Tag Archive for: Archie Watson

Bradsell looks exciting in Coventry Stakes win for Hollie Doyle

Hollie Doyle steered Bradsell to a decisive victory in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

A relatively cheap breeze-up purchase at £47,000, Archie Watson’s youngster made a big impression on his racecourse debut at York when winning by nine lengths with his head in his chest.

The son of Tasleet had significantly more on his plate stepping up to Group Two level, but proved more than up to the task under his record-breaking rider.

Always positioned wide from his low draw in stall two, Bradsell (8-1) moved smoothly towards the front end with two furlongs to go when Doyle made a bold bid for home.

It proved the right move as her mount soon found top gear to take a couple of lengths out of the field and from that point he never really looked in any danger of being reeled in.

The well-fancied Persian Force did best of the closing pack to fill the runner-up spot, but was a length and a half behind at the line.

Watson said: “I was probably a bit worried when it looked like the near side had won in front, he’s had to do it the hard way but he’s travelled into it supremely well.

“I said to Hollie to try to get a lead from those around you for as long as possible and that was as far as they took him into the race, he did hit the front two down and it’s a long way from home, but he kept going and he’s a supremely talented horse.

Trainer Archie Watson
Trainer Archie Watson (Simon Cooper/PA)

“It looked like a strong Coventry, I said to my fiance last night that what wins this in daylight will be a very good horse and it looks like he is.

“It’s massive, it’s our second Royal Ascot winner after Soldier’s Call. We had a bad old day here last year when Dragon Symbol was demoted and we subsequently lost the horse, it means a lot.”

He added on plans: “He won’t be spammed into each and every race. He’s won the best Group Two, he’ll go to a Phoenix or a Morny I would imagine – if he was to run before it’d be something like a Papin.”

Recording her third career win at the meeting, a delighted Doyle said: “I have done most of his work at home and the further he goes the better so I was not too worried when I committed, it was a long way from home (but) I knew he’d keep galloping.

“His instant response surprised me as in his gallops he is a little bit lazy, he turns it on on the track, he hit the line hard and I struggled to pull him up after.

“Off the back performance you’d have to say the world is his oyster.

“It is excellent for the team and great to be on board.”

Trainers and Run Style: Part 3

This is the third article in a series in which I have been looking at run style bias in relation to trainers, writes Dave Renham. In this piece, I'll drill down looking specifically at trainer data from two-year-old (2yo) races. As with the previous articles (read them here and here) I have looked at 8 years' worth of data (1/1/14 to 31/12/21) and included both turf and all weather racing in the UK.

The focus is all race types (handicaps and non-handicaps) and all distances. I have not used a 'field size' restriction this time as around 95% of 2yo races had six or more (my usual cut off) runners anyway. I have explained the phrase 'run style' in the first two articles of the series but for new readers here is a very quick recap.

Run style is concerned with the position a horse takes up early on, usually within the first two furlongs of the race. Here on geegeez.co.uk run style is split into four categories as follows:

Led (4) – essentially those runners that get to the lead early
Prominent (3) – horses that track these early leader(s)
Mid Division (2) – horses that settle mid pack in the early stages
Held Up (1) – horses who begin their race near, or at the back of the field

The number in brackets is the run style score that is assigned to each section.

Run style is often linked with the word 'pace' because the early pace shown by horses in a race determines their early position. Hence, the words 'run style' and 'pace' are often used essentially meaning the same thing, though some commentators feel 'pace' is more associated with speed than racing position: this is why we differentiate. Each Geegeez racecard has the last four run style/pace figures for each runner within a table on the 'Pace' tab. That looks like this:


2yo horses may often have fewer data as some would not have run four times (indeed Clear Day in the example above has run only three times). This, hopefully, is where the trainer run style data shared below will prove its worth.

To help with this piece I have primarily used the Geegeez Query Tool – a tool that is available, and potentially game-changing, for all Gold subscribers. I then used my Excel knowledge to help crunch and interpret the data gathered.

Which trainers' two-year-olds led early most often?

To begin with, let us look at which trainers saw their 2yos take the early lead the most (in percentage terms). I have included trainers who have had at least 200 such runners over this 8-year period:



To offer some sort of comparison, the average percentage of all 2yo's that lead early stands at 14.6%. The trainers with the highest percentages are certainly worthy of further analysis.

