Legend of Galileo grows after weekend at Epsom

The legend of Galileo grew even more last Saturday in the Epsom Derby (G1) in England. Six of the 13 starters were sired by the 2001 Derby winner and most of the others were his sons or grandsons. Usually, the most competition for a top sire comes from their own sons, but Galileo has withstood the likes of Frankel, New Approach, and Australia to maintain his spot at the top.

In Saturday’s renewal, the hot favorite was Sir Dragonet, a son of Camelot, that looked sensational when winning the Chester Vase (G3) in only his second career start; and here he was 23 days later trying to win the “Blue Riband of Turf.” He drew post 13 and raced wide throughout with Ryan Moore. Coming out of Tattenham Corner and heading uphill to the finish, there was a wall of horses across the track and Seamie Heffernan had no room with Anthony Van Dyck.

Heffernan, who has ridden the likes of Highland Reel for Aidan O’Brien, patiently waited for room to develop and resisted the temptation to go outside. When the four leaders stayed in the middle of the track, Heffernan made his commitment to the inside and had Anthony Van Dyck in full stride. The winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield three weeks earlier when ridden by Ryan Moore was plenty fit for the race to the wire and surged to a half-length win as the fourth choice in the wagering.

The place photo was impossibly close as Madhmoon was a nose ahead of Japan, who was a short head in front of Broome, himself a short head in front of Sir Dragonet. The final tally showed five of the top six trained by Aidan O’Brien and two of the top three sired by Galileo.

Galileo’s best son at stud is Frankel, but he did not have a classic winner in his first three crops to race. Frankel’s offspring have not had his brilliance but seem to have even more stamina so they seem to be more like Galileo than Frankel himself. Finally, in Friday’s Epsom Oaks (G1), Frankel sired his first classic winner when Frankie Dettori gave Anapurna a brilliant ride to hold off Pink Dogwood.

Willing to sacrifice getting bottled up on the inside, he saved ground with her and it looked like it was a fatal mistake when Ryan Moore produced Pink Dogwood on the outside. Dettori found room for Anapurna and the race was on in the Oaks. We’ve seen this match many times and you rarely see Ryan Moore get outfinished heading to the wire, but here was Frankie coming back on the inside to prevail by a neck. It was the typical training job from John Gosden as she began her career with two races on synthetic tracks, had a win in her turf debut and was fit and ready for the Oaks. Being out of a dam by Montjeu, she is truly bred to run all day.

Not that there was a track bias in Friday and Saturday’s races at Epsom, but in the Coronation Cup (G1), run at the same distance as the Oaks and Derby, Andrea Atzeni came up the inside aboard Defoe to win by a half-length over O’Brien/Moore/Galileo’s Kew Gardens. I know that a lot of the riders say they do not want to draw inside for fear of having traffic, but all three Group 1s going the classic distance were won by riders that saved ground.

 

(c) Alan Wright-focusonracing.com

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Epsom Friday: Maqsad the top selection in Oaks; Marmelo for Coronation Cup upset

The racing world’s attention focuses this weekend on Epsom Downs for both the Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1), the latter of which is the feature on Friday. Fourteen fillies will line up in the 1 1/2-mile classic that has a scheduled post time of 11:30 a.m. (EDT).

FREE Brisnet Past Performances for Epsom are available here

Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Oaks seven times, including three of the past four. However, I’m not quite understanding (yet) the love for #11 Pink Dogwood (9-5), who brings a sparkling pedigree to the table but a record which, on paper, doesn’t stand out. I’ll let her beat me at short odds.

John Gosden, who trained the magnificent Enable to win this two years ago, has a serious-looking pair in #9 Mehdaayih (5-2) and #1 Anapurna (6-1). Both relished soft ground when dominating their respective preps — the Cheshire Oaks and Lingfield Oaks Trial. Mehdaayih in particular looked crazy good, if a bit erratic, approaching the wire. Both are daughters of Frankel with no apparent stamina issues.

#6 Lavender’s Blue (15-1) has less experience than the above three, but the daughter of Sea the Stars was just pipped in her stakes debut at Newbury and looks to have a bright future. She’s a must-use for me in Exactas and Trifectas.

The top selection is #8 MAQSAD (7-1), who looked potentially something special when treating her Pretty Polly Stakes foes with disdain at Newmarket last time. Though beaten in both juvenile starts, she’s 2-for-2 this season with seemingly better to come.

Although she’s already handled 1 1/4 miles quite well, the extra two furlongs might be the only concern. Her sire Siyouni has not yet produced a leading middle-distance type, though he has been represented well by Laurens, who did stretch out to win last year’s French Oaks (G1) over 1 5/16 miles. However, Maqsad descends from Aquarelliste, who won the French Oaks plus the Prix Vermeille (G1) and Prix Foy (G2) over a mile and half. She also ran second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

Here’s how I’ll play the Oaks.

Maqsad (#8) to WIN

EXACTA: 8,9 with 1,6,8,9

TRIFECTA: 8,9 with 1,6,8,9 with 1,6,8,9

***

The 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup (G1), at 10:30 a.m. Friday, has come up with an interesting field, headed by the 2018 St Leger (G1) one-two #4 Kew Gardens (2-1) and the filly #10 Lah Ti Dar (7-2).

Kew Gardens was likely in need of a race when a distant second to returning rival #6 Morando (12-1) in the Ormonde (G3) at Chester, which was contested on heavy ground. He’s become a much better performer after adopting a more relaxed, off-the-pace style, so don’t place too much stock in his one bad run over this course and distance in the Derby last season.

Lah Ti Dar was all out to win her season debut in the Middleton (G2) at York over a distance shorter than she prefers. However, the Dubawi miss has never offered great value and probably doesn’t here either.

#7 Old Persian (7-2) was outstayed by the above two in the St Leger, but has fared well over 12 furlongs winning the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), Great Voltigeur (G2), and King Edward VII (G2).

The pick for an upset is #5 MARMELO (20-1). Campaigned primarily as a stayer throughout his career, he’s rarely been asked to face this class of horse. However, the multiple Group 2 winner and 2018 Melbourne Cup (G1) runner-up is genuinely consistent (13 times first or second in 17 starts) and exits a nice win in the 12-furlong John Porter (G3) at Newbury.

The demanding Epsom course places an emphasis on stamina, which Marmelo has in spades. The one drawback is that his connections would like softer ground, and the conditions are expected to be good-to-firm for the fixture. Marmelo is perhaps not completely hopeless on dry ground, though, and at the price I’ll still take a shot.

Mehdaayih and Robert Havelin win the Cheshire Oaks (c) Alan Wright – focusonracing.com

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