x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

So You Think surprises all

First Australian horse to win at middle distance in UK - after beating Workforce on Saturday - is ordinarily competent at sprints.

SANDOWN PARK // It was a race that rocked the hemispheres. So You Think secured Australia's first middle-distance Group 1 contest in Britain on Saturday with an emphatic success over Workforce in the Eclipse Stakes.

Australian horses have long plundered British Group 1 sprints, but over further distances it had seemed after Rewilding's victory over the Australian import at Royal Ascot that bloodstock Down Under simply was not up to the task.

Not so. So You Think's defeat at the Royal meeting merely teed up Saturday's showing of power and pace, as last season's Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner was made to look merely ordinary.

Ryan Moore, who had ridden So You Think at Ascot, was retained by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Workforce, and Moore tried to use his mount's proven stamina to sap the energy out of his chief rival.

Moore made his bid for home 600 metres from the line and with 400m to go it looked as if the race was all over. Seamie Heffernan, however, had different ideas and once he had angled out his partner from the inside rail an injection of pace sealed the tussle in the matter of strides.

"He was today where we hoped to have him at Ascot," said Aidan O'Brien, the victorious trainer. "He is a horse that gets a mile-and-a-quarter but has a miler's pace. With the physique that he has the sky is the limit."

The natural target for a horse of this ability would be the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's premier middle-distance contest, where another clash with Workforce, as well as Pour Moi, this season's Derby winner, and Reliable Man, the French Derby winner, looks set to be one of the great races.

O'Brien has other plans, though, and an audacious bid for a third Cox Plate back in Australia for So You Think is now on the agenda.

"He has a lot of choices," O'Brien continued.

"The Irish Champions Stakes, the Juddmonte International. He could have a break and be trained for the Cox Plate. There is a quarantine issue there, but if that got sorted it is possible."

At Haydock Park, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa was unlucky to not register a maiden victory in the Lancashire Oaks won by Gertrude Bell when his highly rated Vita Nova missed out when Tom Queally's saddle slipped.

Vita Nova came to challenge in the final 400m, but Queally first lost an iron, and then his saddle, as his mount finished with a flourish despite the Irishman clinging on to his partner's mane.