The Santa Barbara Effect

Saffron Beach | Emma Berry

There are many things that Aidan O'Brien has managed to do in his 25-year tenure at Ballydoyle, but winning a G1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas with a once-raced maiden winner would be something else despite all the raging excitement surrounding 'TDN Rising Star Santa Barbara (Ire) (Camelot {GB}). Even the 2009 heroine Ghanaati (Giant's Causeway), whose son Mutasaabeq (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) was such a key member of the 2000 cast on Saturday, came to Newmarket with two starts behind her so we are in to the realms of the unusual here. Allowing for all the promise of her debut win over this trip at The Curragh in September and the glowing reports from her normally reticent trainer, she will be operating at cramped odds even if Sunday's renewal looks short on strength in depth now that Pretty Gorgeous (Fr) (Lawman {Fr}) is missing. Connections and supporters alike will be hoping that inherent ability will overcome lack of race-hardening, but such an outcome is a rarity in the English Classics with exceptions like Morston (Fr) in the 1973 Epsom Derby few and far between.

O'Brien is aware of the task at hand and it is significant that the team have resisted unveiling the half-sister to the Breeders' Cup-winning Order of Australia (Ire) (Australia {GB}) and Iridessa (Ire) (Ruler of the World {Ire}) in public in 2021 until this moment. “It is only her second run and she'll be running down Newmarket on quickish ground. She will be green, so it will be interesting to see how she copes with it,” he said. “Either way you'd imagine she'll learn a lot from it and it will do her absolutely no harm.” Re-affirming the huge regard in which she is held, he added ominously for the opposition, “She always looked very special last year. Of all the two-year-old fillies, she was always at the top of the pecking order and on her home work she was always very impressive and very exceptional.”

“She's a very strong traveller and a big, powerful filly–through her work and through a race,” the master of Ballydoyle continued. “If she'd had another run, it might have been an advantage to her, but she's a quick learner at home and very intelligent. No matter what we work her with, she always looks to be dominating them. She doesn't know her odds, she only knows she's getting ready for a race. Everyone will be excited to see what happens when she does come off the bridle. This is a Guineas and it's going to happen at some point.”

Ryan Moore had a note of caution to sound as he pondered the prospect of partnering such a raw filly in a race of this stature. “I would say straight away that I don't think a mile on quick ground is going to see her at her very best on Sunday,” he said. “I expect her to improve through the season as she steps up in trip and her draw in one could make life interesting, but we clearly anticipate her running very well in what maybe isn't the strongest 1000 Guineas we have seen in recent years, especially with Pretty Gorgeous a late withdrawal.”

If Santa Barbara is not all that, this edition has been thrown wide-open with some notable defections of late and it could be that the major seven-furlong trial protagonists can benefit. In the Apr. 14 G3 Nell Gwyn S. here, Cheveley Park Stud's experienced Sacred (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) cut down the previously unbeaten Saffron Beach (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) while Jeff Smith's G1 Cheveley Park S. heroine Alcohol Free (Ire) (No Nay Never) dealt with Statement (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}) in Newbury's G3 Fred Darling S. Apr. 18. Both winners were up from sprint trips and that is an angle that has proven successful only rarely in this race down the years, bar the exceptions Attraction (GB) (Efisio {GB}), Natagora (Fr) (Divine Light {Jpn}) and Special Duty (GB) (Hennessy) in recent times.

Sacred's case of seeing out the trip may be more persuasive than Alcohol Free, with her dam being a half to Lady Eli (Divine Park) but there is no escaping that she is by a speed-influence sire. Jockey Tom Marquand, who did not ride her in the Nell Gwyn, was pleased with what he saw there. “It looked like she had done well for the winter under her belt and that she had grown and strengthened up plenty,” he said. “She relaxed beautifully the other day and that will give her more of a chance of staying the mile, but we won't truly know until the day. She was competitive in every assignment last year and finished second three times at Group 2 level, where she was unlucky one or two times but she has improved even more than we imagined. Most horses that go from two to three disappoint you, but Sacred appears to have done the opposite.” Trainer William Haggas added, “She seems to have made a step forward and if she relaxes and gets into a good rhythm and stays, she's got a chance. She's got quick ground, which is important to her but none of us know what Aidan's is like so we'll see.”

