Lancaster Bomber (right) finishing second to stablemate Churchill
Like Intelligence Cross, his stablemate from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle empire, Lancaster Bomber is a War Front colt who appreciates a quick surface. But their profiles diverge from there.
Lancaster Bomber sports an even more mouth-watering pedigree. He’s a half-brother to multiple Group 1-winning highweight Excelebration, best remembered for his string of seconds to the phenomenal Frankel. Excelebration contested the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, finishing fourth to Wise Dan, so Lancaster Bomber has some unfinished family business in Arcadia. Another half-brother, Mull of Kintyre, peaked as an older horse and won Group 3s at the age of six, seven, and eight.
Lancaster Bomber’s resume offers a starker contrast with Intelligence Cross, for he’s taken longer to advertise himself. The blaze-faced colt retreated to sixth in his debut on Irish Oaks Day, the same maiden in which Capri, the eventual Beresford (G2) winner, finished second.
In his second try, Lancaster Bomber was clearly regarded as the second-stringer to stablemate Taj Mahal. But Lancaster Bomber proved the market wrong with a gritty display, coming again on the inside to outduel True Valour at Leopardstown.
Upped in class for the August 21 Futurity (G2), Lancaster Bomber had the look of one just making up the numbers, to provide another warm body in the starting gate. Indeed, only three rivals could be scrounged up to take on O’Brien’s vaunted Churchill, who won as he pleased. Poor Lancaster Bomber was last of the four, his head cocked as he tried to pick up on the Curragh’s soft going.
Lancaster Bomber was again drafted in Churchill’s service in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) over the same course and distance, where he dutifully set the pace before tiring to fifth.
Bettors forecast a similar strafing in the October 8 Dewhurst (G1) at Newmarket, ignoring Lancaster Bomber as the 66-1 longest shot on the board. But pedigree fans might have noted that this was only the second time he’d encountered good ground – the other being his maiden win. Every other start had come on varying degrees of rain-affected tracks.
Lancaster Bomber showed what he’s capable of in the right conditions. After striding forward, he was accosted by a posse led by Churchill and Blue Point. But just when he appeared to settle for fourth (or worse), Lancaster Bomber lengthened stride and surged past the weakening Blue Point.
Hence Lancaster Bomber achieved what Intelligence Cross couldn’t: beat Blue Point, although to be fair, the latter’s stamina limitations may have been exposed over this seventh furlong. Not only did Lancaster Bomber grab second; he also came a lot closer to Churchill than ever before, keeping his margin to a measured length or so.
Although only time will tell for sure, this shapes up as a decent Dewhurst. Churchill is the hot antepost favorite for next spring’s 2000 Guineas (G1). Blue Point, the smashing Gimcrack (G2) winner, remains prominent in the betting for the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. Sixth-placer South Seas was coming off a Solario (G3) score over French Group 1 runner-up Salouen, and the trailer was John Gosden’s hitherto unbeaten son of Frankel, Seven Heavens.
The biggest ensuing headline came courtesy of Dewhurst fifth Rivet, who roared back to capture the October 22 Racing Post Trophy (G1). To underscore the solidity of the formline, Rivet had previously won the Champagne (G2), edging Thunder Snow (the subsequent fourth in the Dewhurst).
Update: The Dewhurst was further flattered by the October 30 Criterium International (G1). Thunder Snow dominated South Seas in an all-Dewhurst alum exacta.
In his lone stakes credit, therefore, Lancaster Bomber managed to beat a handful of very promising types. That’s arguably more than Intelligence Cross has accomplished for all of his Group placings.
The concern is that Lancaster Bomber kicked into another gear on the rising ground. He can’t afford to get outkicked on a surface like Santa Anita’s, where he won’t have the luxury of a stiff finish.
The Dewhurst has produced two winners of the Juvenile Turf so far, both at Santa Anita. The O’Brien-trained George Vancouver (2012) and Godolphin’s Outstrip (2013) were each coming off a third-place effort in the Dewhurst.
Photo courtesy At the Races via Twitter