There is still one classic still to go in 2017 (applying the traditional criteria that they are for three-year-olds only) – next month’s Group 1 William Hill St Leger at Doncaster – but attentions have already been drawn towards next year’s series.
Many who feature prominently in the ante-post markets this far in advance of the events have faded from memory or interest by the time those races are ready to run but it seems unlikely that recent Goodwood winner Expert Eye will be among those horses.
He made his debut over an extended six furlongs at Newbury in mid-June, which is earlier than often expected for a Sir Michael Stoute-trained juvenile, and he won that good-ground event by one and a half lengths.
That was a promising start, but when he ran away from nine rivals to take the Group 2 Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood just under seven weeks later, he shot to the head of the rankings – 114p with Timeform – and the market for the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas of 2018.
He beat Zaman and Mildenberger by four and a half lengths and three-parts of a length, the time was decent rather than spectacular, but what really grabbed the attention was the way he quickened clear and had the race won well before the line. He looked every inch a potential future Group 1 star.
If Expert Eye is going to be a classic hero in 2018 then it will be in one or more of the mile events. It remains to be seen if he will have the stamina to stay 10 furlongs, but that is likely to be either too far or at the outer limit of his distance range.
The colt is a son of high-class sprinter and veteran Rathbarry Stud stallion Acclamation (by Royal Applause), the horse who has given us the Group 1-winning sprinters Dark Angel, Equiano and Marsha, among others of note. The first-named pair are, of course, now the sires of Group 1 winning offspring, while Marsha is still in training and has the potential to make an impact as a broodmare.
Exemplify (by Dansili), the dam of Expert Eye, won over a mile in France as a two-year-old, her first foal – Divisionist (by Oasis Dream) – has been placed twice over eight and a half furlongs at Wolverhampton, her yearling is a first-crop daughter of Kingman (by Invincible Spirit), and she had a Dark Angel (by Acclamation) colt in late February.
The mare is out of the unplaced Quest To Peak (by Distant View) and that makes her a half-sister to Special Duty (by Hennessy), a leading two-year-old of 2009 who retired to the paddocks a dual classic heroine despite failing to pass the post in front in any of her six starts at the age of three.
Runner-up in the Listed Prix Yacowlef on her racecourse debut, the Criquette Head-trained chestnut beat Siyouni in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, failed narrowly against Arcano in the Group 1 Prix Morny and then beat Misheer by two and three-quarter lengths to take the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in style at Newmarket.
Special Duty was only third to Joanna when odds-on for the Group 3 Prix Imprudence on her reappearance on very soft ground at Maisons-Laffitte and she was then pipped in photo finishes for both the Group 1 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas). However, Jacqueline Quest was dropped to second at Newmarket, Liliside to sixth at Longchamp, and Juddmonte’s filly got both races.
She is not the only horse to pick up two Group 1 races in this way: Vahorimix was awarded both the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) and Prix Jacques le Marois in 2001. In his case, Noverre failed the post-race test at Longchamp and Proudwings was thrown out at Deauville for interference caused.
But back to Expert Eye.
Quest For Peak’s contribution at stud is no surprise as she is out of the pattern-placed dual stakes winner Viviana (by Nureyev) and so is a full-sister to seven-time Grade 1 heroine Sightseek and half-sister to dual Grade 1 scorer Tates Creek (by Rahy), a pair of Bobby Frankel-trained Juddmonte-bred standouts.
Sightseek’s blacktype-placed son Raison D’Etat (by A.P. Indy) stands at Calumet Farm in Kentucky and has his first two-year-olds now.
Viviana’s winning full-sister Willstar has produced two blacktype winners and is the grandam of several blacktype earners – the latter group featuing Group 3 Prix de Fontainbleau winner Glaswegian (by Selkirk) and dual listed scorer Preferential (by Dansili) – but the standout among them all is her excellent daughter Etoile Montante (by Miswaki).
Runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac as a juvenile, she was third in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, took second in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest and then won the Group 1 Prix de la Foret before crossing the atlantic where, at the age of four, she added the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap and Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap and finished runner-up in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes.
Etoile Montante, another Juddmonte homebred, died at the age of 15, but her offspring include Starformer (by Dynaformer), who was Group 3-placed at Longchamp before going to the USA where she won the Grade 2 New York Stakes over 10 furlongs at Belmont Park and a trio of Grade 3 contests at 11-12 furlongs.
Viviana and Willstar are half-sisters to Grade 1-placed Grade 2 scorer Revasser (by Riverman) and to Grade 1-placed stakes winner Hometown Queen (by Pleasant Colony), the latter being the dam of Grade 2 winner and successful sire Bowman’s Band (by Dixieland Band).
They are out of Nijinsky Star (by Nijinsky), an unraced daughter of triple Grade 1-winning standout Chris Evert (by Swoons Son) and so related to a host of talented horses, including Grade/Group 1 stars Chief’s Crown (by Danzig), Classic Crown (by Mr Prospector), Excellent Art (by Pivotal) and Winning Colors (by Caro).
With family connections like these, there is every reason to hope that Expert Eye can fulfil his promise and succeed at the highest level. Should he do so then he will also have plenty of appeal as a future stallion, especially as he is by the sire of Dark Angel and Equiano.