After three days at Chester’s May meeting, when the improving weather encouraged all-comers to show off their finery, thoughts are already turning to the Derby and Royal Ascot, writes Tony Stafford. There seems no limit to the appetite of the female of the species for horse racing and Nottingham on Saturday continued the trend.
It’s always been said that Nottingham has a much higher proportion of females to males in its population than anywhere else in England, so if the racetrack chose to declare any meeting “Ladies’ Day”, as Colwick Park did on Saturday, then a large attendance would almost be guaranteed.
Well they did and it was, 5,000 and more turning out for a strong card featuring the Listed Kilvington Stakes for fillies. In the Directors’ Room, chairman Richard Pilkington entertained the connections of the German-based filly Artistica, and they were later delighted to collect the bulk of the £40,000 prize with their 33-1 chance.
For one reason and another I didn’t actually stay for the race – needing to get home fairly sharply I claimed – but more possibly as a result of a disappointing run by the boss’s Stanhope, the first sub-standard effort of his career, in the opening maiden.
Paddock duties meant I didn’t get the chance to talk to the filly’s owners, Gregor and Julia Baum, who run under the Gestut <stud in German> Brummerhof banner, before the race and they were busy with the excellent lunch when I returned. Unfortunately for the Racing Post reporter, he assumed the stud’s name was also the owner’s, but he did correctly point out that Herr Baum owns Hannover racecourse.
Not that I was entirely remiss in approaching the visitors. They had a familiar face among the entourage, namely Billy Newnes, who spent a long time riding in Germany and since retirement has advised the Baums and their trainer Dominik Moser, who was having his first winner in the UK, and we had a lengthy chat.
Newnes told me that the Baums had three or four other fillies of a similar standard in their stable and they were keen to get a handle on their level in relation to British and French fillies before planning their season. He was also delighted that Henry and Virginia Candy were expected and Billy looked forward to remembering the days when he was Time Charter’s regular pilot.
Richard Pilkington, son of Sir Thomas, took over from Peter Jensen, now the boss at Sandown, for this year and he is one of the rising stars in the Jockey Club Racecourses hierarchy. He was fulsome in his praise of his senior management team at the track, and the show they put on certainly impressed Gregor Baum who, according to Newnes, gets big attendances at Hannover.
Yesterday was a big day for Champion Jockeys, with Ruby Walsh (38), Johnny Murtagh (47) – who impressed with his insights on ITV at Chester, and Bob Davies (71), triple jumps champion in the 1970’s, all celebrating birthdays. Davies is father to Karen Quinn, wife of Mick, trainer of Stanhope, whose run mystified us all.
Clive Cox never got anywhere near the title during his time with Fred Winter, though he did emerge with a friendship with his long-term landlord, John Francome. He was also born on May 14, which was his 53rd birthday. Clive had a promising first-time runner in our race, but was in France for Profitable’s seasonal comeback second place in a competitive Prix de Saint-Georges, won emphatically by Signs of Blessing. He’ll be on top form for next month’s attempt for a second King’s Stand at Ascot.
We have our first horse with Clive this year, Raymond Tooth’s juvenile Nelson River, a big, well-developed son of Mount Nelson, who is waiting for ground and seven furlongs.
Chester proved almost a straight match between the two major protagonists for the British Flat-race trainers’ championship. Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden have quickly moved ahead of the field in prizemoney terms, and without Gosden’s double intervention, the fixture would have been an O’Brien benefit.
The visitors collected the Chester Vase (Venice Beach), Dee Stakes (Cliffs of Moher) and Huxley Stakes ( Deauville), but had to give best to Gosden in the Cheshire Oaks, where Nathaniel’s daughter, Enable, beat favourite Alluringly; and the Ormonde, won with a last-stride thrust by Western Hymn and Frankie Dettori, who just outstayed US Army Ranger and Ryan Moore.
Sources close to Ballydoyle were suggesting Alluringly might be their best chance of the week and afterwards they reaffirmed that continued faith in her would be rewarded. As to Derby prospects, the late-developing Cliffs of Moher might well be a strong candidate, but whether he will supplant Churchill as number one is questionable.
Coolmore may have little impact on the three days of York this week, with some of the Aidan O’Brien apparent lesser lights in the Dante where Joseph O’Brien, among the winners under his jumping guise yesterday, may have better prospects with the Lloyd Williams-owned Rekindling.
Like 1,000 Guineas winner Winter, Rekindling was with now-retired David Wachman as a juvenile, but moved to the younger O’Brien and duly beat a trio of his father’s in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month. He could prove a big threat to Gosden’s Frankel colt, Cracksman, whose Epsom Trial win has been well advertised. It will also be interesting to gauge the progress of David Elsworth’s Swiss Storm, another Frankel colt, who could not be readied in time for the 2,000 Guineas, but of whom his experienced trainer has a high opinion.
Elsworth had a long association with Chris Harper, renting his yard at Whitsbury for many years before relocating to Newmarket. He has also had a strong connection with products of the flying filly Swiss Lake, who was the fastest to grace the colours of the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman’s Thoroughbred Corporation.
Swiss Storm is one of nine winners from the mare, owned by Lordship Stud’s Trevor Harris and whom he owns in partnership with Godolphin. In that regard it is unsurprising that Elsworth has a son of Swiss Spirit, whom he trained with some success and is also out of Swiss Lake, listed in his string for 2017.
Swiss Spirit stands at Whitsbury Manor, where fellow resident Foxwedge had a decent first season last year both in the UK and his native Australia. Over there he was a sprinting rival and contemporary of the Darley stallions Helmet and Sepoy, but John Gosden clearly believes there is stamina to find in his DNA.
On the day at Newbury where Shutter Speed won her Listed race decisively, Gosden collected the fillies’ 10-furlong maiden with Gracious Diana, who holds the Oaks engagement. Then on Saturday, another daughter, Hertford Dancer, outstayed O’Brien’s Pocketfullofdreams in the Lingfield Oaks Trial over just short of a mile and a half. No doubt we’ll see her in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot.