Posts

Breeders’ Cup mission expected to suit Kameko

Andrew Balding believes Kameko will be suited by the American style of racing when his star colt lines up for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland next month.

The 2000 Guineas winner will retire to stud after the race – and Balding is hoping the son of Kitten’s Joy can end his career on a high.

The Kingsclere trainer was disappointed Kameko could not sign off his domestic racing days in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last weekend because of the testing conditions.

“It was a shame to have missed Qipco Champions Day, but we just didn’t feel we could risk him on the ground at this stage of his career,” Balding told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think it’s going to be a totally different test in America and we’ve got the travel and everything to contend with.

“I’m really pleased with his condition and how he has held his form in his home work since so early in the year. He’s an absolute star and worked really well (on Wednesday) – Oisin (Murphy) came in and had a sit on him.

“He’s a horse with a high cruising speed and loves a strong pace to aim at, and that is usually how those races are run. In any normal Breeders’ Cup Mile he’d be well suited.”

Unbeaten Palace Pier on track for QEII mission

Palace Pier remains on course to defend his unbeaten record at Ascot on Saturday after featuring among 18 remaining contenders for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Trained by John Gosden, Palace Pier is a hot favourite to extend his winning run to six under Frankie Dettori, having landed the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

Gosden also has high-class fillies Nazeef and Terebellum in the mix for the Qipco-sponsored showpiece following the confirmation stage.

The Andrew Balding-trained Kameko claimed Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas in the spring, and after finishing fourth in the Derby, the Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International, he made a successful return to a mile in in last month’s Joel Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien has a trio of hopefuls in Circus Maximus, Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch, while Benbatl is in contention for Saeed bin Suroor, although, as with Kameko, the prospect of testing conditions will be a concern.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s mud-lover The Revenant was runner-up to King Of Change in last year’s renewal and will return in a bid to go one better following a recent successful return to action at ParisLongchamp.

The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year's Champion Stakes
The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year’s Champion Stakes (Simon Cooper/PA)

Graffard said: “Everything is fine. The horse needed the run the other day, he has improved a lot and he should be spot on for Saturday.

“I don’t think the ground will be as soft as last year, but it should be fine for him.

“Hopefully he is ready to do his best and I hope he can finish in the first three, like last year.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream and David O’Meara’s pair of Escobar and Lord Glitters also feature.

Power too strong for Challenge rivals

Happy Power streaked clear of Pogo up the hill to win the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.

Silvestre de Sousa, already on the scoreboard with Winter Power in the Cornwallis Stakes, was keen not to let Pogo get loose on the front end.

That looked a wise decision as the front two dictated the race throughout, with De Sousa always looking confident on Andrew Balding’s grey.

The 7-2 chance arrived at HQ on the back of winning his two most recent races, at Salisbury and a Group Three at Goodwood.

Up in grade again to a Group Two, he assumed control from Pogo with over a furlong to run and streaked clear up the hill to win by a length and a half.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Glorious Journey stayed on from the rear to claim third.

De Sousa said: “I was really disappointed with him at the beginning of the year as I thought I had a really good horse for this year, but he has just taken a long time to get going. He now feels like he is flying and is in top form.

“Andrew’s horses are running well and he is just following the wagon. We’ve always liked him and Andrew had found a couple of easy options for him, but today he has proved he is a nice horse.

“We thought we had him right at the beginning of the year, but he is a horse that has probably taken a long time to get 100 per cent fit. He ran really well first time, then his next couple of runs were disappointing. He wasn’t tailed off, but he wasn’t good enough to win – since Salisbury it looks like he has found his way.

“He likes the ground. It is soft and on the slow side and it maybe just tired the other horses out. That race at Salisbury made you realise there was a little more in the tank than what he had been giving.

“Mentally there is always huge improvement when a horse wins their first race easily. When they come home and enjoy the race, you know there is improvement.

“He is in top form and he probably shouldn’t miss the chance to go there (Champions Sprint at Ascot on October 17).”

Balding believes a swift return at Ascot next week is a “possibility”.

He said: “I’m delighted with that. It has just taken him a little bit of time to find his feet at the beginning of the season, but that is three excellent wins now and he has really got his mojo back.

“He got stuck in the ground at Haydock first time out and we probably ran him a bit quick back on his third start, but he has come right now and is high class.

“He was fourth in the Sussex Stakes last year and he won a Ganton very well, so we knew he was a talented horse – he just had that slow start to the year.

“We will confirm him for the Champions Sprint on Monday and make a decision later in the week, but it’s a possibility. I think a stiff six on soft ground would be fine for him.”

Great White Shark on the hunt in Cesarewitch

Great White Shark bids to provide Willie Mullins with a third straight victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

Ireland’s perennial champion jumps trainer broke his duck in the prestigious staying handicap with Low Sun in 2018, and doubled his tally 12 months ago with Stratum.

Great White Shark finished only 10th in last year’s renewal, but returns to the Rowley Mile in excellent form, having landed a valuable handicap hurdle at the Galway Festival on her latest appearance.

