Above The Curve shines at Saint-Cloud, with Nashwa fourth

By Sports Desk May 28, 2023

Above The Curve made all the running under Maxime Guyon to land the Group Two Prix Corrida with an easy two-length success at Saint-Cloud on Sunday.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained four-year-old had been touched off when finishing third in the Prix de l’Opera over 10 furlongs in October before a lacklustre run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

A daughter of American Pharoah, she had a bit to find after finishing last on her seasonal return in the Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month.

Guyon, riding Above The Curve for the first time, kept things simple, setting a steady gallop before winding things up approaching three furlongs out.

Dual Group One winner Nashwa, making her first start since finishing fourth to Tuesday as favourite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf having been one place in front of Above The Curve on Arc day, tracked the winner throughout.

However, Hollie Doyle was hard at work turning in and on ground quicker than she would have ideally liked, the John and Thady-Gosden-trained mare faded to fourth, with Mqse Se Servigne coming from last to briefly challenge the winner, with the keen-going India pipping Nashwa for third.

Thady Gosden was far from unhappy with Nashwa’s performance.

He said: “I don’t think we can be too disappointed. All the other fillies had one or two runs already this year and it has been a long time since her last run at the Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland.

“It was just the lack of a run and she’ll come on plenty for that. We’ll see how she comes out of the race and see how she travels back before making any hard and fast plans for her.”

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    Relief Rally will miss the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday due to a bad scope.

    The William Haggas-trained two-year-old has proven a real money spinner for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, better known for their National Hunt acquisitions.

    After scoring at Windsor and Salisbury, Relief Rally went down by just a nose to Crimson Advocate in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot before landing a valuable sales race at Newbury in a convincing manner.

    Last time out, she took a step up in trip to six furlongs in her stride when beating Aidan O’Brien’s reopposing Cherry Blossom in the Group Two Lowther Stakes at York.

    A crack at Group One glory was next up, but will now have to wait. Munir wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Needless to say we are all very disappointed that Relief Rally scoped badly and is now a non-runner for the Cheveley Park Stakes tomorrow.”

    Cherry Blossom has since done the value of the Lowther form no harm by picking up over €240,000 for finishing second of 23 in the Goffs Million at the Curragh, albeit beaten six lengths by One Look.

    Soprano has performed consistently well in good company without quite adding to a debut success at this course.

    George Boughey’s filly has been placed three times at Group Three level, in the Albany at Royal Ascot, the Sweet Solera on the July course here and the Dick Poole at Salisbury, when having to recover from fluffing her start and getting detached early on.

    On the decision to run in this contest rather than Friday’s Rockfel Stakes, Boughey said: “I think staying at six furlongs is right. She is a strong stayer over that trip and she loves the track.

    “There can be a speed influence in the Rockfel, but it looked like there are some stouter pedigrees in the Rockfel this year and I didn’t want her getting outstayed over seven furlongs by taking on horses that will stay a mile. We wanted to use her stamina over shorter.

    “It was a massive effort for her to finish third at Salisbury given how she started the race. I think if the race was 50 yards longer, she would have nearly been in front. She certainly deserves her place in the line-up on Saturday.”

    Jasna’s Secret bids to follow in the footsteps of some illustrious past French victors such as Ma Biche, Ravinella, Special Duty, Natagora and most recently Vorda in 2013.

    She was snapped up by the shrewd Wathnan Racing recruitment team after completing a Deauville double in a valuable sales race for Carlos and Yann Lerner last month, when comfortably accounting for two-time winner Zorken.

    Albany winner Porta Fortuna returns to the UK for Donnacha O’Brien, having since been placed twice in Group One company at the Curragh.

    The daughter of Caravaggio was second to Bucanero Fuerte in the Phoenix Stakes and dead-heated for third behind Fallen Angel in the Moyglare on Irish Champions Festival weekend.

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    Mutasaabeq continued his love affair with Newmarket and provided trainer Charlie Hills with a nice birthday present by winning the Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Joel Stakes for the second straight season.

    He put in a brave front-running performance to land the Group Two contest over a mile, which made it five wins from six outings at this course.

    Jim Crowley made all on the son of Invincible Spirit to prevail by three-quarters of a length last year, but connections had to endure a tighter finish this term.

    Regal Reality threw down a fierce challenge throughout the final furlong but 11-4 favourite Mutasaabeq kept on well enough to oblige by a head, with Chindit half a length further back in third.

    “He seems to love it here. It is horses for courses, and he has got a tremendous record at the Rowley Mile and Jim has given him a good ride there,” said Hills.

    “I thought he toughed it out well in the end. He has been a good horse over the years, and he has won three Group Twos now. Birthday winners are good, but I’ve not really had many.

    “He is not frustrating, but I think when he wins he puts a lot into it and he can’t put too many races together, although he is a little bit older now, and a bit stronger.

    “When he won here as a three-year-old he looked unbeatable and he went off not far off favourite for the 2000 Guineas just off winning a conditions race.

    “He has been pretty sound through his career, but he has not had too many chances at Group One level. However, I’ve always felt he is up to it.”

    A trip to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup could be on the agenda.

    Hills added: “He has been a pleasure to train and we will see where we go next. I will speak to Angus (Gold, racing manager) and Sheikha Hissa.

    “Whether we have a look at America for the mile there that could be an option. We will certainly think about it. What do you do with a horse that has won three Group Twos. He is a good miler, and he likes fast ground. I’m sure he will handle the trip.

