Test Of Time And Tactics

 Jul 1 2016

However there are a few more questions he has to answer than the odds might imply, and Jamie Lynch pulls them out while recounting a famous former renewal that underlines the importance of tactics.

One of the great lines of the year came from Hugo Palmer, on Channel 4, which he did well to express given his tongue was otherwise engaged in his cheek: 'People say that Pat Smullen is Ireland's Ryan Moore, but I think it's more the case that Ryan Moore is Britain's Pat Smullen.'

Like Guinness, Riverdance and the word feck, it took us in Britain some time to appreciate what the Irish had long since known, that Smullen is a world-class rider, also now the go-to rider for Juddmonte, having gone to him before for Time Test.

Alerted that he's inbound to Sandown on Saturday, other trainers have acted quickly to get him, too, including Hannon and Beckett, and Keith Dalgleish has snapped him up for the optimistically-entered Mirsaale in the Coral Marathon, while regular jockey Philip Makin is busying himself in the North, at Beverley and Carlisle, with the likes of Archie's Advice, who'll look ungainly as per usual.

It's not hard to fathom where Archie's Advice gets it from, as his sire, Archipenko, always had a bit of that about him, though it didn't stop him winning a Group 1, in Hong Kong, during his travelling transformation for Mike de Kock, after he was largely used as a pacemaker in his time with Aidan O'Brien.

It's the ninth anniversary of what remains, for my money, the most tactically tumultuous race of modern times, in the 2007 Eclipse, and Archipenko was heavily involved. It was Britain versus Ireland, it was a Derby winner versus a Guineas winner, it was a three-year-old against an older horse, it was Authorized versus George Washington, and it was a powder keg of plots and plans that exploded into life.

Wanting a stamina test, Authorized had a team-mate in Champery, but Ballydoyle had two playing that game, Archipenko and Yellowstone, and they did a job on Champery, egging him on up front before suddenly reining back after two furlongs, leaving him marooned and ineffective, therefore shaping the race to suit the speedier George Washington, but in another tactical twist Notnowcato did for them all by going a solo up the stand side in the straight under an inventive and inspired Ryan Moore.   

Ballydoyle doesn't seem so preoccupied with the art - or the dark art as some might say - of pacemaking these days, as there was a time when they might have messed with Jet Setting to safeguard Minding in the Irish Guineas, or tailored the St James's Palace Stakes to better fit the hold-up tactics on The Gurkha. When they did shape a big race, the Derby no less, it backfired as the stamina test was right up Harzand's street, and a different approach produced the same result in the Irish equivalent.

The answer to the Countdown conundrum is The Gurkha, and The Gurkha is the conundrum for Ryan Moore as we count down to the Eclipse. Against team Authorized in the 2007 renewal, the countermeasures were expertly calculated and executed, but the only Countermeasure here is the pacemaker for Time Test, though the puzzling presence of Bravery, out of his depth on all known form, but a better horse than Countermeasure, suggests O'Brien might have something up his sleeve.

Part of the problem with scheming a strategy is that we, and they, don't yet know exactly what The Gurkha is, the status and standing he's already earnt making it easy to forget he only made his debut in April. It's a fine balance between learning lessons from Royal Ascot - where his cards were played too late against Galileo Gold, who piggybacked the Godolphin pacemaker to perfection - and riding The Gurkha with an eye to the longer trip, facing an extra two furlongs and an uphill finish.

The Gurkha's female line is full of milers at most, but that's betting without the power of his sire, and he's bred along identical lines to Minding, by Galileo out of a Danehill Dancer mare. Still, trip and tactics are subtle-yet-significant considerations that Time Testdoesn't have, and nobody knows better than Moore what he's up against, having swooped aboard him from last to first over this course and distance in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, when giving the re-opposing Western Hymn 5 lb and a beating.

Time Test has been out of luck rather than out of ammo in Group 1s previously, but the drying ground means this could be his time, the time to test The Gurkha on his terms.

Pacemakers in their strictest sense are there to take tactics out of the equation, yet somewhere along the line in racing the terms and conditions were misread and misused, so that there's rarely if ever any connection between the hare and the hero nowadays, but strategy decided the 2007 Eclipse, and that could easily be the case again this year in a clash that becomes bigger and better the deeper you look into it.

* * *
As a warning for what can go wrong with three-year-olds stepping up from a mile to a mile and a quarter, with the outside draw for good measure, look no further than Snow Moon at Newbury last time. No cover, no relaxation, no chance. That was the short version for Snow Moon, but it doesn't detract from the big impression made in a Nottingham maiden, where she looked every inch a Group filly in the making, and she can get back on track, back in trip, in the Coral Distaff.

Stall 8 of 10 puts her near the wing again, but the bigger field and stronger pace will help Dettori bury her away this time, with lessons to be learnt from Newbury, and there's nothing in the field with her potential, being the second foal of Sariska.        


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