International contigent declared for Nunthorpe
18 Aug 2021
It will be a somewhat different Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday without all of the attention regularly focused upon the recently retired dual winner Battaash, but while we will no doubt miss Charlie Hills’s hugely popular five-furlong specialist there is little chance of the race being dull.
The Nunthorpe Stakes, the latest leg of the sprint category of the QIPCO British Champions Series, is seldom less than thrilling, and with a diverse field of 15 declared this latest renewal looks especially competitive. The betting suggests that the £400,000 Group 1 is odds on to go abroad, through either the French filly Suesa, who was so impressive in the King George Stakes at Goodwood and has been beaten only once, or US raider Golden Pal, who is unbeaten since his second to The Lir Jet at Royal Ascot last year and has been touted by trainer Wesley Ward as potentially the best he has had.
However, talented as the pair undoubtedly are, they will not find the home contingent rolling over easily and Archie Watson has scores to settle with both of them, for his Dragon Symbol finished second to Suesa at Goodwood, having earlier lost the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup to Golden Pal’s stable-mate Campanelle in the stewards’ room, having beaten her by a head.
Watson, who won last year’s QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes with Glen Shiel and clearly has a way with sprinters, is hopeful and said: “We’ve met Suesa twice, and we beat her comprehensively at Ascot before she beat us at Goodwood, where I didn’t think things went our way.
“Dragon Symbol is very versatile with regard to the ground and I think he goes on anything. It was heavy at Ascot and softish at Goodwood, but it was quick ground when he chased home Starman in the July Cup so it won’t be a problem if it dries out by Friday.”
Wesley Ward has not had a runner in the Nunthorpe Stakes since his dual Royal Ascot winner Lady Aurelia was agonisingly beaten by Marsha four years ago in a finish which her rider Frankie Dettori celebrated as a victory, so sure was he that she had held on. Lady Aurelia was exceptionally quick, and if Golden Pal is quicker, as Ward has suggested he might be, then he’s going to take a deal of catching.
Golden Pal won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland, making all, and set himself up nicely for a tilt at a top-level sprint with a comfortable success in a Grade 3 at Saratoga. Ward’s friend and long-time ally Dettori takes the ride for the first time and is overdue another win in the Nunthorpe, having drawn a blank since winning it three times in the 1990s.
Locally-trained runners often punch above their weight here, and since Coastal Bluff and Ya Malak dead-heated for first place in 1997 there have been further Yorkshire-based wins from Bahamian Pirate (2004), Borderlescott (2008 and 2009), Mecca’s Angel (2015 and 2016) and Alpha Delphini ((2018). There have also been plenty of placings too, often at long odds, and last year’s second and third, Que Amoro and Moss Gill, are among a Yorkshire contingent that makes up more than half of the field and also includes Tim Easterby’s dual course and distance winner Winter Power, who is the shortest-priced of them.
Que Amoro’s trainer Michael Dods has an enviable recent record in the race, with his two wins from Mecca’s Angel complemented by a nose second through Mabs Cross, and he will be two-handed this time, having elected to also run five-time York winner Dakota Gold.
Dods said: “The Nunthorpe is a race we like to look at and we’ve been lucky in it, but I think it’s more competitive this year than it’s been for a while. You’ve got to have a go though.
“Que Amoro ran a hell of a race when second last year but she’s a bit temperamental and things haven’t really worked out for her so far this year. Hamilton wasn’t the right track for her, and before that we rode her wrong at York and she went a bit fast at Ascot, but she’s in good form and she likes York.”
The presence of a two-year-old in the line-up always adds an intriguing dimension owing to their huge weight-for-age allowance, and Eve Johnson Houghton has booked Hollie Doyle for her speedy fast-ground juvenile Chipotle, the winner of Royal Ascot’s Windsor Castle Stakes.
The success of two-year-olds Lyric Fantasy (1992) and Kingsgate Native (2007) from just 13 runners in the last 30 years, in addition to which there have been three placings, suggests that Chipotle, who will wear cheekpieces for the first time, should not be underestimated.