Sheema Classic could be next for Berkshire Rocco

Berkshire Rocco may be bound for the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan following a fine effort on his first start for four months in Qatar.

Andrew Balding was delighted with the four-year-old’s run in the H H The Amir Trophy at Doha when beaten two and three-quarter lengths by Noor Al Hawa.

The Kingsclere trainer expects an even better performance next time from last year’s St Leger runner-up.

“He ran a smashing race. It was his first run for a while, and he’s entitled to come on for that,” said Balding.

Berkshire Rocco (red cap) ran a huge race in the St Leger
Berkshire Rocco (red cap) ran a huge race in the St Leger (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“All being well, he might head towards Meydan for the Sheema Classic.

“He’s effective at a mile and a half and further, and is just a great horse to have in the yard.”

Stablemate Spanish Mission could also head to Dubai after finishing second in the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh, for which he earned £364,000.

“He ran with great credit and he too might end up going to Dubai for the Dubai Gold Cup,” said Balding.

Bangkok picked up plenty of prize-money with his run in the Saudi Cup
Bangkok picked up plenty of prize-money with his run in the Saudi Cup (John Walton/PA)

The handler was pleased Bangkok managed to pick up excellent prize-money as well in the world’s richest race, the Saudi Cup – earning £291,000 for eighth place.

“He’s probably not quite as good as the others, which is obvious, but he won some really good prize-money and is back here and bouncing,” said Balding.

“There were great rewards up for grabs, and that was the main reason we ran. The rewards were there as long as he could finish in the first 10, and he did that and has done us proud.”

His next run will be much closer to home, in the All-Weather Championship Finals at Lingfield on April 2.

“He will more than likely head to Lingfield for Good Friday,” added Balding.

King sights set on Marathon date for Rainbow Dreamer

Alan King is looking forward to running Rainbow Dreamer in the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship Final following his victory at Kempton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old made all the running under an astute ride from Hollie Doyle to land the spoils by half a length from Ocean Wind.

It was Rainbow Dreamer’s first win from three starts this winter and sets him up for Lingfield on Good Friday (April 2).

“It was a very good ride from Hollie, so hopefully we’re bang on course for Lingfield now,” the King.

“There is a fast-track qualifier at Chelmsford, but I would imagine we’ll go straight to Lingfield. Easter is pretty earlier this year.”

Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future
Messire Des Obeaux is to be aimed at handicap chases in future (Alab Crowhurst/PA)

King will be looking to running Messire Des Obeaux in handicap chases after the nine-year-old lost his unbeaten record over fences in the Grade One Scilly Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

The Barbury Castle trainer felt Messire Des Obeaux was totally unsuited by the testing conditions but was none the worse for the race.

“He’s absolutely fine. He was perfectly sound this morning. He couldn’t really handle that deep ground, but he’s OK,” he said.

“He’s now had his three runs so he does now qualify for those decent handicap chases, so I will have to have a look through. There maybe a race for him at Newbury in March, but I haven’t got a plan in place yet.”

Johnston team mulling Riyadh date for Mildenberger

Mildenberger could have big assignments in Saudi Arabia and Lingfield following his victory at Wolverhampton.

The Mark Johnston-trained stayer booked his place in the Betway Marathon Championship on All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday in a fast-track qualifier on Monday.

Before that, the six-year-old could pay a visit to the Middle East for the Long Distance Turf Handicap at Riyadh next month.

“He’ll definitely go to Lingfield on Finals Day and he’s in at Saudi next month,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“I’ll have to clarify how their system works out there as to whether he’ll get a penalty for his win, because at the moment he’s not guaranteed a run. Were they to pump him up the weights slightly, that might get him in.

“Were he to get a run, he could quite possibly go to Saudi. That’s about six weeks before the all-weather finals, so it won’t have any bearing on him going there.”

Prix Royal-Oak winner Subjectivist, the yard’s other entry in the one-mile-seven furlong handicap, has yet to secure a place, much to Johnston’s surprise.

“Subjectivist is in the same race at Saudi. I was a bit perplexed when I saw the entries that our 111-rated last time out Group One winner isn’t guaranteed a run and there are some pretty out of form horses above him in the weights,” he said.

Subjectivist (right) has an entry in Saudi Arabia
Subjectivist (right) has an entry in Saudi Arabia (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s going to need a couple of horses to come out to make sure he gets a run, so we will have to see how that transpires over the next couple of weeks, but he is back in work and we’ve got half an eye on that should he get in.”

Johnston revealed Leopardo is in Dubai and likely to run at Meydan next week. The three-year-old colt has an entry in the Saudi Derby.

