Beverly D scouting report: Ballydoyle
As noted in the Belmont Oaks backgrounder, Ballydoyle was a work in progress early on as a juvenile. The full sister to Irish classic winner and four-time Group 1 star Misty for Me was a green fourth on debut at the Curragh. Advancing straight to the Chesham versus the boys at Royal Ascot, Ballydoyle was again learning on the job. She hit top gear a fraction too late and just failed to Suits You in a photo. (Suits You was then snapped up by Hong Kong interests, who renamed him Sunny Way. He’s yet to race in Hong Kong for trainer John Moore.) A more street-wise Ballydoyle hacked up in a Newmarket maiden, beating eventual multiple Grade/Group 1-placed Nemoralia.
Controlling the pace next time in the Debutante (G2) back at the Curragh, Ballydoyle stretched clear and confirmed herself a top-caliber two-year-old. At the time, few would have paid much attention to the fact that her 8-1 stablemate Minding scrambled up to take second.
Ballydoyle was again heavily favored over Minding in the Moyglare Stud (G1), contested over the same course and seven-furlong distance as the Debutante. But the ground came up yielding for the rematch, and that gave the edge to Minding. Or at least that was the prevailing interpretation post-race. Minding has been on a tear ever since, so in hindsight, it wasn’t just the ground…
Ballydoyle was next seen on Arc Day in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), where she got her preferred fast surface. Not too happy with racing in a pocket early, the Galileo filly had nothing but daylight in the stretch and drove home. Her time was much faster than the males in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) (1:35.44 versus 1:37.27 for the same metric mile).
Kicking off her classic campaign in the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket May 1, Ballydoyle was buried at the tail of the field, and had a torrid time muscling her way into the clear. She was never going to beat the high-flying Minding, but her barging matches were a definite obstacle. In the circumstances, Ballydoyle deserves special credit for her resilience, and her powerful closing rush to grab runner-up honors.
That effort should have set Ballydoyle up perfectly for the May 22 Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1). Unfortunately, her bloodwork was off, and O’Brien gave her time to come back to herself. Ballydoyle was making progress, but the June 3 Oaks (G1) at Epsom was too soon.
The June 19 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) became a more suitable target, only Ballydoyle got soft ground and post 15 in a 16-horse field. She ground her way home a reasonable sixth (on the extreme outside), beaten a little more than three lengths by undefeated La Cressonniere.
The French Oaks form has looked solid so far. Runner-up Left Hand came back to take the Prix Psyche (G3), and third-placer Volta was subsequently second to Qemah in the Prix Rothschild (G1). They've flattered the victorious La Cressonniere, who's got Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) ambitions.
Ballydoyle’s pacesetting stablemate, Coolmore, hung tough for fifth in the French Oaks. Both made the trek to Belmont Park last month, and 10 furlongs on firm ground figured to put Ballydoyle back in business. While Coolmore ran her race in third, Ballydoyle was never in it. She appeared to take a couple of awkward steps on the far turn, perhaps lost her confidence momentarily, but then lengthened stride again. She was too far back to achieve anything of substance, though, and jockey Colm O’Donoghue wisely opted to protect her the rest of the way.
There are two possible interpretations. The negative view is that Ballydoyle has gone the wrong way since her problematic bloodwork, it’s not clear what was behind her Belmont debacle, and this is another experiment to find out how she is. Also lurking behind this school of thought is wondering why she was at Belmont in the first place. Stablemate Alice Springs was originally supposed to be O’Brien’s representative in the Belmont Oaks, until a change of plan. Alice Springs instead went to Newmarket, where she blitzed the Falmouth (G1) in course-record time. Was the decision to reroute Ballydoyle to Belmont a vote of confidence in her? Or rather, was Alice Springs doing so well that O’Brien reversed course to give her an opportunity to win a European Group 1 – which she grasped with all four hooves?
The positive view is that Team O’Brien knows exactly what happened at Belmont (intelligence that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been disclosed), and is confident it’s been resolved. Hence her retrieval mission at Arlington.
If Ballydoyle returns to her old top-notch form, she’d be great value. Ballydoyle is much more accomplished than Euro Charline was when she made history as the only three-year-old filly to win the Beverly D. in 2014. And Ballydoyle also hails from a stronger and deeper classic crop, which has been having success over the older generation in Europe this summer.