The 2019 Flat season is nearing its end and with fifty-seven winners on the board at a strike rate of 19% (well ahead of last year’s total) the campaign has been a very satisfactory one. The highlight was undoubtedly a Fillies Mile win for Quadrilateral and a first Group 1 win for Aspetar, but those fifty-six winners also included successes at Group 2 and 3 level most of which came when we ventured abroad. To send 11 horses to France and Germany and come back with 1x Group 1 2x Group 2 and a Group 3 winner was very satisfactory. Jason Watson, who became our stable jockey at the start of the year, rode the majority of our winners, though Adam McNamara and Thomas Greatrex rode their fair share too from less opportunities. Champion jockey Oisin Murphy also won on half his rides for us and it isn’t far-fetched to think that in time Jason can make it right to the very top as well given how easily he settled in to the top-class races at the end of only his second full season.
Aspetar really came into his own in 2019 winning twice and giving us a first win in Germany when taking the G1 Preis Von Europa at Cologne. That he was up to winning at the very top level had been apparent back at Newbury in April on his reappearance when a very good second to Marmelo in what used to be known as the John Porter. The ground was too soft for him at Longchamp next time, but with underfoot conditions more in his favour at Chantilly in June he got the better of the subsequent Grand Prix de Deauville winner Ziyad in the G2 Grand Prix de Chantilly. Even that improved effort was surpassed by what Aspetar achieved in Germany and as he is a gelding he will be kept in training next year when he will head to Qatar in the early part of next season, but before then he will take in the Hong Kong Cup in December.
Withhold has provided us with some of our proudest moments in the last couple of years and it’s fair to say his reappearance win in the Marsh Cup at Newbury was another. As is well known, he had to miss the Melbourne Cup at the end of 2018 and was then ruled out of a repeat win in the Northumberland Plate with a poor scope, so it was good to get him back on the track in such good form. We did consider taking on Stradivarius in the Lonsdale at York after that but the lure of the million-pound Ebor proved too hard to resist. He didn’t do himself justice in that race, but a six-length defeat of Austrian School in the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket persuaded us to run him in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot. Sadly, he never travelled with his usual fluency there and that wasn’t his true form. He’ll be back next year when, as closely as his preparation allows, he will follow the pattern programme mapped out for top-class stayers.
Another who will be back next year is Extra Elusive in a bid to win his first Listed or Group race. His homework has always suggested he is capable of winning one or the other of those and placed efforts in the Magnolia Stakes at Kempton and the Gordon Richard Stakes at Sandown in the early part of the season suggested that his turn was near. He was seen out only twice after, however, albeit ending his season with his best effort so far when second in the Gala Stakes at Sandown to Elarqam, and hopefully he’ll take a step forward in 2020 and he’ll start off on the all-weather.
As we mentioned in our review of the first part of the season, Forbidden Planet kept our name in the headlines through the winter, winning three races culminating in the Rosebery Handicap at Kempton. A hike in the weights stopped him landing the four-timer on his final start at Newcastle, but he’s back in training now after a break. He was progressing so well when last seen, we hope he can make up into a stakes performer in 2020.
True Destiny is one of the unsung stars of the stable. He came into his own at the end of 2018 when sent over long distances and carried that improvement across to 2019 when never out of the first three in seven starts. Those seven races included three wins but his best performance came at Glorious Goodwood when third in one of the longest handicaps run all year over an extended two and a half miles. He was in contention for a run in the Cesarewitch but the soft ground went against him.
Makzeem looked as good as ever when scoring by four lengths at Newbury in July but he flopped at Ascot under a penalty and had the ground go against him in the Guisborough Stakes at Redcar in October on his only other outing. The Listed Hyde Stakes before the end of the year is a target for him.
Blue Mist again had a light campaign, having just the four races, but he showed when third in the really competitive International Stakes Handicap at Ascot that all his old ability is still there and he’ll be back next year.
