Rich pickings for King with Asymmetric

Asymmetric showed a smart turn of foot to win the Unibet Richmond Stakes and cap a fine Goodwood meeting for Alan King.

Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer King – who sent out his first Group One winner earlier in the week when Trueshan landed the Goodwood Cup – saw Asymmetric gain compensation for his narrow second in the July Stakes at Newmarket.

As the Group Two field approached the furlong marker there was just enough room for the Martin Harley-ridden 11-4 favourite to squeeze between Khunan and Gis A Sub, and once in the clear he shot to the front.

The race was not over, however, as Super Sprint victor Gubbass was challenging widest of all, but the unlucky story of the race looked to be Norfolk winner Perfect Power.

Paul Hanagan dropped him out last in the early stages and everywhere he went he found the door closed, finishing full of running.

Asymmetric ultimately had half a length in hand of Khunan, with Gubbass a nose back in third and a neck and the same to Ebro River and Perfect Power.

King said: “I hoped and thought he would run very well today, but I wasn’t thinking he had to win this.

“He has an absolutely wonderful temperament, he’s horizontal, he’s so laid back.

Asymmetric leads them home
Asymmetric leads them home (John Walton/PA)

“He has a pretty lethal turn of foot when he does go, they looked to go pretty steady early and we always take a lead and then drop back and they probably weren’t going strong enough.

“Martin was very happy with him, he said he was always going to drop in and have one crack at him, which we’ve done.

“He’s not the biggest, I think he’s just that little bit sharper for the July Stakes.

“He does nothing at home, he eats and sleeps and you just have to give him the odd squeeze in a morning to make sure all is good.

“He does go on soft, but we’ve always said he’s a much better horse on top of the ground.”

On plans, King said: “He’s in the Gimcrack, he is entered in the Group One (Prix Morny) in France, we’ll see what the team want to do.”

Richard Hannon said of Gubbass: “It was another step forward, though I felt we were a little bit unlucky in running.

“He’s proving a Trojan for the owners and he’s pencilled in for either the Gimcrack or the Morny next.”

Of Khunan and Perfect Power, trainer Richard Fahey said: “Things didn’t go right for Perfect Power, but it was the opposite for Khunan, who got a lovely run up the rail and I think he’s a six-furlong horse.

“Perfect Power hasn’t had a hard race today, in fact I’ve never seen one with a lesser blow. He’ll go for the Morny in three weeks’ time. It will hopefully be better ground – the faster the better.”

For winning jockey Harley, meanwhile, Asymmetric’s success was a morale boost only hours after he had been handed a forthcoming suspension for previous whip offences.

At a British Horseracing Authority referral hearing, he was suspended for 18 days – six of them deferred for seven weeks – under the totting-up procedure following his ride on runner-up Third Kingdom at Newcastle on July 24.

Asymmetric carrying hopes of more Goodwood success for King

Fresh from his first Group One winner on the Flat with Trueshan, Alan King is chasing more Pattern-race glory as Asymmetric lines up in the Unibet Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.

Winner of his first two starts at Goodwood and Newmarket, he returned to HQ for the Group Two July Stakes last time out, just failing by a head to catch Lusail.

While the first day of Goodwood took place on testing ground, it is continuing to dry out. However, there are showers forecast and King is hoping they continue to miss the course.

“We’ve declared and we’ll see how things pan out,” said King.

“He has handled good to soft ground and he showed he was pretty smart in the July Stakes.

“Whether he wants heavy ground, I’m not sure.”

Royal Ascot winner Perfect Power must shoulder a 3lb penalty.

Richard Fahey’s Ardad colt got home by a head in the Norfolk Stakes from Go Bears Go, who franked the form in no uncertain terms when winning the Railway Stakes next time out.

“I’ve ridden him at home since Ascot and he’s in great form,” said former champion jockey Paul Hanagan who is back on board.

“He might have to race on different ground, but no one knows how he’ll go on it until he tries.”

Fahey also runs Khunan, ridden by Hollie Doyle, who was just over a length behind his stablemate at Ascot.

Richard Hannon’s Gubbass defied inexperience to win the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury when last seen.

Gubbass defied inexperience to win the Super Sprint at Newbury
Gubbass defied inexperience to win the Super Sprint at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He has plenty to find on the figures, but remains an unexposed colt.

Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River is undoubtedly talented, as he showed when winning the National Stakes at Sandown – despite showing wayward tendencies.

Since then, however, they have prevented him from showing his true ability at Ascot and Newmarket, where he was behind Asymmetric.

Clive Cox’s Caturra, winner of the Rose Bowl at Newbury recently, and Kevin Ryan’s Gis A Sub complete the seven-runner field.

Charlie Appleby is looking to continue his domination of the three-year-old mile-and-a-half division with Yibir in the John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes.

With Adayar winning the Derby and King George and Hurricane Lane successful in the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris, Appleby has a very good line into what it takes to win these races.

Yibir advertised his credentials when winning the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket, and class horses like Crystal Ocean, Ulysses and Highland Reel have won the Gordon Stakes recently.

“We were delighted to see Yibir get his head back in front in the Bahrain Trophy, when he travelled and stayed very well,” Appleby told

“He also ran a decent race to finish second to Lone Eagle at Goodwood earlier in the season and a repeat of his last couple of runs should make him very competitive.”

His main rival may well be Aidan O’Brien’s Wordsworth, behind Hurricane Lane the last twice and second at Royal Ascot.

The likes of Derby fifth Third Realm, O’Brien’s Sir Lucan and Johnny Murtagh’s Ottoman Emperor all hold claims.

“I don’t think you can readily rule out any of these, so it’s a competitive Group Three, albeit one lacking a stand-out,” Ryan Moore told Betfair.

