The rematch between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free: who can prevail in their third encounter? We’ll find out in the 2021 edition of the Sussex Stakes at picturesque Goodwood this afternoon.
Obviously this isn’t a two-horse race. The reigning 2000 Guineas- and St James’s Palace Stakes champ Poetic Flare is here too and is considered the short-priced favourite for the Sussex Stakes. Given his tremendously impressive CV there is every reason for him to be a key player today.
It was impossible not to be impressed by what he did at Royal Ascot. Some doubts where creeping in after two lower performances in the Irish & French Guineas, albeit he was beaten by exceptional opposition. Poetic Flare was back to his very best slaughtering a strong field in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
However, what is clear now is the fact that Poetic Flare enjoys fast ground and probably needs it to be seen at his best. He’ll handle anything soft but is not at his brilliant best in those type of conditions.
He will have to be at his very best today, I reckon. That is because the aforementioned Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free are improving all the time and can close the gap on Official Ratings with the help of ground they handle a lot better than Poetic Flare.
The evidence is in the book: Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in heavy conditions. She has been on an upward curve ever since the start of this season, kicking off her campaign with success in the the Fred Darling Stakes, after that she wasn’t disgraced as fifth in the 1000 Guineas, and then her big day came at Royal Ascot where she beat smart rivals like Guineas winner Mother Earth and Snow Lantern.
She followed up with another strong performance in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago, where she went down only in the dying stride to Mother Earth and the fast finishing Snow Lantern.
Snow Lantern was arguably the unlucky one in the Coronation Stakes. Her path blocked at a crucial stage, she stayed on in eye-catching fashion. For a moment or two it seemed to be the same story at Newmarket, only this time she got out in time and ran down the leaders in a dramatic finish.
She is still lightly raced with only a handful of runs under her belt while improving with every run as the season progresses. This is crucial now that she goes against older horses as this time of the year is where the WFA allowance can be a major advantage.
There is little between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free on any conceivable measure and both fillies continue to improve. It could come down to tactics: Alcohol Free is less complicated in the way she can be ridden. Snow Lantern needs to be ridden patiently and we saw this can be a problem. Thankfully Goodwood lends itself to hold-up tactics.
I firmly believe the three-year-olds have the advantage in the Sussex Stakes this year. The two fillies have prime chances, thanks to their progressive profile and their ability to handle softish ground really well. Poetic Flare, on the other hand, albeit not quite as good with cut in the ground, remains a formidable challenger.
The older horses are less exciting. Aiden O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez – although a runner-up performance in the Queen Anne Stakes rates fine form – and Order Of Australia, the choice of Ryan Moore, appear exposed enough and may not be capable of giving weight away to superb younger rivals.
Tilsit has less mileage on the clock and is progressing nicely. He was a good winner of the Summer Mile when last seen. At the same time he locks just below top level and the fact he hasn’t run to a topspeed rating beyond 84 supports this notion.
I find it hard to separate the two three-year-old fillies. They are incredibly closely matched on form and ratings. What tilts the scale toward Snow Lantern – certainly for me – is that she is progressing all the time with every run at the right time of the year. Goodwood will suit her perfectly, and simply from a price point of view she is a bigger and therefore highly attractive price at about 6/1 on the exchanges.