October 28, 2021

Fillies to watch on the European classic trail

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby pictured during the Dubai Carnival (Erika Rasmussen/Dubai Racing Club)

As a follow-up to my 3-year-old colts to watch as British and Irish racing emerges from the COVID-19 cocoon, here are a dozen fillies who could emerge onto the classic radar.

The same parameters apply – already winners, but untested in black-type events so far, in order to emphasize the under-the-radar aspect. Like the colts, however, a few of these are probably familiar if you follow the European scene closely.

Again, I’m resorting to alphabetical order rather than attempting to organize them into a hierarchy:

Amma Grace

While pedigree alone would raise the profile of this Moyglare Stud homebred, the daughter of prolific mare Polished Gem has merited her spot on the list with her racecourse performance. Third as the favorite in her Cork debut (beating future Group 3 winners New York Girl, Lemista, and Stela Star), Amma Grace improved to justify favoritism next time at Leopardstown. The Dermot Weld trainee forged clear a long way out on soft ground, and although her margin dwindled late, she was the only pace attendee to last in the tough conditions.

Amma Grace has quite a family legacy to live up to, as a half-sister to Royal Ascot-winning European co-highweight Free Eagle, Custom Cut, and Sapphire. The Galileo filly is also a full sister to stayers Falcon Eight and Search for a Song, who defeated older males in last year’s Irish St Leger (G1). Dam Polished Gem is herself a full sister to Grade 1 winner Dress to Thrill, both daughters of 1988 Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) heroine Trusted Partner.

Cabaletta

The heavy going at Yarmouth might have been more of a drag on John Gosden’s promising Frankly Darling, who’d have a case to turn the tables on Cabaletta on better ground. But the stoutly-bred Cabaletta isn’t to be underestimated, since the Cheveley Park homebred didn’t shape as the type necessarily to win first up as a juvenile. Trained by Roger Varian, the gray smoothly recovered from a tardy start to take up a good stalking position, responded to lift her game as the pace increased, and outstayed Frankly Darling by a length.

Such a rigorous stamina test suited Cabaletta, as a daughter of the multiple highweight stayer Allegretto. A Galileo mare descended from the influential matriarch Alruccaba, Allegretto beat males in the 2007 Prix Royal Oak (G1), Goodwood Cup (G2), and Henry II (G2), and added the 2008 Park Hill (G2). Cabaletta gets her color, and perhaps a broader distance range, from sire Mastercraftsman.

Domino Darling

Hardly a secret after a rousing debut victory at Doncaster, the William Haggas pupil is prominent in the antepost market for the Oaks (G1). Domino Darling subdued highly regarded Gold Wand in a tussle between daughters of Golden Horn, the pair drawing well clear of the rest. Their Oct. 25 maiden has been productive despite coming late in the season, with two next-out winners and two other fillies graduating eventually.

A Sir Anthony Oppenheimer homebred like her first-crop sire, Domino Darling is a three-quarter sister to 2011 Queen’s Vase (G3) and Gordon (G3) hero Namibian (by Golden Horn’s sire Cape Cross). Their dam, the multiple stakes-placed Sadler’s Wells mare Disco Volante, hails from the further family of 2008 Oaks star Look Here.

Heiress

Gosden has so many fillies of interest that it’s a struggle to limit his yard to a strict quota of three (!), but this daughter of Kingman and 2000 Oaks victress Love Divine demanded inclusion. In her sole appearance at Newmarket Nov. 2, Heiress tracked early and looked better the farther she went. By the end of the 7-furlong maiden, the Lordship Stud homebred was 3 1/2 lengths clear of a next-out winner. What made it even more remarkable were jockey Rab Havlin’s postrace comments to Racing TV: Heiress was “on the weak side still,” and one for the future.

Dam Love Divine owns the distinction of being a classic winner to produce a classic winner, with her son Sixties Icon landing the 2006 St Leger. She’s also responsible for Group 2-placed Native Ruler and multiple stakes-placed Hamelin, but Heiress has still greater potential. Note that Heiress sports inbreeding to full brothers Kris (via Kingman’s sire Invincible Spirit) and Diesis (Love Divine’s sire).

One Voice

Speaking of yards overflowing with top fillies, Jessica Harrington could have another up her sleeve. One Voice was an encouraging second on debut at Leopardstown, where she beat a few who’d already won, including Rebel Tale who later placed to Aidan O’Brien’s Armory in the Futurity (G2). The Poet’s Voice filly was a different proposition next out at the same course, quickening on the front end to a handy 3 1/2-length victory. Again her form stacks up with stakes, for runner-up Auxilia went on to romp at Naas and finished a close third to Fancy Blue in the Staffordstown Stud. Unfortunately, One Voice was sidelined after that sparkling effort July 25, or else the €55,000 Goffs Sportsman’s Sale yearling likely would have black-type by now herself.

Glen Hill Farm’s Craig Bernick has acquired her in the interim, according to her major race entries in both Ireland and France. Her dam, the Nayef mare Zaaqya, is a half-sister to Del Mar stakes winner Double Touch who was second in the Joe Hernandez (G2) on New Year’s Day. Thus One Voice could end up on this side of the pond at some point. In any event, she’ll be a fine addition to the Glen Hill broodmare band one day, as a descendant of noted matron Violetta III.

Ridenza

Belying the tendency of Sea the Stars’ progeny to need time, this Aga Khan homebred looked sharp in her debut at Leopardstown in August. And Ridenza was too eager early, making her strong finish all the more commendable. She had fancy entries last season, but injury prevented her from fulfilling them. Trainer Mick Halford told irishtimes.com that she exited the race with a pastern fracture that required surgery.

