August Highlights

Tuesday 1 August

Qatar Goodwood Festival (1st - 5th August)

For years affectionately known as Glorious Goodwood, this five-day extravaganza of horseracing at one of the world’s most beautiful racecourses remains a seaside highlight among the racing community each year.

An injection of prize money from the Festival’s sponsors has produced the desired effect in uplifting the quality of the horses in the feature contests, but the meeting has not lost its charm or its popularity among the bookmakers, peppered as it is with wide-open handicaps run at a tricky track where hard-luck stories emerge from almost every race.

For the first time this year, the meeting now opens with newly-upgraded Group One Qatar Goodwood Cup and Big Orange is expected to be one of the main attractions of the week as he bids to land the race for the third year running. Although James Doyle was on board at Royal Ascot for his most recent success, Frankie Dettori now returns from injury to partner one of the most popular horses in training. “He’s got a long neck, a good name and a big heart,” is Dettori’s take on Big Orange. “I’ve got quite long arms but they barely go halfway down his neck.”

The second day of the meeting features the Qatar Sussex Stakes over 1600m and a potentially thrilling clash of the generations between ace milers Churchill - the dual Guineas winner but disappointing at Royal Ascot last time having seemingly boiled over in the heat - and Ribchester, already a winner of two Group Ones this season and the outstanding performer at the distance among his generation since the retirement of Minding. This contest has been won by some of the sport’s true greats and victory for either on the Sussex Downs would see them join such exalted ranks.

Ladies’ Day on Thursday has been given new sparkle by the addition of the £600,000 Qatar Nassau Stakes to the card. The race has produced some titanic battles in the past, most memorably when Ouija Board and Frankie Dettori held off Alexander Goldrun after a three-furlong head-to-head in 2006. Dettori is likely to have the choice of riding two possible top-drawer contenders for John Gosden in this year’s race, with both So Mi Dar and Shutter Speed in possible contention.

Previous winners Take Cover and Muthmir feature among 24 sprinters entered for the £300,000 Group Two Qatar King George Stakes on the fourth day of the meeting on Friday. Take Cover, trained by David Griffiths in Yorkshire, became the seventh dual winner of the 1000m contest last year when edging out Washington DC and Goldream, to add to his success in 2014. He also went down by only a head to Muthmir in the 2015 renewal. Now a 10-year-old, the evergreen Take Cover is back for more in a race that plays to his point-and-shoot strengths.

The meeting comes to a close with the £250,000 Qatar Stewards Cup being Saturday’s highlight. This historic race provides racegoers with one of the toughest puzzles of the week to solve as 28 tightly-matched sprinters thunder down the home straight. Previous winners of this iconic contest include Lochsong and distant relative Dancing Star, both owned by Jeff Smith. Ante-post favourite this year is the Roger Charlton-trained Projection, third in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

 

Thursday 10 August

Leopardstown

An evening card at Leopardstown features the Ballyroan Stakes, a Group Three event over 2400m. Established in 1991, it has seen some smart winners in its brief history, none more so than Vinnie Roe. Successful in 2002 and 2003, Vinnie Roe followed his wins here with successes in the Irish St Leger in the same years. Only second to Foreign Affairs here in 2004, he did at least again win the Irish St Leger that year. Dermot Weld has won eight of the last 20 renewals and anything he sends here needs the closest of consideration, while the race is often frequently used as a prep for Irish-trained Melbourne Cup contenders.

 

Saturday 12 August

Haydock Park

The Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock Park is the feature event on Ladies Day at the popular Merseyside track. The Group Three event over 2100m is a possible target this year for Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive John Smith’s Cup winner Ballet Concerto.

At Newmarket, the highlight is the German-Thoroughbred.com Sweet Solera Stakes, another Group Three prize and often a significant stepping stone towards the big end-of-season juvenile fillies’ contests such as the Fillies’ Mile and the May Hill Stakes. Godolphin won the race five years running between 2009 and 2013 and are sure to have a couple of exciting prospects to throw into this year’s renewal.

 

Sunday 13 August

The Curragh

Some of the most talented two-year-old colts in training anywhere in Europe are set to converge upon The Curragh for the latest renewal of the €250,000 Group One Keeneland Phoenix Stakes over 1200m. As with most of the top juvenile races in Ireland, it has been totally dominated by Aidan O’Brien with the Ballydoyle handler having won a remarkable 15 renewals since 1998, including last year’s with star sprinter Caravaggio. O’Brien is sure to have a strong hand again given the amount of talent at his disposal, but Gordon Elliott is eyeing the race for smart juvenile Beckford, who took some high-class scalps last time in the Railway Stakes.

