Wesley Ward and Frankie Dettori will hope that history does not repeat itself in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York on Friday, as the trainer’s two previous runners in the Group One sprint set off as favourite but finished second – most memorably when Dettori prematurely celebrated victory on Lady Aurelia four years ago.
With Battaash, the winner in 2019 and 2020, now enjoying his retirement, Golden Pal (3.35) looks a fair bet at around 11-4 to make it third time lucky for Ward. He blew away his field in a fast time at Saratoga last month without needing to find top gear and could well dominate in similar style on Friday.
York 1.50 At least a dozen of the 18-strong field here would be plausible winners, but the favourite, Wink Of An Eye, is still very difficult to get away from as he attempts to complete a five-timer. William Haggas’s three-year-old had only a neck to spare at Goodwood last time and is 4lb higher here, but he appeared to have something left in the tank if required while the time of his earlier win at Sandown suggests that he is still a step ahead of the handicapper.
York 2.25 Stradivarius has been one of the outstanding stayers of recent decades but he has won just one of his last five starts and would have struggled to beat Subjectivist in the Gold Cup last time even with a clear run at the winner. Spanish Mission was nearly two lengths in front of him there having waited even longer for running room, and makes much more appeal at the likely odds, not least as Trueshan is unlikely to get the easier surface he prefers.
York 3.00 Lusail and Berkshire Shadow, the two previous Group Two winners in this year’s Gimcrack field, are giving 3lb to the field but they still look some way ahead of the field. Marginal preference at the likely odds is for Andrew Balding’s colt, who was unsuited by the way the race developed at Goodwood last time and should get much closer to his Coventry-winning form on this quicker ground.
Snowfall clear Arc favourite after demolishing rivals
Ryan Moore is a man of few and carefully-chosen words, so his assessment of Snowfall’s victory in the Yorkshire Oaks here on Thursday was striking. “Today,” he said, “her performance was as good as anything I’ve felt.”
Snowfall was the 8-15 favourite to beat six rivals having run out an easy winner of the Oaks and Irish Oaks on her last two starts, but it was not so much her four-length winning margin which impressed on Thursday as the effortlessness with which it was achieved. Even Moore was taken aback by her rapid progress to lead with two furlongs still to run, as Snowfall’s second gear carried her past opponents who were already close to their finishing speed.
“She got there very quickly and gave me a very professional feel,” Moore said, “and the race was over very quickly … at the two-and-a-half, really. She definitely felt today like she was better than she was [in the Irish Oaks] at the Curragh [last month].”
Race-to-race progress has been the story of Snowfall’s season and Aidan O’Brien, her trainer, also highlighted the extent to which she continues to grow and strengthen. Thursday’s performance was that of a potential Arc winner and enough to push her clear of Adayar, the Derby winner, in the ante-post betting at a top price of 5-2. If her next race, possibly in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on 12 September, suggests further improvement, she could easily be nudging odds-on by 3 October.
“She’s thriving at home and putting on weight so I was glad the races were coming up for her,” O’Brien said. “She’s very relaxed and quickens very well, and it doesn’t matter with ground with her.
“I was a little bit taken aback by her in the parade ring, how well she had done. She looked like a filly that was going to come on for the run, physically, so that’s a good sign when that starts happening at this time of the year. She’s obviously changing from a being a baby three-year-old into a mature three-year-old. It’s a lovely way to have her.
“If she’s going to the Arc, she’d run around the time of [Irish] Champions Weekend either at Leopardstown or Longchamp.”
Longchamp’s Arc Trials meeting, where Adayar is also expected to line up in the Prix Niel, seems the favourite at this stage, while Wonderful Tonight, who finished well beaten in Thursday’s race on much faster ground than she prefers, is also being steered towards the same card.
“I’m really happy with the run considering the conditions were not in her favour,” David Menuisier, Wonderful Tonight’s trainer, said, “so I think there was no harm done.
“We know when the ground gets softer she can easily improve by 10 lengths or more. When it comes to the crunch she can’t find the gears, whereas on soft, she has another two gears.”