While it will be some time before we know just how good the form on display this past week at Ascot really was, there can be no doubt about the quality of the show and the competitiveness of the racing.
Friday’s “big two” were no exceptions, with the Harwicke Stakes (Gr.2) justifying recent English calls for an upgrade to Group One status following a ding-dong tussle between St Leger winner, Scorpion, in the Coolmore corner, and Maraahel (by Alzao) (for Sheikh Hamdan), or as they like to call them now, “the boys in blue”. In the end, Maraahel prevailed and he must be the unluckiest horse waiting to pick up a Group One anywhere, outside of Emperor Napoleon (by Kahal) back at home. The latter has been 2nd or 3rd five times in Grade Ones this season alone, while Maraahel has seen the frame in the same company at least that many times, albeit over a longer career.
This was his second consecutive Hardwicke, and we’re reminded at Summerhill that it was the same Maraahel who followed our Mullins Bay home in last seasons Strensale Stakes at York, and just beat another of our men, Solskjaer, in the Huxley Stakes (Gr.2) at Chester. So we know this fellow, now rated 126 lbs by Timeform.
In the end, the Golden Jubilee Sprint (Gr.1) (won by Summerhill resident, Malhub, in 2004), was not the anticipated Aussie celebration we’d expected. Instead (and it needs to be said, it happened in soft going) the Europeans revelled in the easy ground, with the likes of Soldiers’ Tale (by Stravinsky) and Red Clubs (by Red Ransom) leading home the Europeans, with Takeover Target (Celtic Swing) the only Aussie to make the frame. Great race, nonetheless.