Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch picks out five important dates coming up in August including the Ebor meeting at York...
"He’s still a developing force, and he could be a springer in the York market over the next few weeks."
Jamie Lynch on Laws of Spin
It's said that there are four acts to a movie, three in number with the middle one divided into 2A and 2B, the former the point of crisis and the latter the pathway to conclusion. Take, as an example, probably the finest film ever made: getting on the wrong side of Cobra Kai, and suffering several beatings, is 2A for The Karate Kid, while 2B is the bonding and training with Mr Miyagi who prepares Daniel LaRusso for the big fight in the third act.
The month of August is 2B for racing, or at least it should be, resolving the risks and relationships drawn out by the first scenes of the season, ahead of an autumn climax. This year is slightly different, however, as the power players aren't so defined in strength or refined in number, which increases the importance of August for turning the film of 2018 from a straight-to-DVD release into a box-office blockbuster. To that end, the following five dates for the diary are especially significant for the season as a whole:
EBOR MEETING, York - Aug 22-25
There wasn't a good three-year-old in the King George, and there wasn't a good older horse in the Eclipse, so maybe the Juddmonte International will give us the clash we're clamouring for. Poet's Word has been the heroic horse to answer Bonnie Tyler's plea for the season, and he's at the peak of his powers while the first two from the Eclipse are still cultivating theirs, one or both of the three-year-olds Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior liable to have done a lot of growing up in the month-and-a-half since Sandown.
It may just be the race we've all been waiting for in 2018, but, with respect to the Juddmonte, and the Nunthorpe, the Group 1 in Ebor week that invites the most intrigue and harbours the highest hopes for making a difference to the season is the Yorkshire Oaks, partly as it's a meeting point for the Oaks winners from Epsom (Forever Together), France (Laurens) and Ireland (Sea of Class), but chiefly because it could mark the return of Europe's glamour girl, Enable. And if not Enable then perhaps her understudy, Lah Ti Dar, who was charging towards the classics prior to picking up an injury.
Lah Ti Dar is something to savour, but Enable is seen as a saviour, sent to save a stale season, hopefully starting at York.
PRIX JACQUES LE MAROIS, Deauville - Aug 12
Then again, who needs an Enable when we've got an Alpha Centauri? At this stage in 2017, as a three-year-old, basking in the glory of the King George while eyeing up the Arc, Enable was rated 128 by Timeform, which is historically high for a filly of her age. Alpha Centauri is 127, with the time and talent to push that figure upwards, and the next destination for her, following England, is France, on a world tour that may ultimately take her to America for the Breeders' Cup.
The Prix Jacques le Marois will be her first time against the boys, but there's nothing feminine about Alpha Centauri, whose anatomy, ability and aggression makes her very much an Alpha Male, and it's odds-on that she'll boss the French field like she bossed the Falmouth field, as she's head and shoulders above any other miler across Europe.
WINX STAKES, Randwick - Aug 18
Enable has claim to be, Alpha Centauri has pretensions to be, but Winx probably is. We're talking best mare in the world, if not the best horse in the world, and certainly the most important. The seven-year-old Winx, who's on a 25-race winning streak, is starting her latest campaign in the race than honours her name, rebranded from the Warwick Stakes, following her back-to-back wins in it, her 2017 late, late show the one real will-she-won't-she moment in her sequence, pulling it out of the fire by a head.
Her place in history, and in Australian racing's Hall of Fame, is already secured, but the continuation of her career means a lot to the global game, by becoming a household name. 'Every race is so big now,' said her trainer, Chris Waller, ahead of this season, 'because of the fact she carries the expectations of so many people.'
Winx makes occasions out of occurrences, and that's why she's the racing gift that keeps on giving.
PRIX MORNY, Deauville - Aug 19
On to the two-year-olds, with a star-shaped hole to fill after the injury to Calyx, who had an intended date in the Prix Morny. If the best juvenile colt can't go, then how about the best juvenile filly instead, and Pretty Pollyanna is set to fly the flag at Deauville.
Her Timeform rating of 115 is ahead of the normal curve for a top two-year-old filly mid-way through the season, and where there was doubt - following her seven-length success in the Duchess of Cambridge - let she sow faith, the 'she' being Angel's Hideaway, who was on the receiving end at Newmarket but subsequently won the Princess Margaret in style, in turn making Pretty Pollyanna look well put of the ordinary as she bids to 'do an Alpha Centauri' and beat the European boys in a Group 1.
FUTURITY STAKES, the Curragh - Aug 26
Aidan O'Brien has only two juveniles in the list of the top dozen on ratings. Others will emerge as his later-developers are rolled out, but, for now, that pair are his prized possession, and one is named Anthony Van Dyck.
He's out of an Australian sprinter, but the Galileo in him has already come out, steamrollering a mile maiden at Killarney prior to dropping back to seven furlongs for the Tyros, looking the real deal in powering away with that by almost five lengths. You get the feeling he's a very important horse for Ballydoyle, in which case the Futurity is a very important race for him. O'Brien has won this Group 2 eleven times, including with what turned out to be big names, the likes of Giant's Causeway, Hawk Wing, Gleneagles and Churchill.
All the focus is on Stratum in the Ebor, and understandably so after his Newbury romp, though dropping back in trip may be more of an issue than the odds imply and Willie Mullins has several other irons in the fire, the most intriguing of which is Laws of Spin. He’s a rare Flat-only horse for the yard, and his campaign this year looks to have been built around York, running only twice, second both times, off top-weight in a handicap (beaten by front-running stablemate Low Sun) prior to chasing home the superior Twilight Payment (on unfavourable terms) in a listed race over the Ebor trip. He’s still a developing force, and he could be a springer in the York market over the next few weeks.