Four days earlier, the Malcolm Denmark-owned mare had finished seventh on the Flat, beaten little over two lengths by the remarkable Princess Zoe, who last weekend grabbed Group One glory in Paris for Mullins’ brother, Tony.

Mullins said: “I’m very pleased with her heading over there.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“She was good over hurdles the last day and her run behind Princess Zoe doesn’t look too bad now, does it?

“She stays well and handles soft ground, so that shouldn’t be any problem to her.”

Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York
Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Great White Shark is joined at the head of the market by Andrew Balding’s three-year-old Coltrane, the David Pipe-trained Leoncavallo and Not So Sleepy from Hughie Morrison’s yard.

Coltrane has had this two-mile-two-furlong contest as his primary target ever since completing a hat-trick for the season in the Melrose Handicap at York in August.

Balding, who also saddles Diocletian and Cleonte, said: “The weight-for-age allowance for three-year-olds is obviously attractive for Coltrane and he won the Melrose well.

“This looked the most logical target after York. It’s obviously a tough race and he has a wide draw (34), I don’t know how that will play out, but the horse is in good form.

“Cleonte needed his comeback run after nearly a year off last month and seems in good form. Diocletian has solid handicap form and at his best would also have each-way claims.”

High-class dual-purpose performer Not So Sleepy carries a 4lb penalty for winning on his return to action at Pontefract last month – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“We were very happy with his comeback run at Pontefract. We’ve just kept him ticking over since then and we are very much looking forward to the race,” said Morrison.

“He ran a very good race to finish fourth in it last year. He’ll have to raise his game to better that on Saturday, but he had a break during the summer, so he’s a fresh horse and we’re ever hopeful.

“It’s a long way – two miles and two furlongs. Fingers crossed for a bit of a luck.”

Other contenders in a huge field include William Muir’s Just Hubert, Mark Johnston’s pair of Mondain and Summer Moon and Rock Eagle from Ralph Beckett’s yard.

Oisin Murphy makes it business as usual with gritty Berkshire Rocco success

Oisin Murphy earned some relief after a difficult 24 hours as St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco opened his account for the season in the Teentech Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot on Friday.

It was announced on Thursday that the reigning champion jockey had returned a positive result for metabolites of cocaine following a test carried out by France Galop at a meeting at Chantilly on July 19, where he finished second aboard The Lir Jet in the Group Two Prix Robert Papin.

Putting aside his off-track issues, the Classic-winning rider was seen at his strongest aboard the Andrew Balding-trained 1-2 favourite to deny Albafora by a head in the Listed prize over a mile and three-quarters.

Murphy said: “He ran fantastically at Royal Ascot when he was second to Santiago and he was second in the Leger on his last start. He is a really tough horse and I’m delighted he got his head in front.

“I would never question his attitude as he is really tough and tries very hard, but he has been on the go since the spring and he has danced every dance.

“He ran in the Derby trial (at Lingfield) and he has been really busy. He was possibly not up to his rating today, but he won and that’s what matters.”

Having been informed of his positive test result in August, Murphy, who subsequently organised a hair sample test, which the Professional Jockeys Association said produced a negative result, is now awaiting news on the analysis of his ‘B’ sample from France Galop.

Oisin Murphy at Ascot on Friday
Oisin Murphy at Ascot on Friday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Your first 30 days for just £1

Murphy, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, said: “I’ve the best people around me and my agent is working tirelessly to try to find me winners and the jockeys’ championship means I’ve got plenty to focus on.

“Absolutely (got hope over the ‘B’ sample). Let’s take every day at a time and try to keep riding winners.”

As for Balding, he believes Murphy’s riding skills will not be affected whatever the outcome of the situation.

The trainer said: “It is a matter for France Galop, but all I can say is that I’ve known Oisin for a long time and he is a very hard-working, professional, talented jockey. I’m sure whatever comes of it, he will come out of it a high-class jockey and that won’t change.”

Though Berkshire Rocco was clear of his three rivals on ratings, Balding feels he did well to win given the testing conditions.

He said: “He has been the bridesmaid in a couple of big races this year. We were taking a bit of a chance, but we thought it would be nice to get his head in front and finish the year on a bit of a high. He has toughed it out, but he has been on the go a while.

“He probably wants better ground than that, so he has done well in the circumstances. He is a tough one, but I did think the filly was going to come and get him.”

Looking ahead to next season, Balding expects the son of Sir Percy to be seen to even better effect dropped back in trip.

He added: “I think he will be very effective over a strongly-run mile and a half. I don’t think he is an out-and-out stayer myself.

“He could possibly be a Hardwicke-type, but there are so many good options for horses like that. We will give him a nice, long break now and look forward to having a lot of fun next year with him.”

St Leger ninth Tyson Fury gave the form of the world’s oldest Classic a further boost when prevailing by a head in the Charlie Waller Trust Novice Stakes.