(Charlie &) Mark Johnston

It is no surprise for regular readers to see Mark Johnston at the top of the pile, as we've previously discovered his modus operandi is typically to send horses forward. Nevertheless, it is an incredible statistic that more than 40% of his 2yos have led early. Mark is training with his son, Charlie, from the current season so it will be interesting to see if anything changes. I doubt it, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on such things. [Editor's note: at time of writing, the father/son Johnston team have led with 25 of 49 two-year-old runners, 51%, so little has changed at this stage]

Let's look at the Johnston stable breakdown in terms of percentage distribution across all four run styles:



Almost four out of every five of their 2yos either race prominently early or lead. To show how this bucks the general trend, compare Johnston’s stats to the overall 2yo run style stats for all trainers:



The real differences lie either end in the ‘led’ and ‘held up’ sections. This clearly illustrates how differently Johnston thinks about run style. If we look at individual years, we can see the percentage of his runners that lead has been consistent throughout:



The range, 36.1% to 46%, shows his methods have changed little over time.

In terms of race distance, we can see that in general it does not matter too much in terms of how likely a Johnston 2yo will lead. The breakdown is as follows:



It is only when we get to races beyond a mile that we see the percentage drop; even then, it is still very high when compared to other trainers.

The following table, sourced from the Pace Score section on the Query Tool, shows perhaps why the Johnston stable tend not to hold their 2yo (or indeed any age) runners up:



Hold up horses have been successful for the Johnston team just 5.5% of the time, with losses equating to just under 67 pence in every £1. That's not good for punters and, more materially from a training perspective, not good for owners. Meanwhile, early leaders won 26% of the time (incredible for owners) and would have made a profit if we had successfully decided upon which of his 2yos would actually lead (awesome for clairvoyant punters).

Archie Watson

Archie Watson is second in the standings when it comes to percentage of 2yos that took the early lead during the sample period. The most striking stats I found were when I looked at his record with 2yos that started favourite or second favourite (see below):



The differences are quite mind blowing. When we combine his 2yo's sent off in the top pair in the betting and that were held up or raced mid-division early, they produced just six winners between them from 62 runners; this equates to less than 1 in 10 winning. Watson's 2yos which led early and were top two in the betting won on average more than four times as often, at a 43% clip.

Which trainers' two-year-olds led early least often?

As we have seen earlier in this series, not all trainers are keen for their runners to take an early lead. Below is a list of the trainers with the lowest percentages in terms of horses that led early:



The eye is immediately drawn to James Fanshawe: just 1 of his 203 2yos have led early. It should be noted that Fanshawe has a relatively small crop of 2yos each year but, even so, this is remarkable. It is also worth noting that if a 2yo Fanshawe runner has raced prominently they have won 18% of the their races; compare this to the 4% win strike rate for his held up 2yos.

Some other well-known trainers appear in this table: the likes of Marcus Tregoning, Roger Varian and Roger (joined now by son Harry) Charlton to name but three. The Charlton data is worth expanding upon. Firstly let me breakdown his 2yo runners in terms of percentage of run style across all four run styles, as we saw earlier for Johnston:



A huge chunk of his 2yos tend to be held up, and nearly 65% of them have not been pushed up with or close to the pace early. Now look at the strike rates for each run style category:



It is the pattern we should all expect by now, but it begs the question why does Charlton hold up 43.8% of his 2yos when only 8.5% of them go on to win? Likewise why does he send just 8.4% of his 2yos out into an early lead when a huge 32.7% of them win? In general, it is likely to be that the Charlton runners may be incapable of getting to the front early, or that they are raced with at least one eye on the future; but the pattern is clear. Perhaps further schooling at the starting stalls might be beneficial.

Trainer run style averages

In order to give us a more complete picture, I have produced trainer run style averages, in exactly the same way that I did in the first article. To recap, I simply add up the Geegeez pace points for a particular trainer's two-year-olds and divide the total by the number of runners. The higher the average the more prominent the trainer’s horse tends to race. I have looked at overall pace averages rather than breaking down by handicap v non-handicap figures. The reason for this is that 79% of all 2yo races are non-handicaps. Also it saves some space!

For the record, the trainer run style average for all 2yos is 2.29. Have a look for your favourites below.



I have mentioned before that how you deploy these averages is personal choice. In 2yo races, especially when the horses have not run many times before, I believe the data can prove very useful. Let me give an example of a 2yo race run in April of this year.



As can be seen from the Geegeez PACE tab, only three of the horses had previously run and only once each. If we look at the trainer run style averages it looks likely that the Johnston runner will lead:



As the result below shows below, the Johnston runner Beautiful Eyes did lead, and also went onto win:



It is interesting to note that Karl Burke had the second highest number in the run style average table for this race, and his horse raced prominently and came second. Of course, the run style of all 2yo horses are not always going to correlate with the trainer averages. However, these averages can help us build up the most likely scenario of how the early stages of a race are going to be run even when horses have never raced before.