As he had suggested he might be last year after winning effortlessly on his debut, Headman was our best three-year-old of the season. That said, that fact wouldn’t have been immediately apparent to anyone who saw him pull his chance away at Newbury in April but he looked a different horse six weeks on in the London Gold Cup and never looked back after that. It might have seemed audacious to have thrown him straight into the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam next time but Group races in France tend to take a little less winning than over here and none of his opponents could match his fine turn of foot. Even so, Headman was even more impressive when coming from well off the pace to land the Group 2 Prix Guillaume D’Ornano at Deauville in August, but he wasn’t quite up to Magical and co in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown for all he ran respectably in fifth after fluffing the start and having a wide trip on a slow pace. We look forward to him challenging at the top level in all the big races next year.
It is somewhat surprising that Momkin ended the season without a win having started the year finishing second in the Craven Stakes. That effort earned him a run in the 2000 Guineas in which he finished tenth, but the remainder of the season ended up being rather frustrating, getting placed three times including twice in Group 3 events at Goodwood without quite getting his head in front (though he really ought to have done in the Supreme Stakes where he went down by a rapidly-diminishing neck after meeting trouble well off the pace). He left us after finishing in midfield in the Prix du Pin on Arc trials weekend, and you would expect him to have a good year for his new trainer as he is very consistent.
Qarasu was another whose last run was also an unplaced one in France, where he got a little above himself on the day, but he has been gelded and will be back next year when hopefully he will be an improved horse. Although he won at Windsor early in the year he really announced himself with a four-length win in a Newbury handicap in the summer on soft ground. Even heavier conditions brought out another improved effort in the Listed Foundation Stakes at Goodwood over 10f and he only needs to improve a little more to get his head in front at that level next year, especially over slightly further.
Tempus is another horse that will be around again next year and acts very well with plenty of give in the ground. He has always been very well regarded and wins at Wolverhampton and Haydock in the first half of the season seemed to tee him up for a successful second half, but he only managed one more run when not beaten far at Wolverhampton after four months off. His half-brother Time Test did very well as a four-year-old and hopefully Tempus will follow his lead.
Cambric was another that had a very successful year, winning four times. For one with her pedigree – Australia out of a useful race mare – she began life in handicaps off a lowly mark and made no mistake on her handicap debut but it was only when stepped up to a mile and three quarters that she left her previous form behind. She has been retired to Oakgrove to be covered.
Two wins at the start of 2019 meant we had high hopes for Creationist but he didn’t quite achieve the heights we thought he might despite showing near-useful form on his last two runs in handicaps at Kempton. We look forward to running him in the London Middle Distance Series Final on the 19th November, for a valuable pot.
Imperium will be staying in training. He is a rare member of what Timeform call the ‘400-club’ in that the Timeform ratings on the top line of his pedigree (sire Frankel 147, dam Ramruna 123, grandsire Diesis 133) add up to 400 or more. A very big individual, he has yet to show that level himself, and is unlikely too, but his form has shown steady progression and a win at Kempton in September was well deserved. He can only get better next year.
Two of our most prolific three-year-old winners of 2019, Total Commitment (200,000 guineas) and Tavus (105,000 guineas), were among ten lots that sold for in excess of 470,000 guineas at the Autumn In Horses-In-Training Sale. Total Commitment didn’t reappear until August but he won three of his four races increasingly decisively and in his final win at Kempton he looked potentially useful. Like Total Commitment, Tavus also won three of his last four races with the highlight being his final win at Leicester where he showed a really game attitude to regain the lead after being headed. Of the others sold, Junior Rip won twice at Chelmsford while the once-successful Great Bear and Skyman also attracted interest.
Other three-year-old winners were Young Merlin, Ragnar (who we had only fleetingly and scored on his only run for us) , Mojave (whose 35-length winning margin at Bath was the largest on the Flat all year), West Newton, Basilisk, Orchidia and, last but by no means least, Cochise, who did what pretty much all his siblings have done and showed a liking for very long distances, and we look forward to having him back in the year next year along with Young Merlin. Orchidia could be headed for a listed race in Deauville 26th November before heading to be a broodmare in Australia, being closely related to Calyx.