“That said, I think my mount Wordsworth is the one to beat in here, even if Sir Lucan got the better of him the last time they met at Navan back in May.

“But Wordsworth has clearly improved since then, being placed in Group One company on his last two starts, and his Grand Prix de Paris second last time came in testing ground. Yes, looking at the race, I do think he is the most likely winner.”

Doyle and King take over at the top with Trueshan

The Goodwood Cup has, in recent years, been a race whose title is always spoken alongside the name of just one horse – Stradivarius.

The beloved chestnut’s long-time rider, Frankie Dettori, is next in that sentence, and the ever-statesmanlike John Gosden surely follows.

Little had changed as the scene was set for the 2021 renewal of the race, if anything the aforementioned trio were absorbing more of the limelight than ever as they prepared to jointly bid for a record-breaking fifth success.

The record ripe for breaking was of course set by Stradivarius himself, who has dominated both the contest and the division throughout his unusually long career.

But then the rain came, heavy and relentless, and the limelight refocused on another of racing’s out and out stars – Hollie Doyle.

Trueshan pulling up after his Group One success
Trueshan pulling up after his Group One success (John Walton/PA)

Doyle was booked to ride Trueshan, the mud-loving stayer trained by Alan King, who is more readily associated with the National Hunt circuit having saddled 15 winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

The weather had left the ground not unlike a wet day at Prestbury Park, however, and that inspired punters to back Trueshan in their droves, as he ultimately returned as the 6-5 favourite, with Stradivarius a ground-enforced absentee.

The gelding ran exuberantly in the early stages of the two-mile affair, fighting with the diminutive Doyle and making matters harder that necessary when refusing to settle into the steady pace set by the race leaders.

Reluctant to be boxed in by the rail, Doyle cut forward to cruise in the slipstream of those ahead of her and masterfully eased the bay into the rhythm he had been opposing.

From there she was perfectly poised to throw down her challenge, taking up the lead with two furlongs left to travel and driving Trueshan across the line with his nearest rival three and three-quarters of a length behind him.

The second-placed horse, Ismail Mohammed’s Away He Goes, earned a smattering applause for his valiant run in defeat at written-off odds of 33-1, but Doyle was received by a sizeable Goodwood crowd like a favourite daughter on sports day.

Celebration time following Trueshan's success in the Goodwood Cup
Celebration time following Trueshan’s success in the Goodwood Cup (John Walton/PA)

King, who was leaving the glamour of Goodwood on Tuesday evening to search for new National Hunt performers, admitted the pre-race pressure had been intense.

“I’ve been very calm all morning and then suddenly when John took out Stradivarius we got shorter and shorter,” he said.

“The nerves really started to kick in, I haven’t been this nervous in a long time, I can tell you.”

Looking to further big days with his stable star, King said: “He is in the Lonsdale (Cup, at York) and he is in the Irish St Leger (at the Curragh). I will talk to the boys, but we will probably take him out in the morning at the forfeit stage.

“The Cadran (ParisLongchamp, on Arc weekend) will probably be his big target in the autumn.”

Doyle, whose calm, affable disposition never seems to waver, even found herself uncharacteristically anxious ahead of her ride.

“I never really feel pressure and I never get nervous, but today something did come over me as I didn’t want to let everyone down,” she said.

“I was very confident, but I haven’t had many Group One experiences, especially on a 10-11 odds-on shot, so I was feeling it a bit more than normal.”

Hollie Doyle following victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup
Hollie Doyle following victory in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup (John Walton/PA)

Doyle claimed a first Group One success on Champions Day at Ascot in 2020, with Glen Shiel the hero in question as he took the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

“When I got a taste of the success at Ascot on Glen Shiel, I got a bit more hungry and determined to want it more often,” she said.

A Goodwood Cup triumph seemed to invoke the same appetite for glory once again, as Doyle rolled on to a second success aboard Lord Riddiford in the Back To Goodwood Handicap, and a third when winning the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes with Sisters In The Sky.

“This is one of the best days I’ve ever had,” she said.

“I got some buzz off that, I don’t get too high or too low but when you get experiences like that, you’ve got to make the most of it haven’t you?

“It’s very special, I’ll still be smiling in the next, I’ll be smiling all week!”

Doyle deserves to smile, King deserves to smile, and the authors of the Goodwood script can smile too, for whilst it seemed the star of their cast was sorely missing, in this instance the understudy proved to be every bit as good.

Trueshan powers to Goodwood Cup glory

Trueshan claimed Group One glory for Alan King and Hollie Doyle with a decisive success in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

A runaway winner on Champions Day at Ascot in October, the five-year-old made a promising start to the current campaign when runner-up to Japan at Chester in May before missing an intended appearance in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot due to unsuitable ground.

Trueshan instead contest the following week’s Northumberland Plate, where he was far from disgraced in finishing sixth under a huge weight, and everything fell perfectly into place for him on the Sussex Downs.

With the rain-softened ground leading to the withdrawal of four-time Goodwood Cup hero Stradivarius, King’s charge was the 6-5 favourite to provide his multiple Grade One-winning trainer with a first top-level success on the Flat.

Trueshan raced keenly for much of the two-mile journey, but moved to the lead early in the home straight and saw off the brave effort of the largely-unconsidered 33-1 shot Away He Goes by just under four lengths, giving a jubilant Doyle her second Group One win.

Doyle said: “It’s incredible. He’s been in my mind every day since Champions Day, when we could get back together – these are the days you do it for.

“He was pretty fresh early on, they were going no gallop and I expected there to be a bit of pace on and at halfway I thought ‘I’ve got to do something about this, I’m not getting trapped on the rail, they’re going to sprint finish’.

Trueshan in action at Goodwood
Trueshan in action at Goodwood (John Walton/PA)

“I managed to slide onto the girths of the leaders, he completely dropped the bridle with me and the further he went, the better. When I hit the rising ground, he went again.