Kieran Shoemark steers Tyson Fury to glory
Kieran Shoemark steers Tyson Fury to glory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Richard Spencer, trainer of the 4-1 shot, who is named after the WBC world heavyweight champion, said: “He is a big horse and he probably didn’t handle that ground so we will probably put him away now until next year.

“I thought he ran very well in the St Leger, but they didn’t go quick enough for him. His fractions in the Leger were very quick turning in.

“Next year he will be a stronger horse and we could see him running from a mile and a half down to a mile and a quarter.

“He is an exciting one.”

Raaeq will return to Ascot later this month for a shot at the Balmoral Handicap on Qipco British Champions Day after routing his rivals in the Racing Welfare Handicap.

Trainer Brian Meehan said of the 13-8 winner: “He has just kept improving. He is clearly very talented and is only going to get bigger and stronger.

“He is in the Balmoral, we will speak with connections and discuss it but that seems the most likely next step.”

He added: “I couldn’t be more proud of the horse today as he is really starting to show everything we thought of him.”

Rochester House (6-1) enhanced his value before going under the hammer at the Autumn Horses In Training Sale at Tattersalls with a tenacious success in the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Gordon Carter Handicap.

Trainer Mark Johnston said: “He obviously stays very well. We took him out of the Cesarewitch as he is in the sales and the owner wanted something to show everybody he is still there rather than taking a pot-shot at the Cesarewitch.”

Ground promises to be key but Kameko ‘ready to go’ for QEII mission

Andrew Balding is relishing the prospect of Kameko finally facing Palace Pier on Qipco British Champions Day – as long as the ground is good at Ascot.

Balding confirmed his 2000 Guineas hero, back to winning form in Newmarket’s Joel Stakes last week, is on course to clash with John Gosden’s unbeaten miler in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, before possibly then heading to America for the Breeders Cup.

He does admit concerns about the possibility of soft ground at Ascot, however, both for Kameko on October 17 and before then – with rain forecast this week – for his St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco in the Teentech Noel Murless Stakes on Friday.

Asked if Kameko’s QEII plans remain in place, Balding told Sky Sports Racing: “Very much so – (but) obviously, who knows what will happen with the ground in two weeks’ time?

“He wouldn’t want it too soft, I’m sure of that. But at the same time, he’s fit and ready to go, so it’ll be a decision we have to make on the day.”

The presence of Palace Pier, who appeared to revel in heavy ground when winning the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, promises a clash which excites Balding.

“We’ve been wanting to take him on – it’s just our paths haven’t really met,” he said.

“But I’d rather be taking him on on good ground.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“I certainly wouldn’t be frightened of one horse. It’s going to be a strong race, plenty of depth, I’m sure – but I just hope the ground conditions are favourable for everyone.”

Palace Pier promises to be a stern rival to Kameko for QEII honours
Palace Pier promises to be a stern rival to Kameko for QEII honours (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

Keeneland may well then beckon for Kameko in early November, although Balding is mindful his three-year-old champion has already had an arduous season.

At the suggestion of travelling to America, he said: “Quite possibly – obviously that comes afterwards, and he’s had a long season on the go.

“We were preparing him for a Guineas we thought (initially) was going to be in May, so it’s been a long old time in training.

“So we’ll just have to get Ascot out of the way, and then make a decision on that.”

He was delighted to see his Classic hero win again at Newmarket, having come up short in the highest class in the interim – twice over longer trips.

“It was a bit of a relief,” added the Kingsclere trainer.

“He was carrying a 5lb Group One winner’s penalty against some very good older horses, so it wasn’t a straightforward task.

“But he did it really well, and just showed what a high-class horse he is – he’s got an extraordinary stride on him when he really hits top gear.”

As for the failed ventures over 10 and 12 furlongs, Balding said: “It’s easy with hindsight – there were mixed messages in his pedigree.

“The Derby, we knew, was a bit of a punt. But I always thought he was going to get a mile and a quarter – (then) obviously, it looked at York that he’s just short of that.”

Berkshire Rocco (red cap) went down fighting in the St Leger
Berkshire Rocco (red cap) went down fighting in the St Leger (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

By contrast, Berkshire Rocco proved at Doncaster that stamina is his forte – and Balding is optimistic about an overdue second career victory as he tries again over the same trip against just three opponents in Listed company.

“You’d hope (it’s a good opportunity), certainly on official ratings and performances so far this year,” he said.

“But there is quite a lot of rain forecast at Ascot, and that is a concern.

“He certainly handles good to soft, probably soft. But if it turned heavy, it would be a concern – (so) we’ll have to see how much rain comes, and when it comes.

“We’re an earlyish race, so I hope it will be all right.”

However he fares, Berkshire Rocco is expected to return in 2021 – with major prizes on his trainer’s wish list.

“He’s been a grand horse this year, and he stays in training and should be a fine older middle-distance horse next year,” said Balding.

“I’d say he stays well, but at the same time he’s effective at a mile and a half as well – so he’s got all sorts of options next year.

“I would have no problem running him in Group races over a mile and a half – I think he’d be very competitive.”

