Foundation and Deauville meet again at Doncaster
This weekend’s Racing Post Trophy is being billed as a rematch of the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket in which Foundation had too many guns for Deauville, and most are backing John Gosden’s colt to confirm that form and cap what has been an Annus Mirabilis for the Newmarket handler.
There are different factors at play here, however, and the combination of softer ground, Doncaster’s more even terrain and the fitting of cheekpieces on the O’Brien runner may well see a different outcome.
Soft ground would be be no concern to Deauville, who was a winner on heavy ground at Listowel on his racecourse debut, but it may not be much of a drawback for the race favourite, either, given the ground was on the easy side when he landed a listed race at Haydock prior to that Royal Lodge hatchet job.
If Deauville has a chance of reversing form, then the answer may lie in his inability to keep tabs on Foundation during the middle section of that race, looking less than comfortable with Newmarket’s undulations. Doncaster is a track which will offer no excuses on that front, and the long straight and gradual rise to the line means there are few fluke results in the Group 1 event.
The fitting of headgear is often put forward as a negative to the chances of success, but Aidan O’Brien has proven adept at eking improvement from some of his better horses with judicious use of cheekpieces and/or blinkers, with Rule The World causing a degree of consternation by sporting a natty pair of sideburns en route to Derby success at Epsom a few years ago.
I would expect improvement from Deauville, then, but Foundation isn’t standing still either, and the Coolmore camp will be hoping that they can expose a chink in the market leader’s seemingly impervious armour.
If there is a weakness in Foundation, it’s that he has shown an aversion to the stalls, and wore a Monty Roberts blanket for entry into the starting gate at Newmarket. He was away well enough last time, but a look back to both of his wins at Haydock show him notably careful to exit the stalls, and losing valuable lengths both times.
It’s very possible that experience is curing him of his affliction, but that’s not something to take for granted, and if he reverts to the antics which saw him tardily away twice, then he will be giving up track position to his main rival.
There is no more than a couple of pounds between the pair on form, and a loss of two lengths and the resultant momentum which goes with it, would swing the pendulum in favour of Deauville.
The fact that O’Brien relies not just on the Royal Lodge second, but elects to run another pair in Johannes Vermeer and Port Douglas will put many off, but this is not an unusual tactic from the Master of Ballydoyle, and all of his trio need to be assessed strictly on their merits.
Johannes Vermeer won the Wills Champion Juvenile at Leopardstown, but seemed to have his limitations exposed when only fourth in the Jean Luc Lagardere at Longchamp on Arc day.
The French contest has often represented stronger form that the Racing Post Trophy, but that doesn’t look the case this year, with just over a length covering the first six home, and there was no hint that Johannes Vermeer wasn’t seen to best effect – if anything he might have been slightly flattered by the run of the race.
Port Douglas is more interesting, having stepped up markedly for the fitting of blinkers in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last time, pressing on in front and proving very game when challenged.
He’d previously looked a little disappointing, but forcing tactics/headgear clearly suit, and he could be dangerous if allowed an easy lead, allowing for the fact that the bare form of that win needs improving on if he’s to score at the highest level.
Mengli Khan represents a yard in fine form, but he faces a stiff task straight out of maiden company, and this also looks a little too tough for Salisbury winner Tony Curtis. That pair will win races next year, but are easy enough to oppose for now.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.