|Royal Ascot’s St James's Palace Stakes on June the 15th promises to be a most interesting affair for race fans on both sides of the big pond. With horses like the undefeated English 2000 Guineas winner, Makfi, the 2nd place finisher in both the French and English Guineas, Dick Turpin, and the American star, Noble’s Promise, lining up to do battle, it should be a world class event. With all due respect to each of those excellent three-year-olds, I believe the winner of the Group 1 St James's Palace just ran yesterday at the Curragh. Sent off as the 9-4 favorite, Canford Cliffs fulfilled all the expectations he had been carrying since last Spring, with his scintillating three length success in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. |
This is the same horse that both jockey, Richard Hughes and trainer Richard Hannon had been raving about even before his first stakes win. Canford Cliffs romped home by six lengths in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last June, in only his second lifetime start. He had run well since, but not quite well enough to get a win in three stakes races since that fantastic start to his career. He was coming off a rallying 3rd place finish in the year's first classic at Newmarket in the English 2,000 Guineas three weeks ago. Going in to yesterday's race doubters questioned the son of Tagula’s ability to handle the mile against top company. Those doubts were laid to rest as Canford Cliffs relaxed early, and exploded down the lane to canter clear of his outclassed competition. A firmer turf course and a quicker early tempo then seen in England certainly proved to his liking. The impressive victory in the Irish Classic was sweet vindication for his connection's belief that the colt is the best that Hughes has ever rode for his father-in-law, and the best horse the conditioner has ever had in 40 years as a trainer.
A return to Royal Ascot next month for the St James's Palace Stakes will be a huge test for the stretch running Canford Cliffs. The race is shaping up as a key event, and the mile run over the historic course should provide some clarity as to who is the top sophomore miler in Europe. Makfi is unbeaten and the winner of the most important mile to date. Dick Turpin has proved to be top class on numerous occasions, and Noble’s Promise is a most interesting American invader, but from what I saw yesterday, it will be Canford Cliffs who is the one they will all have to beat.