An interesting weekend to say the least, with the Prix Maurice de Gheest taking centre stage, a race that did not disappoint. All of the pre-race build up had been around Earthlight, unbeaten in 6 starts going into the weekend, Andre Fabre’s charge was all the rage and was backed into a shade of odds on, before the off. This race was a proper Group 1, a host of 120+ horses in the line up and it did not disappoint.
While Earthlight wasn’t quite able to deliver the goods, it was another rising star from Godolphin who came to the forefront. Space Blues has been a revelation this season, with wins at Haycock, Paris Longchamp and Goodwood, whilst he had also been 3rd in last years running of the Maurice de Gheest, beaten a length by Advertise. But this year he proved his class and maturity to take this race, in truth with something in hand. William Buick had his mount settled nicely on the rail, behind Hello Youmzain and as they passed the 2-furlong point, the gap appeared and Space Blues powered through, showing a superb turn of foot that left the others toiling.
He is now the finished article, a horse at the peak of his powers, who should pick up another top level prize this season. The Prix de la Foret in October is the next target and barring accidents, he will be pretty much unopposable on this evidence.
As for the others, I think it is safe to say that this is very solid form and they have all given a true running. Golden Horde and Hello Youmzain were prominent throughout and stayed on well, as did Lope y Fernandez, who proved that he is better at 6F than anything else. As for Earthlight, I would not be giving up on him. Having watched the race several times, he never looks overly comfortable on the ground and did well to finish as close as he did, though he lacked the turn of foot to live with Space Blues. He will definitely win more races, but I find it hard to make a case for him reversing the form with Space Blues if they meet again.
Saturdays feature was the Group 2 Prix Hocquart, won by Port Guillaume. Having previewed the race, it looked like a match between Port Guillaume and Volkan Star, with Jean-Claude Rouget's Colt having more potential.. Having been 5th in the Prix Du Jockey Club, Port Guillaume confirmed his trainers confidence by taking this race with ease as he stepped up to 12-furlongs for the 1st time. In truth Volkan Star was given an odd ride, kept wide off the rail, he was ridden with more restraint on a relatively slow early pace and as they turned into the straight, it was obvious that Port Guillaume was travelling much better. Although Volkan Star did not run to form, I think Port Guillaume would have won this anyway. He has much more potential at this distance and the Grand Prix De Paris is the next aim, followed by a possible shot in the Arc.
His trainer is blessed with middle distance talent, Raabihah, Tawkeel, Sottsass and now Port Guillaume. Whether they will all line up in the Arc is debatable, but given that he has delivered a comfortable Group 2 win here and is now 4 from 5 in his career, Port Guillaume is definitely worthy of his place at the top level.
The other race to take my eye was the Listed Michel Houyvet Stakes on Sunday, over 1m6f. Measure of Time got the better of Zeyrek in a thrilling finish, to win by a head. Both horses have enormous potential as stayers. Zeyrek, on just his 3rd start, was still a little green and will need more time and racing to mature into the finished article, but he is going the right way. Measure of Time, now 3 from 4, has stamina in abundance and a superb attitude to suggest that he could be a serious staying force to be reckoned with as he goes up through the grades.