A 220/1 double at Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes meeting continued Mick Channon’s current run of strong form.
A pair of juveniles sired by Sixties Icon did the business at extravagant prices on the rain softened ground.
Czabo stayed on well to beat Hamdan Al Maktoum’s favourite Jadaayil in the opener. The filly had clearly improved for her debut at Newmarket just a week earlier. Out of a Danehill Dancer mare, she should have no problem stepping up in trip, and is clearly suited by a little give in the ground.
Just a race later Epsom Icon completed the big-priced double when winning the listed Denford Stud Stakes. Another filly that clearly responded to the conditions, she out-fought her three rivals who had all been rated far higher by the handicapper. It’s feasible that the ground became a crucial leveller, however she had previously won at Epsom when a largely dismissed 7/1 chance. She looks sure to progress with age, with Channon saying: “She’s a lightly framed filly. She’s improved with her racing, but is still a little weak. She should get a mile and may get further in time.”
The famous sire was of course more than capable of seeing out a trip. The winner of the 2006 St Leger, Sixties Icon was a class act, winning eight of his 15 career starts. Coincidently, one of his group victories came in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury. Currently standing at Norman Court Stud in Wiltshire, he has an outstanding record with his two-year-olds, though he’s yet to produce a truly top-class thoroughbred. He is responsible for a number of listed winners including another Channon inmate Chilworth Icon.
The Berkshire trainer runs the famous West Ilsley Stables. The site of the yard which the Hodcott House and its stables stand, actually received a mention in the Domesday Book, with a Ralph de Mortimer named as the original landholder back in the days of the Normans in 1086. Major Dick Hern became a training legend with his spell at the stables between 1963 and 1989. He produced some of the greats, including Brigadier Gerard, Troy and Nashwan.
Channon took over the historic West Ilsley Stables in 1999. In training since 1990, he was following a stunning career as a professional footballer. Few could have anticipated similar success in his new sporting career. Piccolo put him on the map, with victories in the Nunthorpe in 1994 and then the King’s Stand Stakes of 1995.
Numerous group winners followed before Tobougg came along in 2000. Ultimately moved to the Godolphin operation, he had a sensational juvenile campaign winning at Longchamp before taking the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Sadly for Channon, the rest of his career was spent in the care of Saeed bin Suroor.
It’s probably fair to say that the Berkshire yard has found greater success with fillies and mares. Queen’s Logic , Silca’s Sister, Majestic Roi, Lahaleeb, Music Show, and Samitar are just some of the top-class horses sent out to win at the very highest level.
That’s not to say he can’t produce quality colts. Youmzain is arguably the best horse to ever run for the Berkshire handler. Another of Channon’s that performed better with give in the ground, he won the Great Voltigeur in 2006 as a three-year-old before just failing to beat Rail Link in the Prix Niel at Longchamp a few weeks later. He was then sent to Germany and won the prestigious Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne.
Tried at the highest level, Youmzain was agonisingly close to winning the Arc in 2007 when denied in a pulsating finish by Dylan Thomas. He chased home the wonder filly Zarkava the following year and incredibly made it three runners-up finishes in a row, when defeated by Sea The Stars in the Arc of 2009. After that defeat Channon spoke of his stable star, saying: “He keeps finding a good 'un, doesn't he? Last year we were delighted but gutted - and this year we are delighted but gutted again. He’s bumped into two superstars in Sea The Stars and Zarkava. I am very proud of the horse, and everyone at West Ilsley who have done a tremendous job.”
Of his latest crop, Channon’s outstanding performer appears to be the filly Malabar. A promising juvenile, she was fourth in the 1,000 Guineas in May. A couple of fair performances followed at Group 1 level before she won the Group 3 Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood at the end of July. She’s clearly a decent sort and is likely to be tried at the highest level once more, with the Sun Chariot Stakes in October a possibility.
Channon’s as good as any at producing top-class fillies. And when the rain comes and others cry ‘enough’, expect his warriors to produce the tenacity needed to score.