QATAR SUSSEX STAKES – 3.15pm – 1m 3yo+ Group 1
This year’s running of the Sussex Stakes marks the first proper clash of the season at the top level between the Classic generation and the older horses. 7 horses come forward for a Sussex that may be light on numbers but is brimming with both promise and intrigue, not least in the sense that we are seeing the winners of the English & Irish 2000 Guineas clash in the Sussex for just the 2nd time since the turn of the century. Throw in this year’s Queen Anne winner, the runner-up’s from both the English & Irish Guineas and a wildly impressive winner of the Summer Mile and we have a race on our hands.
At the time of writing, the market is headed by Siskin (First Defence x Bird Flown (Oasis Dream)), and it is not hard to see why as the winner of all 5 of his career starts to date, most recently when proving that he had “trained on” in no uncertain terms when overcoming a 6-strong Ballydoyle cohort in last month’s Irish 2000 Guineas, quite literally surrounded by Aidan O’Brien’s sextet with two furlongs to run before his class, determination & acceleration saw him weave his way out of trouble and burst clear of the field late to score by 1¾ lengths. However, save for a big run in the Jersey Stakes by Monarch Of Egypt (American Pharoah x Up (Galileo)), the Irish Guineas form hasn’t exactly stood up yet as an outstanding formline. Siskin is a hard one to weigh up in this context: he essentially remains a very unmeasured colt, with the manner of all five of his wins suggesting he had plenty left ‘under the bonnet’. However, his bare form leaves him with some work to do today and, for that reason, Siskin looks worth taking on.
Coming forward from last month’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket are the 1-2 in the shape of Kameko (Kitten’s Joy x Sweeter Still (Rock Of Gibraltar)) & Wichita (No Nay Never x Lumiere Noire (Dashing Blade)), with the latter-named readily fancied to reverse the Guineas form this afternoon. Aidan O’Brien tends not to leave his 2000 Guineas prospects too short of work (as the fact that all of his Guineas winners were making respective seasonal debuts will attest to), and he very nearly produced Wichita to give him an 11th victory in the UK’s opening Classic of the season. This year’s 2000 Guineas was a furiously-run race from the get-go, with Wichita right up with the tempo throughout; his first 5 furlongs were clocked in at a rapid 58.25s, just 0.18s slower than Far Above’s (Farhh x Dorraar (Shamardal)) winning time in the Palace House Stakes (albeit Far Above was carrying 6lb more). Unsurprisingly, sectionals point to Wichita doing too much too early in the Guineas, with eventual winner Kameko better-placed throughout under Oisin Murphy. Such was the strength of the early tempo that the field walked in the closing stages of the Guineas, with every horse running the final furlong in over 13 seconds; visually, it looked a case of Wichita being outstayed late on by Kameko and, with today’s race sure to present a greater test of speed than the Guineas, Wichita is fancied to exact his revenge.
Enhancing Wichita’s claims further is his most recent run, where he finished an excellent 3rd in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. This year’s St. James’s Palace was not quite a truly-run affair, with Wichita arguably best-placed throughout in taking the field along. Whilst the overall time did not knock the eye out, the manner in which Palace Pier (Kingman x Beach Frolic (Nayef)), Pinatubo (Shamardal x Lava Flow (Dalakhani)) & Wichita pulled some 5½ lengths clear of the field in the closing stages marked them all out as top-class and, on time & sectional analysis, arguably the three best colts of the Classic generation seen so far this year, with Palace Pier in particular looking to hold ‘superstar’ potential. Pinatubo did the form little harm in winning the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat on his next outing and, whilst Wichita may have had plenty in his favour in the St. James’s Palace, he still looks greatly underestimated in this context and has to be taken very seriously indeed.
