Sky all the way

 May 19 2017

African Night Sky and Bernard Fayd’Herbe should confirm Winter Guineas form with their six rivals in the Highlands Stud Winter Classic at Kenilworth on Sunday despite having to give them all weight.

The gelding has had less racing than any of the opposition and sprang a 10-1 surprise three weeks ago but there was no fluke involved. Indeed he did it the hard way.

Drawn wide, Fayd’Herbe had trouble getting him in and was soon much further back than Our Mate Art who had a dream run throughout. Sunday’s selection had a lot more to do in the straight yet he was able to hit the front 200m out and draw clear to score by a length and a quarter.

He gave the distinct impression that he will stay further and that he is good enough to confirm the placings on a kilo worse terms.

Recent history is on his side. The last three Winter Guineas winners to go on to the Classic all collected. It is in the Winter Derby where the upsets tend to come with many fancied horses failing to stay the much longer trip and proving nothing like so effective in the softer ground.

Big things have long been expected from Our Mate Art and he should again get into the shake-up although it would be no surprise to see Loadshedder prove the biggest danger.

He was ridden fully two and a half furlongs from home three weeks ago and looked as if he was going to be well beaten. But the way he ran on into third suggested that he might well be better over this extra furlong. Andre Nel and his stable jockey are in blistering form.

There has only once been a smaller Winter Classic field in the past 15 years but it is unusual for every runner in the race to have contested the first leg of the Winter Series. The only other horse good enough to win is surely Elevated whose Cape Guineas fourth remains the best of the seven.

He ran way below form last time, soon losing position and dropping towards the rear. True, he made fair progress for a while in the straight but weakened over a furlong from home. Riaan van Reenen is adamant that he wasn’t ready but will be this time.

Verdier (sixth) never really looked like posing a threat while Ollivander (13th) soon weakened after making some progress two furlongs out. He might well be used as a pacemaker for Our Mate Art.

Michael Clower

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