Alcohol Free sparks Cheveley Park celebrations

Alcohol Free prevailed in a tight finish for the Group One Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Andrew Balding’s filly was less exposed than most of her rivals in the six-furlong prize, but Oisin Murphy gave her a positive ride.

The champion jockey was happy to take up the running from favourite Miss Amulet at half way and she was there to be shot at running up the hill.

The previously unbeaten Dandalla moved into contention briefly, but her challenge petered away and it was Richard Fahey’s Umm Kulthum, a winner at Ayr last weekend, and Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet who gave Alcohol Free the most to do.

Despite having just the third run of her life, Alcohol Free showed a willing attitude and while Umm Kulthum challenged on her far side and Miss Amulet on her inside, Alcohol Free, a sustained late gamble, won by half a length and a head.

The winner was given a 20-1 quote for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Alcohol Free had finished second behind Happy Romance last time out, but turned that form around with Richard Hannon’s filly who was only fourth this time.

“She didn’t have a great draw at Salisbury and she showed a bit of inexperience and we knew she would come on for that,” said Balding.

“At the end of the day, Happy Romance was likely to be one of the favourites and we only had a couple of lengths to find on her. We had the option to run in the Rockfel, but Jeff (Smith, owner) was keen on going for the Group One and he was dead right.

“She has been on a fast track really, as she only started faster work about three weeks before she ran and we went to the races not knowing quite what to expect as she was the first two-year-old filly we had run.

“She won very easily there (Newbury) and the next logical step was to go for the Dick Poole and she showed enough there to warrant coming here.

“She should stay (a mile) I would have thought. She relaxes well. She acts better with a bit of cover. Oisin was intent that he couldn’t see any pace in the race and he didn’t want to be too far back.

“I’m well past giving him instructions. He did a fantastic job. Just for the yard, it is fantastic, as Jeff has been with us a long time, with dad (Ian Balding) and he has been a big supporter of ours, so it is great to get him a Group One winner again.

“She won’t run again this year. We will see how she does in the spring and we will make a decision nearer the time (whether she runs in a trial). She is obviously good enough to go (to the Guineas), so we don’t need to go to a trial to find out – it’s just whether she would benefit for a run in the spring.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free's victory
Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free’s victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy added: “Andrew has done a top job with her because he’s had to carefully manage her training regime. She’s very generous at home and he’s kept a lid on her.

“It’s brilliant for the owner and brilliant for the stable. We’ve a class of horse in the yard at the moment that we’ve never had before.

“She’s a Group One winner now and certainly fits into the 1000 Guineas category for next year because she hits the line well and she also relaxes. She’s a super filly.

“I don’t win enough Group Ones for Andrew and he’s supplied me with two this year. Hopefully we can continue to add to the tally.”

Joel joy for Kameko at Newmarket

Classic hero Kameko made a triumphant return to Newmarket with a comfortable success in the Shadwell Joel Stakes.

Andrew Balding’s stable star has raced over a variety of different trips since his career-defining victory in the 2000 Guineas – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex Stakes and over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International.

Back over the Rowley Mile for this Group Two assignment, Kameko was being niggled along by Oisin Murphy at the halfway stage, but displayed courage and class to respond to the champion jockey’s urgings and take over the lead from last year’s winner Benbatl.

Just as the 85-40 chance looked to have victory sewn up, Regal Reality finished with a flourish, but Kameko always appeared to have matters in hand and passed the post half a length to the good.

Benbatl was not disgraced in finishing third on his first start since the Saudi Cup in February.

Balding said of the winner: “It was not easy giving weight to good horses. He always hits a flat spot in his races and he stops a little bit in front. I thought he might hit the front a bit too soon.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“It was going to be a long wait until Ascot and/or the Breeders’ Cup, if the ground is bad at Ascot, and he is a horse that could have done with a run in between.

“One hundred per cent that was as good as his Guineas win. There was no hiding place today with the penalty and proper, good older horses in the race.

“I don’t think we have had a fair crack of the whip with him this year. The horse has not had the campaign that we really wanted.”

Kameko (right) saw off Benbatl (centre) and Regal Reality to win the day
Kameko (right) saw off Benbatl (centre) and Regal Reality to win the day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Kameko is likely to make his next appearance in either the QEII at Ascot on October 17 or at the Breeders’ Cup.

Balding added: “I think there is no doubt he is a miler and that was a really good effort. He has done it on slightly slower ground today, but full credit to the horse – he is very decent.

“I’d like to go to Ascot, personally. At some stage it would be interesting to see what he could do on soft ground and the likelihood is it will be slower at Ascot than it was today, but that is the unknown.

“It will be the owner’s decision. He is a very valuable horse as a stallion and I don’t want to take the risk that might effect his appeal to breeders at stud.”

On whether Kameko will stay in training next season, he said: “I think that is a decision the owner and the Qatar Racing team will take shortly. I don’t have a final answer, but I think the likelihood is that he will be at stud next year.”

