Telescope the Light of Hardwicke Stakes
Telescope the Light of Hardwicke Stakes: How did Telescope ever lose the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) last year? Just look at a replay of the Hardwicke Stakes (GII) at Royal Ascot, run at the same distance of 12 furlongs, months before that race. He blew the field away and looked like a monster! In fact, if the jockey looked back at the field nearing the finish, he would need an actual telescope to find them. While crushing the competition in a marathon is easier because the field has a better chance of stringing out as the race gets longer, in turf racing those blowout wins are less common than on dirt.
Telescope ran fantastic in the previous Hardwicke, and a repeat of that effort on Saturday at Ascot Racecourse will result in a clear victory. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Telescope’s two starts this year support the notion he remains in top form. He also gets his regular jockey Ryan Moore on board again.
Moore guided Telescope to a second place finish in the Jockey Club Stakes (GII) to start off the year. Before anyone panics at the loss, Telescope ran well in defeat, as did Second Step in victory. At the very least, they did nothing to suggest their efforts were not quality ones. For the first half, Telescope stalked the two leaders (in a four-horse race) from third, while Second Step bided his time in last. When the real running began, Telescope made another powerful move reminiscent of the Hardwicke effort. The two pacesetters were devastated and gave way. Unfortunately, Second Step was not discouraged by the move and ran alongside him, before edging by late.
Second Step’s form before the Jockey Club failed to suggest he was as good as Telescope. Sometimes horses improve though, especially if they are younger. Currently, Second Step is a four-year-old gelding.
After the Jockey Club, Telescope competed in the listed Aston Park. The Aston Park is not on YouTube, which means evaluating the race is difficult. Telescope won at least. That means the horse ran twice in May, providing more than enough fitness for the Hardwicke on Saturday. He is the favorite, and a deserving one.
Beyond Telescope, the competition appears a bit murky. Just a month after that Hardwicke win, Telescope finished second in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes (GI), also at Ascot. In that race, fellow Hardwicke contender Eagle Top made a wide move around the turn and then hit a wall during the straightaway, resulting in a fourth place finish. Eagle Top’s effort was decent and he belongs at this level, yet he seems below Telescope’s ability. Three lengths separated them, a fairly sizable margin in turf racing. If Telescope misfires for whatever reason, Eagle Top can take over, but it is hard to envision him winning a straightforward race.
Those seeking a theft option might try Postponed, who almost took the Tattersalls Gold Cup (GI) with leading tactics. When the pace quickened for the stretch run, Postponed kicked on and gave his best. He even put away the highly regarded The Grey Gatsby. Al Kazeem and Fascinating Rock eventually passed Postponed, who held third.
Postponed also tried to wire the Gordon Richards (GIII) field before the Gold Cup, and almost pulled the feat off. Western Hymn ranged up and fought Postponed for the entire stretch, just prevailing at the finish line. Both horses ran well. One concern is that Postponed had relatively uncontested leads in those two races and failed twice, no matter how fast he traveled. An uncontested lead where no horses are hovering close to the pacesetter in the initial stages normally favors the pacesetter if he possesses quality.
Hillstar might end up in the mix as well. This five-year-old son of Danehill Dancer went on the shelf since winning the Canadian International (GI) back in October. The race was weakened when fellow European Brown Panther dumped his jockey and ran off, causing Hillstar to become the favorite. Hillstar did not disappoint, holding off the decent American runner Big Blue Kitten, with Dynamic Sky third. Dating back to May last year, Hillstar never ran worse than second. One of those second-place finishes came in the aforementioned Hardwicke where Telescope won by a mile, placing a dim light on Hillstar’s actual chances to win if nothing unusual happens. Regardless, hitting the board is possible for Hillstar.
Mahsoob and The Corsican are next on this list. They both are talented on paper. Mahsoob is even undefeated with three wins against softer competition, and he is one of the horses attracting money in European pools. The Corsican owns four wins and two losses. The races were ungraded except for one, which happens to be his only off-the-board finish. But, it is notable that names such as Grandeur and Out of Bounds show in the charts for his recent two races.
Telescope is the class, or rather “light,” of this field and should put them away in the lane. The reason he ran visually worse in the Breeders’ Cup might relate to the Americans using lasix or Telescope not acclimating to the United States properly. He pressed a fast pace for a 12 furlong race at Santa Anita. In 12 other starts, this horse hit the board and displayed a better picture of his talent. Eagle Top, Postponed, Hillstar, Mahsoob and The Corsican are all decent underneath options if value was not considered. If looking for value, maybe narrow down that list to Hillstar and The Corsican. Telescope deserves another shot at the Breeders’ Cup too, and hopefully he appears at Keeneland this fall.