Posts

Setback puts Albasheer Guineas run in doubt

Owen Burrows admits he is “going to be struggling” to have Albasheer ready for the Qipco 2000 Guineas after the colt suffered a setback.

The injury is currently under investigation, but Burrows feels the colts’ Classic at Newmarket on May 1 will come too soon.

“Unfortunately he’s had a little bit of a niggle. We’re just in the process of investigating exactly what is bothering him,” said the Lambourn handler.

“There are no immediate plans for him at the moment.

“He certainly won’t be making a Guineas trial – and I’d say it would be highly unlikely, depending on what we find, that he’d make the Guineas. We’re getting pretty close.

“It’s very recent, and we’re still in the investigating stages.”

Albasheer looked a potentially classy three-year-old, having made a winning racecourse debut at Doncaster in July before going on to finish second in the Champagne Stakes and sixth in the Dewhurst.

Burrows had also been happy with his progress over the winter.

“I had been very pleased with him, so it’s very disappointing and frustrating,” he said.

“Fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious – but with the timing of it, we’re going to be struggling.

“Ideally, the plan was to try for the Craven or the Greenham. He won’t be making them, and I won’t be rushing him just to make a Guineas.

“He’s a proper nice horse, (and) he’s going to want a bit of time. How much time, we don’t know yet.”

St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley head Aidan O’Brien’s Guineas squad

Dewhurst one-two St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley are among a dozen entries for Aidan O’Brien in this year’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The master of Ballydoyle has saddled a record 10 previous winners of the first Classic of the British Flat season – and looks set to be well represented once again on the Rowley Mile.

St Mark’s Basilica saw off stablemate Wembley by just under a length in the Dewhurst in October and the pair could renew rivalry on May 1.

The horse priced up as favourite with several bookmakers is the O’Brien-trained Battleground, who won the Chesham at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last season, before finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup.

However, O’Brien in January raised the possibility of the son of the yard’s Arc heroine Found sidestepping Newmarket and instead being trained with a return to the Royal meeting for the St James’s Palace Stakes as his chief objective.

The trainer’s squad also features unbeaten Derby favourite High Definition and Van Gogh, who won a Group One prize in France at the end of his juvenile campaign.

Other leading hopes among 72 entries for the 2000 Guineas include Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon – not far behind his father’s pair in the Dewhurst – and the Richard Hannon-trained Chindit, who disappointed in the same race having won each of his three previous starts.

The fillies get their chance to shine in the following afternoon’s Qipco 1000 Guineas, for which 63 have been entered.

Ante-post lists are topped by Joseph O’Brien’s Pretty Gorgeous, who won the Fillies’ Mile over the course and distance when last seen.

Shale, who took on Pretty Gorgeous on several occasions last term, is trained by O’Brien’s brother Donnacha, while his father Aidan has nine contenders, with Curragh maiden winner Santa Barbara perhaps the most interesting.

The home team features John Gosden’s Fillies’ Mile runner-up Indigo Girl, the unbeaten Love Is You from Roger Charlton’s yard, Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Saffron Beach and the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free.

Monday Musings: Rapid Start Far From Flat

The two unbeaten favourites didn’t collect the first two Classics of the UK racing season as many, including the bookmakers, were expecting, writes Tony Stafford. Pinatubo was a slightly one-paced third as Kameko gave Andrew Balding a second UK Classic in the 2,000 Guineas, 17 years after Casual Look was his first in the Oaks. Yesterday, Love made it six 1,000 Guineas triumphs for Aidan O’Brien, four in the last six years, as the Roger Charlton filly Quadrilateral also had to be content with third place.

For quite a while in Saturday’s big event, staged behind closed doors of course, it looked as though O’Brien would be celebrating an 11th “2,000” – from back home in Ireland as he left on-course matters to be attended to by his accomplished satellite team. Wichita, turning around last October’s Dewhurst form both with Pinatubo and his lesser-fancied-on-the-day stable companion Arizona, went into what had looked a winning advantage under super-sub Frankie Dettori until close home when the Balding colt was produced fast, late and wide by Oisin Murphy.

The young Irishman might already be the champion jockey, but the first week of the new season, begun eight months after that initial coronation last autumn, suggests he has a new confidence and maturity built no doubt of his great winter success in Japan and elsewhere. A wide range of differing winning rides were showcased over the past few days and Messrs Dettori and Moore, Buick, Doyle and De Sousa clearly have an equal to contend with.

It was Dettori rather than Moore who rode Wichita, possibly because of the relative form in that Dewhurst when Wichita under Ryan got going too late. This time Arizona got his lines wrong and he had already been seen off when he seemed to get unbalanced in the last quarter-mile. Kameko will almost certainly turn up at Epsom now. Balding was keen to run Bangkok in the race last year despite that colt’s possible stamina deficiency. The way Kameko saw out the last uphill stages, he could indeed get the trip around Epsom a month from now.

The 2020 Guineas weekend follows closely the example of its immediate predecessor. Last year there was also a big team of O’Brien colts, including the winner Magna Grecia, and none was by their perennial Classic producer, Galileo. The following afternoon, the 14-1 winner Hermosa, was Galileo’s only representative in their quartet in the fillies’ race. This weekend, again there were four Ballydoyle colts in their race, and none by Galileo. Two, including Wichita, are sons of No Nay Never. As last year, there was a single daughter of Galileo in yesterday’s race, the winner Love. Her four and a quarter length margin must make it pretty much a formality that she will pitch up at Epsom next month.

