Hurricane Lane is turning into quite a horse, so much so that he might just be the classiest winner of the St Leger in recent horse racing memory.
His superiority over his Doncaster rivals was clear for all to see and the six-time winner had the class to sweep into the lead and the stamina to stay there at the business end.
The St Leger wasn’t a deep race in terms of quality, and the anticipated improvement never really came from that batch of contenders that ran in races like the Great Voltigeur at York and the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
However, that shouldn’t detract from the quality of Hurricane Lane, who just goes from strength to strength in terms of the numbers he is churning out. His Racing Post Rating of 122 was short of the 125 he put up when winning the Grand Prix de Paris but it’s still the highest of any of the last ten St Leger winners.
So, Hurricane Lane’s career-best performance on the numbers came over the Arc course and distance and on ground with some give in it. If that doesn’t bode well for his Arc chances, then I don’t know what does.
October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe will undoubtedly be the biggest test of Hurricane Lane’s career so far and it might be that stablemate Adayar is just a complete superstar that can’t be beaten, but make no mistake, Hurricane Lane has all the attributes to run big in the Arc.
Only time will tell if that big run is enough to take him to glory in France, but he rates a more solid each-way play in the French showpiece than most other contenders.
Money is no object for boys at Ballydoyle but it’s lucky for them that it isn’t because supplementing High Definition for the St Leger, at a cost of £50,000, has to go down as one of the most baffling decisions in quite some time.
It’s been one bad run after another for the son of Galileo since his encouraging enough return in the Dante Stakes at York, while the application of cheekpieces weren’t anywhere near enough of a catalyst to an improved showing.
He must be showing connections plenty at home but he just can’t get his act together where it matters most and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise were connections to throw the towel in and retire him.
Taking short odds about a 2-year-old for the following year’s Guineas is fraught with danger but the good news is that Native Trail isn’t actually that short given he looks by some way the best juvenile in Britain right now.
Not only that, this imposing specimen looks like he will only go one way when stepping up to a mile next year - up!
Godolphin’s unbeaten son of Oasis Dream took a while to hit top gear in Sunday’s National Stakes at the Curragh but the further he went the better he looked and William Buick’s mount was in a different league to his Group 1 rivals.
Native Trail is currently a 4/1 chance with new betting sites in next year’s 2,000 Guineas ante post betting but that won’t last if he maintains his unbeaten record in the Dewhurst Stakes, for which he is a 6/4 market leader.
He could go into the winter a similar sort of price to what Pinatubo did for the same team a couple of years ago but the key difference between them is that Native Trail already looks like he’s going to be a stronger stayer over a mile than Pinatubo, whose only Group 1 success as a 3-year-old, came over seven furlongs.
In the last fortnight, Aidan O’Brien has run 45 horses (at the time of writing), ten of which were sent off 3/1 or shorter. Only one of them won and that was St Mark’s Basilica.
It is clear that a lot of the Ballydoyle horses are not, for whatever reasons, running to their best right now.
Snowfall looked a pale shadow of the filly that has been smashing up her rivals in Group 1 races this season when turned over at odds of 1/5 in the Prix Vermeille on Sunday. Snowfall, who was asked to make up ground from some way off the pace, looked laboured at the point in the race when she would normally be putting rivals to the sword, and although it’s impossible to escape from that fact that it was ultimately a disappointing run, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise were she to bounce back and show her true colours in the autumn.
Personally, I don’t think she can beat Hurricane Lane, even with the fillies’ allowance, but that doesn’t mean she won’t, and it certainly doesn’t preclude her from running a much bigger race than her trial defeat implies. Snowfall hung to her right under pressure in France, a comment that also applies to St Mark’s Basilica, whose waywardness very nearly cost him the Irish Champion Stakes.
Given that was his first run since the Eclipse and he was returning with the stable under a cloud, it might just pay to assume that St Mark’s Basilica can go on to run even bigger in the autumn.
The obvious caveat is that he isn’t a guaranteed runner, but the 5/2 about St Mark’s Basilica to win Ascot’s Champion Stakes feels on the generous side.
He is officially the best horse in the world now, we know he handles slow ground if conditions turned up soft and he stays ten-furlongs really well, so he’s going to take a serious amount of stopping if he does turn up at Ascot in October.
Of course, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that St Mark’s Basilica is given a chance to show he stays a mile and a half in the Arc. He’s not a guaranteed stayer on pedigree but there is no doubt that he finishes his races strongly over ten furlongs so connections might be tempted to reroute him to France if they believe that Snowfall, originally their primary Arc contender, isn’t operating at the same level of form as earlier in the season.
The Arc is already the pinnacle in terms of all-age middle-distance contests but if St Mark’s Basilica turns up as well, then we are in for one hell of a race.