“It’s a staying challenge and when I hit the rising ground he was gone again.

“He’s a superstar on this ground. I got some buzz off that – I don’t get too high or too low, but when you get experiences like that you’ve got to make the most of it.”

King is perhaps more renowned for winners at Cheltenham, but is becoming an increasingly potent force on the Flat.

He said: “It’s no better but it’s right up there with the Champion Hurdles and things, of course it is.

“All I want to do is train proper horses and I don’t mind whether they’re jumpers or not, I’m not giving up the jumping just yet!”

He went on: “We’re out of practice a bit, I haven’t been coming racing much over the past 18 months and I don’t think I’ve ever saddled this horse to win – I was nearly told to stay at home!

“He was just a little bit keen but he can be like that – thank God we went to Newcastle because if he’d come straight from Chester he’d have been ferocious today.

“I was glad he had a proper race there and we were able to let him down and then build him back up, a lot of people thought we were mad running him (at Newcastle) without a flat weight but he needed to go somewhere.”

Trainer Ismail Mohammed was thrilled with the effort of Away He Goes.

He said: “As we watched we thought he was going to win. We are very proud of him. Maybe we will head to France for a race one month from now that we had pencilled in.”

His rider Jim Crowley was equally pleased, saying: “He was travelling better than the winner who outstayed him on that ground. His form in Dubai was very good, so it was not a total surprise.”

Goodwood Cup on the agenda for Trueshan

Trueshan will be trained for the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup after pleasing trainer Alan King with his performance in last weekend’s Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.

Having been taken out of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot due to unsuitable ground conditions, the high-class stayer instead carried top-weight in the feature race of the season at Gosforth Park.

While favourite-backers were ultimately out of luck, Trueshan was not disgraced in finishing sixth – and King is keeping his fingers crossed for some ease in the ground to allow him to take on the likes of Subjectivist and Stradivarius on the Sussex Downs.

“I was happy with the run. He was beaten less than four lengths and has been absolutely fine since,” said the Barbury Castle handler.

Trueshan was a famous winner for Hollie Doyle on Champions Day last year
Trueshan was a famous winner for Hollie Doyle on Champions Day last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’ll have a quiet week and then we’ll train him for Goodwood and see what the ground is like.

“We were very keen to get a run into him and we can leave him alone now for a week or 10 days. You can’t keep these horses bubbling away and that’s why we ran him. I thought he ran very well really.

“If the ground wasn’t suitable at Goodwood then there’s the Lonsdale Cup at York, I suppose, and he’s in the Irish St Leger, but that’s not until later on (September).

“We’ll go one race at a time and just see what the weather does.”

Trueshan facing ‘huge ask’ under Plate welter burden

Alan King is under no illusions about the “huge ask” facing his stable star Trueshan in the William Hill Northumberland Plate.

An impressive winner of the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot, the five-year-old made a promising start to the current campaign when runner-up to Japan in last month’s Ormonde Stakes at Chester.

Connections had been looking forward to a tilt at Gold Cup glory at Royal Ascot, but he was taken out on the day of the race because of the prevailing fast ground. As luck would have it, heavy rain later that night turned the ground bottomless for the following afternoon.

Having sidestepped his main objective, Trueshan will instead carry top-weight in the most prestigious race of Newcastle’s season on Saturday.

King said: “It was obviously very frustrating when the rain came (at Ascot) a few hours later, but I have no doubt we did the right thing taking him out – we couldn’t risk him on that ground on Thursday.

“It’s a huge ask on Saturday, I know that, but I’m just desperate to get a run into him. It’s a long time to wait for Goodwood, and if it was quick ground there and he couldn’t run again – you can’t keep them on the boil forever.

“We’ll take our chance and see what happens. At least we know the surface will suit.”

Apprentice rider Rhys Clutterbuck takes over in the saddle from Hollie Doyle, with King keen to offset some of the welter burden of 10st 4lb.

Alan King also saddles Rainbow Dreamer
Alan King also saddles Rainbow Dreamer (John Walton/PA)

He added: “Rhys has never ridden for me, I don’t think. But I spoke to Tony Hind (jockeys’ agent), and he recommended him very highly.

“It (5lb claim) all helps, hopefully.”

The Barbury Castle handler has an interesting second string to his bow in Rainbow Dreamer, who has won six times on the all-weather and was not beaten far into fifth place in last year’s Northumberland Plate.

“He’s a much better horse on the all-weather, as we know,” said King.

“His last couple of runs on the turf have been OK, and he seems in very good order, so I’d hope he’ll run well.”

The Charlie Fellowes-trained Dubious Affair came close to making a triumphant return from eight months off the track at the Royal meeting – going down by a head to Amtiyaz in the Copper Horse Stakes.

The daughter of Frankel is turned out just 11 days later for this weekend’s Gosforth Park feature.

Fellowes said: “She ran a huge race at Ascot, where arguably she was a bit unlucky. She would have got a penalty for winning that, and in another metre we probably would have won, so we’re basically a winner running without a penalty – which is rather nice.

“You’ve just got to hope that after such a long time off she’s got over the exertions of that race and that it hasn’t left a mark on her.

“Stepping up to two miles will be no problem. I think she’ll love the track, and she likes a big field, so there’s lots of positives.

“It’s just slightly in the lap of the gods whether she’s back to 100 per cent, after what would have been a tough race at Ascot.”

Australis in action at Wolverhampton
Australis in action at Wolverhampton (Steve Davies/PA)

Roger Varian saddles last year’s runner-up Australis, and is hopeful of another bold bid.

“He was second in the race last year and has some very good form on the all-weather,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“He had a nice run over a mile and a half on Derby day at Epsom to sharpen him up and he’s quite an interesting runner, I think.”