Here is a second example of a race from earlier this year, again it occurred in April:



Once again there was very limited run style/pace data from previous races to help form a picture of how the race may pan out in the early stages. The trainer run style averages for this contest were as follows:



Archie Watson comfortably had the highest run style average at 2.98, with David Evans earning the second highest. As it turns out the runners from these two trainers disputed the early lead and finished 1st and 2nd.



As I mentioned earlier this ‘prediction’ method won’t always work, but it is a useful starting point, particularly in 2yo races (or other race types where there is little no previous form).

Run style and market rank

To finish with I want to combine market rank with run style for the 2yo data from 2014 to 2021. The following graph looks at the percentage of runners that took the early lead in relation to their market rank:



What is clear from this strong correlation is that either market factors influence the running style of certain horses, or the running style of certain horses influences the market. Favourites led early in nearly 27% of all 2yo races in the eight year study period, almost double the average figure for early leaders of 14.6%. Horses occupying the next two places in the betting led in just over 20% of races but, as can be seen, once we get to horses outside of the top six in the betting, getting to the early lead was not easy for this group (less than 8% of them managed it).

This should come as no surprise. Less fancied horses in general are going to be slower than fancied horses, certainly over the full race distance; so it makes sense that this scenario is quite likely to occur early in the race as well as at the finish line. Of course, there will be occasions when an outsider is ahead of the favourite in the first furlong because trainer habits will have an effect or because the market has simply miscalculated the ability of a horse. Sometimes those horses will remain in front at the end of a race: shocks happen! But those are the exceptions.

Combining trainer run style data with market rank looks a potent combination. All Geegeez Gold users have the opportunity to dig even deeper than I have by looking at individual trainer run style statistics combined with market rank inside the Query Tool. To give you a taster, here are the top ten trainers in terms of percentage of runners which led early when sent off favourite (to qualify - 30 favourites minimum):



So Robert Cowell and (Charlie &) Mark Johnston favourites led more than half the time: that could be useful to know!

That's all for this episode. Please leave any comments, questions or thoughts below.

- DR

p.s. the next instalment of this series contains some of my most detailed research ever - stay tuned!

Classy Flat performer Stag Horn hunting Albert Bartlett prize

Archie Watson, who is more accustomed to training winners on the Flat, rolls the dice with Stag Horn in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.

The Lambourn handler has a 29 per cent strike-rate over jumps this winter and Stag Horn has won both his starts over hurdles, at Hereford and in Grade Two company at Warwick.

Now he takes on the Irish battalion in the three-mile Grade One with the five-year-old, who is bred to win a Derby, being by Golden Horn out of a Galileo mare.

“It was probably last summer that the idea of hurdling came about,” said Watson. “It became apparent at Pontefract the previous October that he wanted a trip.

“He ran in the Queen Alexandra at Royal Ascot which really suited him and he finished fourth.

“Speaking to his owners, they were very happy to give it a go over hurdles to see if he could be a high-class animal over an obstacle and so far it has been amazing really.

“We sent him down to Henrietta Knight’s and she did all the preliminary jumping with him. She loved him. He took to it very naturally, which isn’t particularly usual for a Flat horse going hurdling.

“I’ve always felt Stag Horn wants three miles, so hopefully he will take another step forward upped in trip in the Albert Bartlett. If he jumps as well as we know he can, I hope he can put a bit of pressure on the others.”

John O’Connell runs both Bardenstown Lad, who has won four of his last five over hurdles, and Mahler Mission, who landed the Grade Two River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster last time.

Both horses are on a hat-trick for the County Meath handler, who said: “Bardenstown Lad is going there in great form and obviously he is a fresh horse. He hasn’t had a hard winter campaign.

“It is a very open race and you will need a lot of luck in running, but we couldn’t be happier with him.

“The other horse, Mahler Mission, isn’t out of it, either. He is rated 1lb higher than Bardenstown, having won the River Don. We have two chances who deserve to be there.”

Bardenstown Lad has winning form at Cheltenham
Bardenstown Lad has winning form at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Bardenstown Lad won a novice hurdle over course and distance in October and has had just one run since, taking a three-runner affair at Musselburgh early last month.

“Bardenstown winning at Cheltenham is a big factor,” added O’Connell. “That was one of the reasons we took him there, as we wanted to give him some course experience as we have always had this race in mind for him. I wouldn’t swap him in the race, anyway.

“Mahler has bundles of stamina and that is what you need for this race, so he will be interesting as well.”

Henry Daly took a while before making a decision on whether Hillcrest would line up in the shorter Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle or this three-mile contest.

