When a horse that has proved intractable suddenly shows a more congenial side, it makes absolute sense to do all you can to make the most of its geniality. Luca Cumani is in that situation right now with Afsare, and is sending him to Goodwood on Saturday in pursuit of a second Group prize in nine days.
Afsare is the horse that might have won the Summer Mile at Ascot, but wouldn’t go into the stalls. He’d refused to go in at Goodwood on his first intended run this season. Last Thursday he had the help of an equine behaviourist, Gary Witheford, who was at the start for the Salisbury Sovereign Stakes. Whether it was his presence, or the particular approach of new jockey Andrea Atzeni we’ll never know, but Afsare was on his best behaviour and duly went into the stalls and came out happily enough to record a first Group success by a six-length margin.
Cumani said, “He didn’t surprise me at Salisbury. We have always known he was a good horse and I have been dying to run him over a mile. Now he’ll go for this (the Betfair Celebration Mile). It’s a bit quick, but there isn’t another race until the Joel Stakes at the end of September.”
He clearly has a lot of confidence in Afsare, and a win in the Goodwood race will give him a Group 2 success to his name. He’s run at Group 1 in Ascot’s mile and a quarter Prince of Wales’s Stakes, where his eighth placed finish suggested that the very highest level might be beyond him. The trainer doesn’t think so, and would have considered the Group 1 Prix Moulin at Longchamp had Afsare not been gelded.
A trip abroad isn’t under active consideration at the moment. Cumani added, “We’re going to have to stay domestic as Britain is more open to making sure every runner goes into the stalls no matter what, by employing whatever methods are necessary, while other countries are not.”
The trainer says it’s the excitement of racing that stirs up Afsare, and then he can be a bit awkward. He’s so different at home in the stables. He said, “He is the nicest horse you could have anything to do with. If he was human he’s be your best friend. At home he goes in every time. When he goes to the races he gets a little bit excited. It’s not that he doesn’t want to race, the adrenaline gets going each time and plays up at the start.”
Cumani and Atzeni will both be hoping there isn’t too much adrenaline on Saturday.