Qatar Sussex Stakes (Group 1) | 1m, 3yo+ | ITV/RTV
Ger Lyons has proved the man to beat in two of the four Irish Classic this season, but the triumphs of Siskin and Even So have not made him so accustomed to top-level success that he isn’t feeling the strain ahead of a huge summit meeting of milers on Wednesday.
Siskin is that most exciting of racing beasts, an unbeaten Classic winner whose limits we may yet be some way off fully appreciating.
His finishing power in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas marked him down as a colt with the potential to cast a shadow across the whole season.
Connections of Newmarket hero Kameko will be harbouring the same thoughts and dreams, while in Circus Maximus and Mohaather we have a pair of older milers, one with plenty of big-race success in the bank already and the other with as-yet-untapped potential waiting to be fulfilled.
“I’m nervous but very much looking forward to it,” said Lyons. “He flies out in the morning. He couldn’t be in better order but these are the toughest set of opponents he has faced.
“Circus Maximus has been there and done it, the Guineas form of Kameko is rock solid and visually I was very impressed with Mohaather when he won the Group 2 at Ascot. On ratings, we are only the fifth highest-rated horse in the race, even Wichita is rated higher than us, even though I think we have done more on the track than he has.
“I’m a bit nervous about him being drawn in stall 1 as well. But it’s over to Colin [Keane] now. I just hope it’s a proper race and hopefully there are no excuses.”
Murphy sees O’Brien runners as pace angle
Kameko brings his own fascinating profile to the table: a Group 1 winner at two who overcame the champion juvenile to win the Qipco 2,000 Guineas in record time and who now drops back to that trip after failing to fully see out the mile and a half of the Derby.
Andrew Balding clearly had his stable star in fantastic shape to secure a Classic success on his first start for seven months but Qatar Racing’s son of Kitten’s Joy is fully entitled to have progressed since.
“I’m very excited about Kameko going back to a mile,” said jockey Oisin Murphy. “He’s trained very well and it looks a hot race. I’m drawn in stall two next to Siskin, with Mohaather near in four as well.”
Murphy believes that, while the betting suggests the Aidan O’Brien-trained trio are playing for place money, they could have a key bearing on the way the race unfolds.
Murphy said: “Circus Maximus normally goes forward and Aidan O’Brien could have the first three ‘in the run’ with Wichita normally forwardly placed and Vatican City a strong stayer at the trip.
“This time of year is a good time to take on the older horses given the weight allowance and we’ll see what happens.”
Circus Maximus bids to become the fourth winner of the Queen Anne to double up in the Sussex since the Royal Ascot race was upgraded to Group 1 status in 2003, following on from Ramonti, Frankel and Solow. Ten horses in the last 17 years have attempted the double and in addition to those three successes, a further four finished second.
What they say
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Circus Maximus, Vatican City and Wichita
Circus Maximus has done well since Ascot and this has always been the plan. You would have to love his attitude. He just never knows when he’s beaten and only ever does enough. It’s going to be a very interesting race with him in there against the three-year-olds. Vatican City is back over a mile and we think that will suit him. He ran a big race in the Irish Guineas and we think he has progressed since then too. Wichita has some excellent runs this year and we’ve been happy with him all along. He seems to be in very good form.
Marcus Tregoning, trainer of Mohaather
He went through the gears well last time and Dane [O’Neill] gave him just the one tap. If he’d given two or three, then he would have probably won by six lengths. It was a good exercise as it proved he got the mile well and it gave us an indication that we are good enough to have a go. I don’t see why he won’t handle the track because he’s a neat horse who travels well and has plenty of speed. Hopefully he’s going to run a big race. This horse has an electric turn of speed, so I’m not worried. If they go no pace, they go no pace. He has got enough speed to win over six furlongs.
Roger Varian, trainer of San Donato
He’s been only lightly raced over the last year and a half but you would struggle to pick holes in his form. Although he was beaten comfortably in the end at Ascot it was his first run for 15 months and I thought it was a hell of a comeback run. He’s taken a nice step forward physically since and I think he’ll run a very good race in a fascinating event.