Ideally Ridenza will progress like her sire and not follow the trajectory of her dam, Raydara. Also trained by Halford, the Rock of Gibraltar mare scored her signature win as a juvenile in the 2014 Debutante (G2), but didn’t win again.

Spring of Love

The Godolphin homebred made a most pleasing impression in her sole outing at Newmarket Oct. 11. Traveling readily at every stage, Spring of Love struck the front while still on the bridle. The Charlie Appleby filly found another gear once William Buick pushed her on, comfortably toppling the favorite Waliyak. The latter has gone on to run two strong races, collared late by With Thanks in a course-and-distance novice before conquering Kempton.

By Invincible Spirit, Spring of Love is a half-sister to current multiple Group 3-placed stakes winner Duneflower. Both are out of the Group 2-placed Desert Blossom, a Shamardal mare who is a three-quarter sister to Flaming Spear (by Shamardal’s son Lope de Vega).

Thundering Nights

Despite looking a bit clueless still in her third start Oct. 28, the 14-1 Thundering Nights got organized in time to nail odds-on Mazara at Galway. Mazara warranted that short price after a troubled third to the aforementioned Fancy Blue in her premiere. The favorite looked to have run a winning race here until Thundering Nights’ superior stamina kicked in, with an assist from apprentice Shane Crosse who did very well to focus her on the turn and cajole her in the lane. Considering how young trainer Joseph O’Brien can nurture horses along as his dad does, Thundering Nights has loads of potential this term.

Also in her favor is her emerging young sire Night of Thunder, already with nine Northern Hemisphere stakes winners (a record for a second-season sire at this point, according to Thoroughbred Daily News). Out of the Cape Cross mare Cape Castle, Thundering Nights comes from the family of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) vixen Queen’s Trust, and further back, Warrsan and Luso. She did not attract attention in either of her turns in the auction ring, RNA’ing for €17,000 as a weanling at Goffs November and again for €19,000 as a Tattersalls Ireland September yearling.

Tiempo Vuela

Gosden as usual sent out several promising sorts to win on the all-weather, with Tiempo Vuela the most eye-catching. The scopey daughter of Lope de Vega traveled fluently at Newcastle Oct. 9, took a few strides to recognize her cue, then overwhelmed the pacesetter to score by daylight. It was just the kind of debut, educational yet simultaneously impressive, that could unveil a good one.

Owned by Oppenheimer and Sophie, Tiempo Vuela translates the Latin name of her dam Tempus Fugit (“time flies”) into Spanish. The High Chaparral mare is a stakes-winning half-sister to Group 1-winning sprinter Total Gallery (by Namid), but another nearby relation, Group 1 heroine Ambivalent, placed in the Coronation Cup (G1) and Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).

Trefoil

It’s useful to pay attention whenever two-time Oaks winner Ralph Beckett appears to have a promising filly. Trefoil ran herself into the reckoning by defeating males in her Oct. 23 premiere at Newmarket, the “Future Stayers Novice” over a mile. In the vanguard throughout but racing kindly, the daughter of Teofilo found plenty when challenged, kept galloping up the rising ground, and even far past the wire. Her ears were signaling that she had her rivals covered, possibly asking Richard Kingscote if he needed anything more from her. Fourth-placer Oriental Mystique caught the eye in her quiet introduction, duly won next out at Kempton, and might have made this list too if not for my resistance to taking two from the same race.

A homebred for J.H. Richmond-Watson, who campaigned Beckett’s first Oaks winner Look Here, Trefoil is out of the stakes-placed Zieten mare Prairie Flower. Her dam is a half to French Group 2 winners Prairie Star and Pacific Rim.

Wasaayef

The only filly among this dozen who lost her latest, the 580,000-guineas Tattersalls October yearling can be marked up for just failing to give Queen Daenerys six pounds in a Sept. 21 Newmarket novice. Even so, Wasaayef was coming back on her at the wire, and at level weights you’d have to think she’d gain revenge. Wasaayef also lost her Kempton debut by a neck to stablemate Cressida, who got the jump on her as she had the trickier passage, but kept on very well to cut it close. Her maiden win in between on Newmarket’s July Course showcased her ability as a high-cruising galloper, best suited to striding on, finding her rhythm, and winding it up. She repelled Godolphin’s useful Alpen Rose, who won next time and placed third in the May Hill (G2).

Bought by Shadwell and racing in the name of Hissa Hamdan al Maktoum, Wasaayef is a daughter of Kingman and the well-related Sea the Stars mare Seagull. Shadwell likes Wasaayef enough to have purchased her half-brother by Muhaarar for 360,000 guineas at Tattersalls last October. Their dam is a half to Irish classic winner Nightime, who’s produced Grade/Group 1 winners Zhukova and Ghaiyyath.

Yaxeni

If it’s possible that Yaxeni won’t confirm the form of her Cork debut over several well-regarded rivals, it’s equally plausible that we haven’t seen her best yet either. A 12-1 shot for Ger Lyons, the Niarchos castoff lobbed along in striking range on the outside, grabbed a slim lead in the stretch, and appeared to be in the clutches of the Niarchos/Harrington runner Unknown Pleasures. But Yaxeni had more in reserve than she let on. She held off her challenger, and even inched away again. Weld’s firster Florence Camille rattled on late in a near-miss third, arguably making her the one to take from the race.

Yaxeni’s been underestimated from the start, though, selling for a mere €8,000 as a Goffs February yearling. She sports Niarchos bloodlines top and bottom, as a daughter of Maxios and the stakes-placed Sadler’s Wells mare Kithonia. Third dam Whakilyric is best remembered for her sons Hernando and Johann Quatz.