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Elusive Pimpernel (Ryan Moore) wins the Craven Newmarket 15.04.2010

Elusive Pimpernel: distances further than 1m should hold no problems

  PICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER  

Elusive Pimpernel: longer distances seem sure to suit

ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL  3 c Elusive Quality - Cara Fantasy

IT was hard to know exactly what to make of Elusive Pimpernel's performance in last week's Group 3 Craven Stakes.
The form book said he should win, nothing else attracted much support in the ring, and he duly did win, pretty much as he liked. There was just a moment or two, some three furlongs from home, when he seemed to be outpaced, but he soon responded to Ryan Moore's question, got down to business in taking style, and strode well clear up the hill.

As confirmation that he trained on and progressed physically over the winter, and of his admirable racing attitude and current well-being, this was absolutely fine. And he was easily best in a truly run race.

But the sharp reduction in his price for the 2,000 Guineas came as something of a surprise, given that he beat Dancing David by little more than the margin that separated them at Doncaster last October. Had he actually run to a significantly higher mark than on his last two runs as a juvenile? It was hard to credit that.

In fact, the most natural reaction to the Craven resultwas to reaffirm belief in the merits of St Nicholas Abbey, who had given Elusive Pimpernel something like a 10lb beating in the Racing Post Trophy. The undefeated two-year-old champion was surely the one whose Guineas odds should be contracting. Since then, they have.

Is there any reason why St Nicholas Abbey will not win the 2,000 Guineas? Well, the most compelling hint that one should look elsewhere is that winners of the Racing Post Trophy never do win it; since its inception as the Timeform Gold Cup in 1961, it has served principally to identify horses who will want middle distances in their second season.

High Top is the only winner of both races, and that was nearly 40 years ago. Remember Apalachee and CelticSwing? Two of the most impressive winners in the history of the Doncaster event started at odds-on for the Guineas, and both were beaten.
St Nicholas Abbey just might be that rarity, a great all-rounder, capable of excelling over any trip; forthe sake of the sport, let's hope that he is. But his pedigree suggests that he will be most at home over middle and/or staying distances as a three-year-old.

That observation does not automatically make Elusive Pimpernel a more attractive Guineas prospect, as it is also hard to see him as a specialist miler. Longer distances seem sure to suit him - 1m2f for certain, probably even 1m4f, though Epsom is not the course for a big, round-actioned individual. For the Rowley Mile Classic, Awzaan and Makfi impress as two who will be in their element over what promises to be their optimum trip.

Elusive Pimpernel comes from the eighth crop of his extremely well bred sire Elusive Quality, who was a runner of no special distinction himself, but who has made a significant mark at stud as one capable of getting a top-class performer. Consistency is not his forte, but when he gets a good one, it can be very good.

Unraced at two, Elusive Quality won a maiden and three allowance events as a three-year-old, when his best effort came as a close runner-up to Honour and Glory (who gave him 11lb) in the Grade 2 King's Bishop Stakes over 7f at Saratoga. At four his only win came in an allowance event at Gulfstream, and weight concessions did not help him when a disappointing favourite for the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park.

It took a switch to grass, as a five-year-old, to enable Elusive Quality to win in stakes company. Both Grade 3 scores came at Belmont - in the 7f Jaipur Handicap and the 1m Poker Handicap - but he subsequently turned in modest displays as fourth in the Woodbine Mile and last in the Kelso Handicap. The International Classifications placed him 19lb below Skip Away, the leading older horse of 1998.

A late-developer with a preference for racing on a grass surface is not normally the kind of horse to excite major Kentucky breeders, so Elusive Quality could not depend on aplentiful supply of well bred mares when he retired to Gainsborough at a fee of $10,000. But he did get three-figure books in each of his first two years - and some impressive results out of mares of modest distinction.

First crop sonElusive City, winner of the Prix Morny, advertised him promptly in Europe, and when Smarty Jones, from the second crop, won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the sire was suddenly the height of fashion.

The following spring he was covering 170 mares at a fee of $100,000, and among those conceived that season was Quality Road, a Grade 1 scorer last year in the Florida Derby and this year in the Donn Handicap.

Meanwhile the third, fourth and fifth crops had produced no Graded winners between them, but the sixth featured a real star in Raven's Pass, hero of the 1m Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and the 1m2f Breeders' Cup Classic, the latter in his first start on a synthetic surface.

Between 2003 and 2008 Elusive Quality was also covering down under, where his record to date - one Group 1 winner and no others above Listed level - seems to confirm his lack of consistency, but things there may yet look up as he has large crops still untested.

