Transatlantic raider Raa Atoll could make his first start in the UK, where he was bred for 12 months, in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup on the opening day of the Qatar Festival on Tuesday, 30 July.
The four-year-old Sea The Stars colt is something of a globetrotter for wealthy owner-trainer Luke Comer after winning a Group 2 prize in Germany and finishing sixth in the Belmont Gold Cup in New York.
Raa Atoll used to be trained by John Gosden but his former owners, The China Horse Club, put him through the sales ring at Tattersalls last autumn. Comer bought the horse for a modest 30,000 Guineas and moved him to the stables he runs in Ireland near the capital, Dublin.
Since his American mission at Belmont Park, Raa Atoll has made his Irish debut in the valuable Curragh Cup. He coped fine with the drop back in trip to one and three-quarter miles, placing third when beaten just three lengths by Twilight Payment and also behind last year’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe.
Comer was able to secure the services of popular and in-form jockey Frankie Dettori for Raa Atoll at The Curragh as reported here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/raa-atoll-team-snap-up-dettori/168285. That was something of a coup as the Italian was the top rider at Royal Ascot the week before, winning the first four races on Gold Cup day in front of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family.
Raa Atoll won the 5th WHSM qualifier today – the @comerhomesgroup Oleander-Rennen at beautiful @RennbahnBerlin – beating Thomas Hobson into second place. Congratulations to all connected with the horse especially owner/trainer Luke Comer – whose company also sponsored the race! pic.twitter.com/2ytXEM6BPy
— Weatherbys Hamilton (@WbysHamilton) 12 May 2019
If Raa Atoll does take up his engagement at Glorious Goodwood – as the Qatar-sponsored Festival is better and colloquially known – connections won’t be able to have Dettori in the saddle again. This is because he partners champion stayer and dual Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius as stable jockey to Gosden.
As that horse has won the race in the last two seasons, plus consecutive Ascot Gold Cups, there is no way Dettori will get off him for Raa Atoll. Stradivarius is most tipsters’ idea of the winner at https://betting.betfair.com/horse-racing/horseracing-tips despite being odds-on.
Raa Atoll, meanwhile, is a big outsider at +5000. This price reflects the fact that he is rated 10lb inferior to the favourite by the British Horseracing Authority and that older horses must give 15lb weight-for-age to three-year-olds.
The Goodwood Cup is the first time during the season in the British Isles when younger horses can challenge in the staying division. It puts the likes of Raa Atoll at a distinct disadvantage on these terms.
Amade, his Belmont Gold Cup conqueror, is also coming under consideration for Goodwood. The French-trained five-year-old took his form to a new level with that victory stateside after three previous runs on the artificial all-weather surfaces of UK racetracks at Kempton Park, Chelmsford City and Lingfield Park earlier in the year.
This will similarly demand even more from Amade, who is +2500 for the Goodwood Cup but also has the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in Australia on his agenda. Read a report of his Belmont Gold Cup victory here: https://www.racingpost.com/news/french-raider-amade-continues-european-success-in-belmont-gold-cup/384557.
Raa Atoll also holds early closing entries in the Irish St Leger and the official trial for that which both take place at The Curragh. Comer sponsors both races through his business, Comer Group International, so it’d be no surprise to see him have a runner in these events.