Shirocco made many believers in the States last fall with his impressive win in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. But after the 5-year-old Andre Fabre trainee's easy win in his first race of the 2006 season, the Jockey Club Stakes (Eng-II) at Newmarket Sunday, it is possible that he could be the next big thing in European racing.
Fabre is anticipating a season that would return the German-bred son of Monsun to Longchamp for the Arc, where he was fourth last year, and the Breeders' Cup once more after his 3 1/2-length win in the Jockey Club. First in Fabre's sights, however, is the Coronation Cup (Eng-I) at Epsom Downs on June 2.
Shirocco got the soft ground he relishes for his return to action at Newmarket and turned in a sparkling performance in the Stan James-sponsored 1 1/2-mile event. Under Christophe Soumillon, Shirocco stalked the leaders before cruising past the pacemaker Bandari to get the lead a quarter-mile from the wire and drawing away under easy handling.
"He's like a motorbike, you can do what you want with him," Soumillon told Racing Post
. "He needed the race and might need one more to be at his best, but he's perfect and I think could be better than he was last year. If nothing goes wrong he could have a great time around the world this year and make his owner, trainer and jockey very happy."
Munsef drove past Bandari by more than a length for second, with Self Defense fourth in the field of seven.
Afterward, Fabre compared the 2004 German Derby (Ger-I) winner favorably to Swain and In the Wings, among the five horses he has won the Coronation Cup with.
"This horse is different to the others and probably better than the others," he told Racing Post
. "He had the ability last year but he gets stronger every year -- everyone gets better with age."
Owned by Baron G. Von Ullmann, Shirocco came under Fabre's care last year and the training superstar made it clear a re-match with his stablemate Hurricane Run, winner of last year's Arc, is in the cards.
"On the form they made Hurricane Run the better horse last year," he noted, "but Shirocco was not as strong then as he is nowadays. We'll see which is best on the day they meet."