The towering seven-year-old, who is the highest-rated British runner, won a extended three-mile Grade Two at Haydock last time.

Hillcrest goes to the Albert Bartlett as the top-rated British runner
Hillcrest goes to the Albert Bartlett as the top-rated British runner (Simon Marper/PA)

Daly said: “It was fairly obvious after his win at Haydock that he got the three miles, so he should get the same trip at Cheltenham.

“He’s won over two and a half there, but this looked like the obvious race.

“He is in good form and schooled well last week. It is a tough race but it is a Grade One, so deserves to be.”

The Gordon Elliott-trained Ginto is well fancied, having won all three of his starts over hurdles including a Grade One at Naas last time.

Minella Cocooner is a Mullins representative
Minella Cocooner is a Mullins representative (Donall Farmer/PA)

The Irish challenge is a strong one, with Willie Mullins saddling a quartet, who include Minella Cocooner, the mount of Paul Townend, and The Nice Guy, who will be ridden for the first time by Sean O’Keeffe.

Seven-year-old The Nice Guy has won two bumpers and scored on his first run over hurdles with ease at Naas last time.

Mullins said: “He’s a horse that’s surprised me. At home I couldn’t get that type of feeling that he could win one bumper, never mind two, and then win a hurdle very easily.

“He’s not a big, strong, three-mile chaser to look at, but the way he jumps, I think he’s going to be a nice chaser. I’m very happy with his progress.”

Imperial Cup winner Suprise Package, who barely turned a hair when scoring by nine lengths at Sandown on Saturday, carries 5lb extra in another hugely competitive renewal of the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle.

Kevin Sexton renews the partnership with the Paul Leech-owned six-year-old, with James Bowen having deputised last weekend.

His trainer, Peter Fahey, said: “He is in great form and seems to have come out of the race really well. Nicola, who looks after him, is very happy with him.

“He did the job really well and it was a great performance on the day, but this looks a tougher race – although I wouldn’t be swapping him for anything!”

While there is no bonus for the Imperial Cup winner should he follow up in any race at Cheltenham this year, Brian Ellison hopes Cormier can strike for the north and pick up £100,000 cheque after scoring in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso 13 days ago.

“He’s in good form and he has taken his last run well,” said Ellison.

“He likes the course and won there in January, so is well worthy of his place.

“He has to run because of that hundred-grand bonus, doesn’t he? He has schooled well and we’re looking forward to it.”

The unexposed State Man, who fell two out on his debut for Mullins at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, but bounced back to score by a wide margin at Limerick, tops the market.

Top Bandit represents Gordon Elliott
Top Bandit represents Gordon Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Top Bandit, who took a course and distance maiden in October and is seeking a fourth consecutive success, heads a strong team for Elliott, while the British challenge is spearheaded by Greatwood Handicap Hurdle winner West Cork, trained by Dan Skelton, and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ I Like To Move It, who won over course and distance in November.

Runner-up in the Grade Two Kennel Gate at Ascot, Colonel Mustard represents Lorna Fowler, who felt he had a hard race when subsequently third to Sir Gerhard in a Grade One at Leopardstown last month.

“He tried so hard,” said Fowler. “The way he has matured this season has been unbelievable. He just gave it everything on ground he didn’t really like.

“He was quite tired afterwards, so we gave him plenty of time to recover and he seems to have come back to himself really well.

“Hopefully he will be going there on his A Game. There are plenty to beat, but we will have a go, anyway. I hope he would have every chance.”

Archie Watson dreaming of Cheltenham Festival glory

Archie Watson would rank a Cheltenham Festival winner as similarly significant to Royal Ascot success as he prepares Stag Horn for a tilt at the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The trainer is more readily associated with the Flat having enjoyed Group One glory, with Stag Horn initially a performer on the level before taking up hurdling in December.

Winning a novice hurdle at Hereford on his debut, the Golden Horn gelding then stepped up to Grade Two level in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January.

Jumping soundly from the front under Nick Scholfield, Watson’s bay ran on to an impressive seven-length victory to maintain his flawless record under the National Hunt code.

“Although I’ve said his jumping has been good he did make a couple of novicey errors which meant he didn’t win as well as he should have done at Hereford but he really tidied that up at Warwick,” the trainer said.

Stag Horn before the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick
Stag Horn before the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick (Simon Marper/PA)

“He did everything that we asked of him and Nick, who will ride him at Cheltenham, was amazed how well he jumped that day and I thought that he won very well.

“He was very green in the straight still looking around plenty and I’m sure he will come on again for that.”

Now the Albert Bartlett at the Festival beckons, a meeting that holds equivalent significance to Royal Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup in Watson’s eyes.