“He is out in Dubai and he’ll probably run in the Al Bastakiya Trial next Thursday,” he said.

“He does have an entry in the Saudi Derby, but again he’s not guaranteed a run.”

Venturous and Bless Him book Finals Day tickets

Venturous and Bless Him secured their places for All-Weather Championships Finals Day with victories in the Fast-Track Qualifiers at Newcastle on Tuesday,

The David Barron-trained Venturous booked his ticket for the All-Weather Sprint Championship at Lingfield Park on Good Friday as he justified 9-4 favouritism in the Betway Conditions Stakes.

Partnered by Tom Marquand, the eight-year-old reeled in front runner Ornate to triumph by a length and a half.

Marquand said: “Venturous has done it extremely well.

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“Ornate is not a bad old horse himself and he takes a bit of getting back once he has worked up that lead, but this lad never really gave me a moment’s doubt. I found myself going down to the furlong pole thinking that I don’t want to take him off the bridle too soon.

“Whatever has clicked in him I am not sure, but David has obviously done a great job bringing him to fore at this age. He is improving and given he is now in for Good Friday, hopefully he can continue in this vein of form.

“To be honest, six furlongs at Lingfield could almost be comparable to five furlongs up here, being that this is a stiff straight track and you don’t get the chance for a breather whereas at Lingfield he will do.

“I guess on Good Friday you hope they go a good gallop as there is usually plenty of speed horses in there. He would need things to fall his way but if he continues on the trend that he is following at the moment, he should be on for a big run.”

Jamie Spencer executed a perfect waiting ride on Bless Him (10-1) in the Bombardier Conditions Stakes and David Simcock’s charge is now assured a place in the All-Weather Mile Championship on Finals Day.

Spencer only needed hands and heels to steer Bless Him to a half-length win over Count Of Amazonia, with favourite Ummalnar disappointing in fifth.

The rider said: “Bless Him did it well. I nursed him into the race and he had just enough in reserve to run them down late on.

“I thought he would need the run, especially as the track is riding quite deep which makes it quite demanding.

“He is moving really well at the moment – he is a horse that David has to be careful with. He only runs a handful times a year and it is good to get him to win on his first start because he generally improves a good bit for a run.

“He should have a good season even though he is a seven-year-old now. There is still plenty of life in him.”

Venturous seeking another victory in Newcastle conditions heat

Venturous bids to secure a fourth victory from his last five starts in the Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle on Tuesday.

After impressing on heavy ground at Doncaster in late October, David Barron’s charge followed up over this course and distance a few weeks later, before coming up short when bidding for a hat-trick at Wolverhampton.

However, he bounced back to winning ways at Dunstall Park last month and will be well fancied to add to his tally in this All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier.

Barron said: “The horse is in good fettle. We’re limited as to where we can go with him now and this was the obvious race to go for, so we’ll hope for the best.

“At this stage there isn’t a plan. He’s done very well. This is obviously a qualifier for the sprint at Lingfield on Good Friday, which is over six furlongs, and he’s arguably better at five.

“That being said, we are in a position with him now where, at his age (eight), and he looks to be in the form of his life, that if he’s fit and well at the time we’d probably run him (at Lingfield).”

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Venturous is the highest-rated of seven declared runners. His rivals include the Stuart Williams-trained pair of Tawny Port and Royal Birth, David Griffiths’ veteran Ornate and Exalted Angel from Karl Burke’s yard, who has finished behind Venturous on his last two outings.

“Exalted Angel is in great order and I am looking forward to seeing him run,” said Burke.

“He has been a bit tardy out of the stalls on his last couple of starts, which has left him with ground to make up. I think he would have definitely beaten Venturous at Newcastle had he jumped on terms.

“If he jumps reasonably well on Tuesday and is able to track the leaders, he will run a big race. He is a nice horse on the upgrade.”

A place on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday is also up for grabs in the Bombardier Conditions Stakes, in which Burke is represented by Born To Be Alive.

Twice a runner-up at Listed level, the seven-year-old returned from a 896-day absence to finish second at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day.

“Born To Be Alive is obviously coming back after an injury. He ran well at Wolverhampton, albeit in a messy race after Mick Appleby’s horse (Big Country) came down,” Burke added.

“He came to win his race and just blew up really, so he will definitely come on fitness-wise, and we have always felt that he is better over a mile rather than a bit further.

“It looks a tough race, but he deserves a crack at it.”

Ummalnar is a major contender for William Haggas and Tom Marquand following a six-length romp in a Listed event at Dundalk in November.

