How good, collectively, were this year’s Classic winners. Read analysis by Andy Stephens and watch replays
By Andy Stephens
The Classic class of 2017 were well up to standard. Not quite a vintage crew, perhaps, but collectively they produced a set of worthy champions who have to rate as being well above average with the promise of more to come from them over the closing weeks of the campaign.
Outstanding among the quintet was Enable, the runaway Investec Oaks winner. Would she have won the Derby had she instead run against the colts? Probably. Would she have won the St Leger had connections wanted to take that path? Almost certainly.
She single-handedly prevented Aidan O'Brien winning all the Classics in England and Ireland this year (I reckon he would have settled for eight out of ten at the start of the year) and has to be the best Oaks winner we have seen for many years.
Since Epsom, the daughter of Nathaniel has gone on to trounce her rivals in the Irish Oaks, King George and Yorkshire Oaks. Any horse who wins four Group One races by an aggregate of 20 lengths has to be something special and there could be even more this autumn - with the Arc and, possibly, Champion Stakes on her agenda.
Winter has also shone throughout the year, following up her smooth QIPCO 1,000 Guineas success with victories in the Irish equivalent, Coronation Stakes and Nassau Stakes.
Her winning run was halted when pipped in the Matron Stakes last time, having missed some work beforehand, but, like Enable, she has shown herself to be anything but a one-hit wonder.
Her present rating of 123 is a tad higher than the mark Minding, her former stablemate, who won the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks last year, ended up being allocated. Churchill was last season’s champion two-year-old and when he repelled three unbeaten and racefit rivals on his return in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas - Barney Roy, Al Wukair and Eminent - it seemed like a year of domination might be on the cards.
It has not worked out that way. Underwhelming when following up in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, his reputation has since been dented by successive defeats in the Juddmonte International and Irish Champion Stakes, but he still has time for a final hurrah on Champions Day at Ascot on October 21.
The Investec Derby was one of the most exciting races run all year but, sadly, the winner, Wings Of Eagles, was injured when narrowly beaten in the Irish version next time. He seems destined to be remembered as a fluke 40-1 victor, even though he won on merit on the Downs and almost followed up at the Curragh when effectively running on three legs.
If the Derby were re-run tomorrow then Cracksman, third on the day, would be a hot favourite. He has flourished in the second half of the campaign, gaining emphatic victories in the Great Voltigeur and Prix Niel, and it will be a shame if the Frankel colt does not get a chance to strut his stuff in the Arc, especially with his connections having no interest in running him in the St Leger - a race in which the relentless galloper would have taken all the beating.
John Gosden suggested on the gallops at Newmarket’s Open Day on Sunday that a tilt at the Arc has not been ruled out.
The St Leger was a thriller and the right horses came to the fore with Capri, the Irish Derby winner, repelling market rivals Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius in a stirring finish.
Capri lined up at Town Moor with an official rating of 120 and the next four home were rated at least 113. He rates as being every bit as good as Kingston Hill, who won in 2014 after being runner-up in the Derby.
HOW THE CLASSICS WERE WON - AND HOW THE WINNERS MEASURE UP
May 6: Newmarket - Winner: CHURCHILL 6-4 fav (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)
Going: good to firm. 10 ran.
Aidan O’Brien was nervous that Churchill might be vulnerable on his reappearance against three unbeaten colts who had impressed in the trials but need not have fretted as the champion two-year-old of last season prevailed by a length in a steadily-run renewal. Barney Roy and Al Wukair chased him home with the other colt who previously had an unblemished record, Eminent, back in sixth.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017: Churchill - current rating 123
2016: Galileo Gold - ended year rated 121
2015: Gleneagles - 122
2014: Night Of Thunder - 121
2013: Dawn Approach - 124
May 7: Newmarket - Winner: WINTER 9-1 (Aidan O’Brien/Wayne Lordan)
Going: good to firm. 14 ran.
Rhododendron was all the rage and went off 5-4 favourite but she met with trouble in running about two furlongs from home and could not lay a glove on Winter, her stablemate, who travelled strongly throughout and won by two lengths. Daban, the Nell Gwyn winner, was another neck back in third, with Talaayeb fourth.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017: Winter - current rating 123
2016: Minding - ended year rated 122
2015: Legatissimo - 117
2014: Miss France - 115
2013: Sky Lantern - 119
June 2: Epsom: Winner: ENABLE 6-1 (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori)
Going: good. 9 ran.
A humid afternoon at Epsom turned stormy just before the Oaks and the fillies’ Classic was run in heavy rain, with thunder and lightning rolling around the course. A frantic early gallop led to the race being run in a record time and it developed into a duel from two out between Enable and Rhododendron. It was a case of the further the better for Enable, who galloped on relentlessly to pull five lengths clear. In turn, Rhododendron, the 8-11 favourite, pulled six lengths clear of Alluringly, her stablemate, who was third.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017: Enable - 126
2016: Minding - 122
2015: Qualify - 114
2014: Taghrooda - 123
2013: Talent - 114
June 3: Epsom - Winner: WINGS OF EAGLES 40-1 (Aidan O’Brien/Padraig Beggy)
Going: good. 18 ran.
As the biggest Derby field for 11 years thundered towards the winning line it looked certain that Cliffs Of Moher, the shortest-priced of Aidan O’Brien’s six challengers, was going to win in the hands of Ryan Moore. However, after mastering market rivals Cracksman and Eminent, both sons of Frankel, Cliffs Of Moher was unable repel his unconsidered stablemate, Wings Of Eagles, who powered past under little known Padraig Beggy to spring the biggest surprise in the race since Snow Knight obliged at 50-1 in 1974.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017: Wings Of Eagles - 120
2016: Harzand - 121
2015: Golden Horn - 130
2014: Australia - 127
2013: Ruler Of The World - 122
William Hill St Leger
September 16: Winner: CAPRI 3-1 fav (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan More)
Going: good to soft. 11 ran.
A tremendous renewal of the world’s oldest Classic with the three at the head of the market - Capri, Crystal Ocean Stradivarius - each playing their part in a pulsating finish. Capri, the Irish Derby winner, kept on the strongest to prevail by half a length, in the process giving Rtan Moore a full set of Classic triumphs. Crystal Ocean grabbed second by a short head from Stradivarius.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2017: Capri - rated 120 going into the race
2016: Harbour Law - 114
2015: Simple Verse - 116
2014: Kingston Hill - 120
2013: Leading Light - 118