Murphy said: “I’m delighted for Sheikh Fahad (owner) and everyone. To give weight away to older horses is a very difficult task and he stuck his head out and did everything right in the race.

“He ran straight as a die. He is so tough and consistent and, on ratings, I think that will rate higher than his Guineas win as to give weight away to older horses shows what a top horse he is.

“He is a very intelligent horse. I took him down in a hack canter and I had him really quiet at the gate. If I lit him up at all, he would have travelled really on the bridle. I was happy for him to race a little lazily today.”

Saeed bin Suroor was satisfied with Benbatl’s run and an Ascot rematch could be a possibility.

He said: “Frankie (Dettori) said he needed the race. He will improve for the race. He is entered at Ascot in the Champion Stakes and the QEII and we will have a look at both and see. He will be ready for both of those races, but he doesn’t want soft ground.

“It is unlikely that he would go to America. I would say after Ascot he will go back to Dubai.”

Ranch Hand outbattles Withhold for Rose Bowl glory

Ranch Hand ended a lengthy losing streak when showing his battling abilities to secure a tenacious success in the Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes at Newmarket.

The Andrew Balding-trained Dunaden gelding stuck to the task well over two miles in the Listed contest to gain his first victory in more than a year.

Having raced in the last pair for much of the race, Ranch Hand forged on just outside the furlong pole before defeating last year’s winner Withhold – who was in front of him last time out – by half a length, to complete a double for champion jockey Oisin Murphy.

Balding, speaking away from the track, said of the 15-2 winner: “He is a home bred and I’m delighted to have won a Listed race with him.

“He was beaten by Withhold last time, but in fairness it is probably the first time he has had his conditions this season. Two miles with give in the ground is what he wants.

“He has shown a fair level of form on the Flat and I think we will now go jumping with him as he will be a lovely hurdler.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“We used to keep the odd jumper in the yard, we’ve not had one for a little while now, but it was something everyone was keen to do.”

Lost In Space initiated Murphy’s brace and a double for trainer John Gosden when completing a hat-trick of victories with a four-length success in the Bentley Motors Nursery Handicap.

Gosden said: “He is a lovely little horse that has knocked up a hat-trick. He has done nothing wrong.

“He will be going to the sales in October at Tattersalls. He is a lovely horse to race in Hong Kong or America.”

Grand Bazaar (4-7) returned to winning ways to make it two for Gosden, and provide the concluding leg of a double for William Buick, when running out a two-length winner of the Federation Of Bloodstock Agents Handicap.

Gosden said: “He has been running well in big races and this one rather cut up, which I was surprised about. They just went a bit hard at Ascot last time. He is a genuine horse that tries hard. He might well come back for the Old Rowley Cup, but he could go further.”

Buick got the ball rolling aboard the Charlie Appleby-trained La Barrosa (4-7), who claimed the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes by a length.

Royal Champion earned quotes of 33-1 for next year’s Derby with William Hill and Betway following an impressive length-and-a-quarter debut success in the Rossdales EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes.

Roger Varian, winning trainer,said of the 100-30 shot: “He travelled into it nicely today and I think he got to the front plenty early enough for his first run. He probably got tired up the hill and a bit lonely, but I thought he did it pretty well.

“We expected good things from him and he has made a nice start. Hopefully it’s a start he can build on and be one of our nice three-year-olds to look forward to next year.”

Atzeni was also successful aboard Zoran (6-4 favourite) in the Newmarket Challenge Whip Handicap.

Lady Of Aran provided trainer Charlie Fellowes with his first winner in 47 days when opening her account for the campaign by a head in the British Stallion Studs EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap.

Fellowes said: “I’ve been on the cold list for a long time – too long. They’ve been running so well, they’ve just been unlucky.

“She always gives 120 per cent and Georgia (Dobie) gets on with her brilliantly and she really runs for her, so that was lovely to see. I’d love to get some black type with her.”

Oisin Murphy anticipating tough test for Kameko in Joel Stakes

Oisin Murphy is well aware of the task facing 2000 Guineas Kameko as he prepares to lock horns with Benbatl in the Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Friday.

Andrew Balding’s Kameko provided the reigning champion jockey with his first Classic success over the course and distance in early June.

Murphy also knows the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Benbatl well, having steered him to two of his three Group One wins to date, and when he dominated from the front in this Group Two contest 12 months ago.

Murphy said: “Benbatl is one of the highest-rated horses in the world and Kameko is a Classic winner who ran the fastest ever Guineas, so it’s a mouthwatering prospect.

“It will be hard for Kameko with the penalty – we have to give Benbatl 1lb – but there were limited options and he’s in super form and ready to run.

“I obviously love Benbatl. I only raced against him once and that was in the Juddmonte International when I won on Roaring Lion.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“I’ve ridden Benbatl in work recently as well and he’s also in super form.”

Oisin Murphy knows Benbatl well
Oisin Murphy knows Benbatl well (John Walton/PA)

Kameko has plied his trade over a variety of different trips since his Guineas triumph – finishing fourth over a mile and a half in the Derby, over a mile in the Sussex Stakes and over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International.

