08/01/2013 3:26PM

Europe: Sky Lantern tests elders in Nassau Stakes


Sky Lantern, Europe’s leading 3-year-old filly, will try to beat older rivals for the first time when she starts Saturday at Goodwood in the Group 1, $302,860 Nassau Stakes.

Many observers feel Sky Lantern already should be in possession of a Group 1 win over elders: Sky Lantern had drawn a bead on leader Elusive Kate in the stretch run of the July 12 Falmouth Stakes, but was badly bothered by her rival and even struck by jockey William Buick’s riding crop. Stewards, however, left Elusive Kate the Falmouth winner, and an appeal lodged by Sky Lantern’s connections was denied.

The Nassau, contested at just less than 1 1/4 miles, drew a record 15 entrants (Elusive Kate is not among them), and Sky Lantern will be favored despite making her first start beyond one mile. A tough-luck eighth last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Sky Lantern finished second in the Nell Gwyn Stakes to start her season before winning the English 1000 Guineas by a half-length and the Group 1 Coronation Cup by four. The gray daughter of Red Clubs is trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Richard Hughes, the same trainer-jockey tandem that teamed to win the Group 1 Sussex Stakes with Toronado on Wednesday.

Sky Lantern is one of several 3-year-olds in the Nassau, with the older-horse contingent headed by Sajjhaa. The Godolphin-owned 6-year-old mare makes her first start since finishing fourth of 14 in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, a solid showing on a course notoriously tough on international shippers. Sajjhaa had a great winter campaign in Dubai, culminating with a victory in the $5  million Dubai Duty Free.

Two other 3-year-olds, Just the Judge and Hot Snap, are worthy of note. The former finished second to Sky Lantern in the English 1000 Guineas and was a wide third in the Coronation. Just the Judge, however, could be scratched from the Nassau if the turf condition, which was headed to firm late in the week, is not softened by forecast rain before the race. Hot Snap, a Juddmonte filly with just three starts, disappointed in the English 1000 Guineas, checking in ninth, but it was she who ran Sky Lantern into defeat in the Nell Gwyn.

◗ Brown Panther took down the biggest win of his career when he coasted to a 3 1/2-length victory over Azeemah Thursday at Goodwood in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup, a race contested at two miles. Brown Panther has as a long-range goal a start in the Melbourne Cup later this year.