“I grew up being a fan of jump racing so it is amazing to have a runner at the Festival. We are really looking forward to having a runner there on the big occasion,” he said.

“We are under no illusions how hard the job will be, but you have to say that he goes there with a chance. It is very exciting for the owners (Ben and Sir Martyn Arbib) and everyone in the yard to have a horse that is hopefully going to Cheltenham with a viable chance, which is good.

Stag Horn winning The Royal Sussex Regiment Handicap at Goodwood
Stag Horn winning The Royal Sussex Regiment Handicap at Goodwood (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I think a lot of trainers would be happy with a horse like this going into a race like the Albert Bartlett.

“Cheltenham is great just like Royal Ascot is on the Flat, but we wouldn’t be running him at Cheltenham if we didn’t think he had a chance.

“For us on the Flat it is winning a Group One, winning at Royal Ascot and winning at the Breeders’ Cup that are the most important ones, but if you could have a Festival winner it would be right up there.”

Watson’s Lambourn base only houses a handful of jumpers and will remain that way, with his partner and amateur dual-purpose jockey Brodie Hampson very much involved with the National Hunt string.

“I love having a few jumpers around and that is the way we would probably like to do it,” he said.

“We are not suddenly going to have a string of 50 jumpers here. It will always be between five and 10, but it would be good if we could have a few high-class ones.

“These horses though are hard to come by and that is why we are lucky to have Stag Horn.

“If he turned up in a sale every jumps trainer in Britain and Ireland would want to have him so we are lucky he is a home grown that has taken to hurdling.

“He is good on the Flat, but I feel like he has got a lot of class for this sphere and he has shown that.

“Whatever happens at Cheltenham though he is a Grade Two winner already, but I hope he will continue running in nice races over obstacles.”

Outbox team eyeing international campaign

Outbox is likely to go in search of further international prizes following his lucrative victory in Qatar on Saturday.

Bought for just 16,000 guineas out of Simon Crisford’s yard two years ago, the seven-year-old son of Frankel took his career earnings to over £600,000 after winning the H H The Amir Trophy in Doha in the hands of Hollie Doyle.

Outbox, who carries the colours of Hambleton Racing, has 12 lucky owners who can look forward to more foreign trips later in the year.

Hambleton’s head racing manager, Cosmo Charlton, said: “It was an amazing performance, I thought, and Hollie gave him a great ride. She got him across from his wide draw and kicked at the right time as there were a few hard-luck stories in behind.

“Nice, quick ground suits the horse well and it was a great training performance from Archie as well. He gave him a break and freshened him up and trained him to the minute.

“It was a great day for all the owners as they won an absolute fortune. I think in sterling he won well over £400,000 on the day and he only cost 16,000 guineas.

“He’s won a Listed race at Newmarket and been placed in Group-race company at York, so he’d already won some nice prize-money and I think he ran 16 times last year.

“He’s a really consistent horse. Just on his last couple of runs last year he ran a bit flat and he obviously needed a bit of a break.

“Archie has freshened him up, he’s come right back to his best and I’m sure he’s a horse that will run internationally again, I’d have thought.

“Archie just said he’d get him home and have a good think about where we go next, but certainly long-term we’d be looking at international races as he clearly travels well and is suited by quick ground.”

Outbox bags big-race victory in Qatar

Outbox landed a sizeable payday as he claimed top honours in the H H The Amir Trophy at Doha in Qatar on Saturday.

Trained by Archie Watson and ridden by Hollie Doyle, Outbox was one of two British raiders along with Fox Tal from Andrew Balding’s yard.

While the latter had to settle for third, Outbox found plenty for pressure in the finish to the 12-furlong contest, holding French contender Mutabahi by half a length in a race that is a local Group One.

Outbox, who was bought by Hambleton Racing for 16,000 guineas in October 2020, took home over £422,000 for his victory.

Watson told Great British Racing International: “It was an absolutely incredible result in Qatar with Outbox winning such a valuable race. Hollie gave him a fantastically well-judged ride.

“I am delighted for Hambleton Racing who are such great supporters of the yard and are having their second big winner in Qatar after Maystar won the Al Rayyan Stakes for us in 2019.

“Well done to my team for their hard work, especially my assistant Stephanie Joannides and his regular rider Lauren Smith, who have both travelled him to Doha.

“Thanks must also go the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club for all of their assistance and organisation with travelling the international runners.”

Classy Flat stayer Stag Horn could have bright future over hurdles

Stag Horn could be set for a graded assignment after revealing another string to his bow with a promising victory on his hurdling debut at Hereford on Saturday.