Murphy feels the return to a mile will see him at his best in what is a prep race for next month’s QEII at Ascot.

Murphy added: “He travelled very well in the Sussex and got into second place in the Juddmonte, having sat last, and then his run petered out at the line.

“Hopefully the ground continues to dry today – both he and Benbatl want top of the ground.”

Frankie Dettori and Saeed bin Suroor team up
Frankie Dettori and Saeed bin Suroor team up (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Following last year’s success, Benbatl floundered in the mud in the QEII at Ascot, but he bounced back with successive wins in Dubai earlier this year.

Third place in the inaugural Saudi Cup set him up for a tilt at World Cup glory, only for the Meydan showpiece to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Benbatl missed his intended comeback in last month’s Celebration Mile due to the prevailing rain-softened ground at Goodwood – and Bin Suroor is keeping his fingers crossed conditions on the Rowley Mile are not too testing for Frankie Dettori’s mount.

Bin Suroor said: “Benbatl is doing good. He did his last piece of work on the Watered Gallop here in Newmarket and he is doing really well.

“It is his first run in Europe since he went to Dubai and Saudi Arabia. We are looking for a good result from him.

“It’s a tough race, but he won it last year and it’s the right race for him.

“We don’t want the ground to be too soft – good ground would be good for him.”

Six runners remain after both Duke Of Hazzard and Urban Icon were pulled out on Friday morning, because of softening ground.

The field is completed by Regal Reality, Top Rank, Zabeel Prince and Tilsit.

Berkshire Rocco pencilled in for Ascot

Pertemps St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco could be seen next in the Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot.

Although winless in 2020 thus far, Andrew Balding’s colt has run some tremendous races in defeat – finishing second in the Lingfield Derby Trial, the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the season’s final Classic at Doncaster, as well as placing fourth in the Great Voltigeur at York.

The Kingsclere handler is keen to get the son of Sir Percy’s head in front before the end of the campaign and views the Listed Noel Murless Stakes on October 2 as an attractive aim.

“He has come out of the Leger in good form,” said Balding.

“He will probably go to the Noel Murless in two weeks’ time at Ascot. He deserves to win a race this year and that looks a logical target.

“There has been some interest from abroad, but nothing firm. It is just a case of watch this space.

“I was very proud of the horse last week. He went as close as he could without winning it, but there you go.”

Dance hoping Mill Reef rivals feel the Rhythm

John Dance has more reason than most to be excited ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The owner of the top-class racemare Laurens will not only see his colours carried by the hugely-promising Rhythm Master in the Group Two contest, but he also bred another leading contender in the unbeaten Bahrain Pride.

The Richard Fahey-trained Rhythm Master was a 16-1 winner on his debut at Haydock, but proved that performance was no fluke by finishing an excellent third behind a couple of Royal Ascot winners in Campanelle and Nando Parrado in the Group One Prix Morny at Deauville last month.

Dance said: “We’ve been delighted with Rhythm Master and I’m very much looking forward to the race on Saturday.

“I can’t say Richard was surprised to see him win at Haydock, but it wasn’t until after the race that I fully cottoned on. Looking back now he’d made some comments beforehand that suggested he thought he was pretty good, but it didn’t really register with me.

“He won really nicely and the form worked out quite well, which is why Richard decided to pitch him in the Group One at Deauville.

“He was very green, particularly in the preliminaries. I don’t think he could believe he could see thousands of people, as there was obviously no crowd at Haydock – it was very much like the first day at school for him.

“I think the soft ground was a bit of a a shock as well, so for him to run as well as he did was very encouraging and also left the impression that there’s hopefully more to come.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

A son of Kodiac out of Life Of Pi, Bahrain Pride was bred by Dance’s Salcey Forest Stud before being sold at the Tattersalls December Foal Sale for 125,000 guineas. He was subsequently bought at the breeze-ups in June of this year by owners KHK Racing Ltd for 300,000 guineas.

A winner on his racecourse debut at Windsor in mid-August, he successfully graduated to Listed class with victory in the Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy a fortnight later.

Dance added: “I really hope he finishes second, for obvious reasons.

“If he finishes in front of us, he better win!”

Bahrain Pride is two from two for the Crisford team
Bahrain Pride is two from two for the Crisford team (Tim Goode/PA)

Ed Crisford expects Bahrain Pride to put up a staunch defence of his unbeaten record.

Crisford, who trains the juvenile in partnership with his father Simon, said: “This has been the plan for him since Ripon. He’s in great form and deserves a crack at a Group Two.

“It does look a very strong race – a Group Two is always going to be tough. But our fellow has done nothing wrong, I think he’s improving with racing and he deserves a crack at a higher grade now.

“This looks a very good option for him.”

Andrew Balding’s Fivethousandtoone was runner-up to Bahrain Pride at Windsor and renews rivalry off the back of a dominant display at Newcastle a little over a fortnight ago.