Mark Johnston fires a five-pronged assault in his bid to win the race for the first time since Quick Ransom struck gold in 1994 – with Mildenberger, Watersmeet, Themaxwecan, Lucky Deal and Hochfeld all declared.

The Ian Williams-trained Reshoun, a narrow and surprise winner of the Ascot Stakes last week, also features.

Trueshan in line to take Northumberland Plate chance

Trueshan heads the weights for the William Hill Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday.

The torrential downpours that hit Royal Ascot on Friday came 24 hours too late for the Alan King-trained stayer and his Gold Cup bid, with the British Champions Day winner withdrawn from his clash with Stradivarius and company due to unsuitably quick ground.

King’s charge boasts a rating of 118, which means he will have to shoulder 10st 4lb if he lines up at Gosforth Park, although 5lb claimer Rhys Clutterbuck has been provisionally booked to ride.

The Barbury Castle handler also has last year’s fifth Rainbow Dreamer in contention on 9st 10lb.

Mildenberger is next in the weights and is one of eight still in contention for Mark Johnston, with a total of 61 horses standing their ground.

Mildenberger has not run since contesting the richly-endowed Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia back in February, while the likes of Themaxwecan, Hochfeld and Rochester House all ran at Ascot last week.

Sir Mark Prescott’s Longsider is among the leading ante-post fancies, although he needs a number of runners to come out to make the field, along with William Haggas’ Dancing King, who ran in the Queen’s Vase last week, and Dubious Affair from Charlie Fellowes’ yard, with that one having been touched off by just a head in the Copper Horse Stakes at the Royal meeting.

Fellowes has three others still in the two-mile feature, with Ascot Stakes winner Reshoun heading eight for Ian Williams. Those horses eliminated will be given the chance to run in the consolation Vase over the same course and distance.

Recent Salisbury winner Opera Gift, the Roger Varian-trained pair of Zeeband and Australis are also prominent in the betting.

Champions Day hero Trueshan clashes with Japan at Chester

Alan King expects his Qipco British Champions Day hero Trueshan to improve for the run when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the tote+ Pays You More At Ormonde Stakes at Chester on Thursday.

The French-bred gelding won three of his five starts last season, rounding off his campaign with victory in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October – the first leg of a double on the high-profile card for record-breaking rider Hollie Doyle.

With Doyle once again in the saddle, Trueshan makes his belated return to action over an extended mile and five furlongs on the Roodee.

King said: “We’ve been waiting on a bit of softer ground. We didn’t want to start him off in the Sagaro (at Ascot) or the Further Flight (at Nottingham) because it was too firm.

“The trip is probably short enough for him and you know what Chester is like, but it’s all about getting a run into him and getting him started really.”

The Barbury Castle handler hopes the Group Three contest will act as a stepping-stone to a potential tilt at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

He added: “The Gold Cup is the plan, ground permitting. If we get a scorching June then we won’t be running, but that would be the target and this race fits in time-wise.

“I had him in the Yorkshire Cup next week, but I didn’t want to wait for that and then the ground dried up again. We sort of said that wherever we got the first decent ground he would take his chance, so that’s what we’re doing.

“He’s in good order, but I think he’ll come on for it.”

Japan (near side) winning the 2019 Juddmonte International
Japan (near side) winning the 2019 Juddmonte International (Nigel French/PA)

High on the list of dangers to Trueshan is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Japan, who has his sights lowered following eight consecutive outings in Group One company.

Japan struck gold twice at the highest level in 2019, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International – and while he failed to get his head in front last season, he was placed in the Eclipse at Sandown and the King George at Ascot.

Jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair: “Ideally, we probably could have done without all the recent rain, but he finished fourth in a deep ground Arc a couple of years ago and is pretty versatile, and hopefully his Group One class will see him through.

“It’s a good race, with the likes of Trueshan in here, but my horse is unpenalised for his Group One wins back in 2019 and his third in the Eclipse last year makes him the one beat form-wise

“This is the longest trip he has faced, but the way in which he has finished off his races over a mile and a half when at his best suggests it should not be an issue. It’ll take a very good one to beat him if he is on his A-game.”

Conditions appear to have come right for the Andrew Balding-trained Morando, who won the latest renewal in 2019 and returns to defend his crown, while Roger Charlton saddles his veteran stayer Withhold.

Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie), Kipps (Hughie Morrison), Sextant (Keith Dalgleish) and Sonnyboyliston (Murtagh) complete the field.

Her Indoors picks up Grade Three honours at Cheltenham

Form from the Festival played its part as Her Indoors came out on top in the NAF Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

According to trainer Alan King, the 6-1 shot found the hustle and bustle of the Fred Winter (Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle) a shade intimidating, and was happier in this smaller field.

Under Adrian Heskin she seized command from Scholastic on the approach to the final flight, staying on the better to score by three and a half lengths.

“It was a good race to target,” said King of the Grade Three contest.

“I thought the smaller field would certainly help her, and with her stamina she would power up the hill.

“It might be a while before she runs back over hurdles as I plan to give her a few runs on the Flat.”

Heskin said: “She was a bit star-struck in the Fred Winter, but is a good tough filly who has the scope to jump a fence one day.

“She wants a stiff two miles and will stay two and a half. She has a good heart and a lovely attitude, and I knew half a furlong before the last she was going to win.”

Martello Sky also took part at the Festival and she readily outclassed her foes under a confident Aidan Coleman in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Martello Sky in full flight
Martello Sky in full flight (David Davies/PA)

In spite of three withdrawals on account of the changing ground, the Lucy Wadham-trained grey went off at 10-11 before pulling two and three-quarter lengths clear of market rival Sandymount Rose up the final hill.

Eight in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Festival, Coleman confessed his mount was confidently expected to prevail, saying: “She’s a very very nice mare, and I fancied her before the non-runners were announced.

