19th April 2017
1st Quarter Newsletter
After a season to remember in 2016 that resulted in 9 stakes winners, including at Group1, Group 2 and Group 3 level, 50 overall winners at a strike rate of just about 20%, and more than £1.3 million in prize money won, the team at Beckhampton have every reason to feel excited about the prospects for 2017.
Those aforementioned Group wins were achieved remarkably at a better strike rate than for the year overall. Fifty winners was our third-best seasonal total since 2003 and our strike rate has only been bettered once in the same period, back in 2010 when we had fifty-two winners.
We can’t achieve those sorts of results without the horses of course. Twenty-two horses that ran for us last season had a Timeform rating of 90 or more, and all except two of those contributed at least one win. Fifteen horses won at least twice with the unbeaten Cloudberry winning most races (four) followed closely by Battlement and Blakeney Point.
Cloudberry Blakeney Point
Star of the show, from a ratings perspective at least, was once again Time Test. The five-year-old had the ground go against him in the Eclipse, but either side of that won the Brigadier Gerard Stakes and the York Stakes to take his career total of Group wins to four. He’s since left to join Chad Brown in America where he should do very well as he’ll encounter his favoured fast conditions pretty much everywhere he goes.
If Time Test was our best horse –with a Timeform rating of 125 – Quest For More had perhaps the more memorable 2016. He took some time to peak having ended 2015 in Australia, but he came good in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York in the summer under a cracking front-running ride from George Baker and then won the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at Chantilly in October. In between those wins he was beaten a nose by Sheikhzayedroad in the Doncaster Cup and on his final start was just edged out again by that same horse in the Long-Distance Cup at Ascot.
Quest For More
Chief among the other older horses worth a mention is Decorated Knight. He joined us from Roger Varian and won twice, including the Listed Festival Stakes at Goodwood and the Group 3 Meld Stakes at the Curragh from just four starts. Ayrad, in the same ownership as Decorated Knight, also had a very consistent season and landed the Listed Gala Stakes at Sandown.
Decorated Knight Ayrad
Imperial Aviator was one of our best three-year-olds. He was one of the easiest early-season handicap winners seen for a long time when scoring at Newbury and ended the season running creditably in some valuable handicaps, after which his owner sold him for a handsome profit.
So far as the two-year-olds were concerned, all the attention last year centred on Frankel and his first progeny and it gave us great pride to provide the superstar racehorse with his first stakes winner in the shape of Fair Eva. Out of the Group 1 winning sprinter African Rose, Fair Eva had looked pretty special from her first piece of work and proved as much when winning impressively at Haydock before winning the Juddmonte sponsored Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot by four lengths. Subsequent defeats in the Lowther Stakes and the Rockfel Stakes meant she ended up among the best of her generation rather than top of it as she had been after Ascot but hopefully her best days are still ahead of her. Another two-year-old by Frankel that won on his debut and looked equally as promising as Fair Eva did first time up was Atty Persse. He was sold to Godolphin having landed a Sandown maiden in September with a fair bit more in hand than the winning margin suggests but will continue to be trained at Beckhampton.
We made good use of the post-turf all-weather season and recorded some significant wins. Rock Steady landed a decent handicap at Wolverhampton and finished second on another four occasions before picking up a minor injury that means he will be trained for a late summer campaign. Chester Street ended the year with two wins at Chelmsford, the latter under Josephine Gordon so taking his record on the all-weather at that point to 3-3.
Rock Steady Chester Street
Fashion Business(another by Frankel) got us off the mark for 2017 when winning at Lingfield before the promising Abatement and Decorated Knight made it a quick-fire hat-trick. We were made an offer too good to refuse for Fashion Business and he has now left us to go stateside. Decorated Knight’s Winter Derby Trial success was the highlight of our domestic all weather season before he reached even greater heights in Dubai, showing a smart turn of foot to win the Group 1 Jebel Hatta. Unfortunately, hopes of a follow up in the Dubai Turf were dashed by the heavy rain that fell ahead of the World Cup meeting. Conditions were too soft, as they were for Quest For More in the Dubai Gold Cup.
FLYING START TO THE TURF SEASON
Considering our horses are generally a couple of weeks less forward than those trained in Newmarket, the results for the few horses we have run have been most encouraging. Following Ply’s promising second at Kempton where he ran on strongly from well off the pace in what looked a fair maiden, we have had four runners and all of Comrade Conrad, Esprit de Corps and Blakeney Point have made either a winning debut or winning reappearance. All three will continue their careers for now in handicaps, and though their opening marks will probably dictate for now the levels Comrade Conrad and Esprit de Corps will be pitched at in their next races, Blakeney Point will most likely head for the Chester Cup. He was rather left alone in front in the Queens Prize at Kempton, but he has a smart turn of foot for a stayer as he showed when putting a fair bit of distance between himself and his opponents early in the straight under a good ride from our apprentice Keiran Shoemark before getting tired late and edging left late on. We had thought he would need the race, so we couldn’t be more pleased and he looks set for a good season.
Hopefully, neither Quest For More nor Decorated Knight will suffer any lasting effects from their Dubai excursions. Quest For More has been in fine fettle and, though obviously Dubai isn’t the race to judge it on, looks as if he could improve again this year. The horses he met in Dubai will be the same ones that he will meet later in the season under more favourable conditions and he had most of their measures last year. His main target in the first haf of the year is the Gold Cup. Decorated Knight has already sealed his place as a stallion somewhere thanks to his Group 1 win and he’ll hopefully take in several of the top mile-and-a-quarter races such as the Eclipse this year, before he goes on his travels again.
An interesting horse to have joined us since last season is Second Step. He was a Group 1 winner in Germany in 2015 before rather losing his way last season. It will be interesting to get to know him and he will start off in the John Porter at Newbury.
We don’t often have runners at Chester and even rarer winners – we have had just three there since 2001- but one of those was Blakeney Point last year and he’ll be aimed at the Chester Cup, after his win in the Queens Cup.
Al Kazeem’s three-parts brother Makzeem didn’t always have much luck last season but he has shown us more than enough at home to know he has a decent engine. If he can improve as much as Al Kazeem did as he got older, which he might well do now he’s been gelded, he could be smart.
Projection has put on a lot of condition over the winter and could be a different proposition this year. He’s already proved the big-field handicap scenario suits him well and given he is owned by the Royal Ascot Racing Club it’s fair to assume he’ll be targeted at the Wokingham.
Fair Eva has wintered well, having grown and put on a lot of condition, and she has been back in work for a while now. Obviously, her preferred target is the 1000 Guineas and she will go straight there.
Atty Persse has done well over the winter and we are looking forward to him stepping up to a mile and a quarter in time as his dam stayed a mile and a half. His opening handicap mark of 87 means that we will probably start him off at Sandown in the Esher Cup. He seems to be working nicely and a fast run mile on a tough course, that he has won on, seems like a good plan at this stage.
As we start the season, as exciting as the wonderful horses we have in the yard is the calibre of staff. Our three head lads have been in the yard for 80 years between them, we have the strongest crop of riding talent for a long time, with some very talented apprentices working their way up.
CRAVEN AND GREENHAM MEETINGS
Craven week finished off by the Greenham meeting at Newbury is the one in which the Flat season really kicks into gear and we are pleased to say we will be well represented throughout the week by a number of promising horses. It wouldn’t be right to say it is a week that makes or breaks a season, but it is one where you hope the better horses and prospects give a good account of themselves and looking at the declarations and the five-day entries, it’s fair to say we are cautiously optimistic for some good runs, so all being well hopefully we can carry forward our encouraging start.