World Class: Precocity in the spotlight after Lady Aurelia blitz

Tepin-360

Tepin was one of two American-trained winners at Royal Ascot

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Lady Aurelia is a freak. There is no other explanation for that ludicrously impressive seven-length win in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.

To win by such a huge margin in conditions softer than ideal and against 16 rivals spread right across the track suggests something was wildly out of kilter from normality.

The circumstances were vastly different from those she encountered when winning her maiden on a fast dirt track at Keeneland in April, but she used that same unbelievable speed to blitz her European rivals and register a huge RPR of 123.

To put it into context a figure of 123 would have been good enough to secure her the title of European champion juvenile in four of the last five seasons. It was quite simply a massive performance.

But the question about Lady Aurelia is: in what way is she a freak? Is she the fastest filly since Black Caviar, or just well ahead of the curve?

Ward 7 – Australia 6

The thing to bear in mind with immature horses is that they don’t all mature at the same rate. The horse that is best today might not be the best in three months time once nature has allowed others to catch up.

Think of the beardy kid at school who won the sprint races by half the track but hasn’t grown since and now drives with a booster seat. That could be Lady Aurelia.

If you closely monitor speed figures in America you will find that their younger horses generally mature ahead of the curve in relation to Europeans. American trainer Wes Ward, in particular, has proved adept at selecting and training these super-precocious types, who have just that little bit more in hand at Ascot.

Lady Aurelia provided Ward with his seventh individual winner at the meeting, which means he now has a better Royal Ascot record than the whole of Australia – and six of his wins have come from juveniles running over 5f.

Already peaked?

Essentially, given her pedigree and her environmental factors, there is a good chance she is at least a few pounds ahead of the curve. However, she is unlikely to be anywhere near full maturity at the age of two years and five months. Indeed, the European weight-for-age scale suggests the average sprinter would mature at closer to four-years-old.

Ward wants to keep her in against her own age group this year, so she will not head to the Nunthorpe Stakes (open to all ages), for which she would have been favourite. Instead she will probably head to the Prix Morny (21 August) over 6f at Deauville.

If her freakishness is down solely to her precocity then her Queen Mary triumph may prove the pinnacle of her career. But she is so far clear at the moment that she would look tough to beat in any race this season when speed is at a premium.

Overseas first

Another American distaffer made a big splash at Royal Ascot last week when Tepin became the first winner of the Queen Anne Stakes to be trained outside Europe.

The Breeders’ Cup Mile winner always looked to have a good chance on RPRs, having been flagged up by World Class at 10-1 for this race back in April, but she had to overcome a lot of barriers to prevail by half a length from Belardo.

The wide-open, straight, undulating track with an uphill finish was always a potential spoiler for the mare and she also had to race without her regular raceday drug Lasix and without nasal strips – and the track was riding soft.

She only needed to run to form to win with an RPR of 120, but this success was a huge testament to her durability. It was also the first time a horse trained outside Europe won a race at Royal Ascot over a distance further than 6f.

Gold on top

The strongest race of the week at Royal Ascot saw a clash of the three Guineas winners in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday. Newmarket hero Galileo Gold came out on top with an RPR of 124, with The Gurkha (122) staying on late for second and Awtaad (120) in third.

Galileo Gold was better placed than his leading rivals here and credit goes to Frankie Dettori for timing it right on the winner. He didn’t get the same rub off a steadier pace in the Irish 2000 Guineas on his previous start but was able to reverse the form granted a truer test.

The Gurkha may not have been ideally placed in the rear and he may well prove the pick of these long term – particularly when upped to his likely optimum trip of 1m2f.

My Dream Boat (124) matched the highest performance of the week when upsetting the odds to land the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. World leader A Shin Hikari was a big disappointment but can be expected to bounce back on better ground and/or back at one mile.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Galileo Gold 124 Hugo Palmer (GB) (St James’s Palace Stakes, Royal Ascot, 1m, 14 June)

 

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