2 runners head to Royal Ascot and this seasons quarterly review
At the time of writing we have had 17 winners and a strike rate close to 15% and the yard is in flying form. With the string being a good mix of established older horses, promising and lightly-raced three-year-old and well-bred juveniles, most of whom haven’t done any serious work yet, there is plenty to look forward to, including some runners at Royal Ascot which we touch on below.
Pride of place so far as achievement goes this season must rest with Aspetar who improved tremendously over the winter (during which time he was gelded) and is now the best horse we have in the stable. Last year he didn’t have a clear run after his Listed win at Goodwood in May, but second place behind Marmelo in the John Porter at Newbury on his reappearance was a huge step forward in form terms, his win in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly last time out was another career best. He’ll miss Ascot and will instead head back to France for the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). That race was won last year by the subsequent Arc fourth Waldgeist after he had won the Grand Prix de Chantilly, so it’s not unachievable and it will be a great boost for his sire Al Kazeem if he can provide him with his first Group 1 winner.
For the second year running Ascot will go by without Withhold but he is back in full work after his unfortunate trip ‘Down Under’ and he could head back to Newcastle in a bid to win the Northumberland Plate for the second year running. Things won’t be so easy this year as he will be running off an official handicap mark of 107 (which is 8lb higher than in 2018 and 3lb more than Quest For More was rated when he won the race for us in 2015) The remainder of his season will be shaped by what happens at Newcastle.
Projection has run at the last two Royal meetings having finished third in the 2017 Wokingham and then fifth in the 2018 Diamond Jubilee and he will contest the Jubilee again. In the past two seasons he hasn’t run much before Ascot, so the fact he has run only once this year (after a seven-month layoff) isn’t of particular concern and he should be thereabouts once again. He loves the course, which is lucky given that his owners are the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
Extra Elusive remains a horse of promise. Twice a winner last year, he shows all the ability in the world at home and his reappearance second in the Magnolia at Kempton (where he has won before) suggested that this year might well be his year. At Goodwood he ended up getting too lit up in blinkers having missed the break. With an official rating of 106 he is in that difficult twilight zone but he has shown more than enough to suggest he belongs in Listed company so those are the races we will continue to aim at and there is one at Compiegne on Saturday might be suitable.
It’s unfortunate that Blue Mist missed the cut to get into the Hunt Cup as he has a good course record at Ascot. Two runs there have seen him win and then finish a very promising sixth of twenty-six in the Victoria Cup back in May when our horses weren’t really firing. That reappearance run was over seven, but a mile suits him better and he’ll win a good handicap somewhere with eyes now looking to Ayr this weekend.
Forbidden Planet has been our winning-most horse this season having scored three times in the spring and finished second in his other two races after joining us. The biggest of those wins came in the Rosebery at Kempton which he won with some conviction but his second-place next time out at Newcastle off a 7lb higher mark was arguably an even better effort. Having run through the winter and had a busy campaign early of, he has returned to Kingwood Stud for a break but should be back in the yard soon and remains a horse with huge potential.
Makzeem missed the second half of 2018 but he showed that he retains bags of ability at Goodwood on his reappearance until lack of race fitness caught him out. He’s one of those horses that excels in large-field handicaps and one of his targets in the next month could be the Bunbury Cup on the July Course at Newmarket where he goes very well.
Blakeney Point has been one of our most reliable handicappers over the last couple of seasons and improved sufficiently to win a Listed race at Chester last year when equipped with a tongue strap for the first time. He has yet to hit peak form this season but his latest run at York on fast ground is very easy to put a line through. He could head to Newcastle next weekend for the Northumberland Plate or something like the Old Newton cup in early July.
One older horse we shouldn’t forget about as he is still progressing is True Destiny. He took ages to get his act together on the racecourse but he managed to win twice in the second half of 2018 and has already equaled that total this season before going very close to defying an 8lb rise for his latest win when a very close second at Pontefract the other day. Given that he will stay all day and is not the best at the stalls, the 2m5f handicap that traditionally opens the second day of the Glorious Goodwood meeting looks an ideal summer target.
Battling it out for the title of our best three-year-old are Momkin and Headman with Momkin rated higher by the official handicapper and Headman rated higher by Timeform. Headman looked potentially very useful on his debut at Newcastle last year and after pulling too hard on ground that was too soft for him on his reappearance, he got back on track in no uncertain fashion at Newbury in the London Gold Cup under our new stable jockey Jason Watson. Headman is a tall sort with a long stride who will always be very well suited by a strongly-run race and having missed his engagement at Ascot he will head to Saint Cloud next weekend for a G2.
After his second-place finish in the Craven Stakes Momkin had to take his chance in the 2,000 Guineas and though he managed only tenth of nineteen he still ran well as he was beaten 4 lengths in the group that chased home the first two. Momkin runs in the Jersey Stakes at Ascot, back in trip with the blinkers applied to sharpen him up over the distance. Andrea Atzeni takes the ride.
Red Impression is our best three-year-old filly and is better than she has shown so far this year. Both her wins last year when unbeaten were achieved impressively and with plenty in hand and she would almost certainly have retained her unbeaten record on her reappearance at Chelmsford had she not been drawn widest of all in a rare fourteen-runner field there, meaning she had no choice but to drop in too far back at a track where the short straight makes hold-up tactics very difficult. Newbury’s stiff six furlongs was probably too much of a test of stamina on her turf debut last time but there is no reason why grass shouldn’t suit her.
Aside from Forbidden Planet, Creationist was our headline horse in the early months of the year, winning twice on the all-weather. There have been excuses for both his defeats and remains a horse of interest back on a more conventional track. Mubariz was a possible for the Britannia possible but we elected to run him this weekend at Sandown, where he ran a nice 3rd on his comeback. The form of his maiden win as a two-year-old has worked out very well and on a line through the runner-up that day, he looks potentially well handicapped.
Great Bear isn’t Ascot material, but he’s bred to make a useful stayer in time and there was plenty to like about his recent Newmarket third on his handicap debut. That contest looks really strong form and Great Bear still looked inexperienced, so we can expect another big step forward when we see him again, over longer trips.
Tempus won at Haydock this week in very testing conditions, but two wins from two starts this year has been a very pleasing start for this three-year-old son of Kingman and being a half-brother to our old favourite Time Test he can only get better. All his runs so far have been at a mile, but there will be better to come when he steps up to a mile and a quarter and like his half-sister Time Chaser looks the sort that will improve as his three-year-old season progresses.
One of our more promising three-year-olds is Qasaru who is a half-brother to Aspetar and won a novice race with some authority at Windsor earlier this month, as he was entitled to being the clear form pick beforehand. Thankfully, the heavy ground that night didn’t cause him any problems and he looks a horse who will take in some of the better three-year-old handicaps as the season progresses.