Friday, 29 March 2019

Big Race History: Nunthorpe Stakes 2018: Alpha Delphini

Alpha Delphini edges Mabs Cross in epic finish to Nunthorpe at York
The Nunthorpe Stakes was inaugurated in 1922 and over the years developed a reputation as a punter-friendly race, which was rarely, if ever, won by an outsider. Indeed, Bahamian Pirate, who won the Nunthorpe Stakes at 16/1 in 2004, was just the fourth winner since World War II to be returned at odds longer than 14/1. However, in a decade-and-a-half since, the Nunthorpe Stakes has been won by Sole Power at 100/1 in 2010, Margot Did at 20/1 in 2011, Jwala at 40/1 in 2013 and, most recently, Alpha Delphini at 40/1 in 2018, so the tide has turned, inexorably, in favour of the layers. 

That said, Alpha Delphini was tipped, in some quarters, as an outsider likely to outperform his huge starting price, so it can be argued that, perhaps, he should not have been a 40/1 chance in the first place. Having finished eighth of eleven behind Marsha, on good going, in the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2017, Alpha Delphini lined up for the 2018 renewal arguably in the form of his life. On his three previous starts he had been beaten three-quarters of a length, a short head and a head when placed in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, the Achilles Stakes at Haydock and the City Walls Stakes at York. As a horse that liked to race on, or close to, the early pace, the good to firm going on the Knavesmire was also in his favour. 

Of course, his inflated starting price was also due, in no small part to the presence of Battaash, the highest-rated horse in training, according to Timeform, and hot favourite for the Nunthorpe Stakes at 4/5. Interestingly, in 2017, as a three-year-old, Battaash had been beaten in the Nunthorpe Stakes between winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp but, having won the former contest again, impressively, in 2018, was all the rage at York once more. 

Officially, Alpha Delphini was rated 19lb inferior to Battaash which, according to the pounds-per-length conversion used by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), meant that he had a little over 6 lengths to find with the market leader. However, as was customary, Alpha Delphini raced close up in the centre of the 15-strong field and was driven into the lead by jockey Graham Lee in the last hundred yards or so. Despite edging left close home, he held on gamely to beat the rallying Mabs Cross by the narrowest margin possible, a nose. Battaash, who had raced prominently on the stands’ side, led the field with a furlong-and-a-half to run, but could only keep on at one pace once headed and eventually finished fourth, beaten 2½ lengths.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Ortensia Wins the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2012

Ortensia wins Nunthorpe stakes at York (2102)
Foaled in Australia on September 16, 2005, Ortensia was a daughter of multiple Grade-One winning Australian sprinter Testa Rossa. Owned by an ownership group headed by Alistair Fraser and trained, initially, by Tony Noonan in Mornington, Victoria, Ortensia won eight races in her native country as two-, three- and four-year-old and was first past the post in the James Boag Galaxy at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, New South Wales, only to be subsequently disqualified after a banned substance was found in her urine sample. 

Consequently, it was not until the age of six, having been transferred to Paul Mesara in Scone, New South Wales, that Ortensia recorded her first legitimate Grade One victory. That victory came in the newly-upgraded Winterbottom Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Ascot Racecourse in Perth, Western Australia in November 2011. Ortensia had actually won the Winterbottom Stakes before, but her previous victory, as a four-year-old, in 2009 came at a time when the race was still a Grade Two contest. 

Ortensia was subsequently prepared for an international campaign, which began at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates the following March. In the Group One Al Quoz Sprint, she was sent off 6/1 joint-second favourite behind Sole Power but, having made smooth progress from the rear with two furlongs to run, led inside the final half a furlong to win by 1¼ lengths. 

For the remainder of 2012, Ortensia was campaigned exclusively in Britain, starting with the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. On her first start for 80 days, Ortensia was sent off 9/2 joint-favourite but weakened inside the final furlong to finish ninth of 22, beaten 6¾ lengths, behind Little Bridge. She was again fancied for the July Cup at Newmarket the following month when ridden for the first time by William Buick, she started 7/1 fourth favourite but again weakened in the final furlong to finish fourth of twelve, beaten 8¼ lengths, behind Mayson. 