Elusive Pimpernel was bred by his owner, Cristina Patino, who won two races with the colt's dam, Cara Fantasy, both over 1m4f at Leicester. But that was not the limit of the mare's stamina, as her best performance came as runner-up in a Newmarket handicap over almost 1m7f of the July course.

As a daughter of Sadler's Wells out of a sister to the dam of Derby victor Oath, Cara Fantasy was entitled to stay and to transmit stamina to her offspring. First foal Palavicini (by Giant's Causeway) is Group 3-calibre, as effective over 1m4f as he is over 1m1f, and there is reason to believe that her son by Elusive Quality will show similar aptitude over middle distances.

Another Group 3 winner who carried the Patino colours was Big Bad Bob, whose third dam was the grand-dam of Elusive Pimpernel. Cara Fantasy now has a yearling filly by Big Bad Bob, and it will be fascinating to see, in due course, how that rare example of close inbreeding to a tail-female ancestress turns out.

As Big Bad Bob showed good form over 1m2f and is by Roberto's son Bob Back, that filly should certainly stay middle distances.
_______________________________________________________________________

Bred by Windflower Overseas Holdings Inc. in Kentucky.

SIRE: ELUSIVE QUALITY

Bred by Silver Springs Stud Farm Inc. & Mrs J. Costelloe in Kentucky. Won 9 (6-8.5f) of 20 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 4 out of 8 at 3 years, 1 out of 5 at 4 years, 4 (inc. Jaipur H.-Gr3, Poker H.-Gr3) out of 7 at 5 years. Also Gr2-placed at 3 and 4 years. Earned $413,284.

Tall (16.2hh), strongly-made, attractive individual. Smart sprinter-miler on dirt and grass, best at 5, when rated 112 on International Classifications (19lb below champion Skip Away).

Well bred. By one of the best sire-sons of Mr Prospector, responsible for Classic winners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Brother to useful sprinter Ghazal, half-brother to Gr2 winner Rossini(by Miswaki) and to minor winners by Woodman. Dam unraced half-sister to Gold and Ivory (Gr1), to 4 lesser winners, and to dam of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Anees.

Grand-dam Gr3 winner, Gr1-placed, half-sister to Blood Royal, Arkadina, Gregorian and Truly Bound. Top-class family.

Stands at Darley, Lexington, Kentucky at a fee of $75,000 (live foal). Sire of 9 northern hemisphere crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Chimichurri (Gr3), Elusive City (Prix Morny-Gr1), Omega Code (Gr3), Elusive Diva (Gr3), Elusive Jazz (Gr3), Girl Warrior (Gr2), Maryfield (Ballerina H.-Gr1), Smarty Jones (Kentucky Derby-Gr1, Preakness S.-Gr1), Raven's Pass (Queen Elizabeth II S.-Gr1, Breeders' Cup Classic S.-Gr1), Royale Michele (Gr2), True Quality (Gr2), Elusive Bluff (Gr3), Evasive (Gr3), Quality Road (Florida Derby-Gr1, Donn H.-Gr1), Elusive Pimpernel (Gr3). Also sire of Australian Gr1 winner Camarilla.

 

DAM: CARA FANTASY

Bred by Windflower Overseas in Ireland. Won 2 (both 1m4f) of 9 starts, viz. 0 out of 2 at 2 years, 2 out of 4 at 3 years, 0 out of 3at 4 years. RPR: 70 at 2, 81 at 3, 84 at 4. Earned £17,264.
Useful handicapper, best performance in only effort at 1m7f final start at 4 years.

Well bred. By a top-class middle-distance performer and multiple champion sire. Dam unraced, but produced 10 winners, sister to dam of Derby winner Oath and Gr1 winner Pelder, half-sister to Ribblesdale Stakes winner Miss Petard (dam of Gr2 winner Rejuvenate, grand-dam of Gr1 winners Patavellian and Avonbridge.

Grand-dam half-sister to major North American stakes-winners The University, Ruritania and Family Doctor. Third dam won Coronation S, half-sister to Oaks-placed Tender Annie.
Excellent family with staying inclinations.

To stud at 5 years and dam of: Palavicini (2006 c by Giant's Causeway; Gr3 winner), Elusive Pimpernel (2007 c by Elusive Quality; dual Gr3 winner), Topsy Turvy (2008 f by Mr Greeley; unraced to date). She has a yearling filly by Big Bad Bob, and was covered by Invincible Spirit in 2009.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Visually impressive Craven performance underlined his Guineas chance, but may well get 1m4f, though Epsom will not be his course.

 

 

 

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