European Race Report: A Sight to See

Published in the May 26 Blood-Horse
Declaring the course a "mud pie" after walking a circuit at Newbury on May 18, trainer John Gosden shipped Khalid Abdullah's Observatory to Longchamp for the May 20 Prix d'Ispahan (Fr-I). The change resulted in a group I win for the homebred son of Distant View, ridden by Abdullah's new stable jockey, Richard Hughes.

Observatory had been supplemented for 50,000 French francs ($6,722) into the extended nine furlongs during the week but his defection left Newbury's Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I), sponsored by Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, without a marquee horse. Seven turned out for the straight mile with trainer Michael Stoute bagging the British season's first group I for older horses with Cheveley Park Stud's Medicean.

Observatory, who denied Giant's Causeway a record sixth consecutive group I win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) last September, had to dig deep to hold off Gary Tanaka's Hightori through Longchamp's final furlong and earn the $67,222 winner's share. Hightori, third to Captain Steve in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, probably had a fitness edge on Observatory, making his seasonal debut. The winning margin was a head with longtime leader Ekraar third in the field of five.

Hughes, officially suspended in Britain, was able to ride the 4-year-old Observatory under the rule that permits banned riders to participate in group I races abroad on days when there is no racing in Britain. The rider was quick to adopt Giant's Causeway's nickname for his mount. "He's the new 'Iron Horse,' " he said. "He just wouldn't let the runner-up get by."

Gosden stated the 11-10 favorite was on his way to Royal Ascot's Prince of Wales's Stakes (Eng-I, 10 furlongs, June 20) where he will again encounter Hightori.

"He was only 85% fit today and had only four pieces of work before the race," he said. "He got the stiff Ascot mile last year in beating Giant's Causeway, and today was a fine test of stamina and he stayed."

Stoute has won with just six of his 53 runners so far this year but with Medicean, and Golan's Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) triumph, he sits right behind John Dunlop on the prize money table.

Stable jockey Kieren Fallon was at his powerful best in getting the homebred son of Machiavellian up on the line to beat Warningford by a neck in the $215,970 race. Front-running Swallow Flight was the same distance back in third of the field of seven.

This was a fourth Lockinge victory for Cheveley Park, of which Stoute is a director, and Medicean comes from the first crop of males they retained from the sales in hopes of producing a stallion.

"It's so difficult to buy horses in training to stand as stallions these days," said Chris Richardson, stud manager of David and Pat Thompson's Newmarket operation.

Medicean, who beat Observatory in Goodwood's Celebration Mile (Eng-II) last August, could also go to the Prince of Wales's with the mile Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-II) as an alternative.

"He would have to carry a penalty in the Queen Anne, which is tough to do," Stoute said. "On the other hand, we tried the horse at a mile and a quarter last year but the race was very inconclusive as he was drawn wide, got banged about, and raced a bit keen."