Step forward the wonderfully-bred Snow Lantern who defied some market weakness to take a couple of notable scalps in the opening Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes and build on the immense promise of her sole 2-year-old start from last season.
Despite over racing a touch through the first half of the one-mile contest, the daughter of Frankel eased her way to the front inside the final two furlongs before readily seeing off Enable’s brother Derab and the well-backed Fantastic Fox, with the trio a long way clear of the rest.
Of course, it’s a big jump from maiden company into the heat of a Group 1 in such a short space of time but Snow Lantern is bred to excel at the top level and nothing that she has done in her two runs to date contradict that.
Connections have intimated that she wouldn’t want rattling fast ground but it was on the quick side at Newbury so we know she’s fine on a sound surface and it would be unwise to underestimate this filly if she does head to Newmarket.
The value has undoubtedly gone from her Guineas price (top price 8/1 at time of writing) but that isn’t to say she can’t emulate her dam, who won this race in 2013. She clearly has the potential to be top class.
Ordinarily, the winner of the Group 3 Fred Darling would have a much more obvious 1,000 Guineas chance but it doesn’t look as clear-cut this time round.
The issue with Alcohol Free is stamina. She coped with the step up seven furlongs fine but she was ultimately all out to hold on from an 86-rated rival and she doesn’t give the impression (which is backed up by her pedigree) that she can take another step forward over a mile, which she would need to if she were to have any chance in a Guineas.
She has achieved more than Snow Lantern but that might not be the case for much longer because Richard Hannon’s filly has a good deal more scope to progress this year.
Chindit booked his spot in the 2,000 Guineas with a hard-fought victory in the Greenham Stakes but he hardly set pulses racing by grinding out a neck success over the 93-rate Mehmento.
Chindit might have been a bit ring-rusty but it could also be the case that seven furlongs is a minimum for him now, in which case the step up to a mile in the Guineas could be the catalyst for an even bigger performance, although it will need to be.
My concern with Chindit is that he looks at home on flat, galloping tracks and he wasn’t able to show anything like his best on his only visit to the Rowley Mile last term, although soft ground could also have been a factor that day.
He might be a more balanced colt this year, one that is better equipped to handle the undulations of the Rowley Mile, but he has enough to prove at present. Perhaps a race like the St James’s Palace Stakes, on a track we know he handles well, would suit him better.
The vibes from William Haggas’ Somerville Lodge yard appeared to be quite positive about Al Aasy going into the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes, known to most of us as the John Porter Stakes, and their positivity was justified when the exciting colt cruised to a four-and-a-half length victory without Jim Crowley ever having to get overly serious with the 4-year-old.
Al Aasy had looked one of the most exciting 3-year-olds around prior to his defeat in Goodwood’s Gordon Stakes but he is clearly over whatever held him back in the second half of last season and he has developed well physically over the winter.
It was as smooth a performance as one could wish from a colt who looks right up there as one of the most exciting older horses in training this season.
The Yorkshire Cup, where he will likely bump into some of the stayers around, appears to be the next stop on his dance card but this is a horse with a high cruising speed and gears so connections will surely be eying up some of the top mile-and-a-half races open to older horses this year. A strongly run race over that trip could turn out to be his optimum conditions.
His ability to handle different types of ground is another plus and he could be the type of colt to end up in an Arc later in the year.
Team Gosden must think that Glen Savage is going to be a strong stayer down the line to kick him off over one-mile and three furlongs and connections are already talking about races like the Vase at Royal Ascot.
That suggests this colt is not short on ability, as well as stamina, and he went a good way to justifying that by seeing off the well-backed Title in a ding-dong tussle through the final furlong, with the pair drawing a long way clear of the rest.
The market suggested that Glen Savage, first foal out of a half-sister to Nathaniel, wasn’t expected to win on his debut although that may have partly been down to some strong support for Title, who had shaped with so much promise in one start last year.
To see off the more experienced Title bodes very well for Glen Savage and what he could be capable of and, with stamina clearly not an issue, he could be considered an early candidate for the St Leger at Doncaster much later in the season despite not yet figuring in ante-post lists.
As for Title, he was only just chinned and time may tell that he has bumped into a good one but his high head carriage under pressure is slightly off-putting, even at this stage of his career.