“She now has black type with loads of options in the new mares’ programme for next season. She flicked he ears turning for home, but jumped super, and I was delighted with her.

“She stayed the trip well, and while they went slow early on I’m sure she will have no problem with the distance in a more strongly-run race.”

Venetia Williams praised the Cheltenham ground staff with their watering after the triumph of Pink Legend in the British EBF Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Final.

Under Charlie Deutsch, the 11-2 winner kept on to score by two and a half lengths from Danes Idol.

Williams said: “I think the old cheekpieces have helped her focus, and I’m delighted for her owner Frank Mahon who bred her. She’s now got black type from a Listed race at Cheltenham.

“I would also say they have done a lovely job with the watering.”

Pink Legend (right) won for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch
Pink Legend (right) won for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch (David Davies/PA)

Williams added that Royale Pagaille is “on the mend and being led out each day” following his run in the Gold Cup.

“It’s all going the right way and he’ll be back for the new season in the autumn,” she said.

Michael Scudamore was the proudest man at the course after rags-to-riches mare Northern Beau made it a third course and distance triumph at Cheltenham in the Visit racing Mares’ Handicap Chase.

After Brendan Powell brought the 11-4 joint-favourite home 14 lengths clear of Miss Amelia, the trainer said: “She was rated 35 on the Flat and was sold to be a riding pony. Then they decided to run in point-to-points and she’s ended up winning three at the home of steeplechasing.”

The Christian Williams-trained Win My Wings reacted favourably to a return to a race contested by her own sex when defying top-weight under Nick Schofield in the Catesby Estates PLC Mares’ Handicap Chase.

Alan King anticipating Triumph ‘battle’ for Tritonic

Alan King is confident he has Tritonic in top form as he prepares for a “proper battle” against a clutch of fellow prospective stars in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Even before embarking on his so far unbeaten hurdles career, which includes a highly-impressive Grade Two win in Kempton’s Adonis on just his second start under three weeks ago, Tritonic took King to centre stage on the Flat as a Royal Ascot runner-up last summer.

The Barbury Castle trainer therefore has every right to consider him a leading light at the top level – but he has great respect for Friday’s opposition from either side of the Irish Sea.

Zanahiyr, like Tritonic unbeaten over jumps, has spent most of the winter as ante-post favourite.

He will represent Denise Foster, as he bids for a fourth successive victory – while his Irish compatriot Quilixios, transferred this month from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead’s stable, is already a four-time winner after his Grade One success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

The home contingent has a second strong contender too, in David Pipe’s Adagio – who won both the Triumph Trial over course and distance in December and the rescheduled Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow a month later.

Tritonic was yet to race over hurdles at that point, but has since surged towards the top of the market, and King is delighted with his preparation.

“He’s absolutely A1,” he said.

“I don’t think the track (at Cheltenham) will be any different to him, but the opposition is a lot stronger.

“I’ve got great respect for David Pipe’s horse and the Irish horses – so it’s going to be a proper battle.”

Tritonic’s eyecatching Flat rating of 99 is an obvious indication that he could go right to the top over jumps.

“I hope so,” added King.

“But if he can do the talking on Friday now, we’ll see what happens.”

Quilixios, who has won his races by an aggregate of more than 50 lengths, also boasts fine credentials for the Champion Hurdle-winning partnership of De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore.

Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, echoes King’s respect for the opposition – albeit in a select field of eight.

“It looks a very good race,” he said.

“The fields might be a little bit smaller at Cheltenham this year, but all the top horses are there.”

Quilixios was an impressive winner at the Dublin Racing Festival
Quilixios was an impressive winner at the Dublin Racing Festival (Niall Carson/PA)

Quilixios could yet be one of them, and Richardson added: “He’s done nothing wrong – he’s four from four.

“He was most impressive when well clear at Leopardstown last time.”

Adagio has done plenty to fuel Pipe’s dreams of victory in a race which launched his father Martin’s great training career when Baron Blakeney won it as an unconsidered 66-1 shot 40 years ago.

In his three wins from four starts over hurdles, he has proved all conditions come alike to him.

“The great thing about Adagio is that it doesn’t really matter what the ground is and he’s got Cheltenham form,” said Pipe, who reports Tom Scudamore’s mount back in rude health after being briefly laid low in mid-winter.

“He had a little colic after his last run and was a bit quiet in himself.

“(Normally) he’s a real character who loves his food and he was just off games for the week.

“He’s been in very good form since, and jumps and travels.

“It’s a red-hot Triumph Hurdle. Is he good enough? We’ll find out at Cheltenham.”

There are also two Willie Mullins’ hopefuls – Haut En Couleurs, a narrow winner on his only French start but unraced for current connections – and Tax For Max.

Completing the eight are Nigel Hawke’s Historic Heart – runner-up to Adagio in the Triumph Trial – and Sean Curran’s filly Talking About You, who is the most experienced hurdler in the field with four wins from her 10 starts.

Zanahiyr and Tritonic clash in Triumph Hurdle

Tritonic and Zanahiyr are among eight juveniles declared for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.

Zanahiyr is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this season and edges favouritism for Denise Foster, who recently took over the training licence at Cullentra House from the suspended Gordon Elliott.

The Alan King-trained Tritonic, who was runner-up on the Flat at Royal Ascot last summer, is the clear pick of the home team after successive jumping wins at Ascot and Kempton.

Next in the betting is Quilixios, who is three from three since arriving in Ireland and impressed in Grade One company at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned four-year-old will make his debut for Henry de Bromhead under Rachael Blackmore after being moved from Elliott’s yard earlier in the month.

David Pipe has high hopes for course-and-distance winner Adagio, while Willie Mullins runs Tax For Max and Haut En Couleurs, who was a narrow winner on his only previous start in France.

