Goodwood: Arc on the horizon as Fancy Blue outshines rivals in Nassau Stakes
Fancy Blue fended off fellow Irish raider One Voice to win the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood – putting herself in the frame for a host of potential autumn targets that could include a clash with Love and Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Trained by Donnacha O’Brien, Fancy Blue gave the young handler – who only sent out his first winner five months ago – a landmark Classic success when lifting the Prix de Diane on her most recent start and she added to those gains with a gutsy performance yesterday.
Magic Wand, trained by O’Brien’s father, Aidan, set a steady pace up front and Fancy Blue sat on her heels throughout before Ryan Moore gave her the signal to go on.
Magic Wand, who was sent off the 9-4 favourite, tried to go with the winner, but she was a spent force, with One Voice emerging as Fancy Blue’s main rival in the final furlong.
However, Fancy Blue (11-4) was just too strong in the finish, prevailing by a neck, with the strong-finishing Nazeef back in third.
Making it even more special for the 22-year-old O’Brien was the fact Fancy Blue was a first runner in Britain for his stable.
He said: “We were very happy with her coming into the race. Her work had been really good, she was in fantastic form and everything had gone perfectly to plan, so we were full of confidence.
“We’ll give her a little break now as she’s had a busy start to the year and there’s not much for her for a few weeks.
“We might look at Irish Champions Weekend, whether that’s going back to a mile for the Matron Stakes or running in the Irish Champion Stakes, we’ll see. After that we’ll probably go on to Arc weekend, where she could run in either the Prix de l’Opera or the Arc itself.”
He went on: “It’s unbelievable – massive. You never expect to get a filly like her in your first year, but when you have the pedigrees that Coolmore are breeding, you’ve always got a chance.
“I got her as a yearling and had her as a two-year-old. Obviously she was running under dad’s name last year as I didn’t have my licence.
“You can go a whole lifetime without getting a horse like her, so I’m under no illusions as to how lucky I am. I just have to do the best that I can with her now that I have her.”
The fledgling trainer firmly believes Fancy Blue would not be out of place if allowed to line up in the Arc, for which his father’s brilliant 1000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Love disputes favouritism with the hat-trick-seeking Enable.
Betfair cut Fancy Blue to 16-1 from 25-1 for Paris, and O’Brien, a Classic-winning rider in his own right, said: “I’ll have to sit down and speak to the owners. I think she’ll be competitive anywhere from a mile to a mile and a half.
“With a fillies’ allowance in the Arc, I wouldn’t be writing her off. Coolmore obviously have Love for the Arc as well, so I’ll have to speak to them – nothing is set in stone.
“Love has probably run to a higher rating, but I think my filly showed in France she’s suited to that style of racing. She has that scoopy action that allows her to quicken.
“Fancy Blue hasn’t been as impressive as Love, but I think she’s maybe shown attributes that Love hasn’t just yet.”
Meanwhile, Jim Crowley dubbed crack sprinter Battaash the “Batmobile” ahead of his bid for a fourth King George Qatar Stakes today.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in three outings at the Sussex track, having claimed the five-furlong event in each of the last three years, and he arrives fresh from a first Royal Ascot win in the King’s Stand Stakes.
Crowley is hoping Battaash can now gallop his Goodwood rivals into submission once again, improving on his own benchmark in the race’s 109-year history.
The jockey said: “Battaash is the fastest horse I’ve ridden by far – he is the Batmobile.
“He is a very special horse that has become synonymous with Goodwood and it would mean the world to everyone involved if he can win the race for the fourth time.
“We’ve got to go out there and get the job done. It’s hard enough to get one winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, so if Battaash was to get four wins in such a prestigious race, that would be something special.”
Battaash will be a very short-priced favourite to add to his Goodwood tally, but he will nevertheless face six rivals – including the King’s Stand third, Liberty Beach.
John Quinn’s charge will be getting 12lb this time as opposed to the 9lb she received at Ascot, but she needs to bounce back from a subsequent defeat at Sandown if she is to topple the reigning champion.
Last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner Glass Slippers runs for Kevin Ryan with Al Raya, Dubai Station, Ornate and French raider Ken Colt completing the field.
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