At his peak the four-year-old was rated 108 on the Flat, winning five times and crossing paths with the great Stradivarius when fourth behind him in the Group Three Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in April. He was also fourth in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting.

The Archie Watson-trained gelding’s most recent run on the level was a success as he took the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract in October for the second year running, after which his evident stamina inspired connections to consider hurdling.

The Save The Children Christmas Jumpers Novices’ Hurdle was the bay’s first outing over obstacles and he took to the task happily, making all of the running under Gavin Sheehan and winning by a length and three-quarters having started as the 4-5 favourite.

“I was delighted with him,” said Watson.

“He needs such extreme trips on the Flat that we can’t run him too often, there aren’t really the races for him.

“It was great of (owners) Sir Martin and Ben Arbib to want to have a crack over hurdles and I was very happy with him, I thought he jumped well throughout bar a couple of novicey errors later on, which just let the others back into it a bit.

“He’ll have learnt plenty, he’s come out of it well and we’ll start to think about where to go next, he’ll probably step up in class later in the month or in January.”

Stag Horn was one of the least experienced jumpers in the field as many of his rivals had already run over hurdles at least once, but his schooling with Henrietta Knight stood him in good stead as he jumped confidently and fluently for the majority of the race.

“He’s obviously had 13 runs on the Flat, but in terms of jumping he’s always schooled well at home and he’s done a lot of his preliminary groundwork with Henrietta Knight,” Watson explained.

“I couldn’t really have been happier with his first run and we’re just hoping he’ll continue to progress because if he can translate some of his Flat form to hurdles he could be pretty good in this sphere.”

While a step towards a higher-calibre hurdling contest is next on the agenda, his Flat career has not ended and he looks set to develop into a useful dual-purpose runner in valuable contests under both codes.

“He probably needs two miles, or further than two miles even, on the Flat. There aren’t too many races to run in – he could run in something like the Chester Cup and go back to Royal Ascot for one of the staying races in the summer, but we’ll see how he goes in the spring over hurdles first,” said Watson.

The triumph saw Stag Horn given a 40-1 quote for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – but there is likely to be a different target in March, should connections elect to go to Cheltenham.

Watson explained: “Gavin felt he would hopefully be a horse for something like the Albert Bartlett at the Festival, though he’s obviously going to have to take significant steps forward to be competitive at that higher grade.

“We’ll step him up in class, he’ll go somewhere like Warwick, there’s a Grade Two hurdle there in January (Leamington Novices’ Hurdle), and then we’ll take it from there.”

Nazanin swoops late for Firth of Clyde prize

Hollie Doyle and Nazanin claimed a last-gasp victory in the Virgin Bet Firth of Clyde Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr.

A field of 14 juvenile fillies went to post for the Group Three contest, with the Archie Watson-trained Nazanin a 16-1 shot after finishing a well-beaten eighth in last month’s Lowther Stakes at York.

Deep inside the final furlong, the main of the action took place on the far side of the track, with Canonized – turning out just 24 hours after finishing fifth in a Listed event at the Scottish track – locked in battle with Hala Hala Athmani and Irish raider Head Mistress.

But ploughing a lone furrow down the centre, Doyle and Nazanin finished with a flourish to get up and deny Canonized by a short head, with Hala Hala Athmani and Head Mistress close up in third and fourth respectively.

Doyle told ITV Racing: “She’s been taking steps forward. In the Lowther last time, the ground was very quick and I didn’t think she let herself down, but today I let her use herself and she’s got through that ground lovely.

“It’s just so good for Archie and the connections.

“She’s been highly tried on her last two runs, so it’s always a bit worrying, you don’t know if you’re overfacing them, but we’ve always known she’s got the ability. It’s excellent she’s done that today.”

Glen Shiel ‘bang on course’ for Maurice de Gheest

Glen Shiel is heading to Deauville next for a crack at the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Archie Watson’s durable seven-year-old proved he does not need the mud to help him mix it with the best when he was beaten only a little over two lengths by Starman in a fast-ground July Cup.

History would suggest the ground will be softer at Deauville for the Group One on August 8 – but even if the sun shines, Glen Shiel’s connections will head to France full of hope.

“It was a terrific run – we were over the moon,” said Simon Turner, of owner Hambleton Racing Syndicate, on the sixth-placed finish at Newmarket.

“Archie was always confident he’d be effective on quicker ground, and he was proven to be spot on.

“It was a super run – and while we felt he loves soft ground, being marooned on his own probably wasn’t totally ideal, (so) in a race of fine margins he could maybe have been a fraction closer.

