The announcement that Jamie Spence was to retire as a jockey to concentrate on an alternative role with Qatar Racing was greeted with an element of surprise by racegoers at the York Ebor festival but that news was accompanied by an even unlikelier event much later in the day. Taghrooda was long odds on favourite to retain her unbeaten record in the Yorkshire Oaks but when Tapestry overhauled her in the final furlong to win the race, it proved that the form guide is not the only yardstick for selecting horse racing winners.
Taghrooda had previously won the Epsom Oaks in emphatic style and beaten her elders in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, performances which had prompted the bookmakers to price her as favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October. The Yorkshire Oaks was considered a formality for the John Gosden filly with suitable conditions and a set of rivals apparently lacking her undoubted class.
With just two furlongs of the race remaining, Taghrooda was travelling ominously well and seemed set to produce that burst of relentless speed so prevalent in the ‘King George’ race at Ascot. When jockey Paul Hanagan asked the filly for a final effort, the expected response materialised and she cruised past the other horses. The only problem was that another horse was tracking her and closing.
The Aidan O’Brien trained Tapestry had not really been touted as a possible winner of the race as her recent form figures could only be described as average. After a two year old career in which she won two of her three races, a sixth place in the Royal Ascot Coronation Stakes followed a performance in which she trailed home last in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
There was a sign of distinct improvement when the daughter of Galileo was asked to race in Irish Oaks over 1m 4f and was a fast finishing second behind Bracelet. However, third placed horse Volume was beaten only a neck by Tapestry but had finished over three lengths behind Taghrooda at Epsom.
Yet the form guide can be deceptive as the saddle had slipped for Joseph O’Brien when leaving the starting stalls with Tapestry and will have undoubtedly affected his riding ability in that race. She was probably a better horse that day than was witnessed.
On Thursday at York, O’Brien indicated that his horse was improving, but surely Tapestry could not beat the well-fancied favourite. Indeed he did, but there are question marks as to whether the Taghrooda ‘King George’ victory may have been tougher than first realised and she could have been lacking that extra sparkle at York.
Spectators watched a thrilling race enfold at York between Taghrooda and Tapestry but the outcome proves that the bare form guide alone does not necessarily point to the eventual winner.