BC Internationals: Turf Sprint contender Cotai Glory
Second in the October 15 Nearctic (G2) when the ground had turned against him at Woodbine, Cotai Glory wants a do-over for his swan song. The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar is the next logical venue, even though he’s got to engineer a substantial form turnaround against Lady Aurelia and Marsha.
As recounted in his profile for the Nearctic, the Charlie Hills trainee was a leading sprint juvenile who’s been hit-or-miss in subsequent years, but Group 1-caliber in the right constellation of circumstances.
It’s something of an accident of history that Cotai Glory doesn’t have a Group 2 win on his resume. At two in 2014, he was well clear in the Flying Childers (G2), only to take a lurch and unbalance George Baker right out of the saddle approaching the wire.
Hence he’s still just a multiple Group 3 victor, by way of his Molecomb (G3) (in juvenile course-record time) at Glorious Goodwood and Newbury’s World Trophy (G3) in 2016.
In another “nearly” case, Cotai Glory just missed in the 2016 King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot. Although he couldn’t get past Profitable, he exceeded expectations on a soft course that typically wouldn’t suit him.
Returning to Ascot for the King’s Stand this June, Cotai Glory was a well-beaten seventh behind Lady Aurelia and Marsha. He didn’t threaten either in the August 25 Nunthorpe (G1), when Marsha got up in time to nip Lady Aurelia, but did rally for a much better third. Cotai Glory was beaten 3 3/4 lengths, a similar deficit as when he was unplaced to Marsha in last fall’s Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) as well as this May’s Palace House (G3) at Newmarket.
Although consistency hasn’t been his strong suit, Cotai Glory’s better efforts tend to come on flat tracks and quicker turf conditions. So that should make him a natural for North America, right? Except for the fact that he’s spent nearly his whole career on a straightaway, and when trying the sharp, left-handed Chester in August, he found it unpalatable.
“He hated Chester,” traveling lad Mark Lashly told Woodbine publicity. “It’s like a turn there, the whole way. I think he’ll handle the bend here.”
On his website, Hills also commented on the turn angle ahead of the Nearctic: “As long as he negotiates the bend well(!) he should have a great chance. This is almost certainly his last run before he retires to stud.”
Cotai Glory handled Woodbine’s turn with aplomb, but lacked sufficient punch on the rain-softened ground going six furlongs and settled for second to the 40-1 Field of Courage.
Unfortunately the weather gods were against us in Canada, where there was a lot of rain the night before the race, and then a huge storm immediately before it. Cotai has gone on soft ground but is definitely better on a sound surface, and as we were going six furlongs there was always a slight concern about him getting the distance. He came there to win the race but just flattened out towards the finish on the soft ground.
Nevertheless we were very happy with him and he’s taken the whole experience in his stride. Some of the locals seemed a bit taken aback by his antics in the mornings – but that is the Cotai Glory we know and love and would have been worried if he hadn’t been like that.
Hills rightly notes that the Nearctic was a rare stab at six furlongs, and at Del Mar, the five-furlong specialist will cut back to his optimal trip – on firm turf.
The trainer explains the change of plan to head to the Breeders’ Cup:
He took the trip to Canada in his stride and as he should almost definitely get his preferred going out there we thought there was no reason why not to go. He has a bit of ground to make up on Marsha and Lady Aurelia, but on his Nunthorpe run would have a very good chance of at least getting a place. It’s been a journey of ups and downs with him and we’re hoping he’ll go out on a high.
The key is if Cotai Glory adapts to the Del Mar turn as smoothly as he did around the more spacious Woodbine. If he handles the corner, the stalker should be within range entering the stretch. He’d need to produce a new career-top to win, but a repeat of his previous best would be enough to land a minor award.
Photo courtesy Great British Racing International (@GBRI_UK) via Twitter