The following month, Buick was aboard again when Ortensia was dropped back to the minimum trip in the King George Stakes at Goodwood and steered her to her first success on British soil. Having raced towards the centre of the course in the stands’ side group, Ortensia made good headway from the rear of the field with over a furlong to run, led inside the final furlong and ran on strongly to beat Spirit Quartz by 1¼ lengths with Masamah a further half a length back in third. Having justified joint-favouritism at Goodwood, Ortensia also started joint-favourite, alongside King’s Stand Stakes runner-up, Bated Breath, at 7/2, for her next appearance, in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York

However, it was her old rival Spirit Quartz who gave her most to do, leading inside the final hundred yards before Ortensia, who looked to have a hopeless task at halfway, burst through on the far side rail to snatch the spoils by a neck in a thrilling finish. Hamish McGonagall, who’d been runner-up in 2011, finished third beaten a further 1¼ lengths after setting a strong pace. 

Following her return to Australia, Ortensia ran just twice as a seven-year-old, finishing eleventh of 13, beaten 4¼ lengths, in the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield and twelfth of 13, beaten 10¼ lengths, in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington. Nevertheless, at the end of her career, she had won 13 of her 37 starts – including Group One contests in three different countries – and over £1.4 million in total prize money.

Watch Ortensia win the Nunthorpe Stakes 2012 at York 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

2000 Nunthorpe Stakes Winner Nuclear Debate Wins at York

Embed from Getty Images Foaled in America on February 8, 1995, Nuclear Debate was a much-travelled son of Geiger Counter, himself a minor 6-furlong winner, but a son of the superb stallion Mr Prospector. Owned by a partnership headed by J. R. ‘Bob’ Chester, Nuclear Debate began his racing career with Lynda Ramsden at Breckenbrough House Stables in Sandhutton, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. 

He made his racecourse debut in a maiden stakes race, over 5 furlongs, at Beverley in July 1997; he stayed on in the final quarter of a mile, but was never near the leaders and finished sixth of 15, beaten 11¾ lengths. He raced five more times, without success, as a juvenile, including twice after being gelded that September. 

After a 183-day break, Nuclear Debate was placed on his first two starts, in a median auction maiden stakes race at Thirsk and a 0-110 three-year-old handicap at Lingfield, both over 6 furlongs, before finally opening his account in a maiden stakes race at Thirsk, again over 6 furlongs, in May. Thereafter, he was targeted at major sprint handicaps, winning the Gosforth Park Cup, over 5 furlongs, at Newcastle off a handicap mark of 90 and, after unplaced efforts in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood and the Great St. Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, finishing second in the Portland Handicap, over 5½ furlongs, at Doncaster off a handicap mark of 97.

At the end of 1998, Lynda Ramsden relinquished her training licence for the first time – she would actually return to training in 2001, before doing so again in 2005 – and Nuclear Debate was transferred to Englishman John Hammond at Chemin des Aigles in Chantilly, France. Nuclear Debate was campaigned exclusively at Listed and Pattern level during his four-year-old season and recorded three wins from ten starts. In June 1999, he won the Prix Hampton at Maisons-Laffite, in August, he won the Prix du Cercle at Deauville and, in October, he recorded his first success at Group level when winning the Premio Omenoni at San Siro, Italy. 

On his return to action, as a five-year-old, in 2000, Nuclear Debate made a ‘quiet’ reappearance, when only sixth of 11, beaten 3¾ lengths, in the Prix de Saint-Georges at Longchamp in May. However, just over a fortnight later, he reversed the form with three of the horses that had beaten him at Longchamp to win the Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly.

Later in June, Nuclear Debate lined up, as 16/1 joint-seventh choice of the 23 runners, for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Racing in the centre of the course, he was held up at the rear by Gerald Mosse before making progress just after halfway, taking the lead inside the final furlong and running on well to win by 1½ lengths. Subsequent July Cup winner Agnes World finished second, with Bertolini further three-quarters of a length behind in third place. 

After a short break, sprint king Nuclear Debate returned to British soil for his first attempt at Group One level, in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, in August. Sent off the clear favourite, at 5/2, he was once again held up, before making headway at halfway and cruising to a comfortable 1¼-length victory over his old rival Bertolini. Subsequent Haydock Sprint Cup winner Pipalong finished third, a further 1½ lengths away. At the end of his five-year-old campaign, Nuclear Debate was voted Cartier Sprinter of the Year for 2000.

See Nuclear Debate Win the 2000 Nunthorpe Stakes at York