(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


Thursday’s issue of England’s Racing Post, the foremost daily newspaper on racing, carried a story on the significance of times down Ascot’s straight course. Of significance to Summerhill and Stronghold, the horse we proclaimed one of the best to enter our stallion ranks, is the fact he posted the best time performance in the history of Ascot’s course in his big effort in the 2006 renewal of the Royal Hunt Cup.

Stronghold’s effort should be seen in the context that the same course is the venue for the running of one of the world’s most celebrated Group One miles, the Queen Anne Stakes, which takes place during Royal Ascot week, coming up in a fortnight’s time.

His trainer, John Gosden, always believed Stronghold had a Group One race in him, and it was for that reason that he did not get to his second career at Summerhill until 2008.

Following his big run at Ascot in 2006, Stronghold was injured as the starting favourite for the season end Challenge (Gr.2) at Newmarket, and then suffered a career-crippling injury in recovery after keyhole surgery on his knee in the off-season. As a result, he only saw the racecourse once thereafter, and that was in the Hungerford Stakes (Gr.2) where, after a twelve month layoff, he snatched the lead with a furlong to go, only to go down to a flying Red Evi (triple Group One heroine) in the dying strides, when both his condition and his soundness finally yielded to the demands of a spectacular finish.

Either way, this survey in the Racing Post reminds us how fortunate we are to have a horse of Stronghold’s credentials on the roster. No wonder the man who bred Danehill and the best Danehills since, Prince Khalid Abdullah, retained a rare breeding interest in this fellow, just as he did with Danehill.

Racing Post Thursday 4 June 2009

“Since Ascot re-laid the straight course in 2005, it is fair to say that there have been some unusual results at the track which have left students of the form book scratching their heads.

For starters, you can never be confident about where the fastest ground is, although you only have to look at the stalls numbers of the horses who dominated last season’s Golden Jubilee – the first five home were drawn in the five lowest-numbered stalls – to see that track biases can have a massive impact on the outcome of these races on the straight course.

Then there’s the track’s slick drainage, which means that it nearly always rides fast - just look at the GoingStick readings, which often imply it is riding much quicker than the official going description – with the possible exception being those races staged in the immediate aftermath of a heavy downpour.

There is also the track’s crossover with the all-weather, as we’ve seen many horses whose form has suggested they’re much better on artificial surfaces, particularly Polytrack, run well on the turf at Ascot.

This could be down to the fact that some horses really let themselves down on the unique racing surface and it places an emphasis on speed by rewarding horses who travel well in their races.

Nearly all of all-weather racing is staged on oval circuits, but I suspect that if we had all-weather racing on straight courses, the style of racing would be similar to what we’ve been seeing at Ascot.

In short, it’s a track for specialists, and as many of the races at Royal Ascot are staged on the straight course I thought it would be interesting to bring attention to some of the horses, many of whom are heading to Royal Ascot, that have been able to post significant performances on the clock on the straight course.

Races over 7f and 1m

The big handicap over 7f at Royal Ascot is the Buckingham Palace Stakes, but the entries for that race are yet to be published, and hopefully Clive Brittain’s Al Muheer will be handed an entry.

As a three-year-old last August he recorded an adjusted time of 74.64 over 6f, the sixth best time for that distance by a three-year-old and the best by a three-year-old in a handicap, while he also recorded a good time over a straight mile in July. He is on an attractive mark of 96 and 7f should be perfect for him.

But the big ante-post handicap over the straight mile is the Royal Hunt Cup. It’s routinely run at a strong pace and the top three adjusted times were all posted n the race.

Stronghold, who finished second off 9st 8lb in 2006, leads the way on 99.90 seconds, while last year’s second Docofthebay and winner Mr. Aviator fill second and third spots.

Docofthebay carried 9st 6lb when recording that time, but has slipped down the handicap, so will shoulder just 8st 11lb this season. If he can recapture his peak form, he looks extremely well handicapped.”

(Straight course since 2006)

TIME (sec)
Miss Andretti June 07 6 60.20
Dandy Man June 07 4 60.34
Magnus June 07 5 60.40
Takeover Target June 07 8 60.50
Takeover Target June 06 7 60.83
Soldier’s Tale June 07 6 73.53
Takeover Target June 07 8 73.57
Asset June 07 4 73.67
War Artist 5 73.68
Red Clubs June 07 4 73.77
Jeremy June 06 3 87.40
Red Clubs 3 87.75
Laa Rayb 4 87.79
Nans Joy Aug 08 4 87.79
Asset June 06 3 87.80
Stronghold June 06 4 99.50
Docofthebay Aug 08 4 100.49
Mr.Aviator Aug 08 4 100.50
Soviet Song June 06 6 100.59
Cesare June 06 5 100.82

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