“Fivethousandtoone won well at Newcastle and took the step forward we hoped he would after finishing second at Windsor,” said Balding.

“He is a horse that I think a lot of, but this is a competitive race in a much tougher grade.

“He has looked very good at home and his work has been impressive. Hopefully he can step forward again.”

The highest-rated runner is the Archie Watson-trained Devilwala. The Haydock novice winner was last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Minzaal in the Gimcrack Stakes at York.

His jockey Rossa Ryan is confident he can make his presence felt, saying: “It was a very good performance in the Gimcrack considering he was the only horse in the race going into it on the back of one run.

Devilwala (purple)chases home Minzaal at York
Devilwala (purple)chases home Minzaal at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He has come on again. I sat on him last week and he felt very good.

“The drying ground should be a big help to him as he wasn’t a massive fan of the soft ground at York.

“It won’t be a pushover as it is a Mill Reef, but I do think he is overpriced on what he has done in what I think was a very good Gimcrack.

“I would like to think there is still much more to come from this horse.”

Line Of Departure completed a hat-trick for Roger Varian in a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week and is swiftly stepped up to Pattern class, while Mick Channon will be hoping his Group Three winner Cairn Gorm can bounce back from a below-par effort in the Morny.

Alkumait (Marcus Tregoning) and First Edition (Clive Cox) complete the field.

Fahey targets third Ayr Gold Cup with Mr Lupton

Mr Lupton is out to bag his second major prize in the space of a week in Saturday’s QTS Ayr Gold Cup.

Richard Fahey’s sprinter was rated as high as 113 at one stage of his career, but a fairly slow start to the current campaign saw him fall to a mark of 98.

A third-place finish in last month’s Great St Wilfrid at Ripon suggested he was on the way back and he continued his resurgence with victory in the lucrative “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap on Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh last Sunday.

With talented apprentice Billy Garritty booked for the ride to negate his 5lb penalty, Fahey is hopeful Mr Lupton can provide him with a third victory in this weekend’s Scottish showpiece following the previous triumphs of Fonthill Road (2006) and Don’t Touch (2015).

“He hasn’t done a lot since he came back from Ireland, just a couple of light canters,” said the Musley Bank handler.

“He seems in good form. It’s one of those – you just don’t know until the day, but we’re happy to run him.

“He’s been a star, a legend. It’s amazing. He was bought at a charity function. Out of the charity came a bit of good.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Fahey also saddles outsider Gabrial The Wire, of whom he added: “He’s a bit hit and miss. A fast-run six-furlong race should suit – it’s just if he’s quick enough to lay up early on.”

Tim Easterby was relieved Staxton made the cut, having decided against running him since winning the Great St Wilfrid last month.

He said: “He’s in good order and I hope he’ll run a good race.

“We took a gamble by waiting for this race. I could have run him somewhere else under a penalty, but I spoke to the owners and we decided we’d wait for this and thankfully he’s just crept in.

“He’s drawn down the middle (15) and I hope he’s got a good chance.”

Seven days on from claiming Classic glory in the St Leger at Doncaster aboard Joseph O’Brien’s Galileo Chrome, jockey Tom Marquand has high hopes of landing another major prize with the William Haggas-trained Nahaarr.

Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr
Tom Marquand is looking forward to teaming up with Nahaarr (Edward Whitaker/PA)

The lightly-raced son of Dark Angel was a runaway winner at Newbury in July before finishing ninth when favourite for the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood.

“He’s a really good ride to have. I think we’ve got drawn pretty well in 13, so I’m looking forward to riding him,” said Marquand.

“He’s a horse with lots of ability. He didn’t handle Goodwood all that well in the Stewards’ Cup and I just hope this can be a bit of a bounce back from that run. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

“Fingers crossed things can go our way.”

The formidable combination of trainer Andrew Balding and champion jockey Oisin Murphy is represented by Stone Of Destiny, who bids to follow up his win in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last Saturday.

Balding said: “He won the Portland well and although this is a little bit further for him, he is a good horse when everything drops right – that is the key to him.

“He needs a strong gallop to aim at, which is what he will get at Ayr, but he doesn’t want the ground too soft.

“The Portland was the aim, but we decided this was worth having a go at afterwards.”

David O’Meara fires a four-pronged assault, with top-weight Gulliver joined by stable companions Arecibo, Cold Stare and Young Fire, while Kevin Ryan has three runners in Bielsa, Hey Jonesy and Major Jumbo.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Air Raid and the David Barron-trained Another Batt also feature in what is always a fiercely competitive affair.

Journey aiming to get back on winning path at Newbury

James Doyle remains optimistic Glorious Journey can make the most of a drop in class by returning to winning ways in the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury.

The gelded son of Dubawi, one of two runners in the seven-furlong Listed prize for trainer Charlie Appleby alongside D’bai, has been out of luck since landing a Group Two at Meydan on his return in January.

Having beaten only two home in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood on his penultimate start, Glorious Journey was well held last time in his attempt to claim back-to-back wins in the Hungerford Stakes over course and distance.

