Late Blooming Rhododendron Foils Lightning Strike
Saturday’s big race of the day came at Newbury as the Berkshire venue laid on the latest renewal of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes. Always one of the top one mile contests of the season for older runners, the 2018 edition had a pretty open look to it and in the end served up a real thriller.
The Aidan O’Brien duo of Deauville and Lancaster Bomber ensured this was run at a good clip throughout, but as that duo began to wilt slightly in the closing stages it soon became apparent that the race would be between David Simcock’s Lightning Spear on the near side and O’Brien’s third runner, Rhododendron on the far side of the track.
With so much ground between the pair, it was difficult to determine who had the edge, even as they crossed the line. A photo was required, with the result eventually going to the Group 1 king Aidan O’Brien and Rhododendron once again.
Another off the Galileo production line, this filly hasn’t enjoyed the easiest of times, with a particularly harrowing experience over in France last season the low point. She does however possess bags of class and an abundance of heart, and is now a Group 1 winner at 2, 3 and 4 years of age.
Having also been beaten into second in the race by Ribchester last season, this must have been frustrating for the connections of Lightning Spear who has now been placed five times without winning at the top level.
Justify Confirms Class In Preakness
Following the seriously impressive success of the Aidan O’Brien trained Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas, much of the talk has centred around a potential triple crown bid for the son of Deep Impact.
Considering he is widely expected to be better over further than at the one mile trip of the Guineas, that may well prove a realistic ambition. He’s not the only three year old colt with an eye on a place in the history books though.
Over in America, the latest Bob Baffert trained superstar, Justify, is now just one leg away from joining American Pharaoh and co on the US Triple crown roll of honour. Having run away with the Kentucky Derby last month, his next challenge was to claim the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday.
It wasn’t quite so easy this time as Good Magic would never let him settle on the lead. Once in the straight though the son of Scat Daddy simply had too much power for that rival and held off the late thrust of Bravazo to score by half a length.
Leg three comes with the Belmont Stakes on 9th June. A race for which he is the even money favourite.
All Eyes On Ireland
Looking ahead to the coming weekend and its Classic time again, this time over in Ireland with Saturday’s Irish 2000 Guineas and Sunday’s Irish 1000 Guineas from the Curragh racecourse. Unsurprisingly Aidan O’Brien runners head the betting in both markets.
Only sixth and third respectively in the Newmarket equivalents, Gustav Klimt leads the way in the 2000 at 9/4, with Happily doing likewise in the 1000 at 7/4.