Champions Day: Will Journey handle class hike in Fillies and Mares?
Saturday's British Champions Fillies and Mares (G1) (8:55 a.m. EDT) is a very tricky handicapping exercise pitting several members of the establishment against the up-and-coming Journey. Although she has to prove herself against Irish Oaks (G1) winner Covert Love; St Leger (G1) heroine Simple Verse; the placegetters behind Treve in the Prix Vermeille (G1), Candarliya and Sea Calisi; Juddmonte International (G1) shocker Arabian Queen, the only horse to beat Golden Horn; defending champion Madame Chiang; and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Tapestry, I think she might well be up to the challenge.
Journey is progressing rapidly for Gosden, who supplemented to this race after her power-packed display in the Princess Royal at Newmarket. Try though I might to keep a level head, I’m a pushover for visual impressions, and Journey looked like a monster the way she stormed clear, handily, in her first try at 1 1/2 miles. Add in her pedigree – by Dubawi out of the French Group 1-winning Montjeu mare Montare – and I’m sold.
The others are eminently logical, but Covert Love is wheeling back 13 days after a gutsy score in the Prix de l’Opera (G1); Candarliya is also making a quick turnaround after her terrific win in the October 3 Prix de Royallieu (G2); Simple Verse is cutting back in trip off her tough St Leger; Arabian Queen isn’t consistent enough; and Tapestry ran so badly in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) that I don’t know what to think about her anymore.
Sea Calisi has been expressly set for this race, and that leads me to give her a slight edge over Candarliya in their rematch. The Francois Doumen filly has already done well in England, rallying for a close third to Pleascach and Covert Love in a Yorkshire Oaks (G1) dominated by the pace factors.