The Fugue – bad luck, bad ride, bad course or just not good enough?

I don’t bet seriously on the flat and haven’t done for many years. But I took note of David Johnson’s advice on Guineas day to have  a bet at 20s for The Oaks before the 1,000 Gns.

Like most punters, I always like to bemoan my luck when a bet like this fails narrowly as the horse flies home too late.  My immediate reaction was that the filly had been given every chance to recover from the early bad bump she had and after looking at the race several times, I’ve no reason to change my mind.  The early pace was slow, she was very keen, the bump cost her 3 lengths at most and she was back with the pace very quickly.

So could I blame the jockey then for leaving his run too late? Nope, I don’t think I can do that either.

On regaining her balance, Buick’s priority appeared to be getting plenty cover as she was still pulling quite hard. Trying to tuck in, he was slightly baulked again though he persevered in trying to keep The Fugue tucked in (she’d taken a long time to settle at York too). Nobody can know what’s in a jockey’s mind as a race develops. I’d speculate that having found himself on the outside at this very steady pace now, Buick decided to stay there rather than risk going inside – he’d have plenty of cover there but would risk being boxed in as Coquet was (she was much more unlucky than The Fugue I think).

So the question for Buick is when to start his run. He’s on the favourite who has probably improved since her Musidora victory (where she’d picked up fairly quickly and come away easily from the runner-up). Was it reasonable for Buick to expect at least the same response he got at York (the early pace there was on the slow side although nothing like as slow as The Oaks)? Was it sensible for him to assume that he also had a furlong and a half more to play with than he’d had at York?  I believe it wasn’t unreasonable for him to make those assumptions.

So they turn for home and at the 3f pole The Fugue is about 7 lengths off the leader and around 4 lengths off the winner. Buick sits lower and gets to work and his mount starts to make some headway. Two out he gets serious, riding vigorously but the filly hangs slightly. Buick draws his whip but she hangs away from that too then hangs again never looking balanced till inside the final furlong and only really getting going as she meets the rising ground – well that’s the visual impression; it’s always hard to tell if the leaders are coming back slightly.

Supposing Buick had taken an early decision to trade-off trying to settle the filly for a more prominent position leaving him less ground to make up. How much energy would The Fugue have expended in racing keenly, and, more importantly, given that Buick obviously expected a quicker response from her, how much later might he have set her alight?

I haven’t read any comments from Buick. Mr Gosden seemed a bit upset, saying The Fugue did remarkably well to finish where she did. Were I the coroner at the Clarehaven ‘post-mortem’, I’d conclude that The Fugue did not act well on the track and that might have cost her the race. I’d add a rider that she’s possibly not be as good as we thought although I’d want to see her again in a similar quality race at another course before making final judgement.

I also suspect that the winner is very decent and would not be taking short odds about The Fugue should they meet again.

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