Champions of the future?
Friday sees the start of Dubai Future Champions Festival at Newmarket and here are six horses that could be the stars of the future.
Churchill could enhance his reputation in the Dewhurst Stakes
I've lost track (it doesn't take much these days) of when Future Champions Day was created and of the various subsequent twists to the programme and dates.
There will always be people happy to mock the grandiose titles of marketing departments' finest (remember The Racecourse anyone?) and the Future Champions title may well be used as a stick with which to beat it when none emerge, but these two days bring together some of the top juvenile races which have undeniably stood the test of time.
You don't have to look very hard at the roll of honour for the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes before your eyes fall upon Frankel and there are Dawn Approach, New Approach, Teofilo, Sir Percy, Rock Of Gibraltar and a host of other familiar names beneath.
The Classic campaign of last year's winner Air Force Blue never got off the ground but stablemate Minding has certainly gone on from her victory in the Dubai Fillies' Mile which prompted a relatively loquacious Ryan Moore to describe her as 'a truly exceptional filly'.
Subsequent success was not restricted to the Group Ones last season with this year's current leading sprinter Quiet Reflection landing the Group Three Cornwallis Stakes while in 2013 the Oh So Sharp Stakes, another Group Three, was won by the following spring's Guineas heroine Miss France.
Although she didn't win again after her juvenile season, the recently retired Irish Rookie – a 50/1 winner of Friday's maiden in 2014 – posted a series of creditable efforts including when third in the 2015 Sun Chariot Stakes.
And so in that spirit of positivity, here are five horses who could make an impression on Friday and Saturday.
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Immediately takes the eye in Friday's Visionsport.com Oh So Sharp Stakes as she's trained by Andre Fabre whose last runner in the race was the aforementioned Classic winner Miss France. There's black type and stamina in her family and she has the form to back it up with an encouraging debut second to Toulifaut duly built on at Maisons-Laffitte. Toulifaut, a daughter of Frankel who sold for 1.9 milllion euros on Saturday, didn't boost the form in the Marcel Boussac where she raced keenly from an outside draw and also met trouble but she did win her next two (after beating Double Lady), including a Group Three.
Aidan O'Brien has won the last two renewals of the Dubai Fillies' Mile and is represented by Rhododendron and Hydrangea who were second and third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes last time. The market is headed by the Charlie Appleby-trained Sobetsu who was a 10-length winner of her maiden but she had previously been beaten by Sir Michael Stoute's Spatial. On her own debut, this New Approach filly had been beaten by a stablemate of Sobetsu in Wuheida who landed Sunday's Group One Marcel Boussac. Spatial was then suitably impressive when winning her maiden and it's interesting that the relatively cautious Stoute is pitching her straight in at this level.
Appleby has had a fantastic season with his juveniles and Fashion Theory could be all the rage but it will be fascinating to see how Dream Of Joy fares on debut. Roger Varian has saddled runner sin each of the two renewals of Friday's maiden, seeing them finish third at 20/1, fifth at 8/1 and 13th at 33s which is nothing out of the ordinary but he did win with a debutant for owners the China Horse Club at Leicester recently. That may be neither here nor there but Dream Of Joy is a 290,000 euro purchase and a half-sister to the talented but quirky Wigmore Hall and she could be a threat to all if at concert pitch.
The Listed Dubai Business Internships Pride Stakes which brings Friday's card to a close includes the winner of last year's maiden, Materialistic, but Dawn Of Hope is another fascinating runner for Varian who sent out the winner in 2013. Last year's maiden win received a boost last week when the runner-up, Alyssa, won an Ascot Listed race and Dawn Of Hope was having her first run since that victory when sixth in the 1000 Guineas. That was a fine effort for an inexperienced filly who is bred to stay further and it was no surprise to see her win a conditions race (over a mile) with some ease last time. She has a long absence to overcome but her stable is going well and she should relish this step up in trip; there should be a lot more to come whether it be this season or next.
Varian won the Dubai 100 Autumn Stakes with subsequent Classic winner Kingston Hill in 2013 while the 2012 renewal fell to Irish Derby winner Trading Leather. Varian runs the promising Solomon's Bay who is bred to relish middle distances next season while Aidan O'Brien's maiden, The Anvil, ran a huge race in the Royal Lodge last time. A horse with just as much potential though is Stoute's Zainhom who made a typically promising debut at Leicester before winning at York despite still looking in need of the experience. The return to faster ground is a question mark as is whether this test comes too early in his career but he's undoubtedly a colt with the potential to go to the top.
A Frankel colt, Seven Heavens, lies in wait in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes but the one that they have all got to beat is Chesham Stakes winner Churchill. The Galileo colt is not a flashy individual and has been learning on the job throughout the season but he keeps improving and he keeps winning. He has been sent off as favourite for every start and has been odds-on for the last four which is an indication of the regard in which he's held as well as the state of the opposition. This is without a doubt his stiffest task to date but there's every indication that Churchill will rise to the challenge as he's risen to every challenge that he has been faced with.
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