Oisin Murphy resumes his partnership with Alcohol Free and he said, “I rode her on Wednesday when she went four furlongs with Bounce the Blues and she feels very well in herself. She's finally come in her coat, we just need her to stay happy and healthy between now and Sunday. I was pleased with the way she did it at Newbury because I made her come back and wait and go through the gears, whereas over six we just let her roll on. The big question is will she stay and I'm pretty confident she will. She's a jockey's dream in a race, at home she can be a nightmare.”

Saffron Beach has no stamina concerns and this first try at a mile is almost certain to bring out improvement in the G3 Oh So Sharp S. winner despite her family featuring the sprinter Cotai Glory (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) while Ballydoyle's second-string Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) kept upgrading her profile last term. The opposite of her much-vaunted stablemate, she rounded off an industrious campaign with a third in the course-and-distance G1 Fillies' Mile and a runner-up finish in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and is no back-number on that evidence.

Dahlia Ready For Picking…

Newmarket's card also includes the G2 Betfair Dahlia S., in which last year's runner-up Queen Power (Ire) (Shamardal) is pitched against the Apr. 5 Listed Snowdrop Fillies' S. one-two Lavender's Blue (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) and Fooraat (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). Godolphin's 'TDN Rising Star' A'Shaari (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) tackles the Listed Betfair Pretty Polly S., a recognised Oaks trial which has played host to Ouija Board (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}), Taghrooda (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) and Talent (GB) (New Approach {Ire}). The full-sister to Wuheida (GB) has contrasting ground to that she encountered when impressing on her sole start on the July Course here in August, but she has to prove her versatility with the Epsom Classic looming.

ParisLongchamp Hosts Ganay Card…

At ParisLongchamp, another major part of the Ballydoyle machine is in action in the G1 Prix Ganay in 'TDN Rising Star' Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), who has had a trip to Dubai and run in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic to sharpen him for his European campaign. A lack of pace might be the sticking point for the G1 Grand Prix de Paris and G1 Hong Kong Vase hero, who meets Godolphin's still-unexposed 6-year-old Magny Cours (Medaglia d'Oro). He ran with such credit when third in the Mar. 27 G1 Dubai World Cup and represents the Andre Fabre stable which boasts a record six wins in this prestigious affair. Godolphin's Lisa-Jane Graffard said, “Magny Cours appears to have recovered very well from his trip to Dubai. He is a horse who we are hoping to have a bit of fun with this year and we are delighted to see him back running in Europe. He is in good form at the moment and we are hoping for another good performance at this level.”

In the G3 Prix Allez France Longines, Shadwell's Raabihah (Sea the Stars {Ire}) embarks on her 4-year-old campaign having established herself among the elite last term. Fourth in a blanket finish to Chantilly's G1 Prix de Diane and fifth in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe here, the homebred was also second to Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) in the G1 Prix Vermeille over the Arc course and distance and successful in Deauville's G3 Prix de Psyche. All that background gives her a clear gap over her rivals here, with The Aga Khan's G2 Prix de Pomone winner Ebaiyra (Distorted Humor) needing further than this 10-furlong trip.

At Cologne, the G3 Preis der Winterkonigin heroine Noble Heidi (Fr) (Intello {Ger}) is back in the G3 Karin Baronin von Ullmann over a mile where she encounters Jean-Pierre Dubois' exciting Sea Shepherd (Ger) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), an Andreas Wohler-trained half-sister to the G1 Preis der Diana heroine Serienholde (Ger) (Soldier Hollow {GB}) who looked to have a bright future when scoring over this trip at Hanover in October.

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