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  • Bay Bridge team buoyed by Stoute’s desire to go for Arc glory Bay Bridge team buoyed by Stoute’s desire to go for Arc glory

    Bay Bridge has connections dreaming of Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe glory as he heads to ParisLongchamp for a blockbuster renewal of the European middle-distance championship.

    Bay Bridge lowered the colours of the all-conquering Baaeed when scooping Champion Stakes gold at Ascot last year, but the proven Group One performer will be making just his second start over a mile and a half in the French capital on Sunday.

    Course experience was banked when third in the Prix Ganay earlier in the season and the final piece of the Bay Bridge jigsaw was completed when proving his suitability over the 12-furlong trip with an emphatic success in the September Stakes earlier this month.

    That Kempton event has been used as a timely stepping stone to Paris in the past and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old fared best of the British challengers during Thursday’s draw in stall six – the spot that has provided the most Arc success this century.

    “We’re heading there and hoping for a good result,” said John O’Connor of Ballylinch Stud, who own the horse in conjunction with breeder James Wigan.

    “We think based on his last run that he gets a mile and a half. He’s well proven over a mile and a quarter, but he appears to get a mile and a half well enough judged on the September Stakes, which has been used as a Prix de l’Arc prep previously by Enable. So it’s a proven path if you like.”

    Remarkably Stoute has just one Arc victory on his illustrious CV, but few in the training ranks possess a wealth of experience as great as the master of Freemason Lodge.

    And it is the 77-year-old’s desire to run in the race which has given his owners the belief their charge could make his mark in one of the year’s most fiercely competitive contests.

    “He’s a very good horse, but obviously the Arc is a very difficult race to win,” added O’Connor.

    “It’s regularly the highest-rated race in the world and we’re under no illusions that it is a competitive race and hard to win.

    “But we think he is in there with a good chance and he’s trained by a maestro who has already won the race, so he knows what it takes to win it. He’s keen to run him and we’re happy to go along with that.

    “Everyone knows how hard it is to win the race, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

    Stoute’s sole Arc victory came curtesy of Workforce who carried the famous Juddmonte silks to victory in 2010 and the Abdullah family’s racing operation – who have enjoyed Arc glory with Enable in the last 10 years – will be optimistic of celebrating another triumph with the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover.

    “We’re looking forward to it and he’s in good form at home,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for the owners.

    “His preparations have gone really well, both Ralph and Rob (Hornby, jockey) are really happy with him and as I say, he’s had a smooth run into it.”

    A winner of the Irish Derby at three, he has taken his form skywards this term, finishing no worse than second in four starts, all at Group One level.

    The son of Frankel has already tasted success in France at Saint-Cloud earlier in the season and having got bogged down in deep ground when sixth in this race last season, conditions should suit this time ahead of his second bite of the Arc cherry.

    “He’s a better horse now at four, both physically and mentally, and is in a good place,” continued Mahon.

    “He’s been to France and Dubai this year and travelling doesn’t seem to bother him and hopefully that is a plus.

    “He’s obviously had two hard runs his last two races and we probably won’t see the full effect of them, if there is any, until he runs on Sunday.

    “But the ground looks like it will be better than last year which will suit and he has had his few days away (racecourse gallops) and a break since the King George. There have been no blips along the way and hopefully that will equate to a good run on Sunday.”

    Westover was last seen going down valiantly in defeat as Owen Burrows’ Hukum prevailed in a thrilling finish to the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

    Both horses have not been seen since as their respective trainers elected to send their candidates across the Channel with a full petrol tank and despite a tough draw in stall 14 to overcome, connections of Hukum are keen to see how the thriving five-year-old fares against a talented cast of rivals.

    “It’s very exciting, Owen decided to keep him fresh (after Ascot) hoping to get him there in good shape,” explained Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell.

    “There’s a reason it is one of the best races in the world, it is very hard to win.

    “It will be fascinating this year to see if the two really good French three-year-olds and the likes of Continuous and Fantastic Moon are good enough to take on the older horses. That is the interesting puzzle this year and obviously we won’t know until Sunday.

    “It’s very exciting to go out there with a chance, it’s a shame about the draw but there is nothing we can do about that so we are just going to have to work our way around it, hope for a little bit of luck, and see how we get on.”

    Aidan O’Brien has won Europe’s richest middle-distance contest twice in the past and his St Leger hero Continuous is the sole Ballydoyle contender this time around, dropping back in trip following his Doncaster Classic triumph.

    Only two weeks have passed since his victory on Town Moor, but O’Brien is confident the son of Heart’s Cry will justify connections decision to supplement the colt into the contest at a cost of £120,000.

    O’Brien said: “Every horse is different and every year is different, but it is two weeks and it is quick enough for going back. You’d prefer three or four weeks really, but I suppose he has been busy and he’s a hardy type of horse now. Obviously we’re hoping, he seems to be in good form.

    “You’re obviously never sure when you turn around that quick and he is only a three-year-old, but he’s a hardy, mature horse. He’s done plenty of racing and he has had breaks in between his runs.

    “We’re very hopeful, he’s a good, strong traveller, he’s relaxed and he’s got form in all types of ground and he is tactically quick enough, but you never know until you do it, really.

    “He’s not dislike (2016 winner) Found, he’s a good, strong traveller. He handles fast ground and he does quicken and gets the trip very well. He probably gets the trip better, Found just got a mile and a half but this horse won a Leger so obviously gets further. But class might have helped him do that and not stamina.”

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