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Monday Musings: Rediscovering the ‘Lost’ Champion Apprentice

Six former champion apprentices lined up for the Bahrain International Trophy and its first prize of £250,000 over a mile and a quarter of Sakhir racecourse on Friday, writes Tony Stafford. The least well-known of them by a long chalk, Scottish-born Lee Newman, was the unlikely winner on a stable second string owned and trained locally by Bahrain national Fawzi Abdullah Nass on his first run in his new surroundings.

Riding with great enterprise on the ex-Mick Halford-trained Simsir, a four-year-old son of Zoffany, Newman sent his mount past the early runaway leader four furlongs out and stayed on well enough to hold off a host of fast, but too late, finishers. Frankie Dettori on the John Gosden-trained but locally-owned Global Giant just failed to get up but still had inches to spare over Ryan Moore on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Sovereign, last year’s Irish Derby winner, to secure second spot.

Nass also provided the fourth, Port Lyons, another ex-Irish performer. Since joining from now-retired Madelaine Tylicki, sister to Freddy, also a former champion apprentice, who was forced to retire after a fall at Kempton in October 2016 left him paralyzed from the waist down, Port Lyons had won four in a row and carried by far the major hopes for the home team.

Fawzi’s talent as a trainer has been best advertised over the years by his exploits with the sprinter Krypton Factor whose biggest win came in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai where he always sends a strong team every Carnival. Alan Spence’s home-bred Salute The Soldier won two races for Nass early this year and no doubt will be on parade again at Meydan in the 2021 Carnival.

I wish I could find a full resume of the why’s and wherefore’s of Lee Newman over the past eight years. I vaguely remember bits of it as in how he had serious trouble with his weight, something the other quintet of champion apprentice alumni in the field on Friday have not had to worry much about in their careers. More certain is that he suffered a bad neck injury when riding in Australia late in 2018 and is based there, but he has been a regular visitor to Bahrain, and finished third on another outsider, Rustang, 12 months ago in the same race.

Friday was not the only time that Newman had got the better of the two global champions. In 2000, the year of his title, he arrived like a comet, winning 87 races, stepping up on the 22 of 1999. In that regard he had a considerably higher tally in his championship than either of Friday’s immediate victims. Dettori won his junior accolade with 71 victories in 1989; Ryan Moore, who had his first Flat rides in 2000, won his title three years later with 52 wins. William Buick, 50 in 2008 when he shared the apprentice title with fellow Andrew Balding trainee David Probert, and another Balding graduate, Oisin Murphy, won with 76 in 2014, but still 11 fewer than Newman.

The final member of that exclusive club in Friday’s field, and the most recent recipient of the title was David Egan, who rode 52 winners in 2017 and weighed in with 50 in the latest Flat campaign when he benefited from his association with the Roger Varian stable. David Egan’s father John, who rode his first winner in 1984, is, at 52, two years older than Dettori who will be 50 next month. Egan senior was also in Friday’s line-up.

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Weirdly, neither of Newman’s closest rivals on Friday could manage to beat his tally in 2000. Moore had six wins, his first on the Flat – his initial winner was in a selling hurdle at Towcester earlier that year – then none the following year before going on his journey to the top. Dettori, having won 22 races in 1988 – coincidentally the earliest year for the statistics readily available to me, always far exceeded 87 in the ten years from his title until the Millennium when his tally dipped to 47 as a result of his being injured in that plane crash at Newmarket where his friend and later agent Ray Cochrane dragged him from the wreckage.

So what went wrong for Lee? Starting in 1998, when he didn’t trouble the scorers, Newman rode in the UK during only eight seasons, 1998-2002, then 2010-12 so with two eight-year gaps. After his title he achieved double figures only twice more, 22 in the year following his title and 43 in the second year of his comeback. Otherwise his scores in the three barren years were five, three and seven. In all, apart from that landmark 2000, his grand total in the other seven years he rode in the UK was only 102, small beer when you consider Murphy had 144 wins in this truncated year and Buick 137.

For sure Newman must have had talent way beyond the average. Richard Hannon senior clearly thought so as did David Barron. Between them the two master trainers provided him with 60 of his 189 wins. What a waste, but in the warmth of Australia rather than in cold UK winters on the all-weather, he perhaps finds it easier to keep his weight in check.

