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Beethoven - Newmarket Dewhurst stakes - 17.10.2009

Beethoven (blue cap): the colt led home a one-two for Oratorio

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

Beethoven: visor brings colt to concert pitch

Beethoven
2 b c Oratorio - Queen Titi (Sadler's Wells)

OVER the last 40 years the Dewhurst Stakes has delivered many outstanding performances, its roll of honour featuring as many famous names.

Among the winners who went on to Classic glory were Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Grundy, Wollow, The Minstrel, El Gran Senor, Generous, Dr Devious, Zafonic, Pennekamp, Rock of Gibraltar, Sir Percy and New Approach – a record that no other Group 1 juvenile event in Europe could match.

We have also seen several other winners, such as Crowned Prince, Try My Best, Tromos, Storm Bird and Diesis, who looked potentially great at the time, but who, for one reason or another, did not live up to expectations when they returned to action at three.

Last year we had a different sort of Dewhurst, when Intense Focus, the most exposed horse in the field, with only a maiden win on his cv, prevailed in a tight finish, and we were left scratching our heads over just what the form meant. Many went away believing that some of those behind him were better prospects for 2009.


Twelve months on a sense of déjà vu is inescapable. Beethoven, the most experienced of the 15 runners, but with only one win in nine attempts to show for it, claimed the spoils in a four-way photo-finish which involved his two better-fancied stable-companions, and again we had to conclude that the Dewhurst had not crowned a champion.

Beethoven has had a busy time since his York debut over 6f in mid-May, when comfortably beaten into third place as a disappointing 9-4 favourite. Odds-on when thwarted narrowly next time at Naas, he was nevertheless fancied to open his account in the Listed Chesham Stakes over 7f at Royal Ascot, but that time could finish only fourth behind Big Audio, and some observers formed the impression that he looked none too keen.

Beethoven did raise his game in the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes, posting a three-figure RPR for the first time, and he did not have the best of luck in third place behind Walk On Bye, but he was not quite up to that level of form in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, contested on heavy ground. Beethoven's fifth race, and the fifth place he reached in it, created rather less excitement than even a lack-lustre performance of the other Beethoven's fifth in any concert hall.

The elusive first win came at last back in maiden company at Leopardstown, but he just scrambledhome by a head after having hung to his right, and again there were those who doubted whether he was in love with the game, so he was understandably neglected by punters when he tried Group 1 company again in the 7f NationalStakes.

Confounding expectations once more, he established a personal best there with third place behind Kingsfort and Chabal, which led to his starting favourite for the rich Goffs Million a fortnight later, but the return to 6f was perhaps not in his favour; he failed to quicken when called upon, and fourth place was the best he could manage.

With eight runs behind him, the colt went into the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere as the most experienced runner in the field, but there was no Ode to Joy at the end of this Beethoven's ninth, as he beat only one home and seemed to be quite outclassed by the winner, Siyouni.

On Saturday, opposed by several colts who had already beaten him, as well as by two more highly regarded stablemates in Steinbeck and Fencing Master, it was hardly surprising that Beethoven – even with Ryan Moore in the saddle – had few friends in the market and was allowed to go off at 33-1.

Could anyone imagine that the addition of a visor to his equipment would enable him to win what was usually Britain's most competitive race for juveniles?

It seems reasonable to conclude now that the visor did make a difference. He was never far from the firing line, did not pick up immediately when asked, but responded well to Moore's exertions, and although he edged slightly right in the final furlong, he kept going resolutely in a finish contested by four game colts.

Experience and the opportunity to go 7f on ground riding on the fast side of good were surely also contributory factors in Beethoven's success. HeH

He is going to get 1m, and if it is decided to extend his season with a shot at theBreeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, his chance there will have to be respected.

Meanwhile, connections of several of those who finished behind him at Newmarket will have no qualms about taking him on again in 2010. There were better horses than Intense Focus – notably Rip Van Winkle and Delegator – in last year's Dewhurst, and it will come as no surprise if some of Beethoven's victims improve past him next season.

Aidan O'Brien, breeder as well as trainer of the winner, while also saddling the second (Fencing Master) and fourth (Steinbeck), deserves enormous credit for his achievement, and this column must also recognise the unusual feat of Oratorio, sire of the first two from his initial crop of runners.

