FOR ALL the talk of this being a poor generation of three-year-olds, there is always one factor which gives the juniors an advantage when they come to take on their elders and supposed betters.
The weight-for-age allowance means that the younger horses in all-aged events such as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes receive an advantage of 12lbs. Theoretically it should be enough to equalise things for the differing age groups.
Every so often, however, we see a three-year-old which doesn’t need the allowance. In the latest running of the King George, Europe’s midsummer middle-distance championship race at Ascot, Alamshar, the brilliant winner of the Irish Derby, proved himself to be such a horse.
In slaughtering a class field, the 13-2 chance trained by John Oxx showed conclusively that this season’s three-year-old crop are no duffers. The brave performance of Epsom Derby winner Kris Kin, who finished third from the hopeless position he occupied early on, franked that assessment.
Owned by the Aga Khan, Alamshar followed the lead of Nayef’s pacemaker Izdiham before bursting clear in the straight. On the rain-softened ground his undoubted stamina came into play and Alamashar simply galloped away with the 435,000 first prize.
It was all over two furlongs from home, and despite a late surge by Sulamani, the mount of Frankie Dettori, there was no doubt about the winner or its obvious quality which will surely see the colt end the season as three-year-old champion.
Unless, of course, the Aga Khan’s other superstar, French Derby winner Dalakhani, can win the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Don’t bet against this fellow Alamshar winning again, however.
Sulamani, which was trying to give Godolphin their 100th Group 1 victory, was easily the best of the older horses. The disappointing Nayef, sent off the 3-1 favourite, was never in with a shout and finished seventh.
It was a first King George for winning jockey Johnny Murtagh, who could barely conceal his delight.
"I was in a lovely position and I just wanted to wait until the two furlong pole before I let him go," said Murtagh "I looked round and I couldn’t believe it. He’s some horse."
The remarkably cool John Oxx admitted that even he had been taken by suprise by the winner’s performance.
"You couldn’t have predicted he would win that well," said the veteran Irish handler. "It was a terrific effort. He was always travelling along very easily in the right position."
Given that he was wearing the distinctive green silks of the Aga Khan, many people’s thoughts turned to his previous King George hero, Shergar, who won the Epsom Derby by a record 10 lengths, before doing to older horses what Alamshar did yesterday.
"What is really exciting is the continuation of our breeding stock," said the Aga Khan. "This is very, very pleasing and Alamshar has improved again since winning the Irish Derby."
For Godolphin and Dettori, surely the 100th Group 1 cannot be far away.
"It’s nice to see him running a good race," said Dettori of Sulamani. "Unfortunately I needed a strong pace and that did not develop.
"Johnny was sitting there in second with the Derby winner and he kicked and got five lengths on me.
"I was quickening but he had too much energy at the end and I couldn’t get it back. I felt like a stronger pace would have suited me better, especially as we were giving him 12lb with the weight-for-age.
"If our horse runs like this again I think we are on course for the Arc at the end of the season.
"From now on he will have to give less and less weight to the three-year-olds."
Wise words from Frankie, but in all honesty, Alamshar looked to have even more in the bag yesterday, and both he and Kris Kin can only improve, especially as the latter did not get the run of the race and was finishing best of all.
"He had to race very deep and we were too far behind coming into the straight," said Sir Michael Stoute. "But he’s run a great race and I am pleased with him."
The next target for Kris Kin and Alamashar could be the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 6, with Dalakhani going straight to the Arc, and that was certainly the indication from the Irish-based connections yesterday.
But don’t rule out both of the Aga Khan’s horses going for the Arc. The prince is a sportsman who proved in the Irish Derby that he is happy to let his two magnificent colts race ageainst each other.
Let us hope he does the same in October, for it will be a mouth-watering clash again.
This week sees Glorious Goodwood’s usual mixture of high fashion and quality racing, and though the prize money won’t be the same you can enjoy those same two attractions at Ayr’s Ladies Night on Friday, where women are allowed in free.