Love was unusually O’Brien’s only representative yesterday which rather simplified Ryan Moore’s choice. It will surely be hard to prise her from him at Epsom whatever the other Coolmore-owned fillies show at The Curragh and elsewhere in the interim.

Your first 30 days for just £1

With Irish racing resuming at Naas this afternoon, attention will be switching immediately to the Irish Classics next weekend. What with those races, which Ryan will sit out under the 14-day regulations, the Coolmore owners and their trainer will have a clear course to formulate their Derby team and Oaks back-up squad. It would appear that the good weather enjoyed in the UK after which so many big stables, notably Messrs Johnston, Gosden and Balding, have made a flying start on the resumption, has also been kind to Irish trainers.

I know that sometimes in the spring the grass gallops at Ballydoyle have barely been usable by the time of the first month of action. The delayed and truncated first phase should continue to be to the benefit of the more powerful yards and maiden races, just as those in the UK, are already looking like virtual group races, especially on the big tracks.

Aidan O’Brien has 11 runners on today’s opening card, including four in the second event for juveniles, where Lippizaner, who managed a run in one of the Irish Flat meetings squeezed in before the shutdown, is sure to be well fancied. A son of Uncle Mo, he was beaten half a length first time out and the experience, which is his alone in the field, should not be lost on him.

The shutdown has been a contributor to a denial of one of my annual pleasures, a leisurely look at the Horses in Training book which I normally buy during the Cheltenham Festival but forgot to search for at this year’s meeting. The usual fall-back option of Tindalls bookshop in Newmarket High Street has also been ruled out, and inexplicably I waited until last week before thinking to order it on-line.

There are some notable absentees from the book and it has become a growing practice for some of the bigger trainers to follow the example of Richard Fahey who for some years has left out his two-year-olds. John Gosden has joined him in that regard otherwise they both would have revealed teams comfortably beyond 250.

Charlie Appleby, William Haggas, Mark Johnston, Richard Hannon and Andrew Balding all have strings of more than 200 and all five have been quick off the mark, each taking advantage of a one-off new rule instigated by the BHA. In late May trainers wishing to nominate two-year-olds they believed might be suitable to run at Royal Ascot, which begins a week tomorrow, could nominate them and thereby get priority status to avoid elimination with the inevitable over-subscription in the early fixtures.

In all, 163 horses were nominated with Johnston leading the way with 11; Charlie Appleby and Fahey had eight each; Hannon and Archie Watson seven and Haggas five. All those teams have been fast away in all regards but notably with juveniles. The plan, aimed at giving Ascot candidates racecourse experience in the limited time available, has clearly achieved its objective.

Among the trainers with a single nominated juvenile, Hughie Morrison took the chance to run his colt Rooster at Newmarket. Beforehand he was regretting that he hadn’t realised he could have taken him to a track when lockdown rules could apparently have been “legally bent” if not actually transgressed. Rooster should improve on his close seventh behind a clutch of other Ascot-bound youngsters when he reappears.

When I spoke to Hughie before the 1,000 Guineas he was adamant that the 200-1 shot Romsey “would outrun those odds”. In the event Romsey was the only other “finisher” in the 15-horse field apart from Love and, in getting to the line a rapidly-closing fifth, she was only a length and a half behind Quadrilateral. So fast was she moving at that stage, she would surely have passed the favourite in another half furlong. The Racing Post “analysis” which said she “lacked the pace of some but kept on for a good showing” was indeed damning with faint praise. Hughie also could be pleased yesterday with a promising revival for Telecaster, a close third behind Lord North and Elarqam in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock despite getting very warm beforehand.

No doubt I’ll be returning to Horses in Training quite a lot in the coming weeks, but just as the long list of Galileo colts and fillies was dominant among the Ballydoyle juveniles for many years, the numerical power of Dubawi among Charlie Appleby’s team is now rivalling it. Last year, when I admit I didn’t really notice it, there were 40 Dubawi juveniles: this year the number has grown to an eye-opening 55. At the same time the yard has gone well past 200, reflecting his upward trajectory ever since taking over the main Godolphin job ten years ago. I’m sure Pinatubo has some more big wins in his locker.

I always look forward to seeing the team of Nicolas Clement, French Fifteen’s trainer, in the book, and he is there as usual with his middling-strength team. Nowadays much of what used to pass for free time for this greatly-admired man is taken up with his role as the head of the French trainers. He confessed that carrying out his duties over the weeks in lockdown and then the changes in the areas in France where racing could be allowed had been very demanding.

This weekend, Nicolas along with everyone in racing had a dreadful shock when his younger brother Christophe, who has been training with great success in the US for many years, suffered a terrible tragedy. On Saturday a Sallee company horsebox, transporting ten Clement horses from Florida to race in New York burst into flames on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing all ten animals. One report suggested that the horsebox had collided with a concrete stanchion. It added that the two drivers attempted to free the horses but were unable to do so.

At the top level, where both Clement brothers have been accustomed to operating on their respective sides of the pond, the rewards can be great. But as this incident graphically and starkly shows, there is often a downside for trainers and owners, though rarely one of quite this horrific finality.

- TS