In all, the Bahrain International attracted five multiple champions. Dettori, Moore and Silvestre de Sousa, who was ninth on the very disappointing Bangkok for Balding, each have three titles. The present title holder, Murphy, has won the last twice and Jamie Spencer also has two championships, the second in 2007 shared with Seb Sanders. Other notables in the line-up were winter champion on the all-weather, Ben Curtis, who easily outscored Murphy and Buick overall this year with 164 wins, and Hollie Doyle, whose 131 wins set a record for a female rider.

Only three female riders have won the apprentice title: Hayley Turner, who shared the honour in 2005 with Saleem Golam, himself retired this year and now a barber in Newmarket; Amy Ryan in 2012, and Josephine Gordon four years ago. Doyle, a late bloomer, has the talent and connections to challenge Murphy and Buick, as well as her partner Tom Marquand even more closely in the coming seasons. How the racing authorities and the media, and indeed large swathes of the racing public, will be hoping she achieves that unprecedented accolade one day soon.

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National Hunt racing continues to gather momentum and there will be many who love jumping at Kempton – me for one – frustrated that they will be unable to be there to see the smart Shishkin make his first steps as a chaser today. Like Altior, the latest brilliant two-mile champion chaser from the Nicky Henderson stable, this Supreme Novice Hurdle winner is being sent straight over fences rather than challenge for the Champion Hurdle next March.

There were plenty of reasons to think that Altior rather than stablemate Buveur D’Air should have won at least two Champion Hurdles as he had that horse well beaten off in third when they met in the Supreme. With the Henderson stable also housing the 2020 Champion, Epatante, who could easily repeat the dose next March, Henderson has a proven formula to follow. It is understandable that going in a beginners’ chase like today with four opponents would be less demanding than, say, a Fighting Fifth Hurdle. If he can cope – and his 1-6 forecast price suggests he will - with the four-year-old Mick Pastor, in the same McManus colours as Epatante, he should be on the way to the Festival once again.

There were a couple of nice performances yesterday at Navan when Minella Indo, beaten a length by Champ (Henderson/McManus) in the RSA Insurance Novice Chase at Cheltenham, cantered round under Rachael Blackmore to the sort of bloodless victory that the Shishkin connections will be craving  this afternoon.

Earlier, fair hurdler Blackbow showed sufficient promise first time over fences for Willie Mullins in a beginners’ chase over two miles and a furlong to suggest he might develop into a Cheltenham contender next spring. Ruby Walsh, who maintains his close connection with the Mullins stable, reckoned on Racing TV that he’ll be a far better chaser than hurdler.

There were some smart performances over here on Saturday, the highlight being Bristol De Mai’s third win in four years in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, putting him almost in the Kauto Star category. Paul Nicholls’ multi-champion won the race four times and but for twice being diverted to Northern Ireland for seasonal debut wins in the JNWine Chase at Down Royal, he could have had an almost-unimaginable six in the same Grade 1 race.

This latest triumph For Bristol De Mai was gained at the expense of Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux. It had the Twiston-Davies stable mentioning the Grand National next April and at ten years of age it is easy to imagine the grey soaring over the fences. Clan Des Obeaux will now attempt to repeat last year’s win in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day when his stable-companion Cyrname is the obvious one standing in his way.

One impressive Saturday winner who will not go for the King George is the Kim Bailey-trained Imperial Aura. The handicap he won at Cheltenham last March will no longer be run, but in-form Kim will aim him at the Ryanair Chase where his bold jumping front-runner will be a big threat to anything the Irish can produce.

The most remarkable success of the day was back at Haydock where the David Pipe stable sent out Main Fact for a ninth win in the calendar year. Bought out of the Dianne Sayer stable for only £6,000 in May 2018, the Juddmonte-bred, who won as a young horse in France for David Smaga, was then off the track for almost 18 months until last December. A close third after making the running on stable debut, that set him up for his first win early in January. Off 104 in a two-mile Warwick handicap he launched a quick-fire eight-day hat-trick. Then it was two more close together wins in early March, by six lengths off 123 and 15 lengths off 9lb higher, already revealing astonishing progress.

Lockdown halted the momentum and it wasn’t until late last month that Pipe brought him out for a Flat foray, which brought three wins at two miles in under a fortnight, starting off at 60. He will be on 78 when the turf resumes next March. Judged on Saturday’s events, that figure will be nowhere near enough to stop him.

