x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Royalty on show in the Vintage Stakes

It has been long said that racing is the sport of kings and if there ever was a race to prove that, it is the Veuve Cliquot Vintage Stakes.

It has been long said that racing is the sport of kings.
It has been long said that racing is the sport of kings.

GOODWOOD // It has been long said that racing is the sport of kings and if there ever was a race to prove that royalty have a fascination with thoroughbreds, it is the Veuve Cliquot Vintage Stakes (5.50pm) this afternoon. Queen Elizabeth II runs her Cape Cross colt, Instalment, trained by Richard Hannon, in the Group 2 event, while Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum also sends out Orizaba from the Mick Channon stable.

To complete the picture, his great-uncle, Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum has entered Shaweel. All three horses clashed in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes, won by Art Connoisseur, at the Royal meeting last month. It was an experience that proved too much for the trio, with Orizaba finishing best of the three in fifth over the six furlong straight track. Orizaba is a strapping colt, which is unsurprising given that he is related to Dr Leunt, a former high-class National Hunt chaser.

He is sure to fill out his frame in time, but he showed his greenness at the Royal meeting when caught on his haunches when the gates opened. Shaweel, who finished eighth, also played up in the stalls, scuppering his chances, while Instalment raced far too keenly before tamely dropping back to finish 14th in the field of 18. That trait will not stand the son of Cape Cross in good stead this afternoon, where he must tackle an extra furlong over Goodwood's idiosyncratic camber.

But that is the point of racing juveniles, to give them experience of the buzz of a racecourse, and perhaps crucially, to allow them to develop into the finished article. The Vintage Stakes has always provided a rich breeding ground for aspiring talent. Troy won this the year before he claimed the Derby in 1979, and Dr Devious did the same before winning the 1992 Epsom Classic. In more recent times, Sir Percy followed in their footsteps after taking this race in 2005, while Sharmadal used this contest as a stepping stone in 2004 to win two French Classics and the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot for Godolphin.

One horse who never seemingly had these learning difficulties on his way to greatness is Henrythenavigator, who is the favourite for this afternoon's feature race, the Group 1 Sussex Stakes (6.30pm). Aidan O'Brien's star miler smashed the course record when picking up the Coventry Stakes at the age of two last year, and did the same this season when winning the St James's Palace. Henrythenavigator faces just six opponents this afternoon, with perhaps just Raven's Pass, trained by John Gosden, having shown enough form in the past to be truly rated as a rival.

Rock Of Gibraltar, also trained by O'Brien, was the last odds-on favourite for this race back in 2002, and in winning it, he claimed his sixth straight Group 1 success. Henrythenavigator has just three under his belt so far, but two course records show that in terms of class, he is not far behind his illustrious forbear. @Email:sports@thenational.ae