Shakespearean and Al Ghazal led the field in the early stages of the one mile contest.   Al Zir sat just off the pace in third, and looked ready to pounce at any time for jockey Frankie Dettori.

As the field hit the two furlong marker, Murtagh shook the reins and the response was immediate, as St Nicholas Abbey split horses and hit the front within a few strides.  The colt continued to accelerate in the final furlong, opening up several lengths on the rest of the field.

St Nicholas Abbey hit the wire 3 ¾-lengths in front of Elusive Pimpernel, who rallied to take the second spot from Al Zir by 2 ½-lengths.  Final time for the eight furlongs was 1:39.62 over a course rated ‘good to soft’

O’Brien was full of praise for the colt, telling reporters, “This is a very special horse.  He’s one of those unique horses that is bred to stay, but who has speed.”

“When you look at that turn of toe he had today,” O’Brien continued, “it was effortless.”

St Nicholas Abbey was bred in Ireland by Barton Bloodstock and Villiers Syndicate.  By Montjeu, he is out of the Sure Blade mare Leaping Water, who has also produced Grammarian (by Definite Article), winner of the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) and San Gabriel Handicap (gr. IIT) in 2002.

Leaping Water is a half-sister to champion Ballingarry (by Sadler’s Wells), in addition to group I winners Aristotle (by Sadler’s Wells) and Starborough (by Soviet Star).

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