Three weeks ago, following the first weekend of turf Flat racing in the UK in 2019, I could hardly contain myself, writes Tony Stafford. I’d witnessed what I’d believed to be a new star and suggested that Telecaster could go all the way to the top after his debut performance behind the clearly useful thrice-raced Bangkok.
It wasn’t that he got within a length of Bangkok in the 17-runner 10-furlong maiden race but rather the way he accompanied the winner in formation as the pair drew from one length to nine lengths clear of Noble Music in the last furlong without Charlie Bennett even brandishing the stick in the final stages. Silvestre De Sousa was rather more animated on the winner.
Behind Noble Music, an outsider from the Ralph Beckett stable, it was a couple of lengths to Dubai Instinct of whom Brian Meehan was very positive in the paddock before the race. Those observations were proved correct when Dubai Instinct made all in a Nottingham maiden on Saturday evening.
After him came two previously-unraced Frankel colts, both heavily-supported and from the stables respectively of Hugo Palmer (Ironclad, 9-2) and Charlie Appleby (5-2 shot Just You Wait, a half-brother to Teofilo).
Imagine my surprise on the Tuesday after Doncaster when I noticed the BHA handicapper had allowed Bangkok to remain unchanged on his initial rating of 88, achieved in three juvenile defeats at shorter distances.
If that were accurate, then Dubai Instinct would have run to a rating of perhaps 62 and the two Frankels would have been hard pushed to be competitive in a 0-60 classified stakes.
Not that Andrew Balding will be testing that rating – and tomorrow morning I’m sure Mr Handicapper will be having second thoughts – we’ll know at 7 a.m. I’ll be astonished if it’s less than 100 and even that would be conservative.
Last week, having gone along to Hughie Morrison’s Owners’ Day, I couldn’t resist a drive the following afternoon to Windsor. Telecaster looked resplendent as he paraded on Sunday and again by the Thames with both senior travelling lads, Hughie and Mary Morrison and assistant Olli Rix (son of the great Henry) all in attendance.
His physique is impressive, not just his size but also quality and all in proportion, while his coat gleamed. He looked a class apart from his 15 rivals – another big field, this time around a tricky track – yet was only narrowly preferred to another Frankel colt, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Deal A Dollar ridden by Ryan Moore.
The in-the-know vibes had been strong about Deal A Dollar, runner-up at less than a length on his only start to the highly-regarded Roger Varian colt Kuzaam at Kempton in December, where there were another seven lengths back to the third.
As Ryan took his horse onto the track, he was heard saying: “I can’t believe we’re not favourite”. In the race, once Oisin Murphy had navigated Telecaster outside initial leader and previous winner Ginistrelli - yet another Frankel! – Telecaster made the rest of the running without ever being challenged.
Deal A Dollar belatedly put his head into second place after the two previous winners Ginistrelli and Ragnar had endeavoured to keep pace. At the line it was nine lengths to the running-on Stoute hope, half a length to another Ralph Beckett outsider Future Investment, while the rest trailed along some way behind.
An indication of how hard it is to win a maiden over this sort of trip in the spring can be shown by the identity of the sires. The winner is by New Approach, Derby winner and sire of the 2018 Epsom hero, Masar. After Deal A Dollar, the third to tenth home were respectively by Mount Nelson, Sea The Stars, Frankel, Motivator, See You Then, Toronado, Camelot and Australia, multiple Group 1 winners all and mostly Classic and even Derby heroes to boot.
You can bet there will be some decent animals in there but the Meon Valley Stud homebred simply annihilated them. No wonder the Dante Stakes was being mooted afterwards by Morrison and Mark Weinfeld who, with his sister Helena Ellingham, look after the family’s racing interests.
Luck often plays its part in racing and the fact that nobody wanted to bid above 180,000gns when Telecaster was presented at the 2017 yearling sales, meant he reverted to the family, which races their unsold colts as Castle Down Racing. The fillies of course run in the much more famous black with white spots of Helena Springfield Ltd.
The Weinfelds’ father, Egon, established the Hampshire-based Meon Valley Stud and made its name with the foundation mares Reprocolor, Home and Away, One in a Million and Odeon, all smart racehorses before embarking on their stellar breeding careers.
The level of their achievements is best explained by the home-bred Colorspin, dam of both King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Opera House and top stallion and perennial champion NH sire Kayf Tara, both by Sadler’s Wells. The stud also bred, having sold her, the Oaks winner Lady Carla.
Telecaster is a son of Oaks and Irish Oaks runner-up Shirocco Star, a direct descendent of Reprocolor, this colt’s sixth dam, if my accounting at 5 a.m. was correct. Part of the plan to win a maiden as soon as possible after the Doncaster eye-opener was to eliminate the obvious fear that Telecaster might inherit his dam’s propensity to finish second as well as her 112-rated ability. Those fears look unrealistic now.
When I spoke to a delighted Mark Weinfeld after the race I suggested he’ll think of nothing else but Telecaster for the rest of the year. Nor will everyone at Summerdown Stables, and indeed nor me. I’m totally smitten. No wonder then that the natural extension of winning (should he do so, of course) a Dante would be a spin around Epsom on June 1.
As Mark rather wistfully pointed out, Telecaster, as befits his pedigree, was entered in the Derby but was withdrawn at the March 5 stage, three weeks before his Doncaster debut. Now he will need a hefty £85,000 supplementary fee to be re-instated. The Dante prizemoney of £93,000 – the winning owner gets just short of 60% of that – almost makes up for it, but I’d question whether two weeks and a couple of days is an appealing or even manageable gap between two top races. Hughie Morrison will know better than anyone.
The style, size and sheer majesty of Telecaster suggest to my eye the Irish Derby, where if he was not entered already for the initial Euro2,500 entry fee, connections would have until May 22 to pay a realistic Euro20,000 and there would still be a last-gasp opportunity at Euro100,000 after the Derby itself.
Of all the considerations – which a spectacular win at York in the manner of Windsor would undoubtedly negate – the 16-day gap is what would nag at my brain. As they always say, there’s only one Derby but, as the late Robert Sangster proved after Pat Eddery’s Epsom lapse on El Gran Senor, beaten by Secreto, was corrected at The Curragh, the breeders rate the Irish Derby almost as highly.