There are few certainties at Group 1 level, but the Cheveley Park Stud’s massively impressive Royal Ascot winner Inspiral will look the nearest thing to one when she takes on four rivals at Newmarket on Friday in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, ridden again by Frankie Dettori despite a decidedly rocky three weeks.
It was Inspiral who came to Dettori’s rescue, albeit only temporarily, on day four of a fraught Coronation Stakes, and it is fitting that he returns to the Gosden fold on the filly after their brief, but very public, break up in the latest stage of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series as part of the Fillies & Mares category.
Dettori was completing a hat-trick of increasingly high-profile wins on the Frankel filly when she took the step up to Group 1 readily in her stride in last year’s Fillies’ Mile, and he also had a major role in the decision to sidestep a QIPCO 1000 Guineas, which formlines suggest was hers for the taking, if only she had come to hand in time.
Waiting for Royal Ascot paid off handsomely, for Inspiral’s stunning 4 3/4-length win from the previously unbeaten American filly Spendarella and the 2-year-old Group 1 winners Discoveries and Tenebrism was one of the week’s highlights.
Nannina, the Stud’s last Coronation Stakes winner before Inspiral, suffered a shock defeat at the hands of 50-1 chance Rajeem when bidding to follow up in the Falmouth Stakes, but Lovers Knot (1998), Integral (2014), and Veracious (2019) have all won the race for the Cheveley Park Stud and none had credentials anywhere near as compelling as those of the unbeaten Inspiral.
In the last few years the Cheveley Park Stud has enjoyed more than 20 Grade 1 jumps wins with a hand-picked team, but that was a phenomenon driven by David Thompson, who died in late 2020, and the silks are traditionally much more closely associated with top-class performers on the Flat – the side of the operation which has always been the passion of Thompson’s widow Patricia. Inspiral is a prime example of her efforts, for her dam, granddam, and great granddam all raced and bred successfully for the Stud.
Chris Richardson, the Stud’s managing director, said: “All through the spring Frankie was saying, ‘she’s not there, she’s not there,’ and we listened to what he had to say. We took a long-term view and looked to the Coronation Stakes, which is one of Patricia Thompson’s favorite races, having won it three times before. We waited until she was cherry ripe and we were rewarded when she won impressively.
“Inspiral hasn’t done much since then, but all has been well with her and she enjoyed a nice stretch on Saturday with Robert Havlin on board. Frankie knows her well, having ridden her in all her races bar her first, and Mrs. Thompson is pleased that John (Gosden, joint trainer) is happy for him to ride her again on Friday. The Stud, and Flat racing, has always been her love, and she embraces every aspect of it.”
Sibila Spain travels from France for the second time in a month, with trainer Christopher Head praying there is no repeat of the stalls antics which saw her withdrawn at the start of Royal Ascot’s Duke Of Cambridge Stakes when a well-fancied 11-2 chance and due to be his first runner in England.
Head’s father Freddy won the 2009 Falmouth with the brilliant Goldikova – who incidentally beat two good Cheveley Park fillies in Heaven Sent and Spacious – while his aunt Criquette Head-Maarek, grandfather Alec Head, who died just a fortnight ago, and great grandfather Willie Head also all operated at the highest level both in France and in England.
He knows that Inspiral will be hard to beat, but he has been itching to have a runner over here since first taking out a license at the end of 2018, and he is confident Sibila Spain will not let him down, provided she behaves in the stalls.
He said: “I was excited at Royal Ascot but unfortunately she was scratched at the start. It had never been an issue before, and she has since passed a stalls test at Chantilly.
“Of course she is going to encounter even better fillies here in a Group 1, but she has already won a Group 2 in France (Saint-Cloud’s Prix Du Muguet) and this is the path we want to stay on now. We will see what she is capable of doing, but she is a filly I really love and she always does her best.
“I always wanted to be running in the UK as soon as I had the opportunity and Sibila Spain is my first Group horse. She is very strong mentally, and she can race from the front, as she did when fourth in last year’s Diane from a stall which gave her no choice, but I prefer her to wait in the pack, and now that she is racing back at a mile it’s a pleasure to see her run that way. It won’t worry her if the ground is fast.”
Head, who was working for his father when Goldikova won at Newmarket and was assisting his aunt when she had Treve, has built his team up to around 30 and said: “We want to show we are here to stay and that we can maintain the family tradition as one of the good trainers around Chantilly, which is important. At the start the family name could sometimes be a weight, but now I’m not thinking about it and I’m taking my own path.
“I was assisting my father when Goldikova came to Newmarket so I had to stay at home. I was also assistant to my aunt for the last year of Treve, as it was important for me to be around good horses if I was to train good ones myself.”
Sandrine, who won the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes here 12 months ago, finished a close fifth in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas but only seventh behind Inspiral in the Coronation Stakes. Her trainer Andrew Balding is expecting the return to a straight track to help and said: “Sandrine didn’t take the bend very well at Ascot, and that cost her a few lengths, but she did very well in the circumstances. She’s in great form.”
Ralph Beckett’s Prosperous Voyage finished three places ahead of Sandrine in the Guineas, but two places behind her at Royal Ascot. She was beaten just a neck by Cachet at Newmarket, and most years that sort of form would put her right in the reckoning here. However, Inspiral beat her easily last year when she was second in both the May Hill Stakes and the Fillies’ Mile.
The field is completed by last year’s unlucky-in-running fifth Primo Bacio, who has suffered respiratory infections since then but took a step in the right direction with last month’s third behind Saffron Beach in the Duke Of Cambridge at Royal Ascot. She will appreciate the quick ground and trainer Ed Walker is expecting a big run from her.