The two-years olds performed well returning thirteen winners from sixty runners at a strike rate of 22%.
Supreme among them, of course, was Quadrilateral who heads into winter quarters as favourite for the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks. She looked something out of the ordinary on her debut at Newbury when scoring cosily in a good time without having a hard race, and then followed up over the same course and distance on faster ground in tremendous fashion by nine lengths. While impressive, the merit of those wins still required her to find some improvement to land the hat-trick in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, not least given that the ground was softer than ideal, but after looking in trouble briefly in the Dip she dug deep to beat the May Hill winner Powerful Breeze with the Moyglare Stud winner Love back in third.
Quadrilateral’s sire Frankel sired the winner of both the Oaks and the St Leger in 2019 and seeing as there wasn’t a stronger race for two-year-old fillies run anywhere in Europe last year, Quadrilateral is his best hope right now for another Classic success.
Two of our other juveniles, Pocket Square and Smokey Bear, won twice apiece with Pocket Square‘s three-race campaign culminating in a win in the G3 Prix des Reservoirs at Deauville where she led home a British-trained one-two. Prior to that win Pocket Square had bolted up in a warm novice at Ascot looking very smart, but even so she left that form behind in France. The filly she beat there, Run Wild, had previously been beaten less than two lengths in fourth in the May Hill, so on that line of form Pocket Square isn’t too far behind Quadrilateral. Already a winner on very different types of ground, she will improve again stepped up in distance as her Group-placed dam stayed an extended mile and a half really well. We would like to think she could stay 10f and perhaps beyond in time.
Smokey Bear has had one race more than Pocket Square but like her he too has his best days ahead of him. Placed at Windsor in each of his first two races, he looked a different animal when getting off the mark at Newbury in September in a much faster time than the other division of the six-furlong maiden and a penalty wasn’t enough to prevent him following up trying the all-weather for the first time at Kempton The manner in which he and the runner-up quickened clear in that race suggests they are both useful and though there’s plenty of stamina in his pedigree, he looks to have taken more after his sire Kodiac and will most likely stay at six furlongs or seven furlongs for the time being.
Louganini got November off to a winning start for the yard when making a successful debut at Newmarket in what looked quite a warm novice event. An 80,000-guineas buy back at the Sales he handled the ground – much more testing than it usually gets at Newmarket – very professionally and was never stronger than at the finish. Out of a mare who was a Listed winner over a mile and a quarter interestingly on heavy ground herself, so the ability to handle very testing conditions clearly runs in the family, Louganini is bound to improve when he steps up in trip and looks to have a bright future.
Another two-year-old that goes into winter quarters unbeaten is Dancing Harry. The fact there was fifteen lengths back to the fourth horse on the day he won at Newbury rather suggests that plenty of those behind him failed to handle the extremely testing conditions but even so there was plenty to like about the way he warmed to the task as the race wore on before getting his head in front late in the day. His dam was something of a specialist seven-furlong performer but being by Camelot there’s every chance that Dancing Harry will be effective over further and he certainly looked at Newbury as though he will stay a mile and a quarter.
Fashion Royalty made it third time lucky when scoring at Wolverhampton in October under an excellent front-running ride from Jason Watson. She’d have been caught in a few more strides but Jason timed it perfectly and her win meant she emulated her full sister War Decree by winning as a two-year-old. She’s bred to excel on the all-weather but her previous run suggested she ‘ll be effective on turf as well and she ought to do better next year as she heads to the US to continue her career.
Our other two-year-winners were Hexagon, Wren and Escape Proof. Hexagon won his nursery debut at Ffos Las off a BHA mark of 79 before finishing placed in both his races afterwards, while Wren’s career followed a similar path, making the frame in both her races after winning at Kempton in June. Escape Proof scored on her second start at Leicester in August.
As this piece went to press Bullfinch broke his maiden in nice fashion at Chelmsford and looks another to look forward to next year.
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