ROMANISED gained ownership of the leader’s yellow jersey in the highly volatile race to become Europe’s top miler of 2019 when gaining a superb victory for Ireland in the Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last Sunday.
Leadership of the division might seem a little far-fetched for a horse that arrived in Normandy on the back of defeats in his five previous starts in Group 1 company.
But last year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas hero had been unlucky when fourth in the most recent of that quintet, in the Queen Anne Stakes, and had since posted a striking success in the Group 2 Minstrel Stakes.
Throw in the facts that, prior to Sunday, the continent’s 13 Group 1 mile races had been won by 12 different horses, that the recent Nassau Stakes flop, Hermosa, was the only dual winner among that dozen and that the ‘sexiest’ member of the list, Too Darn Hot, has sadly suffered a career-ending injury, and Romanised’s title claims are not so fanciful.
Trainer Ken Condon deserves credit for the way he has masterminded the son of Rock Of Gibraltar’s rejuvenation since he ended his classic campaign on a downward spiral.
“Romanised really developed over the winter,” said the Curragh handler, “he now weighs just under 500 kilos.
“He’s a very handsome colt who has reached his peak, both physically and mentally. And everything went smoothly today - it’s fantastic for us.”
The story of the race was Study Of Man’s pacemaker, Vocal Music, setting a none-too-frantic gallop, closely attended by the Condon second string, Success Days, with Romanised positioned in midfield, fifth of the nine runners.
The front two backpedalled quickly with two furlongs to run, where Romanised was clearly travelling best of all in the slipstream of the new leader, Shaman. Billy Lee gave Romanised a kick in the belly at the furlong pole and soon put the race to bed for a one-and-a-quarter-length victory.
Shaman just held on for second as, rather than the expected late burst from either Watch Me or Study Of Man, the horse finishing best was Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old, Line Of Duty, who picked up well to miss out on the runner-up spot by a nose.
A future programme for the winner has yet to be finalised, and will depend on discussion with his owner, Robert Ng, who watched the race from his home in Hong Kong. This race is a ‘Win And You’re In’ event for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, so that is one possibility, with a potential drop in trip back down to seven furlongs beforehand.
“He’s always shown us incredible speed in his work at home, though when he won the Irish Guineas he gave the impression of a horse that would stay farther,” Condon explained.
“Now I’m convinced that he’s best over seven furlongs or a mile, so the Prix de la Foret comes into the equation.
“The Breeders’ Cup Mile, around two turns, could be a really good spot for him, and if we are going to aim at that maybe we will stay at home for Irish Champions Weekend [and the seven-furlong Boomerang Stakes on September 14th].”
Trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias had an understandable air of resignation afterwards, Shaman’s finishing position mirroring that of his Recoletos behind Alpha Centauri 12 months earlier, when Romanised could manage no better than fifth.
“There’s nothing much to say, we were beaten by a better horse,” he reacted. “Shaman battled hard but we were just outgunned at the end there. I will now prepare him for the Prix du Moulin [at ParisLongchamp on September 8th].”
Appleby was more upbeat, saying: “We’re delighted that Line Of Duty responded so well to the return to a mile, a distance he excelled at in the past.”
But connections of fourth-placed Watch Me were left scratching their heads and suggesting that their filly ran a little flat.