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The English trained four-year-old Western Aristocrat, a winner of 4 of his 8 races to date, is a fascinating contender for this year's Godolphin Mile (G1). Run over 1600 metres on the Tapeta track, this is an event which has been dominated by horses representing the race sponsors over the years. The Boys In Blue have captured the lion's share of their own purse seven times.
With Skysurfers as a strong favourite, they could well stretch that remarkable record to eight this year. But there are, as always, a couple of dangers lurking from other corners of the racing world. Western Aristocrat is definitely one of them.
What he lacks in match practice, he more than makes up for by way of two fine performances at the top level last season.
Such proven form is obviously a good thing. Another plus; his two best runs came a long way away from his home at Jeremy Noseda's yard in Newmarket, England. Shipping does not seem to be a problem. Western Aristocrat gained his most valuable success to date in New York last October, when he led all the way for a comfortable win in the Jamaica Handicap (G1) over 9 furlongs (about 1800 metres) on a firm turf course at Belmont Park. The son of Mr Greeley denied the race favourite Brilliant Speed to score by a solid length; he was much the best and value for more than the bare margin might suggest. The runner-up was conceding 2lb but would not have beaten Western Aristocrat at level weights. This win was improvement on Western Aristocrat's form in England, though he had shown smart form also at home. Brilliant Speed was one of the very best three-year-old turf performers in the USA in 2011 He had previously taken the Saranac Stakes (G3) at Saratoga with ease, and he went on to run a good race for third behind Sheema Classic contender St Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. This is solid form.
Western Aristocrat himself also ran once more at three, and was a fine third behind Ultimate Eagle and Imagining in the 10-furlong Hollywood Derby (G1) in November. He came with a strong finish from the back that day, after his rider had held him up in order to save energy for the latter parts of a distance he had not tried before. That was probably a mistake, since it meant Ultimate Eagle enjoyed having things all his own way up front – just like Western Aristocrat had in New York four weeks earlier. So to check in just 1 ¼ lengths behind Ultimate Eagle was no mean feat, under the circumstances. Ultimate Eagle is a top class runner and put up one of the best performances seen so far this year when winning the Strub Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita by over seven lengths.
This Godolphin Mile contender has done most of his racing on turf courses, but he did win also over the artificial track at Kempton Park in England last year (beating the solid older miler King Of Dixie) and a switch to Tapeta should not inconvenience Western Aristocrat. The distance of 1600 metres also suits him well and if you are looking for a negative factor it might be the pace of the race. Whereas Western Aristocrat enjoyed leading in a pace-less event in New York, the Godolphin Mile is a contest that is normally run at a fast pace from start to finish.
Published: 2012-03-22 06:16:53
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