A dream that has shone brightly for nearly forty years was finally realised on a wonderful day at Ascot on Saturday when Postponed edged out Eagle Top in one of the most thrilling renewals of the Qipco sponsored Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes since Grundy and Bustino. We have won many big races over the years and are justifiably proud of our unsurpassed record of Group race winners in thirteen different countries around the globe so far. However, the middle distance summer showpiece of Britain’s racing calendar has eluded the Bedford House team, though it has been within touching distance, having finished second on three different occasions.
Saturday’s result was an extremely satisfying one on several counts for a horse we have never lost faith in. John Gosden’s Romsdal set a strong early gallop which, essentially, supplied Postponed with the pacemaker we had previously thought about providing him with. Whether Romsdal would have gone off quite as hard (the Timeform time figure for the race was a very fast 123) had Golden Horn taken part we will never know, but in order to maximise his own chance, last year’s St Leger runner-up had to make the race into a test of stamina and that unwittingly or otherwise played into Postponed’s hands. Our reservations regarding Postponed’s ability to handle anything other than good going were well documented and we were more than concerned by the amount of rain that fell in Newmarket ahead of the two day meeting but we were later buoyed to discover the fastest relative time on Ascot’s Friday card was the last race despite the rain. Walking the course on Saturday it was pleasing to discover our trusted going stick was not going in as far as we had feared. Fortunately Postponed was drawn next to Romsdal and he could not have received a more astute ride from Andrea Atzeni who was under instructions from Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. As we know, the race shape is set at Ascot at a mile and a half once the field take the first turn and, once we saw Postponed rolling along smoothly in second place just behind Romsdal, we knew we would have a chance with the faster ground in the straight still to come. Swinging in to the home straight Andrea stoked Postponed up into top gear and, although there was a moment when Eagle Top ranged upsides and tested our nerves, but it became clear well inside the last fifty yards that his run was petering out slightly and Postponed was rallying. With Snow Sky finishing back in 6th this also confirmed that Postponed’s 2014 win over Snow Sky in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, and not his recent defeat in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, was the real line of form between them.
There are options for Postponed before the Group 1 Qatar Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe though it is not necessarily a definite target just yet as the ground at Ascot was probably no worse than good to soft and it can get a lot softer at Longchamp in October. It is possible we could take in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Foy as a preparatory race, though that might mean we would have to make the running ourselves, and it could yet be that the Group 1 143rd Longines Grosser Preis von Baden enters calculations though the ground there can become desperate too in the autumn. With Golden Horn seemingly being spoken of as a possible contender for the Breeder’s Cup and the attention of Treve and the rest of France focussed on the Arc, it is also possible we could divert to the Group 1 Qipco Champions Stakes at Ascot. We are well aware that a mile and a half is probably Postponed’s ideal trip, but we have always felt he will be effective at a mile and a quarter given a strong pace which he has not yet had at this trip and, if we took this route, it would allow us to run our own pacemaker. The Japan Cup, which we won with Alkaased in 2005, is another end of season finale under consideration and perhaps appeals most of all given that fast ground and a strong pace are almost guaranteed. The plan, for now, is that Postponed will remain in training in 2016 and hopefully he will give connections another night and reason to celebrate as he did last Saturday.
At York the previous evening, Pamona finished third in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Lyric Fillies Stakes. The race was run at a strong gallop and, though that may have taken Pamona slightly out of her comfort zone, we are loath to look for too many excuses given it was almost certainly a very strong race of its type. Pamona again finished roughly the same distance behind Crystal Zvedza as she had at Newbury but on the positive side the first two places in Listed races won’t always be filled by fillies as useful as the pair that beat us. The Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Upavon Fillies Stakes at Salisbury in the middle of August is traditionally a quieter affair rather than the other option of the Listed EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes at York the following week whose conditions tend to encourage horses not quite good enough for the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
Handbell comfortably won her maiden at Wolverhampton with some authority confirming that the drop back to six furlongs was not an inconvenience for her. She seemed to win with a bit in hand and an opening mark of 72 is ideal for when she steps back up to seven furlongs.