To fill the vacuum caused by cancellation of fixtures, various sports have turned to simulation to produce so-called ‘fantasy’ versions of themselves. This has allowed the play-testing of scenarios that normally do not happen, sometimes to the wonderment of fans.
At Randwick racecourse in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, horse racing will play out a kind of hyper-reality all of its own: Australian-based elite jockey James McDonald gets to ride Japanese star Thoroughbred Danon Premium in the G1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the feature race on the final day of The Championships.
Kiwi McDonald is riding like a man possessed at present and has risen to #5 in the world. We have been accused of excessive promotion of his talents, and it is true that the length of his archive on the site makes our defence a little problematic, admittedly. Fortunately, we have hardly needed to apologise for that as he built up a commanding lead in global Group wins in 2020.
While McDonald has had some plum rides, his skills in the saddle are obvious: he’s always in the right place, saves ground like nobody else and seems to have that rare ability to get horses to produce half a length extra when it is needed. And he’s so smooth doing it.
For his part, Danon Premium is a big, solid horse with a raking stride, and one of the leading representatives of a generation of Japanese Thoroughbreds of rare talent. Australian racing has seen evidence of that for itself already, of course, with the exploits of Lys Gracieux in the Cox Plate and Mer De Glace in the Caulfield Cup last year.
G1 winner Danon Premium has a victory over Lys Gracieux on his card, in a G2 back home last March. Since then, he has continued to show top-class form, most notably when second to Almond Eye in the Autumn Tenno Sho last October. That is more than good enough to prevail here, and it would be no surprise if he did just exactly that.
But there is a problem. In some of the E-Sports Formula 1 races run between actual drivers of the past and current generations, the old boys seem to have had a problem applying real-life instincts to the control panel of a virtual racing car, particularly when it comes to timing tyre changes in the pits during computer-generated rain storms.
Well, Danon Premium will need to throw his slicks off big time here because the track at Randwick is wet and his best form is on sun-baked tracks. Can he adapt? Japanese horses have done it before, but it needs to be factored into his line.
Some 24 hours before the race, it was raining at Randwick, but the forecast calls for dry weather and warm temperatures on the day. The more ease in the going, the better for ADDEYBB, who is developing into a world-class horse and gets the call to prove it here.
Now six, the son of Pivotal has been allowed to develop slowly by British trainer William Haggas, our world #29.
He first showed he could be a contender for races of this class when winning a race that did not qualify for our rankings, the listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot. With the mud flying and the cheekpieces fitted for the first time, he beat Magic Wand, Elarqam and Latrobe (two of them G1 winners) with considerable authority.
But we did not see similar rateable form from Addeybb in a Group race until he ran second to Magical in last October’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, again on soft.
Enterprisingly, Haggas cued up him, and the same connections’ Young Rascal (he runs in the G1 Sydney Cup on this card tomorrow), for a mission down under. That came to immediate fruition when Young Rascal won a G3 and Addeybb the G1 Ranvet Stakes on the same Randwick card last month (see video below).
Both horses were ridden by the world’s fastest riser in our rankings, Tom Marquand. He has reached #85 from nowhere on the strength of seven Group wins in a sensational period in Australia which has not been without setbacks but sees him arrive for the biggest day of his career in sparkling form.
Addeybb won the Ranvet with a lazy-but-game style from the front, beating the Chris Waller-trained mare Very Elleegant - who travelled more smoothy - with something in hand. The form could not have worked out better: the runner-up won the G1 Tancred Stakes, while fourth-placed Nettoyer landed the G1 Doncaster Handicap (admittedly from a favourable mark).
That form is solid, but it isn’t good enough to beat a peak-form Danon Premium, or some of the other runners. This is a well-contested race, for sure, which also features the Jamie Richards-trained pair of Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle. The former is certainly worth a saver here.
It will surprise many outside Australia to see G1 Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare in this 2000m (ten-furlong) line-up, but that is far more common down under, partly because staying races seem to follow the same pattern as races over shorter distances in the way they are run.
Provided the Marquand magic does not run out, Addeybb can work out a trip here and pounce late, to prove how progressive he is.