Shadwell Rockfel Stakes (Group 2) | 7f | 2yo fillies | ITV4/RTV
Pedigree punters will be purring here as Monday, the first foal of 2015 Prix Marcel Boussac winner and subsequent 1,000 Guineas runner-up Ballydoyle, tackles her first Group race.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien is bidding for a fourth Rockfel victory but his three previous winners of the race, Kitty Matcham (2007), Wading (2011) and Just Wonderful (2018) failed to record another win between them. Monday’s dam Ballydoyle also didn’t win past her juvenile year.
That suggests this might be Monday’s big chance. She is bred to excel at two and O’Brien said himself “she can step into a Group race fairly quick” after her all-the-way victory in a Listed race at Leopardstown two weeks ago. Everything points to Monday being precocious.
There is plenty of rain forecast, though, and her pedigree gives mixed messages as to whether she will handle soft ground. Ballydoyle achieved her best results on quick conditions but Monday’s sire Fastnet Rock’s progeny has a healthy 13 per cent strike-rate on soft and heavy.
Soft ground brought about huge improvement from Isabella Giles at Goodwood last time when the Clive Cox-trained filly slammed the Group 3 Prestige Stakes field by seven lengths.
That didn’t look like a strong edition and the testing going might have accentuated her superiority but the more rain that falls, the better her chance. Her sire Belardo loved cut in the ground, too.
This race was given as the target immediately after that victory by trainer Clive Cox, whose juveniles are having a fantastic season. The stable has sent out 16 two-year-old winners from 92 runners (17 per cent) and a £1 bet on all of those would have yielded a profit of £149.53.
Alba Rose is the horse to look out for with a view to the future. The Mark Johnston-trained filly is a half-sister to the stable’s smart stayers Sir Ron Priestley and Subjectivist.
It’s encouraging she has already shown enough ability to win a seven-furlong novice at Thirsk three weeks ago and that was on good to soft going. The wet forecast shouldn’t be a problem.
Santosha has already given Dave Loughnane and Tom Greatrex a moment to remember by claiming a Group 3 at Ascot on King George weekend in July, but the thrill will be even bigger if the Princess Margaret winner prevails in the Rockfel.
She struck first time out at Lingfield and was a fine third in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes before her Ascot success.
However, she was only eighth of 14 in the Lowther at York last time.
"I'd prefer if the race was five days later," Loughnane said. "She had a break after the Lowther and York just got a bit much for her last time, and it blew her mind a bit. She was ready for a break at the time, but we took our chance and it was just one run too many.
"We've given her a break and freshened her up, and she's in great condition, but I'd have just loved another four or five days with her.
"That said, she has the strongest form in the race and she's already beaten Isabella Giles, who admittedly is an improving filly, but I think we are too.
"I'm not worried by stepping up to seven furlongs and I'd like to think she'd go on any ground."
The Shropshire-based Loughnane, who started training in 2016, saddled 38 winners last year and is on 29 this term from 133 fewer runners.
He added: "Things are still going great. We had a quiet August, which we always do for some reason, but the horses are flying at the moment and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling."
What they say
Clive Cox, trainer of Isabella Giles
I'm pleased they've had a decent amount of rain and she's a really nice filly who produced a high-class performance in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood. I'm looking forward to this now we've had rain and she's been in excellent form at home, while she continues to please me with her physical improvement. She's shown she gets seven furlongs well and will probably get a mile in due course.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Monday
She won nicely at Leopardstown and this is another step up in grade for her. She seems to have come out of that race well. We always thought she'd have no problem getting a mile in time.
Roger Varian, trainer of Nazuna
She's progressive. She ran very well in a warm nursery at Doncaster over half a furlong shorter. It looked like she was crying out to step back up to seven furlongs. It's a bigger task on paper but with a small field there might be a chance to get some black type with her. She’s a nice filly and she wouldn't want any more rain. She's a good-moving filly and the better the ground, the better her chance.