Space Blues was only third in last year’s Prix Maurice de Gheest, but went two places better in the French Group 1 sprint at Deuaville this time.
Carrying the second colours of powerful global owners Godolphin on the Normandy coast, Charlie Appleby’s Dubawi colt ended the undefeated streak of 11/10 favourite Earthlight.
Returned at 22/5, Space Blues went from last to first with a late burst down the Deauville straight. Owner companion Earthlight had never lost a race before, including four at the course but this was a day for older sprinters.
Despite being short of room two out, William Buick rode Space Blues patiently just like at Glorious Goodwood. The way that the four-year-old ran on in the final furlong to lead in the last 50 yards was impressive.
The progress through the grades Space Blues has made this season is quite remarkable. He started in Listed company on his British return at Haydock on 7 June.
Some two months later, Space Blues completed a four-timer again up in grade. Ready wins in a Longchamp Group 3 and the Group 2 Lennox Stakes last time out show just how in-form he is.
Following this three-quarters of a length victory over 17/1 chance Hello Youmzain, Betfair make him 5/1 for the Prix de la Foret. That is the 7f specialists’ Group 1 on Arc weekend with Space Blues already a course and distance winner this term.
The six three-year-olds in the Maurice de Gheest filled third down to eighth. Lope Y Fernandez was the best of those at 12/1.
Earthlight was only fourth, beaten about a length in a race which continues to elude trainer Andre Fabre. Golden Horde, the Commonwealth Cup hero for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby, was worst of the British raiders in fifth.
Analysis: Progress not stats behind Space Blues Maurice de Gheest win
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
Stats tell you that only three four-year-olds had won the Maurice de Gheest in the last 14 renewals. Two of those were multiple scorers in the race, Marchand d’Or and Moonlight Cloud.
However, trends can only reveal so much. Space Blues was the in-form colt coming into the race and bookmaker betting made it bigger than 15/2 bar the Godolphin duo.
Hello Youmzain clearly operates better with some cut in the ground, though not heavy. He looks the one to take out of the Maurice de Gheest for a defence of his Sprint Cup crown at Haydock.
A July Cup rematch with Oxted on Merseyide awaits Kevin Ryan’s sprinting star there. As for Space Blues, after four races in 63 days, he may be due a break before a Foret tilt.
The British Flat racing calendar is poorer for not having a Group 1 over seven furlongs for older horses. Godolphin have been looking for their next sprint star following the retirement to stud of Blue Point.
Whether Space Blues quite qualifies as his successor is up for debate. What is beyond argument, however, is the tremendous progress Appleby has got out of him this season.
This time last year Space Blues was a nearly horse. I liked what I saw of him in the flesh during the 2019 Dante Festival at York where he won a handicap off an opening mark of 93.
Although landing a Listed contest at Epsom next time out, Space Blues only placed in higher grades on his next three starts. It seemingly wasn’t working out for him in Group company.
Space Blues held an official rating of 117 going into the Maurice de Gheest. That is almost two stone’s worth of improvement in the space of 15 months!