GOODWOOD // All eyes will be on Mike de Kock's JJ The Jet Plane today as he steps up from sprint distances for the first time in two years on the opening day of Glorious Goodwood. The Betfair Cup feature race is a Group Two - a grade lower than the Group One races the five-year-old has been aimed at - but is an increase in distance.
"He's won over seven furlongs before," said de Kock from his Newmarket base yesterday. "It obviously represents a step-down in class and he has been pretty much beaten over six furlongs in Group One company. "We have been pleased with him at Group One level, but if he has success here over seven furlongs it opens a whole new array of possibilities for him." JJ The Jet Plane, who was placed over a mile in his native South Africa, had an encouraging first run in England in June when he won the six-furlong Listed Up Up and Away Stakes at Windsor under Ryan Moore, beating five others with ease. That run, when considered alongside his scintillating South Africa form, was good enough to install him as firm favourite for the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, which, as a Group One with a strong international field was an enormous jump-up in quality.
But the de Kock charge never really found his pace that day, with Art Connoisseur, who was returning from injury, getting the better of the field and JJ The Jet Plane finishing in fourth. De Kock was forced to defend his pocket-sized bay gelding after that run, maintaining that he ran a good race and would produce "fireworks" over a bit more ground. JJ The Jet Plane's third behind winner, Fleeting Spirit and second, Main Aim, in the six-furlong, Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket earlier this month confirmed what de Kock suspected.
But the son of Jet Master nevertheless gave a good account of himself, staying on when asked for more effort by regular jockey, Kevin Shea, and, interestingly, getting the better of Queen Anne Stakes winner and 2008 Betfair Cup victor, Paco Boy, who probably also wanted further. "That is probably as good as he is," said de Kock after the July Cup. "It was a cracking run and he's upped his form again. Maybe after three or four runs he'll be at his peak."
In stepping up in distance to the Betfair Cup, JJ The Jet Plane takes on two of the three-year-old generation who have been successful in three out of the last five renewals of the Betfair Cup (previously known as the Lennox Stakes) in the shape of Marcus Tregoning-trained, Finjaan and Group Three Jersey Stakes winner, Ouqba, trained by Barry Hills. firstname.lastname@example.org