Haggas said: “Ummalnar has been fine since her win in Ireland. This race fits in well in preparation for Dubai at the end of the month – she is heading out there for the Cape Verdi on January 28.

“Beyond that, I would say it is very possible that she will come back here to run on the all-weather.”

Group Two winner Vintager represents Simon and Ed Crisford, after making a winning debut for his new connections at Chantilly last month.

Count Of Amazonia (Marco Botti) and Bless Him (David Simcock) are the other hopefuls.

Snowdrop is likely target for Amniarix

Amniarix is set to bid for Listed honours in Kempton’s Snowdrop Stakes at the end of March following her impressive victory at Wolverhampton.

The lightly-raced filly completed a hat-trick in Monday evening’s fast-track qualifier but is unlikely to take up her place in the all-weather championships at Lingfield on Good Friday (April 2).

Connections took the daughter of Speightstown to Dunstall Park to see if she could be good enough to step into Pattern company – and trainer Ed Walker was delighted Amniarix answered in the affirmative.

“It was a bit of a fact-finding mission,” said the Upper Lambourn handler.

“We wanted to find out whether or not she was a filly that could be getting some black type later this year.

“If so she’d stay in training and if not then to be retired and covered as a broodmare. She answered that question correctly, which is good news. She’s an exciting filly for the season ahead.

“She’s come out of the race very well. She’s improving rapidly, and that was an impressive and pleasing performance.”

Amniarix, racing in the familiar black and yellow colours of owner/breeder Bjorn Nielsen, easily accounted for Shimmering Dawn by two lengths.

Walker added: “I think it’s highly unlikely she will go for finals day.

“One, there is massively reduced prize money – and, probably more significantly, she is an extremely well-bred filly and we’d rather try and get some black type for her in a race like the Snowdrop at the same sort of time as the all-weather finals.

“I need to sit down and have a chat with Bjorn. (But) I think the Snowdrop is an obvious target, given how well she goes on the surface, and I think that is going to be her main target from here. Where we go afterwards depends on that.

“I’d like to think we can give her a little break now, freshen her up and start off in the Snowdrop. I think that will be the plan, but I’ve to confirm it with Bjorn.”

Significantly sets marker for all-weather season

Significantly got off the mark at the eighth attempt with a game all-the-way display in the first all-weather championships fast-track qualifier of the winter season at Newcastle.

The son of Garswood has been out of the first three only once – when he was fifth in the Group Three Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

He was placed at Listed level – showing he had a decent level of ability – and finally got his reward in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Conditions Stakes.

Significantly (5-1) had been ridden with more restraint in the past but enjoyed being allowed to bowl along in front by Clifford Lee after being smartly out of the stalls.

He had Yazaman for company until quickening away from the evens favourite and building up a healthy advantage.

Victory Heights tried to mount a challenge but he was passed by a rallying Yazaman, who claimed the runner-up spot, three-quarters of a length behind the winner.

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Burke said: “He’s a horse with a big engine. We’ve always thought a lot of him.

“I should have run him at Royal Ascot in the Norfolk but got talked out of it by his part-owner Jeff Laughton. I’m not saying he’d have won, but he’d have been right up there with the likes of The Lir Jet.”

It was Laughton too, though, whose latest advice paid off with a breakthrough victory.

“Things just haven’t happened (till now),” added Burke.

“This horse hasn’t helped himself, but the last two runs Jeff has begged me to let him bowl along.

“I resisted it, because at home he’s very spooky. We’ve been trying to settle him – but today it worked lovely.

“Clifford gave him a great ride and got him into a lovely rhythm.

“They left us alone in front, and it worked really well, so fair play to Jeff on that one.

“He’s a fair horse and has beaten a proven Group performer, who like him is probably a little bit tricky as well.”

Significantly will have a holiday now, with connections excited about next year.

Burke said: “That’s his eighth run since June 2. He’s been on the go all lockdown, so he deserves a break.

“He’s obviously qualified for (all-weather finals on) Good Friday, so that will come into the equation – with probably a run or two leading into that.

“We’ve got the choice of that or going straight back on the turf. I think he’s a horse with a big future.”

Callum Hutchinson had earlier enjoyed his first success in the saddle when guiding Calvinist to a narrow verdict in the Betway Apprentice Handicap.

The 7lb claimer, son of former jump jockey Wayne Hutchinson, struck with his 19th career ride.

In a tight finish, Calvinist (8-1), trained by Kevin Frost, prevailed by a nose from Peerless Percy.