Historic Heart (Nigel Hawke) and Talking About You (Sean Curran) complete the octet.

A much larger field of 17 runners have been declared for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett
Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading Irish hopes for the three-mile contest include the Mullins-trained Stattler and Foster’s pair of Fakiera and Torygraph.

Paul Nicholls is responsible for two of the big British-trained contenders in Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive.

Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe and Adrimel from Tom Lacey’s yard are others to consider in a competitive heat.

Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares' Chase
Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares’ Chase (Brian Lawless/PA)

Petit Mouchoir heads a maximum field of 26 runners for the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, while likely favourite Billaway heads 18 declared for the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup.

Mullins appears to hold the aces in the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, with market principals Elimay and Colreevy, as well as Salsaretta and Cabaret Queen, part of an 11-strong line-up.

Ireland’s champion trainer is also responsible for the likely favourite in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in the form of the JP McManus-owned Gentleman De Mee.

Monday Musings: Tritonic to be the Spring King?

I was speaking to Micky Hammond a couple of weeks ago and he declared: “Winter has finished!”. I thought maybe he was rather precipitous as there were still great drifts of snow around much of the North of England and points further on, but he must have had divine inspiration from somewhere, writes Tony Stafford.

Often the Kempton Saturday meeting in late February has offered better ground than anywhere else for ages and as such provided a nice lead-in for Cheltenham Festival runners. February 27 2021 proved no exception.

Through this most depressing of winters, denied visits to the racecourse and resigned to watching horses slogging through the mud day after day on television, Kempton’s jumps track always provides the kindest of surfaces. No wonder Nicky Henderson opposed plans for its closure so vigorously.

On Saturday the three-mile handicap chase, which has had many identities, but was staged under the Close Brothers banner this year, was run in five minutes 51 seconds, one second FASTER than standard time.

Clondaw Castle was the meritorious winner. Trained by Tom George and ridden by Jonathan Burke, he led home a field of 17. Runner-up Erick Le Rouge, a 33-1 shot, had been successful on similarly fast ground at the corresponding meeting two years ago in a handicap hurdle while on that same card, Southfield Spirit, a faller when favourite for the Close Brothers, won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle for Paul Nicholls.

Micky must have been slightly irritated at the accuracy of his prediction as he chose the same weekend for the return to hurdling of stable star Cornerstone Lad in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell yesterday. The ground had dried out appreciably there too and Cornerstone Lad, a proper mud-lark, was pulled up.

I always loved the late February meeting at Kempton which used to be a two-day affair on the Friday and Saturday. I know my memory plays tricks these days but I definitely remember one year (not sure which one) when at least half a dozen of the Kempton winners (and possibly a couple more) went on to success at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Adonis Hurdle will always be a favourite and its annual arrival unfailingly reminds me of the 2007 renewal which led to a 14-year connection with Raymond Tooth. Sadly Raymond’s association with racing has for now been curtailed but I will always be grateful to Punjabi and to Derek Hatter and Brod Munro-Wilson whose input that day hastened the union.

Few winners of the race, which in 2007 and 2008 provided Nicky Henderson with the 2009 and 2010 (Binocular) Champion Hurdle winners, were more impressive than Saturday’s ten-length Adonis victor Tritonic, a fifth Adonis score for Alan King, equalling Henderson’s tally.

Tritonic, a 99-rated Flat racer, had been more workmanlike than spectacular in the Ascot mud five weeks earlier when a strong-finishing one-length victor from the Gary Moore-trained Casa Loupi. That horse, a far inferior performer on the level but still a tough campaigner, was again the main rival on Saturday.

Coming to the last flight it appeared that there would probably be only a slightly wider margin between them but once over the obstacle, Tritonic took off and sprinted away up the run-in in the manner of a Goshen in an easing-down ten-length exhibition.

Cheltenham has a habit of fooling us with its ground and many times I’ve been in a less than successful going prediction business, certainly not in the Hammond league anyway. At various Cheltenham preview nights I’ve suggested it will be impossible for it to be anything but soft and it often wasn’t. I don’t think it matters for Tritonic, who is down to 7-2 for the juvenile championship.

I feel I have to change my Triumph allegiance, with French Aseel showing no sign of a second run having transferred into the Willie Mullins team. Gordon Elliott still has a strong grip on the race with 2-1 shot Zanahiyr and third-best Quilixios (6-1) but he is making all the wrong headlines after the picture of him talking on the phone while sitting on a dead horse on his gallop started doing the rounds. Both the Irish authorities and the BHA are understandably on the Elliott case.

In these more sensitive times in terms of animal welfare it is little wonder that social media has been so much on this matter. I’ve been told that the belated release of the grotesque image many months after it was captured last summer is because of the ire of a scorned former paramour of the trainer! Whatever the truth of that, it’s a great story. As Mr Bolger instructed when I first contacted him back in the 1980’s: “No names!”

In those days in Ireland you never knew who was listening in. Nowadays there’s always someone taking a picture and it has an ever-ready target audience. No doubt in no time at all there will be a million “likes” of which 999,000 of them will be utter “dislikes”.

Anyway, I digress. Tritonic is a reminder of Alan King’s talent as a jumps trainer which to some extent has been slightly eroded in the public understanding because of his equal facility on the Flat. Considering he doesn’t have easy access to the top pedigrees but instead needs to develop his own talent, that success is even more meritorious.

Tritonic was a case in point. Bred by Kirsten Rausing, he was originally sold as a foal at Tatts December sale for 14,000gns to Tony O’Callaghan’s Tally Ho Stud. Eighteen months later at the lesser of the two Tatts Breeze-ups, with the benefit of the Tally Ho expertise, he realised almost a 300% increase at 55k.