For here he was, having never previously run over further than two and a half miles, the distance of his Uttoxeter win on March 14, trying three miles on heavy ground in a 17-runner Grade 3 handicap hurdle sponsored by Betfair. Turning for home another Main Fact win looked most unlikely as, off 147, 7lb claimer Fergus Gillard could be seen to be riding away vigorously miles behind the leaders. In the end, though, the gelding’s will to win came to the fore and he strode past the highly-talented Third Wind to make it nine-in-a-row. Where will it all end? One thing’s for sure, they haven’t forgotten how to enjoy such winning streaks down at Pond House!

Gosden and Dettori seeking Global dominance in Bahrain

John Gosden and Frankie Dettori can look forward plenty of local support when they team up with Global Giant in the Bahrain International Trophy on Friday.

Bought primarily with this race in mind out of Ed Dunlop’s yard by Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa – a driving force behind the event – the five-year-old has won two of his four starts for current connections.

A Listed winner in July, the Shamardal entire was bogged down by heavy ground at Haydock in a Group Three last time out.

Assistant trainer Thady Gosden said: “Global Giant was purchased by HH Shaikh Isa and Jake Warren with this race in mind.

“He won the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury before unfortunately encountering unsuitably soft ground at Haydock on his last start. Ideally, we’d have had a prep race before this, but the ground went at the end of the season, so we thought the best thing to do was to leave him and bring him here fresh.

“His work here has been good. The turf track here is world class and he’s enjoyed the faster ground. We are drawn five which we are happy about. They say the inside of the track is where you want to be.”

“It would be wonderful to win the race for His Highness Shaikh Isa, this race was his brainchild so it would mean a lot to him.”

Aidan O’Brien has his first runner in Bahrain in the shape of last year’s Irish Derby winner Sovereign.

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He was last seen running over two miles on Champions Day at Ascot.

“I don’t think he ran too bad at Ascot, he just got tired late on,” said O’Brien.

“He seems in good form since and he should like the ground.

“This is 10 furlongs so we’ll find out a lot, he’s in good order. He’s going there quite a fresh horse and he’s lightly raced. It looks a very good track and everyone is very positive about it.”

Andrew Balding’s Bangkok ran in the Derby last year and was second in the King Edward VII Stakes, but he has not been seen since finishing last in the Eclipse to Ghaiyyath due to injury.

“He had two tough assignments in the UK this year in very strong Group Ones. He actually ran quite well in the Coral-Eclipse and wasn’t beaten far by six very high-class horses,” said Balding.

“He threw a splint which is quite a common injury, but less common with older horses like him. He was very sore, and we had to give him plenty of time, but we’ve been very happy with him since he came back into training. He’s coming here pretty much match fit.

“This race has been the target ever since we realised that we’d have to sit out the bulk of the summer season at home. We ran Pivoine here for King Power (owners). I’d say Bangkok is probably a cut above Pivoine but he’ll need to be.”

Mick Channon’s Certain Lad was unplaced under a big weight in the Cambridgeshire last time out but prior to that had won the Strensall Stakes at York.

Assistant trainer Jack Channon said: “We’re very happy with him. He’s a very good traveller who takes it all in his stride. He’s been very relaxed since he came over and has eaten and trained well since he got off the plane.

“You’d have to say his performance in the Strensall was a career best, he beat some nice horses that day and we’re hoping he can keep progressing from there.

“To win the Bahrain International Trophy would be fantastic. We all know that money talks and it helps to run the business. Chris (Hurst, owner) has been a great supporter of ours and has quite a few horses in training and to be able to have a go at pots like this can really help people like him stay in the game.”

Hollie Doyle teams up with the Japanese star Deirdre in what is set to be her final run before retirement.

The daughter of Harbinger has campaigned almost exclusively in Europe for the past two years and has a Group One win at Goodwood to show for her efforts, but has been bogged down by soft ground on more than one occasion.

Assistant trainer Yoshi Hashida said: “Her condition going into the Arc was perfect, but the heavy ground went against her. The French horses coped with it better.

“Her two Group One wins came on right-handed tracks at Kyoto and Goodwood. The long straight at Sakhir will suit her. The track looks very fair and we like the firm ground that we will get. We are very excited to take part in the race.”

Deirdre has been ridden by Oisin Murphy and latterly Jamie Spencer but Hashida is excited at linking up with Doyle, who has enjoyed a stellar season.

“We’ve seen that Hollie Doyle is one of the best jockeys in Britain this season,” he said.