The Qatar Racing Phoenix Sprint Stakes, a Group Three event over 1200m, is the main supporting event and it is a race in which British raiders have enjoyed plenty of success in the last 20 years.

 

Thursday 17 August

Salisbury

Salisbury stages its big meeting of the year, headlined by the Totepool Sovereign Stakes, a Group Three over 1600m. Upgraded from Listed status in 2004, recent winners include Andrew Balding’s smart pair Side Glance and Tullius, but it is another locally-based trainer who has held sway in the last couple of years, with the race having been won by Clive Cox in 2015 and 2016.

 

Saturday 19 August

Newbury

The Betfred Hungerford Stakes, a £150,000 Group Two event over 1400m, is the feature on Newbury’s classy weekend card. With a roll of honour featuring the likes of Lethal Force, Excelebration, Paco Boy and Red Evie in recent years, the winner will clearly have the potential to go on and scale even greater heights. Among those already mentioned as likely contenders include the Johnny Murtagh-trained True Valour, Australian-owned Kaspersky, a good second in Ascot’s Summer Mile last time, and the race’s 2014 winner Breton Rock. The Betfred Geoffrey Freer Stakes, a Group Three over 2600m, is the main supporting race on the card.

Ripon stages its big sprint handicap of the year with the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Stakes (1200m) the highlight of a strong card, while at Newmarket, the race to look out for is the Randox Grey Horse Handicap. It’s a one-of-a-kind 1200m contest restricted to horses officialy registered as greys, even if all shades from almost-white to almost-black will ultimately end up streaking up the July Course together in battle.

 

Sunday 20 August

The Curragh

A high-class card at The Curragh features the Breast Cancer Research Debutante Stakes (Group Two, 2yo fillies, 1400m), the Galileo Futurity Stakes (Group Two, 2yos, 1400m) and the Qatar Airways Royal Whip (Group Three, 2000m). The Futurity was won in 2014 by subsequent QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and Aidan O’Brien repeated the same trick last year with Churchill – the trainer’s 10th winner of the race. Clear ante-post Guineas favourite Gustav Klimt, the winner of the July Stakes at Newmarket, is unsurprisingly pencilled in to make his next start in the same race given the way in which it has paved the way to Classic success in recent years.

 

Wednesday 23 August

The Ebor Festival (23rd-26th)

Two huge festival meetings and two massive highlights of the racing season and both within August – it really is a month to look forward to! The Ebor Festival at York offers four days of top-class action at one of the finest racecourses in the country, combined with an enthusiastic crowd and a warm Yorkshire welcome.

The Juddmonte International Stakes (2000m), the £1million highlight on the first day, and has long been established as one of the most significant races in the calendar. Superstars such as Frankel and Sea The Stars have strutted their stuff on the Knavesmire in recent times, but two years ago the race produced one of the greatest shocks ever seen as filly Arabian Queen literally silenced the grandstands when beating Golden Horn under an inspired ride from Silvestre de Sousa. Last year’s winner Postponed has sadly since been retired due to injury, but runner-up Highland Reel could return, while a possible step up in trip has been mentioned for Ribchester, depending upon how he fares first at Goodwood.

The fillies and mares have their chance to shine on day two, with the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (2400m) the feature event. The Yorkshire Oaks often features horses who ran previously in the Investec Oaks at Epsom. The first to achieve victory in both races was Brown Duchess in 1861, and the most recent was Alexandrova in 2006. This year’s renewal could be no exception with Epsom heroine Enable – who has since followed up with an even more impressive success in the Irish version of the race – a possible starter en-route to tackling the colts in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, although Aidan O’Brien is sure to have Ballydoyle contender up his sleeves too after saddling a 1-2 12 months ago with Seventh Heaven and Found.

Speed is the name of the game on Friday with the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (1000m) the main event and also set to feature one of the best-known horses lining up all week in American super-filly Lady Aurelia. Any fears that Wesley Ward’s globetrotter might have lost her pace from two to three were dispatched in a matter of strides at Royal Ascot when she surged clear to win the King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the meeting and if she turns up in the same kind of form, she could prove almost impossible to beat. Ward knows that nothing is certain on the Knavesmire though, having tasted defeat when Acapulco was picked up by Mecca’s Angel in the first of her two successes in 2015.

The Betfred Ebor is the feature event on Saturday’s card and the historic handicap, first run in 1843, has a prize fund of £280,000 in 2016. This makes it the most valuable Flat handicap run anywhere in Europe and another cracking field looks assured. Interestingly Irish raiders have enjoyed plenty of success in recent seasons with four of the last eight renewals heading back over the Irish Sea, including victory last year for Heartbreak City, whose enthusiastic owners celebrated so frenzily that one was left sporting a nasty cut to his face.

 

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