He might not have seemed the obvious “breezer” in pedigree terms. He was by the German Derby winner – by 11 lengths! – Sea The Moon who won four of five career starts with his only defeat coming as a 2-1 on shot in his last run in the Grosser Preis von Baden. The four-year-old winner there, Ivanhowe, was later a multiple Group 1 winner in Australia.

King didn’t waste any time with his May purchase. Tritonic had his first start in July as an unconsidered 50-1 outsider for a Haydock 7f novice race and, bar taking a false step in the closing stages, could have been even nearer than fourth place, less than a length behind the winner.

He built on that with wins at Ffos Las in August and Newbury in September and was only a 6-1 chance when fifth to Max Vega in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in October. Placed in four of his five attempts – including first time out at Royal Ascot – in good-class handicaps as a three-year-old, he had the benefit of experience without being over-raced. So when the trainer turned Tritonic to hurdling he already looked the finished article.

With two Triumph Hurdle winners, Penzance and Katchit - who as a five-year-old followed up in the Champion Hurdle - to his credit, King certainly knows what’s needed and, after welcoming his winner on Saturday, there was only one race on his mind.

Another of the Kempton winners that interests me is Cape Gentleman who travelled over from Ireland to win the Dovecote Hurdle in determined style after a tussle with the Dan Skelton-trained Calico, a decent horse in Germany before making an easy winning UK debut at Ludlow.

Cape Gentleman started out in the Nicolas Clement stable after being sourced as a yearling at Arqana’s Deauville sale by the trainer and his sales associate Tina Rau for €20k. After three runs and one win he was back at the company’s Saint-Cloud venue where Emmet Mullins bought him for €80k on behalf of owner Margaret O’Rourke.

It’s uncanny that Tritonic and Cape Gentleman had such similar increases in value between sales and are rated 1lb apart on the Flat: second time out for Mullins in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh last September Cape Gentleman showed tremendous stamina and determination to win by a couple of lengths in a field of 20 after which his mark was increased from 85 to 100.

First time over hurdles he won well at Punchestown but then, in Grade 1 company over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival three weeks ago, he was pulled up. That he could recover from those exertions and put in such a good performance within such a short time and back at two miles is testimony both to the horse’s constitution and his trainer’s skill.

Cape Gentleman has two Cheltenham engagements and is a 25-1 chance for both. With the run guarantee in many places, I reckon there will be worse each-way shots at considerably shorter odds on the day. Just two weeks to go.

I’d actually been asked to go to a friend’s house to do an on-the-day hosting of one of the days at the Festival for some of his pals who play for a Premier League team and love their racing. That was great at any rate until spoil-sport Mrs S pointed out that it was still illegal – and no doubt one of the lads would live stream the event, ensuring big fines all round. I had regretfully to decline.

- TS

Tritonic powers to impressive Adonis victory

Tritonic cemented his JCB Triumph Hurdle claims with a hugely impressive display in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.

The four-year-old championship at the Festival had looked at the mercy of Gordon Elliott, who has an embarrassment of riches in the division with the first two in the betting in Zanahiyr and Quilixios, as well as the unbeaten Teahupoo, who won again at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

But Tritonic, more than useful on the Flat for Alan King and placed at Royal Ascot, has clearly taken to his new discipline very well.

A winner on his debut at Ascot when he only wore down Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi in the closing stages, the pair were first and second again – but this time Tritonic’s superiority was much greater.

Running to the last Tritonic was just a length in front, but by the time the 5-6 favourite crossed the line he had put 10 between them, with Adrian Heskin not being overly vigorous.

Betfair cut the winner to 5-1 from 8s for the Triumph – and King could hardly have been happier with the display.

The Barbury Castle Stables trainer said: “We wanted to get a bit more experience into him for Cheltenham and he will have learned plenty down the inside (rail) today. Once or twice he goes to sleep, but as soon as Adrian gives him a squeeze, he is straight back on the bridle. I could not have been more pleased with him.

Tritonic comes well clear after the last
Tritonic comes well clear after the last (Alan Corwhurst/PA)

“We gave him a proper holiday at the end of last Flat season – he was gelded and had six weeks in the field. He was only just ready to start at Ascot and I just felt we had to try to get two runs into him if we were going to have a serious Triumph horse.

“We were going to come straight here and I thought ‘well, that’s not right’, he just needs a little bit more experience. We certainly felt he had improved since Ascot, fitness-wise, and he has built on that again today.

“He is much the best of my former Triumph Hurdle horses on Flat ratings. We have trained him differently. Katchit we started back in September, the rest had a lot more experience than Tritonic has coming into the Triumph.

“But I think the two runs over hurdles will be enough and he has experience in big handicaps on the Flat.”

He added: “He is the highest-class Flat horse I’ve ever sent jumping. He is a good mile-and-a-quarter Flat horse. He might appear to be a little bit slow, but that is because he goes to sleep on you in a race. He only just does what he is asked.

“He should be fine for Cheltenham and he has the gears to hold a position wherever you want to ride him.

“Everything impressed me. The way he came back on the bridle. He was a bit short of room once or twice and I love the way he went away from the last as well. He hit the line really well, which is always a good sign.

“From day one he has schooled lovely. I thought today his jumping was accurate and he’s good when he is in tight as well.

“I don’t think he will come on much fitness-wise, but he will just be a little bit sharper for this experience.

“I hope he’d have a very good chance at Cheltenham. He’d be the highest-rated Flat-wise and I certainly wouldn’t be one to swap him for anything. I’m very happy with my lad.”

Heskin is also looking forward to Cheltenham.

The rider said: “He is a very smart horse. I was a little bit caught for pace midways in the race, but once I switched him out when we turned in, he really came alive. He wasn’t in full flow down the straight – there is still a bit (more there) with him.

“His momentum carried him through. He was just coming alive at the second-last and he is very quick across a hurdle, no matter what stride he is on. That is big asset to him.