Of course, there is rarely anything in racing without a precedent, and we should not forget that in the first crop by Sadler's Wells were Prince of Dance and Scenic, who dead-heated for the Dewhurst in 1988. What price Oratorio going on to emulate the former King of Coolmore in other respects?

So far, so good, we must acknowledge, without imagining that Oratorio is going to collect sires' championships as a matter of routine. As an accomplished son of Danehill, he was bound to be provided with plenty of chances, and although there has never been an outstanding sire out of a Vaguely Noble mare, well, they say there is a first time for everything.

Oratorio mixed it with the best throughout his two seasons in training, and his record at Group 1 level bears the closest inspection. Although he won only two of his eight races as a three-year-old, they were the Eclipse and the Irish Champion – and he beat Derby hero Motivator in both of them. In the frame in two 1m Classics, he excelled over 1m2f, ranking as Ireland's best three-year-old at the distance in 2005.

Beethoven comes from a family which has produced a number of high-class performers for Ballydoyle in recent years. His dam Queen Titi, winner of a Listed event at Naas for Anne-Marie O'Brien on her final appearance at three, was out of a sister to Or Vision, whose son Saffron Walden (by Sadler's Wells) won the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Another sister, Brigid, had two Group 1-winning daughters in Sequoyah (Moyglare Stud Stakes) and Listen (Fillies' Mile), the former in turn becoming the dam of Henrythenavigator. Top-level success for this family never comes as a surprise these days.


PEDIGREE ASSESSMENT

Sire: Oratorio

Bred by Barronstown Stud and Orpendale in Ireland. Won 6 (6f-1m2f) of 15 races, viz. 4 (inc. Anglesey S.-Gr3, Futurity S.-Gr2, Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere-Gr1) out of 7 at 2 years, 2 (Eclipse S.-Gr1, Irish Champion S.-Gr1) out of 8 at 3 years. Also 2nd inPhoenix S., Dewhurst S., Irish 2,000 Guineas, 3rd in St James's Palace S., 4th in 2,000 Guineas, Champion S. (all Gr1). RPR 118 at 2, 126 at 3. Earned £1,085,279.

Smallish (15.3hh), robust, well made individual. Lazy sort, but high-class performer both seasons in training, effective under all turf conditions from firm to soft (untried on heavy), showed little only effort on dirt.

Quite well bred. By a multiple champion sire. Half-brother to 5 other winners, inc. Fahim (by Green Desert; Listed) and Mowaadah (by Alzao, Listed). Dam modest 1m winner, half-sister to 6 other winners, inc. Andros Bay (Gr2), Juniper (Gr2-placed) and Saint Lyphard (Listed-placed).

Grand-dam winner, half-sisterto 6 other winners, inc. Talakeno and Give Me Strength (both Gr2 on grass in US).

Next dam Gr3 winner, Gr1-placed. Same family as Alydar, albeit distantly connected.

Stands at Coolmore Stud, Fethard, Co. Tipperary at a fee of Euros 17,500 (Oct.1). Sire of 1 crop of racing age, inc. notable winner: Beethoven (Dewhurst S.-Gr1).

Dam: Queen Titi

Bred by Anne-Marie O'Brien in Ireland. Won 2 (both 1m) of 15 races, viz. 0 out of 2 at 2 years, 2 (1 Listed) out of 13 at 3 years. Also placed 4 times. RPR: 84 at 2 years, 104 at 3 years. Earned £56,135.

Useful performer, seemingly effective on any ground. Best efforts around 1m-1m1f, stayed 1m2f, probably not 1m4f.

Well bred. By a multiple champion sire and broodmare sire. Sister to Gr3 winner Psalm, half-sister to Listed-placed winner The Editor (by Alzao). Dam placed 4 times, inc. Listed, sister to dual French Listed winner Or Vision (dam of Gr1 winners Dolphin Street, Insight and Saffron Walden), and Brigid (dam of Gr1 winners Sequoyah and Listen, grand-dam of multiple Gr1 winner Henrythenavigator), half-sister to 6 other winners, inc. Dixie Fine (Listed; Gr2-placed), Nijinsky's Lover (Listed; dam of Gr2 winner Dance Master and Gr3 winner Naninja.

To stud at 4, and dam of: Beethoven (2007 c by Oratorio). No return to Danehill Dancer in 2008.

CONCLUSIONS

Much improved effort for first-time visor, but hard to see him as a vintage Dewhurst winner.

 

 

 

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