“He’s bang on course for the Maurice de Gheest now, and we’re looking forward to running him there and excited about his targets later in the year.

“Six and a half furlongs should be ideal, because he’s such a strong-staying sprinter. It should suit him really well, and hopefully we can go there with confidence whatever the ground is.”

Leopardstown mission for Sherbet Lemon

Sherbet Lemon will bid to bounce back from Classic disappointment in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown.

Archie Watson’s filly earned herself a crack at last month’s Cazoo Oaks at Epsom with victory in the Lingfield trial, but could then finish only ninth behind the brilliant winner Snowfall.

Sherbet Lemon steps up in trip but down in class for Thursday evening’s Group Three feature in Ireland – and hopes are high that she can make the trip from Britain worthwhile under record-breaking rider Hollie Doyle.

The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is owned by Apple Tree Stud, which is managed by former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton.

He said: “You’ve got to be hopeful.

“She bombed out in the Oaks a little bit – but I’d put that down to immaturity, I think.

“This is an easier assignment. Archie is happy with her, which is the main thing, and we’ve got Hollie on board.

“Fingers crossed she should go and run a big race and go very close, I hope.”

The three-year-old, one of two British challengers along with Roger Varian’s Believe In Love, will be sporting cheekpieces for the first time.

Thornton added: “Archie wanted to put the cheekpieces on. I don’t think there’s any issues attitude-wise, but they might just sharpen her up a little bit.

“People don’t like putting cheekpieces on mares, but I’ve got no issues with it – it’s better to go and win a race with a sheep on their head than finish second without!”

Aidan O’Brien’s pair High Heels and Glinting and the Dermot Weld-trained Federica Sophia also feature in an eight-strong field.

Watson’s stable stars all set for July Cup

Archie Watson is struggling to split his two runners in the Darley July Cup as the three-year-old Dragon Symbol clashes with stablemate Glen Shiel for the first time.

Dragon Symbol was involved in a controversial finish at Royal Ascot when he was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup only to lose the race in the stewards’ room to Campanelle.

Glen Shiel was also second at Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee, a return to the form which saw him win there on Champions Day last season.

“I think we know where we are at with Glen Shiel, because he can win these Group Ones and he is consistent at his level, which is more than enough to win a July Cup under the right circumstances,” said Lambourn trainer Watson, looking forward to Saturday’s Group One showpiece at Newmarket.

“I would say with Dragon Symbol, we don’t really know where his peak is yet. I’d say they ran similar races on the figures at Ascot, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see either horse finish in front of the other because they are both high-class sprinters.

“It is an incredibly strong race, though – you have all the strands of form coming together. You have got Oxted coming back up from five furlongs; you have got Dragon Symbol from the Commonwealth Cup, Rohaan from the Wokingham and Glen Shiel and Starman.

“It is probably the most competitive race of the season so far – and it is great to be involved. I would love to win the race, and we go there with two good chances.”

Glen Shiel ‘in great form’ for July Cup assignment

Glen Shiel will be the first leg of what could be a famous Group One double attempt this weekend for owners Hambleton Racing, as he goes for gold in the Darley July Cup.

With his Archie Watson-trained stablemate Mehmento due to contest the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on Sunday, the syndicate members are certainly getting value for money.

In Glen Shiel’s case he arguably sets the standard at Newmarket on Saturday, having won on Champions Day last year and finished a narrow second in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot.

“That was him right back at his best and I think he stripped a good deal fitter for his run in Ireland,” said Hambleton’s Simon Turner.

Glen Shiel was Hollie Doyle's first Group One winner
Glen Shiel was Hollie Doyle’s first Group One winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in great form at home, but obviously it looks a really good renewal this year.

“He’ll be there to do his best and hopefully run well. Needless to say we wouldn’t be too upset if we saw a lot of the possible rain fall, but Archie is adamant that he doesn’t need desperate ground to run very well.

“It’s going to be a big field and with the three-year-olds coming in it does look a really strong race, so it will be interesting to see how the younger ones match up against their elders.

“What we do know is that if it does rain it won’t affect us, whereas some of them might not be at their best.”

Mehmento impressed when winning at Epsom on Derby day
Mehmento impressed when winning at Epsom on Derby day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mehmento fared less well at Ascot when beaten in the Jersey Stakes – but had previously won a Listed race at Epsom, together with finishing second in the Greenham at Newbury.

“I suspect we’ll run Mehmento in France in the Prix Jean Prat over seven furlongs. I think it’s the plan,” said Turner.

“He does have other options, but at this moment Archie is leaning towards France.

“It’s an amazing weekend for us with two Group One runners – it’s what it’s all about.”