“The pace of the Triumph Hurdle will be ideal and that Cheltenham hill will really suit him.”

Cabot Cliffs impresses in Warwick victory

Dan Skelton is in no rush to decide whether Cabot Cliffs will be part of his Cheltenham Festival squad next month following a runaway victory in the opening race at Warwick on Friday.

A winner on his hurdling debut at Uttoxeter in the autumn, the Gleneagles gelding subsequently ran with credit in Listed and graded company at Wetherby and Cheltenham, before getting his head in front for a second time at Warwick three weeks ago.

The four-year-old looked to have plenty on his plate on his return to his trainer’s local track for the South West Syndicate Juvenile Hurdle, with Nicky Henderson’s Kempton scorer Heross Du Seuil all the rage to maintain his unbeaten record over jumps as the 4-7 favourite.

However, Cabot Cliffs (15-8) was sent straight to the lead by the trainer’s brother Harry – and while Heross Du Seuil appeared to be in top gear a long way from home, the Skelton runner scooted clear for a commanding 17-length success.

“He’s thriving at the moment. He looks great and loves jumping,” said the Alcester-based trainer.

“He surprised me today with how straightforward it was. I think the form of his last run here at Warwick is pretty good and you can’t be anything but impressed with his progression.

“He’s a credit to himself as he’s really enjoying it and is doing everything he should do, albeit in a slightly crazy way!”

Cabot Cliffs hold an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in less than three weeks’ time, but is not certain to take up the engagement.

Skelton added: “I don’t know if the handicapper will overreact massively, because the second horse obviously hasn’t run up to his form and I’m not sure what the rest is worth at the moment.

“For Craig and Laura (Buckingham, owners), Cheltenham is not their God. They’ll do whatever is right for the horse, so we’ll see how he comes out of it and see what happens.”

Jay Bee Why justified 2-7 favouritism in the British Stallion Studs EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The six-year-old bolted up on his hurdling debut at the track in December, before finishing a close-up fifth in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle last month.

Jay Bee Why jumps the final flight clear at Warwick
Jay Bee Why jumps the final flight clear at Warwick (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Stepping back down in grade, Alan King’s inmate comfortably pulled seven lengths clear of Hurling Magic.

“It was a nice display. He’s just growing up all the time, and I love the way he settled today and jumped well,” said King.

“He’s a horse we like. We’re just sort of marking time with him at the moment, as he’ll likely be going chasing next year.

“I didn’t put him in for Cheltenham because he wouldn’t have been ready for that this year, but he’ll run again this season.”

The Barbury Castle handler and jockey Tom Cannon doubled up in the concluding bumper, with Moonamacaroona (15-8) lunging late to win by a length-and-a-half – denying Alexandra Romanov and Skelton-trained favourite Get A Tonic in a three-way finish.

Ga Law in ‘great order’ for Pendil assignment

Jamie Snowden is in optimistic mood for Ga Law’s return to action in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

The Sinndar gelding provided his trainer with a first victory at graded level when readily beating two rivals in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November.

A drop in trip and a rise in class for the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown a month later ultimately proved too much, but Snowden feels his stable star has a good chance of getting back on the winning trail in Saturday’s Grade Two contest.

“He had a bit of a break and a quiet month after the Henry VIII, but he’s back in and in top shape and goes to Kempton in great order,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“He’s obviously got to carry a 5lb penalty for his Grade Two win at Wincanton, and his weight-for-age is diminishing as the months progress, so he’s got to keep improving – but he’s in good order, and we go there with every chance.

“Kempton is not too dissimilar to Wincanton, and I think going back up to two-and-a-half will help.

“In the Henry VIII he was just taken off his feet slightly, but he was only beaten just over 10 lengths and wasn’t disgraced.”

Ga Law’s biggest threat appears to be the Paul Nicholls-trained Tamaroc Du Mathan, last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Arkle favourite Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton in December.

Nicholls told Betfair: “He made quite an impression on his chasing debut at Wincanton, where he jumped for fun and readily pulled clear in the closing stages.

“I thought he then ran really well when runner up to Shishkin at Kempton over Christmas. I’ve been waiting for better ground for Tamaroc Du Mathan ever since, and everything looks set for another big run from him.”

Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (Evan Williams) and Son Of Camas (Nicky Henderson) are the other hopefuls.

Nicholls also has a leading contender for the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, in the hat-trick seeking Atholl Street.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned six-year-old has earned the step up to Grade Two level, following a pair of facile wins at Taunton.

“He is another of mine that loves decent ground, so I have saved him for this race since he hacked up at Taunton early in December,” Nicholls added.

“That was his second impressive win at the Somerset track, and he fully deserves a step up in class.

“While he still holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a good run at Kempton is more likely to book his ticket for Aintree.”

Chief among Atholl Street’s rivals is Calico, who is trained by Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton.

A high-class performer on the Flat in Germany, the five-year-old made a successful hurdling debut for his new connections at Ludlow.

Skelton said: “I’m really happy with him and I think the track will suit him.

“He has got high-class form on the Flat. He should be able to go at the pace they are likely to go in this race.

“It is a big step from his win at Ludlow, but I feel he can compete at this level – and he has performed well on better ground in the past.”

Emmet Mullins saddles Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Alan King is hoping Son Of Red can earn himself a shot at the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“I don’t know whether he’ll be up to this, but he needs a third run to qualify for the Fred Winter (Boodles),” said the Barbury Castle trainer.

“He has to have a third run by Sunday, so that’s why he’s running.

“I think he’s done well for his break. Whether he’s quite up to this level, I don’t know, but we have to go somewhere with him.”

Lunar Sovereign (Fergal O’Brien), Mackenberg (Donald McCain) and Pyramid Place (Milton Harris) complete the field.