PRAGUE (Jack Gilligan) wins The Darley British EBF Maiden Stakes Sandown 15 Jun 2024 - Pic Steven Cargill /

Monday Musings: One that slipped through the net

Over the best part of twenty years, colts by Galileo have been the mainstay of the incredible Aidan O’Brien/Coolmore operation, winning Derbys and other Group 1 races, it seemed almost to order, writes Tony Stafford.

In truth, though, it took a lot of equine firepower and financial clout to retain the biggest proportion of those coveted animals. Even last year, two years after his death, the 2001 Derby (and plenty more else) winner still had 17 three-year-old colts to represent him at Ballydoyle.

The sort of hundred-plus generations of new intake, mostly animals by the Coolmore partners’ own stallions, have required ruthless cutting back of the fringe animals every year. From last year’s 17, just two, smart stayer Tower of London and the so far yet to reappear Espionage, winner of two of his five races last year, remain.

The better performers among the surplus animals have often been privately sold, like Victoria Road, the 2022 Breeders’ Cup 2yo winner, but never able to repeat that level after sustaining a winter injury when he had the 2000 Guineas as his target. He is now racing in Australia. The lesser lights, though, often rated in the 100’s, generally go to the sales.

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The powers that be at Coolmore pretty much get it right most times, but nothing is certain where horses are concerned. It now seems obvious that Prague, by Galileo out of a Group 3 winning mare, simply slipped through the cracks.

Racing for the first time on Saturday in a 20k to the winner GBB maiden race against 3yo’s to whom he was conceding under the weight for age scale either 13lb (colts) or 18lb to the fillies, including the favourite Chorus. Always nicely placed, Prague led halfway up the straight and drew away to win easily by four lengths, a margin that could have been extended if jockey Jack Gilligan had wished.

Jack was probably too amazed to do anything other than wait for the winning line. As to his trainer, Dylan Cunha, and owner Mr Amadao Dal Pas, they would have been shell-shocked. They were probably watching on in disbelief however well their colt – yes, he is still a colt! – had been working at home. His starting price of 40/1 suggests whatever he had been doing, he managed to keep it from prying eyes on the Newmarket gallops.

Prague was one of the unwanted Ballydoyle nine that had entries for last October’s Tattersalls Autumn HIT sale, although they didn’t all turn up in the end. His presence coincided with Dylan Cunha’s concerted effort to enlarge his string. The South African, a successful trainer including at Group 1 level as far back as 2007 in his homeland, had transferred to the UK the previous year.
Aiming at a new challenge, Cunha realised that starting from scratch in a training centre like Newmarket would take a lot of hard work. He took a small yard in the town and had his first runners in the latter half of the season, winning one race from his 28 starters.

Last year, he accelerated to 16 wins from 111 runs and £205k, largely thanks to the efforts of his smart grey Silver Sword. We ought to have taken the hint. Silver Sword, a son of Charm Spirit, had been one of his initial intake. He refused to race in his first two juvenile starts, but after a 60-day break and some intensive schooling, recovered well enough to be placed in his next two before the end of that year.

He won first time at three In April and, in all, from a seven-race programme, won three times, including the final race at the York Ebor meeting, worth £52k to the winner.
Silver Sword has yet to find his form as a four-year-old, but Cunha certainly has. The promising score of 16 encouraged lots of new investors to the yard and persuaded Dylan to be extremely active mainly at the lower end of the sales markets, both for yearlings and second-hand horses. One of those, the ex-Michael Bell-trained Mart has won five times since late October.

The necessary expansion had to be done. He had taken out a lease on the historic Phantom House stables, made available upon last year’s retirement of the highly-respected William Jarvis. In some ways it was a sad day when William retired as it ended an unbroken line of training Jarvises in Newmarket.

But William will be delighted that the winners are still flowing from his former base. Now Dylan, armed with almost 20 juveniles (unless he’s added to that more recently), has a nicely balanced team of 50 or so. Already in 2024, he is on 15 wins with prizemoney within 30k of last year’s entire tally.

As to Prague, if he can keep sound, he could have a big future still as a racehorse. Further down the line, he also has the possibility of making a stallion somewhere one day. There are still plenty of people who would love to have a Galileo stallion of their own especially one with Prague’s obvious talent. How about the Czech Republic?

Meanwhile, this week Tower Of London, one of the retained two, has two Royal Ascot entries. He is, with Point Lonsdale, backup to the six-year-old Kyprios, the 4/5 favourite for Thursday’s Gold Cup. Winner of the race two years ago, he’s yet another Galileo entire, and like several before him, he will have the Coolmore NH sires team leave a space for him when he eventually retires. Tower Of London also has the option of the Hardwicke Stakes.

Coolmore will be eagerly anticipating a form revival from last year’s Derby winner Auguste Rodin in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. He didn’t run too badly on his return to home racing when second in the Tattersalls Gold Cup three weeks ago. Certainly, it took away a degree of the hurt from his abject run in Dubai in March.

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From one emerging stable via the world’s most powerful operation, I would now like to refer to a horse that keeps turning up at the big meetings. If he did manage to win Saturday’s Wokingham Handicap, Apollo One would probably be the only horse ever to have won at the fixture effectively from a one-horse stable.

Peter Charalambous has been in the racing owning/breeding/training game for many years. In recent seasons he has joined forces with James Clutterbuck on a shared licence but as his own interest in and enthusiasm for the sport has dwindled, his section of the yard has become solely centred on Apollo One.

Every time he has a run – and it’s always in important handicaps like at the Guineas meeting and on Derby Day – this six-furlong specialist is consistency personified.

Peter has kindly invited some people to join him as co-owners of the horse on Saturday: my friend Steve Howard and three of his Dutch mates, two of whom are filmmakers, will be going in full-on Royal Enclosure garb. Spoilsport Steve will be wearing a normal suit, but the boys from Holland are going totally Moss Bros. No doubt, Apollo One will run his usual race getting in the money. If he happens to win though, I’m sure Pete will be suggesting the story of Apollo One as one that is eminently suitable for the cinema goers of Amsterdam!

- TS

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