Appeal lodged against Dragon Symbol decision

Trainer Archie Watson has lodged an appeal against Dragon Symbol’s demotion from first place in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Dragon Symbol passed the post a head in front of Campanelle in last week’s Group One sprint, but the placings were reversed by the Ascot stewards after an inquiry.

The British Horseracing Authority’s independent disciplinary panel appeal hearing is set to take place next Thursday, July 1.

Campanelle was awarded the race, therefore striking for a second successive year at Royal Ascot for American trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Frankie Dettori.

The stewards concluded that interference in the last furlong and a half “had improved Dragon Symbol’s placing” and “the distance lost by Campanelle, who was taken notably off her intended line and bumped on a minimum of two occasions, equated to more than the head by which she was beaten”.

In a BHA release on Thursday afternoon, it was also noted that Dragon Symbol’s jockey Oisin Murphy will not appeal against his four-day suspension for careless riding.

Jersey Stakes appeals to Mehmento camp

The Jersey Stakes is Mehmento’s most likely Royal Ascot target.

Archie Watson’s dual Southwell winner ran a huge race on his turf debut at Newbury in April – pushing Chindit all the way in the Greenham Stakes to earn himself a shot at Classic glory in the French 2000 Guineas.

He was ultimately well-beaten in Paris, but got his season back on track with a clear-cut victory in the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom on Friday – and will bid to follow up at next week’s showpiece meeting in Berkshire.

Mehmento holds an entry in the Group One Commonwealth Cup on Friday week, but is more likely to run over seven furlongs the following afternoon.

Reflecting on his Epsom triumph, Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said: “We were hoping he could do that, and he got the job done really well.

“We’d gone over to the French Guineas hopeful, so it was lovely to see him bounce back at Epsom.

“We’re looking towards Royal Ascot with him now – probably most likely for the Jersey, but also considering the Commonwealth Cup.

“I think Archie is probably leaning towards the Jersey at the moment, but we’re keeping an open mind.”

Mehmento is one of two Hambleton-owned horses bound for the Royal meeting, with Glen Shiel primed for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The seven-year-old provided jockey Hollie Doyle with her first Group One success when landing the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October – and blew away any cobwebs when fourth on his seasonal reappearance in Ireland last month.

“Mehmento and Glen Shiel will be going to Ascot for us – Glen Shiel will be going for the Diamond Jubilee,” Charlton added.

“Glen Shiel is in very good form, and we’ll see how he goes on quicker ground – because it looks like that’s what we’re going to get, looking at the weather forecast.”

Parent’s Prayer records smooth Princess Elizabeth victory

Parent’s Prayer led her rivals a merry dance in the Cazoo-sponsored Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom.

A dual winner during her debut season as a three-year-old last term, Archie Watson’s filly had run two sound races in defeat so far this year – finishing second in the Park Express Stakes in Ireland and fourth in the Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield.

Ridden by champion jockey Oisin Murphy for the first time, the daughter of Kingman was sent straight to the lead and appeared to have matters under control throughout.

If anything the 4-1 winner extended her lead racing inside the final two furlongs and passed the post with just over two lengths in hand over Nazuna, with 7-4 favourite Statement only third.

Murphy said: “She’s a lovely filly – a great, athletic type. She handled the track really well.

“Her owner is watching at home in Saudi Arabia and he will be over the moon. He jumped in the Olympics in 2012 in London and he knows horses very well, so I’m pleased he’s got a top-class filly.

“We weren’t absolutely sure as to how we were going to ride her – it was an open plan. But she jumped very well and she was very relaxed going to post, so once she pricked her ears in the race and was in a good rhythm, she was always going to run well.”

Watson said: “She is a strong-travelling filly and I always felt she would handle the track.

“Both Oisin and I were keen to go forwards with her and let her get into a rhythm and it has worked out well. I’d say the rain they had yesterday has helped a bit as well, as she has done most of her winning on heavy ground – but saying that she seems quite versatile and I would have no issues on quicker ground.

“She is a Listed winner and she is dual Group Three-placed and is now a Group Three winner – she is now a very valuable filly. It was very important to get a win into her first, then a stakes win and then this Group win. It makes my life a little easier as a trainer as we can now run her in the top races.

“I think we will stay at a mile for now though I do think she would get further under the right circumstances, but there is such a good fillies’ programme over a mile that I don’t think we need to look beyond that at the moment.

“I know it is only 10 days or so to Royal Ascot, but the Duke of Cambridge would be the first option and then on to the Falmouth at Newmarket. If she misses Ascot we would go straight to the Falmouth.

“Later on in the season we can then look at races like the Sun Chariot, Matron and other races in France.”