Having won the 2000 Guineas, Kameko was launched into a muddling running of the Epsom Derby earlier this month, a race which has since been dissected and scrutinised to no end. With regards to Kameko, he was given every chance of seeing out the 1m4f trip by Oisin Murphy but as it happened, the relative restraint with which he was ridden played against him on this occasion with aggression proving the winning factor on the day (not least for the wide-margin winner Serpentine (Galileo x Remember When (Danehill Dancer))). Kameko should be seen to much better effect now dropped in trip, but his entry in this race is a touch surprising, as he looks sure to carve out his niche at 1m2f in the long term. Having looked to appreciate every yard of a strongly-run mile in the 2000 Guineas, Kameko may not prove as well-suited to what could be a sharp, speedy mile in today’s Sussex and, whilst he is entitled to a good deal of respect, he might just lack a touch for toe here.
Also hailing from the Epsom Derby is Vatican City (Galileo x You’resothrilling (Storm Cat)) who, like Kameko, was stepping up four furlongs in distance to tackle the Derby trip. Considering he failed to fully settle through the race and looked pretty uncomfortable around Tattenham Corner and down Epsom’s camber in the straight, Vatican City can have his Derby effort upgraded markedly. However, he is not dissimilar to Kameko in the sense that this drop right back to a mile does not look an obvious move, and Vatican City looks sure to prove at his most effective at 1m2f in due course; moreover, having failed to act around Epsom, Vatican City is not certain to appreciate the contours of Goodwood, and may well be seen to better effect back on a more conventional track in the future.
Heading up a small but select older brigade is Circus Maximus (Galileo x Duntle (Danehill Dancer)), not exactly the flashiest in his races but a tough, hardy colt who has showed an excellent attitude to win three Group 1’s, all at a mile and all by a neck or less. Circus Maximus was the winner of last month’s Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on his only start of the year to date, well-positioned throughout towards the head of the field in a slowly-run affair but nevertheless showing his usual grit to edge out Terebellum (Sea The Stars x Marvada (Elusive City)) in a narrow finish. As a result of the soft early fractions, the time of the Queen Anne suffered and of the 11 horses who have subsequently run out of the race, only one has managed to win, namely Mohaather (Showcasing x Roodeye (Inchinor)), who was held up at the rear off those same early fractions and proceeded to find every bit of interference possible inside the final 500 yards, finishing near enough still on the bridle just five lengths adrift of the winner at the line. Mohaather duly made amends in the Group 2 Summer Mile on Ascot’s Round course, once again travelling powerfully but on this occasion given all the space he needed down the outside of the field, needing little encouragement from Dane O’Neill to storm clear of his 10 rivals, with a closing 2 furlong split of 23.53s marking him out as top-class. On the clock, this was a massive performance from Mohaather and a repeat of that effort should see him win today with something in hand. However, just 18 days on from that blockbuster Ascot effort, it remains to be seen whether Mohaather can reach the same heights this afternoon; he is a Group 1 colt in the making, but will today be his day?
2nd behind Mohaather in the Summer Mile was San Donato (Lope De Vega x Boston Rocker (Acclamation)), who ran a race full of promise on his first start for 14 months having last been sighted finishing a good 3rd in the 2019 running of the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamp. Considering he had been off for so long prior, San Donato is another hard horse to weigh up just 18 days on from his reappearance; on all known form, he has some stepping up to do if he is to take a hand in the finish here and San Donato may be best watched today handed what looks to be far and away his toughest assignment.
Wichita can finally make the breakthrough at Group 1 level with victory here; this test is sure to prove sharper than both the Guineas and St. James’s Palace, which can play into his favour. Since the application of blinkers, Circus Maximus’ record at a mile reads 12141, all at Group 1 level, and while he is far from the ‘sexy’ option in this line-up, he is a tough, reliable colt who cannot be dismissed. Mohaather produced a huge figure to win the Summer Mile, but it takes a real champion to be able to back up a figure like that on his very next start as soon as 18 days later. He is greatly respected nevertheless and can feature in the finish without necessarily reaching the heights of his Ascot effort.