“Deirdre is now six and she is a very clever horse, we need something fresh to energise her and that is why we feel that Hollie is an ideal jockey for her. We have found that when a female work rider rides her, that suits her better.

“Mitsuru (Hashida) has said that this will likely be Deirdre’s last race. We are emotional that this journey is almost over.”

Sovereign joins stellar field for Bahrain International Trophy

Five Group One winners feature in a final field of 14 for this month’s £500,000 Bahrain International Trophy after the supplementary stage closed.

Aidan O’Brien is set to saddle 2019 Irish Derby hero Sovereign, last year’s Queen Anne Stakes winner Lord Glitters represents David O’Meara, dual Canadian International Stakes winner Desert Encounter runs for David Simcock – and Saeed bin Suroor calls on 2019 Jebel Hatta victor Dream Castle.

Adding further top-level interest on November 20 is the Japanese-trained mare Deirdre (Mitsuru Hashida), whose big wins include last year’s Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

Barney Roy has suffered a minor setback and will miss the race, but Godolphin will still be doubly represented – with Mark Johnston’s Royal Ascot winner Dark Vision joining Dream Castle.

Supplemented at a cost of £10,000, Sovereign will be O’Brien’s first ever runner in Bahrain.

The Ballydoyle trainer said: “Sovereign is a strong mile-and-a-quarter horse. He is a very strong galloper who likes to go forward in his races, and we think the Bahrain International Trophy will suit him.”

John Gosden saw Turgenev finish second in the inaugural race last year and will be hoping to go one better with Global Giant, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori for owner HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Andrew Balding and King Power Racing were sixth with Pivoine in 2019 and are back this year with Bangkok – while Lady Wannabe (Fozzy Stack), Certain Lad (Mick Channon), Pogo (Charlie Hills) and Quest The Moon (Sarah Steinberg) complete the European challenge.

Two spots in the field are guaranteed for locally-trained horses, and the two Bahraini-based contenders are confirmed as Port Lions (Fawzi Naas) and What A Welcome (Hesham Al Haddad).

Shaikh Salman bin Rashed Al-Khalifa, executive director of Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the class of horses that we have attracted to this year’s Bahrain International Trophy.

“To have five individual Group One winners in the field – compared to only one last year – shows the leap in quality. We are very grateful to the trainers and owners for placing their trust in Bahrain, and we very much look forward to welcoming them.”

Sovereign handed Bahrain aim

Sovereign, the 2019 Irish Derby victor, has been supplemented for next month’s Bahrain International Trophy at Sakhir.

The four-year-old has not managed to get his head in front since that Curragh Classic win and has run four times this term, most recently finishing fifth in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot earlier this month.

Aidan O’Brien will drop him back in trip to 10 furlongs in Bahrain, with the event worth £500,000.

The trainer said: “Sovereign is a strong mile-and-a-quarter horse. He is a very strong galloper who likes to go forward in his races and we think the Bahrain International Trophy will suit him.”

Sovereign will be O’Brien’s first ever runner in Bahrain and he added: “He is a big genuine, sound horse. He’s an Irish Derby winner.

“We saw what he did in the Irish Derby and he ran a massive race in the King George where he was second to Enable, so we think the race will suit him and we are looking forward to seeing him run.”

The supplementary stage for the race closes on Tuesday, with a maximum field of 14 to go to post with 12 European runners and two locally-trained horses.

Barney Roy set for Bahrain Trophy bid

Charlie Appleby feels Barney Roy is the right type of horse for the second running of the Bahrain International Trophy at Sakhir on November 20.

The six-year-old, winner of two Group One races in Germany and one in Dubai this campaign – as well as the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2017, is among 61 entries with 22 from Britain.

“It’s a race we’ve been keen to support, and we feel that we’ve got the right horse in Barney Roy to take to Bahrain,” said Appleby.

“He’s got a great profile leading into the race off the back of his Group One in Germany. He’s been shipped out to Dubai already and will continue his preparation there.”

Other Group One winners on the list are Billesdon Brook, Deirdre, Intellogent and Zabeel Prince with last year’s victor Royal Julius also there.

John Gosden finished second in the race last year with Turgenev and will try to go one better this year with Global Giant.

Gosden said: “Global Giant’s in great form. It’s been the plan all year to go to the Bahrain International and we’ve been very happy with him.”

A maximum field of 14 will go to post.