Reflections on Champions Day and the influence of Medaglia d'Oro
by DICK POWELL
Heavy rains hit Great Britain on Saturday and the turf course at Ascot, home to British Champions Day, turned soft. Gale force winds swept the course and running times were extremely slow. It was the type day that you needed miler stamina to win going seven furlongs, etc. -- "Testing Conditions" as their commentators like to say.
The $1.6 million Champion S. (G1) is the highlight of the six-race card and the betting public made CRACKSMAN the heavy favorite at about 4-5 despite not having a Group 1 win to his credit. His campaign had been interrupted by various circumstances but here he was at Ascot with perfect conditions and the public recognized it.
ULYSEES would have been one of the choices, but Sir Micheal Stoute decided to withdraw him due to the conditions and the winner of the Juddmonte International (G1) at York should go right to the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).
The betting public were not swayed by the appearance of reigning Breeders' Cup Turf winner HIGHLAND REEL since it is widely known that he likes the ground a lot firmer. Still, he exudes class with over $8.6 million in earnings around the world and was bidding to be Aidan O'Brien's record 26th Group/Grade 1 stakes winner for the year after HYDRANGEA won the Fillies and Mares S. (G1) earlier on the card.
Frankie Dettori settled Cracksman behind three pacesetters and got the perfect trip. He moved out in the drive and won as he pleased by seven lengths in the final time of 2:11.75 for the about 10-furlong distance. POET'S WORD was a game second a neck in front of Highland Reel who battled the conditions. Ryan Moore even took Highland Reel to the other fence under the trees looking for firmer ground before hitting the turn.
It is expected that Cracksman will be put away for the rest of the year and be brought back for a four-year-old campaign. What makes that so fascinating is that John Gosden trains and Frankie Dettori rides the sensational ENABLE, who will also be back next year to defend her title in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1).
After the race, Aidan O'Brien indicated that he was quite pleased with Highland Reel's effort and that he would go on to Del Mar for the Breeders' Cup in two weeks. His past performance line will show a third, beaten 7 1/4 lengths in slow time, but it will set him up perfectly as he was making his first start in 84 days.
In addition to equalling Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Grade/Group 1 stakes wins in a season O'Brien also scored over the weekend when ORDER OF ST GEORGE won the two-mile Long Distance Cup (G2) at Ascot and KENYA won the Killavullan (G3) for two-year-olds at Leopardstown in Ireland.
The offspring of Galileo have no bounds when it comes to age or distance but what they have in common is a unquenchable thirst to win. Now, he has to deal with sons like Frankel and Nathaniel on the leading sire lists.
We like to pigeon hole horses when they go to stud. First, we go by their race record so a sprinter is expected to sire sprinters, etc. Then, their first crop or two get to race and even with a small sample, we make more judgments on what their offspring do best.
MEDAGLIA D'ORO was a top distance horse when he raced, winning the Travers (G1), Whitney H. (G1) and Donn H. (G1) while running second in the Belmont S. (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1). He earned $5,754,720 the hard way and, as expected, has excelled at stud.
The image of a dirt, distance sire was embellished when he sired RACHEL ALEXANDRA, SONGBIRD and PLUM PRETTY . But as the years passed, two things happened.
Medaglia d'Oro gradually became a terrific turf sire which was hindered by his offspring's immediate success on the dirt. Now, we are seeing offspring like DICKINSON, MARKETING MIX and NEW MONEY HONEY win at the highest levels on the turf.
While his offspring's prowess success on the turf has emerged, a second trend has developed and that is with his two-year-olds. BOLT D'ORO and VIOLENCE are juvenile Grade 1 winners in America and VANCOUVER and ASTERN did the same in Australia.
As a handicapper, you could see this coming using your BRIS ultimate past performances which shows that Medaglia d'Oro's offspring win 13 percent with his debut runners and they win 14 percent on the turf. No surprise to us.