Doyle said: “His last two runs have been a bit questionable. It was a funny race in the Hungerford as Breathtaking Look and Dream Of Dreams scooted up the far rail and we never really got into it.

“He definitely needs to put a couple of below-par runs behind him. The team at home are happy with him, so hopefully he can go well, but he does need to bounce back.

“Conditions should be perfect for him as we know he likes the track having won the Group Two there last year.

“Hopefully the ground won’t dry out too much as he does like to get his toe in, but good ground should be fine.”

Jash is set for Royal Ascot after a winning return at Newmarket
Jash will return to seven furlongs in a bid to get his career back on track (Simon Cooper/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

The step back up to seven furlongs is expected to suit the Simon and Ed Crisford-trained Jash, who will be looking to score for the first time since winning a Listed event over the same trip at Newmarket last May.

Ed Crisford said: “His first run back on the all-weather didn’t really suit him, but he finished behind Glen Shiel and the form of that race has worked out well, while the ground at York last time was probably too soft for him.

“He has got a long way to go to reach the form he had as a two-year-old, but we think stepping back up to seven furlongs should suit him and the ground should suit him, so I’m sure he will run a nice race.

“There is definitely still something there as he has been training really well at home, but I think we will find out a lot more about where we stand with him after this.”

Andrew Balding believes Jersey Stakes third Symbolize can make his presence felt if producing a repeat effort of his latest second in a conditions event at Haydock.

Balding said: “He has been consistent at a good level all year and is very versatile ground wise.

“He seems in good form and I’m hoping he will run well again, but it looks a tough race.

“He was beaten by a good horse (last time), but he only just lost out at the finish and I was delighted with the performance.”

Rossa Ryan is confident Baradar will have no problems tackling a mile for the first time as he puts his unbeaten record on the line in the 40 Year Anniversary Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions Stakes.

The Roger Varian-trained Muhaarar colt made the perfect start to his career with victory over seven furlongs at the track last month.

Ryan said: “I thought it was a good debut run. He was green and he got a bit lost between the three and the two, but I really liked his attitude. He switched on in the last furlong and sprinted away and I had trouble pulling him up.

“He has come out of the race very well. He is less exposed than the rest of the field as he has only had one run and there is plenty of improvement there. He has the pedigree to be a very nice horse.

“I think a mile will suit him well. He has done everything right so far and his work has been very good since his first run.”

Knight Salute will bid to give Classic-winning handler Balding his first victory in the conditions prize which includes 1981 Derby hero Shergar and multiple Group One winners Rainbow Quest and Nayef on its roll of honour.

Balding said: “He was very disappointing at Salisbury and we expected much better from him. The ground could have been a possibility as to why he didn’t run well, but we are on a fact-finding mission.

“He won well enough at Sandown the time before and hopefully he can run like he did that day. At this moment in time, I think a mile is his trip.”

Rhythm Master back out in Mill Reef

Prix Morny third Rhythm Master is one of eight colts declared for the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

A runaway winner on his racecourse debut at Haydock in mid-July, Richard Fahey’s son of Dark Angel subsequently ran an excellent race to place behind a couple of Royal Ascot winners in Campanelle and Nando Parrado when stepped up to Group One level at Deauville.

The John Dance-owned juvenile will be well fancied to get back on the winning trail in this weekend’s Group Two feature in Berkshire.

Rhythm Master’s rivals include the unbeaten Bahrain Pride. Simon and Ed Crisford’s inmate made a successful start to his career at Windsor before following up in the Listed EBF Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy last month.

Andrew Balding’s Fivethousandtoone was runner-up to Bahrain Pride at Windsor and renews rivalry off the back of a dominant display at Newcastle a little over a fortnight ago.

Line Of Departure completed a hat-trick for Roger Varian in a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week and is swiftly stepped up to Pattern class, while Mick Channon will be hoping his Group Three winner Cairn Gorm can bounce back from a below-par effort in the Morny.

Alkumait (Marcus Tregoning), Devilwala (Archie Watson) and First Edition (Clive Cox) complete the octet.

The Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral, not beaten far into sixth place in the Flying Five at the Curragh last Sunday, heads a nine-strong field for the Group Three Dubai International Airport World Trophy.

The five-year-old is taken on by Cox’s recent Leicester scorer Tis Marvellous, Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli and Moss Gill from James Bethell’s yard, among others.

Group Three honours are also up for grabs in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup – formerly The Arc Trial.

The likely favourite for this one-mile-three-furlong contest is Extra Elusive, who bids to complete a Group Three hat-trick for Roger Charlton and Hollie Doyle follow strikes in the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and the Winter Hill at Windsor.

With the William Haggas-trained Addeybb and Balding’s Fox Chairman instead declared to run in Saturday’s Doonside Cup at Ayr, Extra Elusive faces just three opponents in Desert Encounter (David Simcock), Elarqam (Mark Johnston) and Gifts Of Gold (Saeed bin Suroor).