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A THORNY ISSUE: Still have an eye for fashion

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Still have an eye for fashion

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A YEAR AGO I stuck my neck out on Just A Fashion to make an affirmative statement in the Sandy Lane Gold Cup and because he failed to make a favourable impression, I haven’t been allowed to forget it.

I believed then that his credentials of winning ten of 13 career starts at that point were a sound recommendation. Not to mention, too, that he also won the Coolmore in spectacular style, leaving dust in the face of his opponents.

Those with a different opinion felt that he ran his Gold Cup in that race and wouldn’t be able to reproduce the same form on the day of reckoning. To some extent, I surmised that part of that analogy was born out of the superstition that animals which win the Coolmore hardly ever take the Gold Cup.

Superstition apart, the naysayers were proved correct. One of the key, underlying factors in their reasoning is that he was just too sharp in the dress rehearsal to repeat in prime time.

On hindsight, I had to agree on that score because he was a mere shadow of himself, unable to change gears at the critical moments in the Gold Cup.

Alarming decline

After that there was an alarming decline in his form, and it left me wondering what the late Erskine “Cap” Durant always used to say about some horses not being the same after the Gold Cup, to the extent that they would be so burned that they would see their feed and leave it.

We all know that the late racing connoisseur had a tremendous sense of humour, but truthfully, Just A Fashion looked a shadow of himself after the big race.

Unsurprisingly, there were all forms of speculation about his decline and some even forecast that he would never get back to top form.

In short, he was written off. Along the way there was also a switch in trainers and some have linked that transition  to what appears to be a return to form. He has a second and a win in his last two starts, the latter a repeat triumph in the Coolmore.

Sticking neck out

Against this background, am I willing to stick my neck out again?

Yes I am, even with the perennial superstition about Coolmore winners. I think the major difference this year is that he seemed to do just enough to beat the Coolmore field, so he should have enough reserves left to mount a serious challenge to all comers, particularly if the going is firm.

I thought Antonio Bishop rated Just A Fashion extremely well in that race and a repeat of this strategy could pay big dividends and make amends for last year.

Obviously, the overseas contingent will create different issues and this has to be pencilled into the equation in respect of how the locally-based horses might perform, without exception.

It could be a plus for the entire field that defending champion Sayler’s Creek has not raced since last year’s epic victory because of injury. He has only returned to training recently, but you have to reason that if he wasn’t up to the challenge, the Ramseys wouldn’t be bringing him to defend his title in their quest to earn the prestigious event three years in succession.

Speaking to the ebullient Ken Ramsey, I get the feeling, though, that he might be pinning his main hopes on Watchyourownbobber, which is a capable miler and could be just right for the tight Garrison track. Watchyourownbobber’s 2015 form was above average: three wins, two seconds and one third from seven starts.

War Envoy has had eight career starts, winning one and placing second twice. Dorsett has been unplaced in two starts this year, but overall has three third places from 25 starts.

Neither has staggering statistics, but probably have raced in better company and this could be the mitigating factor that could swing the pendulum in their favour.

Most successful

Sir David Seale is the most successful Gold Cup owner with seven victories and I believe his chances of getting an eighth will increase if the going is soft or if there’s some “give” in the going.  Daunting David was in the money last year, and his stablemates Marcus Antonius and Dashing David could flourish in favourable conditions.

I know owner Lewin Goddin is very sweet on the chances of Indiano Jones and although Derby Kitten won’t be highly favoured to be on the tins, it is still a horse race, and as Nick Parravicino once told me, you need a lot of luck to win despite the ability of animals and whatever odds are placed on them.

The owners of horses like Shared Adventure and Sirius Black have opted for safer ports, and we are only left to wonder what or if any difference they might have made, to this year’s big gallop for gold.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant.