When we look at international racing here on Geegeez we try and go further than the obvious places such as France, America and Australia. This weekend the spotlight falls on Turkey, where the highlight of the Jockey Club of Turkey’s year takes place at the Veliefendi racetrack in Istanbul, which hosts the two day International Racing Festival. The meeting offers prize money of over £1 million across its six Group races.
Heading the bill is Sunday’s Group 2 International Topkapi Trophy, run over a distance of a mile. Red Duke will be having a first run in this since owner Peter Clay switched him from John Quinn to the Newmarket yard of David Simcock following a disappointing season so far.
Whilst Newmarket is on the way to Stansted Airport, it was more likely Red Duke’s poor run at Goodwood in the Thoroughbred Stakes that seems to have been the trigger behind the switch.
Clay hasn’t fallen out with Quinn, and has left other horses in the yard. And the plan for some time was to send Red Duke to Turkey, so there’s been no change of heart in the horse’s programme either. Clay said, “Red Duke had already been entered by John for Turkey. David's got him going and says we should go and the prize money is excellent. He travels well and he did well when he went to Dubai earlier in the year (fifth in the UAE Derby) but he's not had the best of luck in his running. We just thought by moving him to David's it might just spark a bit of revival. I sponsor Tom Queally and he's been to David's and sat on him and said he felt nice and relaxed.”
Red Duke flew out to Turkey on Tuesday and the connections will follow him there for the weekend.
Clay said, "I'm hopeful he can get in the first four. There's about £50,000 for finishing fourth. There's £180,000 to the winner and they help you with expenses. It's very good and worth going for."
Amongst Red Duke’s rivals could be Godolphin’s Dysphonia, although trainer Saeed bin Suroor has yet to decide whether Dysphonia will go for this race or the International Trophy a day earlier. Godolphin also have French Navy entered.
Mark Johnston usually brings a few horses across for this weekend, and looks to have the Topkapi as his main target this year, with Bannock, Fulbright and Van Ellis all potential runners. There’s further British interest with Group 3 Goodwood winner Archbishop, from Brian Meehan’s yard.
In some respects, the most interesting race could be the ten furlong International France Galop FRBC Anatolia Trophy, also a group race, not least because it’s run on a Fibresand surface very similar to that at Southwell. This is also a Group 2 event.
George Baker has his Royal Ascot flop Belgian Bill entered, and the race will be a step up in class for this four-year-old colt. He’ll be up against two Group 1 winners on the card. Zazou, trained in Germany by Waldemar Hickst, took the Premio Roma in Italy last November, whilst Willie Haggas runs Master of Hounds, who took the Jebel Hatta in Dubai during the winter.
These two have come up against each other before, when Zazou finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup, three places ahead of Master Of Hounds. There’s further British interest in the race in the Marco Botti-trained pair, Kingsdesire and Marcret, and the Godolphin trio Hunter's Light, Retrieve and Sandagiyr.
Sunday’s other feature race, the Bosphorus Cup, was dominated by British trained runners last year, with Indian Days winning, Campanologist second, Afsare fourth and Halicarnassus fifth. A repeat performance wouldn’t be any great surprise, as seven of the 12 entries are trained here. Dubai Prince, winner of the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at last week’s Ebor meeting, looks to have hit form at a good time, putting up his best performance of the season there, and matching the promise he showed last year as a juvenile two years ago.
Godolphin again have three to choose from, with Retrieve, Calvados Blues and Lost In The Moment all possible runners. Turkey’s hopes rest with Inspector, who won the race in 2008, but has been unplaced in each of the three renewals since then.
Dysphonia finished well down the field in both the Windsor Forest Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood, although she was not particularly well fancied in either of those races. She’s likely to have a better chance in this race than the Topkapi Trophy. For one thing, there’s likely to be a smaller field, which will help her, and she finished ahead of the better-fancied Survey at Goodwood.
The biggest uncertainty in this race is whether or not John Dunlop’s Beatrice Aurore behaves herself. She was favourite for the Listed Woodcote Stud Stakes at Ascot last time out, but unshipped William Buick on the way to the start, and used up most of her energy getting there nearly as quickly as she returned.
There are two further Group races over the weekend, but as these are for Arab horses rather than thoroughbreds, they are not discussed here.