Can Air Force Blue assure another winning year for the Classic System?

Steady Start For Burrows

The Flat season stepped up a gear or two with Newmarket’s Craven Meeting kicking off yesterday.

John Gosden, fresh from a sensational 2015 captured the fillies’ showpiece, the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes. Soft conditions resulted in several high profile omissions, but it was Nathra that underlined the strength of her two-year-old form when she had chased home the 1000 Guineas favourite Minding in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile. Yesterday she proved too strong in horrid conditions, staying on powerfully for a comfortable victory. She’s now a 12/1 shot for the Newmarket Classic, though a trip to France would appear more likely, having confirmed her liking for more testing conditions.

Her victory proved the highlight on day one of the meeting, though the day was also notable for the turf debut of Owen Burrows’ yard. The 41-year-old took over the running of Kingwood House Stables from Barry Hills at the end of last season, and has inherited a powerful team. With one winner at Chelmsford to his name, he had his first runners on the turf, unleashing two useful, and well fancied types.

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A small yet select field assembled for the Fielden Stakes with Burrows saddling Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Mustajeer. He performed with credit, chasing home the favourite Ventura Storm and ought to have a fruitful campaign ahead of him. He’s bred to appreciate further, and though he probably lacks the natural ability to reach the highest level, he could still feature at major meetings throughout the summer.

Fawaareq ran for the same connections in a maiden later in the day. This nicely bred three-year-old chased home another Gosden winner. He travelled beautifully throughout the race, but failed to pick up when asked, and may have found conditions testing enough. Time will tell just how good this form proves to be, but the colt is another to look forward too as the season progresses.

Massaat is expected to be one of the leading lights for the yard. He’s currently a 12/1 shot for the Qipco 2000 Guineas, a race that will see him clash again with his Dewhurst Stakes nemesis Air Force Blue. The trainer recently spoke of his talented colt, saying: “We were thrilled with his run in the Dewhurst Stakes. He is working well at home and we are thrilled with him. He has got three and a half lengths to find with Air Force Blue, but the nice thing is there was a good gap back to the third that day. Hopefully he has improved enough to give it a shot. How he runs in the Guineas will determine where we go after that.”

Burrows, who served as assistant trainer to Sir Michael Stoute for 12 years has an incredible act to follow in his role at Kingwood House. Barry Hills had spent almost 50 years in the business and had captured virtually every prize worth winning. With his retirement drawing near, he had been in no doubt of the suitability of the man taking over.

“Owen was the only person we interviewed,” Hills had told the Racing Post late last year. “We all liked him and agreed he’d fit the bill. He’s level-headed and has a good background in racing. The idea is for Owen to take over next year, with me helping to steer him into it. Everything should work out. It’s a wonderful opportunity for him. I’ll continue to be involved, but the time will be right for me to step down as trainer. I can’t go on forever.”

Burrows will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of close friend Roger Varian. He said: “It was through Roger, who I met at Josh Gifford's, that I went to Newmarket as he offered me the chance to lodge with him as he was working for Michael Jarvis. I rode out for Sean Woods and became assistant to him before he put in a good word to get me the job at Sir Michael Stoute's.

The first tentative steps have been taken and we watch with interest to see how this latest young talent copes with the weight of expectation.

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