(Published July 17, 2018) – Open to fillies and mares aged three years old and upwards and carrying a prize fund of not less than £600,000, the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes, staged on the third day of the five-day Glorious Goodwood Festival is one of the top middle-distance races for the fairer sex anywhere in the world.
First run way back in 1840, it has been staged over the current mile-and-a-quarter course and distance for over a hundred years and has a winning roster including some of the most famous fillies to have graced the turf. In the last two decades alone the likes of the great Midday, (who won the race in three consecutive years from 2009-11), Crimplene, Islington, Ouija Board, The Fugue, Minding, and last year Winter, have all added their name to a famous roll of honour.
The O’Brien Factor
Like so many other top races in Britain and Ireland and far beyond, Irish training legend Aidan O’Brien (pictured top with Ryan Moore) has a fine record in the Nassau Stakes, indeed he’s on a hattrick after win with Minding and Winter. The challenge, as ever with the Ballydoyle maestro when looking at ante-post investments, is figuring out which of his battalion will run, and who among them is most favoured by the race conditions.
RHODODENDRON (6/1 with Coral), winner of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May before disappointing in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out, may well be the best of the bunch, but she is also engaged in the Sussex Stakes earlier in the meeting over a mile so her participation in this race is by no means certain. That said, the daughter of Galileo has equally good form at both distances and the Nassau is possibly a touch less daunting than the Sussex Stakes in which she would have to take on such as Without Parole, Lightning Spear, and other top milers.
She beat stable companion Hydrangea over this trip in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly last October on soft ground, and wasn’t wound up on her first start this campaign when fourth to Cracksman at this distance back in France in April in the Prix Ganay. Given time to recover from a rare below-par effort at Ascot in June, Rhododendron looks a serious contender.
The aforementioned Hydrangea (12/1 with Betway) is very classy at anything between a mile and 12 furlongs, but her latest run at Ascot when beating nly one home in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes was a poor run and she is hard to recommend with any confidence.
Happily (6/1 with Betfair), a Group 1 winner as a juvenile, failed by only half a length to win the French Oaks pover 10 furlongs last month then was far from disgraced in finishing a four-length fifth to Roaring Lion in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown last time, taking on the colts. She had earlier in the term finished third in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas and stable jockey Ryan Moore is going to have his work cut out trying to make a decision about which filly to ride.
Moore’s task is further complicated by the potential participation of the Investec Oaks heroine Forever Together (8/1 with Sky Bet), and another O’Brien star filly Magic Wand (8/1 with Boylesports), fourth in the Oaks before scooting home by four lengths in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. Magoc Wand though is reportedly more likely to run in the Irish Oaks this coming weekend.
Both these fillies appear ideally suited by a mile-and-a-half, so on a track such as Goodwood where tactical speed is essential, they make slightly less appeal. Athena (16/1 with BetVictor), an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks recently in the US, is held on previous form in this country so it would be a surprise if she is good enough to take a hand in the finish.
Haggas Serving Up a Strong Challenge
William Haggas might be the man most likely to prevent O’Brien lifting the Nassau Stakes Trophy once again. The Newmarket-based handler is once again enjoying a fine campaign and has two talented fillies entered with realistic chances of landing the spoils for him for the very first time in this prestigious event.
Urban Fox (a top priced 5/1 favourite with Bet365) is a rapidly progressive four-year-old who did well as a juvenile for James Tate but struggled to break through at the top level last season. She seems to have turned over a new leaf since joining the Haggas yard in April where she made an immediate impression, staying on to beat Tribute Act in a hot Ascot mile handicap. The runner-up has gone on to win in Group 2 company, and after finishing an improved fourth in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot behind Aljazi, Urban Fox really relished the step up to a mile-and-a-quarter at the Curragh last time when easily accounting for the Oaks winner Forever Together in landing the Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes in some style. There could be more to come from the daughter of Foxwedge and she rates a very serious contender.
— BetVictor Racing (@BetVictorRacing) July 1, 2018
So too is her stable companion Sea Of Class (7/1 with Paddy Power), who is completely unexposed after two impressive listed wins at Newbury. The feeling is, however, that this daughter of Sea The Stars, like the aforementioned Magic Wand, is more likely to run at the Curragh this weekend in the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish Oaks. If she does switch to Goodwood she would be of great inteerst form a punting perspective.
Raft Of Other Genuine Contenders
Godolphin’s Wild Illusion (7/1 with Totesport) is another talented filly who won in Group 1 company as a two-year-old. She was fourth in the 1000 Guineas and finished runner-up in both the Investec Oaks and the Ribblesdale Stakes. She should again be thereabouts but may well find one or two too good yet again.
There are a few more fillies well worth a menton. Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious (9/1 with Ladbrokes) is another unexposed three-year-old who has raced on just three occasions, but she did very well in coming third to Alpha Centauri in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot having previously only won a maiden. She is held in high regard by the Stoute team and a big run cannot be ruled out. shock Richard Hannon-trained 66/1 Qipco 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (14/1 with 888Sport), fourth in the Coronation Stakes and who has shown her liking for this track in the past, is no forlorn hope at this new trip and would not be without an each-way chance.
Coronet (14/1 with Betfair), trained by John Gosden, won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York on her seasonal reappearance then lopst out by just a nose to Waldgeist in France last time in Group 1 company. In a race where so many have genuine claims she is another to seriously consider. Threading (11/1 with William Hill), trained by Mark Johnston, steps up two furlongs having struggled twice against Alpha Centauri over a mile and is no certainty to stay.
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.