(Published 16 August, 2018) – The Group 2 Ladbrokes Celebration Mile scheduled at Goodwood on Saturday, 25 August is a race that fits nicely into the calendar for horses needed a bridging event between Glorious Goodwood and the big end-of-season meetings at Doncaster, Longchamp and Ascot. Established in 1967, it has been won by some great horses, the standard being well and truly set by the great Brigadier Gerard in 1971. Other famous names to have galloped to glory in this coveted race include Kris, Rousillon, Selkirk, Mark Of Esteem, Cape Cross, Medicean, Raven’s Pass, and for the last two years, Lightning Spear, who may attempt a three-timer.
Although registered as a Group 2, judging by the rolecall of high-class winners this is a Group 1 contest in all but name. Sir Michael Stoute has a marvellous record with eight wins, starting with Milligram in 1987, and running through to Zacinto in 2009. Surprisingly, legendary trainer Aidan O’Brien has never won the Celebration Mile.
At the time of writing, despite the prestige associated with this big race, many major firms are reluctant to offer ante-post prices, which seems curious, to say the least.
Could Lightning Strike Three Times?
The tough as teak LIGHTNING SPEAR (3/1 with 10bet) did this ante-post column a tremendous favour when scoring at 9/1 in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last month, and if he takes his chance in this event he will be popular with punters having beaten Zonderland in the last two renewals. No horse has ever won the Celebration Mile three times, so that would be a major feather in his cap, but now he has gained Group 1-winning status will connections want to risk him being beaten in a Group 2?
The seven-year-old’s ultimate target this term is likely to be October’s QEII Stakes at Ascot, a race in which he was a fine third to Minding in 2016 before finishing sixth to Persuasive last year. The Celebration Mile, however, is a perfect stepping stone to the QEII so maybe trainer David Simcock will indeed let him take his chance and go for a record-breaking third straight success. If he does, he will take some beating, given his superb track record of 3 three wins from 5 starts.
At Goodwood last time Lightning Spear beat Expert Eye (7/2 with William Hill) by a length-and-a-half, Sir Michael Stoute’s colt having previously lookd special when trouncing his rivals in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. Given his trainer’s outstanding record in this race Prince Khalid Abdullah’s colt has to be feared, although there remains a suspicion that the mile is at the absolute limit of his stamina and that his optimum trip is seven furlongs.
The son of Acclamation led just over a furlong out in the Sussex Stakes before Lightning Spear cut him down with something to spare, and while connections may try wait a little longer to challenge, it would be a surprise if Stoute’s three-year-old will turn the tables. For that reason he looks opposable.
Accidental Agent, shock 33/1 winner of the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, ran as if something was amiss when beaten a long way behind Alpha Centauri in Group 1 company at Deauville on August 12. That run was too bad to be true and he was eased off some way from home. If nothing comes to light and he appears well, it is possible he may be allowed to take his chance here, but all will become much clearer at the five-day declaration stage. Clearly, on his day he is a very talented horse and is a best priced 7/1 with William Hill.
Beat The Bank (9/2 with Sky Bet) is an interesting contender for the in-form Andrew Balding yard. The progressive son of Paco Boy landed the Group 3 Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes over course and distance on soft ground last year, then beat the very useful Lord Glitters by a neck in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot in July before running well to be just over two lengths fifth behind Lightning Spear in the Sussex Stakes.
The four-year-old has a good attitude, and if it comes up soft there is a chance he may well get closer to Lightning Spear so he should give his supporters a good run for their money.
Gustav Tries to Break O’Brien Race Hoodoo
Aidan O’Brien’s Gustav Klimt (11/2 with Sky Bet) finished a neck in front of Beat The Bank when fourth in the Sussex Stakes. He is a talented horse, but he’s promised a great deal more this season than he has delivered and is becoming frustrating. Hailing from Ballydoyle, his chance has to be very much respected and there’s no doubt that one day it could all fall into place for him and he could win a big prize. There’s a suspicion he may do better overseas, and he might well prove to be a Breeders’ Cup Mile type.
Gustav Klimt has the form in the book to win a race of this nature, but there is something about the Galileo colt that seems to make it hard for him to get his head in front and he has become very much a bookies friend this campaign. He doesn’t look one to bank on to break his handler’s duck in this particular race.
Connections of Addeybb (7/1 with SportPesa) have been patient and chosen not to race their improving colt during the hot, dry summer on account of the ground. The William Haggas-trained four-year-old landed a massive gamble in the Lincoln Handicap on soft ground on the opening day of the season, then stepped up to win Sandown’s Group 2 bet365 Mile with ease, slamming the decent Stormy Antartic by nearly three lengths, again with plenty of give underfoot.
Lincoln winner Addeybb took the jump in class in style today at Sandown.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) April 27, 2018
On the strength of those two successes the son of Pivotal was sent off at just 7/2 to win the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on good to firm ground, but unsurprisingly he found conditions too quick in finishing eighth behind Rhododendron and Lightning Spear. With unsettled weather forecast for the next few weeks it is very possibly Addeybb will get his desired conditions and this horse who could still be on the upgrade looks decent each-way value.
Ed Walker’s Stormy Antartic may have slipped a little under the radar in this event as he hasn’t been seen in action in Britian since finishing second to Addeybb at Sandown. He’s been making hay on the continent though since then, winning a Group 2 mile event at Baden Baden in Germany in late-May before returning from a two-month mid-term break to run a good race in come home second to the classy Benabtl in the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr Preis – Bayerisches Zuchtrennen in Munich over a mile-and-a-quarter, a trip that appeared to stretch him beyond his best.
If the form of his last run is taken literally behind a horse rated 123, then Stormy Antartic (14/1 with Coral) comes very much into the reckoning for the Celebration Mile and has solid each-way credentials.
Another tough horses is the admirable David O’Meara-trained Suedois (12/1 with Ladbrokes), who has been knocking on the door in the top six, seven, and eight furlong races in Britain for the last few seasons. A very close third to Bretton Rock (14/1 with MansionBet) over seven furlongs in last year’s Lennox Stakes at this track, on his only other visit to the Sussex Downs he went down with all guns blazing a few weeks ago when beaten just a short-head by Sir Dancealot in this year’s renewal of the Lennox Stakes.
Finally, a potential surprise package in this race could be the trhee-year-old filly Altyn Orda, trained by Roger Varian, who was last seen finishing runner-up to the outstanding Alpha Centauri in the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last month. On a decent surface this daughter of Kyllachy is a capable performer – she ran poorly on soft ground earlier this season – so if the rains stay away at Goodwood she would not be without a chance of bustling up the market prinicpals in receipt of both the fillies allowance and weight-for-age.
Winner of last term’s Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket, she was a very creditable fifth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas won by Billesdon Brook, and at 12/1 with Coral there are worse each-way bets to be had in this race.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.