My first impression after watching Snowfall cross the line 16 lengths clear of her nearest rival in the Oaks was that she can’t possibly be as good as she looked. I can’t have been alone.
The primary reason for my personal negativity is that Snowfall was beaten SIX times as a juvenile and 10+ lengths on each of the three occasions she tackled Group 1 company, posting modest Racing Post Rating’s in the 80’s each time.
Her Musidora form didn't look worth the paper it was written on given she was allowed to dictate at a dawdle while her key rivals pulled their races away. On the back of that, I couldn't have her at all at Epsom, even allowing for the fact that the rain was in her favour.
However, in the Oaks, Snowfall posted a career-best RPR of 123, a full stone higher than that of her Musidora win, which in itself was well over a stone clear of anything she did as a juvenile. Official ratings have her now rated a full 30lb higher than at the end of her juvenile season.
It is extraordinarily rare for a horse to race as much as Snowfall did at two yet show this level of improvement as a 3-year-old.
Wide-margin wins can often be overrated but now I’ve come to the conclusion that Snowfall’s rating looks fully justified, she was completely different class to her rivals.
Sure, some wouldn’t have enjoyed the rain-softened ground as well as Snowfall did, while some weren’t able to hold the track position that she did but even so, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the way she moved so smoothly through the race before picking up like a rocket when asked to go and win her race. Her overall time figure, with ground factored in, was right up there with the best Oaks winners of recent years.
Stablemate Santa Barbara has been billed as the second coming but she has her chance at the 2f marker, as so many in the race did, and simply couldn’t live with the winner from that point.
Another string to Snowfall’s bow is her versatility. She was asked to set steady fractions at York before quickening off the front but was held up in midfield in the Oaks so she is clearly no one-trick pony.
Snowfall is clearly only now realising her potential and maturing into the top-class filly that she is bred to be, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise given her dam’s peak performance came over a mile-and-a-half as a 3-year-old.
The improving daughter of Japanese sire Deep Impact has shown such a liking for easy conditions that we simply have to assume that she won’t be quite as effective if asked to race on fast ground, and that looks the only stumbling block to Snowfall mopping up the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks – a feat achieved by her stablemate Love last season.
Then what? Well, an end of season clash with the aforementioned Love and other star names could be on the cards in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It’s not difficult to see why Snowfall already heads ante-post Arc betting lists given 3-year-old fillies’ have a good recent record in the race.
I wasn’t convinced about Snowfall but I’ve been converted. She has an unusual profile but she really does look the part now.
Mohaafeth Withdrawal A Real Head-Scratcher
Mohaafeth is trained by a master and owned by a team that has won nearly everything there is to win in the sport, so far be it from me to even contemplate criticising such a successful outfit.
However, the decision to withdraw Mohaafeth from the Derby on Saturday due to ground conditions is surely one of the biggest clangers ever dropped by such a high-profile team?
Times from across the seven races on Saturday suggest the ground was pretty much good, despite the official description suggesting it was slightly softer than that.
I’m much more inclined to side with time-based going rather than folk poking a stick into the ground, which leads us to the remarkable scenario where a horse was withdrawn from the Derby because good ground wasn’t suitable.
Conditions were not extreme in any way, so there was very little chance that running him could have led to injury or him having a bad experience. Surely when the variance is so small, you have to just take your chance?
There is only one Derby. Mohaafeth will now never have the chance to show us just what he could have achieved on the biggest stage of all despite having won races in his career on ground described as good.
I would be surprised if connections weren't regretting the move by Saturday evening and, if this horse ever goes on to win a top race on good ground or slower in the future, then the decision is going to look even more bizarre than it does now.
Kirby Success Shows What Is Possible
Adayar’s Derby success has, unusually, been rather shadowed by the man riding it rather than the quality of the performance itself.
My take from it was that it merely reiterated something that I felt for many years. The margins in racing are tiny and the difference in ability levels among the top, say 20-30 jockeys in the land is tiny.
A good example is a jockey like David Probert. Consistently among the winners, rarely in the wrong place and versatile tactically. How many opportunities does he get at Group 1 level? Almost none.
Adam Kirby is the same bracket. He is pigeon-holed as an all-weather specialist despite having proved himself to be a lot more than that on countless occasions.
They just need a slice of luck to get that big-race opportunity and Kirby showed everyone that you don’t need to be a Dettori or a Murphy to get the job done on the big stage.
As for the horse, he’s a huge animal with a giant stride and I just wonder whether he might be more of a Leger type than an Arc horse. That long straight at Doncaster would be right up his street.