The quiet period is coming to an end. After just over two months with little top-level action (aside from the oasis of the Pegasus World Cup), the stars are beginning to return to the racetrack.
The last few days have been sit-up-and-take-notice time in America, Europe, Australia and Japan, with the Road to the Kentucky Derby stepping up a gear, two outstanding European older horses flexing their muscles, a devastating return by the mighty Winx and new evidence that 2018 may be the year of another ‘Beast from the East’.
All of which has brought a few interesting developments in this week’s updated TRC Global Rankings. And get ready for some serious adjustments to the world order in all four categories as the really big action begins in earnest at the end of the month, headlined by Dubai World Cup day, the Championships in Sydney and the biggest trials for the Run for the Roses.
You can read James Willoughby’s assessment of last weekend’s big Churchill Downs stepping stone, the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, here. Meanwhile, the returning Europeans, the Andre Fabre pair Talismanic (the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner) and Cloth Of Stars (the Arc runner-up), seemed to please everyone when they ran 1-2 in a tidy little 9½-furlong conditions race on the all-weather at Chantilly on Tuesday in preparation for major targets at Meydan on March 31.
But what of the new ‘Beast’? We’ve had occasion to point out the potential of Danon Premium before - when he cruised home in a G1 at Hanshin in December. He was back on Sunday for the G2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas trial) at Nakayama. Take a look at the video: no fuss, always in control, hands and heels - all the hallmarks of a horse being nursed gently into an ambitious, lengthy campaign with his home Triple Crown the centrepiece.
It will be a major surprise if the classy colt has to dig much deeper into his reserves for his next step - the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) back at Nakayama over a mile and a quarter on April 16.
Sunday’s win pushed his sire, Deep Impact, back up to world #3, easing past Frankel. By his own towering standards, the last 12 months have been relatively quiet for Japan’s dominant stallion. Remember, it was less than a year ago that he briefly ousted Galileo at the top of the rankings. The next few months could see him challenge again, not only because of Danon Premium but also because he is responsible for two of Coolmore’s biggest European hopes for 2018, Saxon Warrior and September.
Deep Impact, of course, won the Triple Crown in 2005. The only horse to achieve that since has been Orfevre, who did it in 2011. Fittingly, then, the G2 Tulip Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas Trial) went to a daughter of Orfevre, Lucky Lilac, who may be on the verge of an effective classic campaign herself. She is from the first crop of a stallion already being talked of as a possible successor to Deep Impact.
Lucky Lilac’s win lifted Orfevre 58 places in the world sires’ standings. He is now #176.
Bowman back at number two
In the TRC Jockeys’ Rankings, Hugh Bowman has wrested the world #2 slot back from Mirco Demuro, thanks to Winx’s imperious return in the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes, backed up by a G2 win on Seabrook, both at Randwick. The Chipping Norton was the first of 22 G1s that will light up racing in Sydney over the next seven weeks. Winx is likely to run twice in that period. Expect Sydney-based Bowman to close the gap significantly on Ryan Moore at the top of the standings.
Winx and Nozomi, a Meydan G3 winner for Godolphin, meant a five-point surge in the sires’ rankings for the late Street Cry, who is now #11. He looks likely to break back into the top ten soon. As well as Winx, he has Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-trained Gold Town, currently based in the UAE, in the early stages of a campaign that could take in the Kentucky Derby.
Golden Slipper trail
Another significant move among stallions came from I Am Invincible, who gains five points and rises from #11 to #7 after producing the G2 Skyline Stakes 1-2 in Santos and Spin at Randwick on Saturday. The Skyline is the main trial for the Golden Slipper, and Gai Waterhouse, who trains the winner, will attempt to make it a seventh victory in Australia’s greatest 2-year-old race at Rosehill on March 24.
I Am Invincible, who stands at Yarraman Park in the Hunter Valley, is the sire of G1 winners Brazen Beau, I Am A Star and Viddora. Since 2016, the average sale price of his yearlings has quadrupled. The son of Invincible Spirit was featured in this article 12 months ago on three emerging stallions. At the time he was ranked #28. The other two were Tavistock, who stands at Cambridge Stud in New Zealand, who was #28 and is now #39, and Arrowfield’s Not A Single Doubt, who was #19 and is now #11.
Ortiz brothers lead march of the young riders
Back in the Northern Hemisphere, it was another great weekend for the Ortiz brothers, who accounted for no fewer than five Graded wins. Jose Ortiz (+2 pts, ranked 9) took the two fillies’ races, the G2 Davona Dale and G3 Herecomesthebride; Irad Ortiz Jr (+4pts, #22) won the G2 Fountain of Youth and a pair of G3s on the grass.
The pair placed first and second in the world rankings among jockeys aged 25 and under in this article back in October and remain in those positions. It was also a good week for several other young riders who featured in that same article, with wins for Regan Bayliss, Luis Saez, Damian Lane and Callan Murray.
New fourth-ranked female rider
Murray had an eight-point gain week on week, the same as 37-year-old Aussie Linda Meech, whose victory in a G3 at Morphetville lifted her from #353 to #243, making her the world’s fourth-ranked female jockey, behind fellow Australians Katelyn Mallyon (#133) and Kathy O'Hara (#205) and Kiwi Samantha Spratt (#212). Meech is joint fourth with Briton Josephine Gordon.
Click here for a list of all last week’s biggest TRC Global Rankings points gainers.
Click here for a list of all the week’s Group and Graded winners.