We have reached that point of the season where many of the major classics have been run and the various divisions are sorting themselves out as the big summer festivals approach. There is a long way to go yet before the year's champions can be confirmed, but there are two individuals who are leading the race to be crowned European champion three-year-old filly: Quiet Reflection and Minding.
Both were on a Timeform rating of 122 after Royal Ascot, but as one is a sprinter and the other a classic filly, it is safe to say that they will never meet on the track. That organisation has So Mi Dar next on 120p in the post-Ascot standings, followed by dual French classic heroine La Cressonniere on 118p and Qemah on 118.
Minding, who has never finished worse than second in nine starts, and was an easy winner of the Group 1 Sea The Stars Pretty Polly Stakes over 10 furlongs at the Curragh yesterday, kicked off her season with an impressive three and a half length defeat of her stable companion Ballydoyle in the Group 1 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. The pair had met twice as juveniles, with the score one apiece, and it remains to be seen if they will be asked to take each other again.
The combination of the optics of her success and the lack of an apparent standout among the potential Derby colts led to speculation that she might pass up the easier option of the Oaks in favour of tackling the Blue Riband. Of course, she has not yet taken on the colts – Harzand has emerged to lead their pack - and despite stamina doubts suggested by her pedigree, she did take the fillies' classic.
It was a near two-length win against a runner previously rated just 97, and who flopped at Ascot next time, with the rest of the field beaten out of sight – all of which casts doubt over the quality of the form – but the way that she overcame all sorts of trouble in running spoke volumes about her character; she appears to be as tough as she is talented. She also showed her toughness at the Curragh the time before when narrowly beaten by Jet Setting in the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas despite suffering a minor facial injury leaving the stalls.
She certainly looked as though she stayed the distance on 3rd June, and having weak opposition will have helped her, but the fact that she won the Oaks does not change the prior readings of her pedigree.
When I analysed her family for The Irish Field last September I noted that: “She should have no problem with the Guineas trip, but examination of her pedigree raises doubt about her potential to stay beyond 10 furlongs. ...although the full Oaks distance may not be beyond her reach, it would be no surprise if she proves to be more of a Guineas and Prix de Diane (French Oaks) contender than an Epsom or Irish Oaks one.”
Not every son or daughter of Coolmore Stud's phenomenal stallion Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) stays 12 furlongs and it is the amount of speed in the distaff side of the family that can be the deciding factor.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Minding, one among an increasing number of top horses bred by the partnership of Orpendale, Chelston & Wynatt, is the second foal out of Lillie Langtry (by Danehill Dancer), a mare who was never asked to try beyond a mile. She won a six-furlong Group 3 contest at Naas on 1st June of her juvenile year, was runner-up in the Group 3 Albany Stakes, then won the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at Leopardstown before finishing third, in heavy ground, in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Lillie Langtry won a valuable seven furlong sales race at Newmarket that October, was unplaced at the Breeders' Cup a month later, and was only beaten by about three-parts of a length on her seasonal reappearance, finishing fifth in a blanket finish for the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas. She won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot, was last of five in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, and then narrowly beat Spacious in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown two months later.
Galileo was an obvious choice for her at stud and their first result was the lightly-raced filly Kissed By Angels. She did not run at two, she was runner-up in a mile maiden at Limerick on her debut at three, beat Devonshire by three and a half lengths in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial on heavy ground, and then finished well-beaten in both the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Irish Oaks.
Lillie Langtry's third foal is the juvenile How, who has yet to win in three starts. That said, she has been out surprisingly early for a daughter of Galileo, and there could be plenty of improvement to come from her when she tries seven furlongs and a mile. Her unplaced debut effort was over five furlongs in late April, she then finished third behind Brave Anna in a six-furlong Curragh maiden, and was odds-on when beaten by a head in a similar contest at Naas recently.
By that same date in Minding's two-year-old career, the star had run just once, finishing second in a seven furlong maiden at Leopardstown. Also noteworthy is that Minding is a 10th February foal, but How was not born until 17th May, which is another reason why the younger sibling should not be written off just yet. Their yearling full-sister is also a mid-May arrival.
Minding's grandam and third dam were unraced and her fourth dam unplaced, which is an unusual pattern in a top-class flat horse. Had the first pair raced then might an assessment of her potential stamina range been a little different? Perhaps, but not necessarily.
In addition to Lillie Langtry, Hoity Toity (by Darshaan) has given us Count Of Limonade and a once-raced filly who has a pattern-winning son to her name.
With what we now know of his sire, we might expect that a son of Duke Of Marmalade (by Danehill) out of a Darshaan (by Shirley Heights) mare would be a 12-furlong horse, but the farthest that Count Of Limonade tried in Europe was 11 furlongs. That was when he was runner-up in a listed contest at Leopardstown and this effort, which was preceded by third place in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes over 10, was followed by a half-length victory in a one mile listed event at the Curragh.
His half-sister Lady Hawkfield (by Hawk Wing) was beaten by a long way in a nine and a half furlong Gowran Park maiden, but her first foal is the Grangemore Stud-bred Master Apprentice (by Mastercraftsman), whose second win from five starts for Andrew Balding was a half-length defeat of Cape Clear Island in the Group 3 Classic Trial over 10 furlongs at Sandown last year.
The Darshaans who did not stay middle-distances were comparatively few in number to those who did – brilliant miler Mark Of Esteem is a shining example – and Hoity Toity's siblings include a full-brother won won three times over 12 furlongs and was placed over further. She might have stayed, but that could have depended on how much of the speed aspects of her dam's genetics that she inherited.
She was out of Hiwaayati (by Shadeed), daughter of a 2000 Guineas winner and out of the mare who gave us the notably speedy duo Great Commotion (by Nureyev) and Lead On Time (by Nureyev).
Hiwaayati's daughter Sweet Emotion (by Bering) was a listed-placed winner over a mile, but tailed off on a single attempt at 10 furlongs, before going on to produce the ill-fated Winged Cupid (by In The Wings), a Group 1 Racing Post Trophy runner-up who was a four-length mile listed scorer before being beaten by half a length when runner-up in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes over 10 furlongs.
Lead On Time won the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte and the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Gheest, and Great Commotion, who was the top-rated older sprinter in Europe in 1990, won the Group 2 Cork and Orrery Stakes and Group 3 Beeswing Stakes and was runner-up in both the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas and Group 1 July Cup, among other good events from six furlongs to a mile.
Given the lack of strength of the opposition she faced at Epsom, it remains to be seen if Minding would truly stay the distance in a strongly run race against established 12-furlong stars and in all-aged field, but the dual classic heroine is unquestionably a top-class performer and we may not yet have seen the best of her.
She holds entries in pretty much every major event at eight, 10 and 12 furlongs over the next few months so it is to be hoped that we get plenty more opportunities to assess her before she goes on to what could be a very notable career at stud.