PUROSANGUE for the Roses! - by Cornelius Lysaght
York’s Sky Bet Ebor Festival is perhaps best known for being a potential showcase for the Classic generation against their elders in the International Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks; for speedsters of all ages over five-furlongs in the Nunthorpe Stakes; and for would-be winners of the Melbourne Cup in the historic £500,000 Ebor Handicap, the richest race of its type in the British season, and which this year provides automatic entry for Australia in November.
But there are significant two-year-old-only prizes as well, headed by the Lowther Stakes for fillies and the Gimcrack Stakes for colts and geldings, both staged at Group Two level, and won in 2022 respectively by Swingalong and Noble Style, both of which have progressed further and ran with distinction when not beaten far behind Shaquille in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
A wide range of juvenile races are on offer, eight in all, and one I like is the Julia Graves Roses Stakes, late on the fourth and final day.
Now because of its position the poor old Roses Stakes can be a little overlooked, not least because the post-Ebor cheering is still echoing around the expanses of the Knavesmire – it certainly was twelve months ago when Frankie Dettori gave a tactical masterclass to narrowly land a gamble on Trawlerman – and it’s the first slot after ITV goes off air and Ed, Francesca, Jason plus pals head away for a well-deserved visit to the champagne bar.
But it should not be ignored, the five-furlong dash having produced decent performers including Captain Gerrard, Hot Streak and Acklam Express in recent years, and it certainly won’t be missed this time by Opulence Thoroughbreds’ owners as Purosangue, trained by Andrew Balding, seeks to make up for a narrow defeat at Goodwood by the outstanding-looking Big Evs, now Nunthorpe bound, in what may turn out to have been an even better effort than it looked at the time.
Purosangue – or Percy to his devoted groom Lois Day – was consigned by former jump jockey Mark Grant and caught the eye of quite a few at the Goffs Breeze Up sale at Doncaster in April, demonstrating notable speed – inherited from a prolific mother – when breezing, plus professionalism aplenty, and with the prospect of better to come when older, so agent Richard Ryan had to go to a few quid to acquire him for Opulence, in partnership with the successful Teme Valley operation.
Although talent of that sort at the sales-ring, let alone a fancy price tag, offers no cast-iron guarantee of being an equine Ferrari – whose latest SUV incidentally is named the Purosangue, as in the Italian for pure and blood or, in racing terms, thoroughbred – everyone felt that this was just the type to make a mark for its owners and to continue the development of Opulence as a major syndicate company.
And the horse’s June debut in a five-furlong novices’ race at Haydock offered considerable grounds for optimism as he swept aside his opponents in great style.
Next he didn’t settle down quite enough early on when becoming Opulence’s first runner at Group-level in the Group Two July Stakes at Newmarket over a furlong further, but when dropped back down to the minimum distance on rain-softened going at Goodwood, and ridden by Oisin Murphy, he missed out by only a few inches.
Next stop then York, and after that, all being well, there has been talk of attempting to follow the same path that The Platinum Queen took en route to her breathless success as the first juvenile in forty-four years in the Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc weekend; TPQ won in Paris after being beaten a whisker in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster which, all being well, is where Purosangue will line up after this.
The vibes from the Andrew Balding camp are nice and positive that this colt is a real deal, one to live up to his name. Best of luck to all involved.