Tag Archive for: Cap Du Nord

Eva’s Oskar continues National prep with Eider outing

Eva’s Oskar will line up for the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle on Saturday as the Randox Grand National beckons.

The Tim Vaughan-trained grey produced a career-best performance to land the Dahlbury Chase at Cheltenham in December, a victory that brought into focus the major staying targets throughout the spring.

The Welsh Grand National was considered and ultimately vetoed in favour of a tilt at the Grand National itself at Aintree, en route to which the gelding was scheduled to stop off at both Sandown’s Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase and Saturday’s Eider.

The Sandown run resulted in a fourth-placed performance Vaughan hopes will leave the horse perfectly poised for an Eider bid that will itself lead to the National.

He said: “He seems in great form, I’m hoping the ground is genuine good to soft, which I think he’d love. The extra trip should should bring plenty of improvement and we’re excited to get going and have a go.

Eva’s Oskar(left) during the Dahlbury Handicap Chase at Cheltenham
Eva’s Oskar(left) during the Dahlbury Handicap Chase at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“We won at Cheltenham and then we had to decide whether we were going to go for the Welsh National or what other route we might want to take with him.

“I had in my mind to go to the Grand National and I wanted to work backwards from that, so we swerved the Welsh National and went to Sandown.

“He probably needed that run, just to put the finishing touches on him with the aim of having him cherry-ripe for the Eider. It’s a well-trodden path, the Eider to the Grand National, so it made sense.

“I put in entries for the Midlands National and for Cheltenham, just in case we thought he wouldn’t get in then we had to change our plan, but we’re pretty adamant the Grand National is our route after this.”

Of the slowly-run Sandown contest, the trainer added: “He’s a horse who doesn’t really want to be in front, he likes being up on the pace but he doesn’t want to be in front and pushing the pace. They just didn’t go fast enough really, he stayed on well, he did nothing wrong.

“Alan (Johns, jockey) was happy as Larry with him, the race just didn’t pan out as you’d hope to give him the best chance of running his race, so I’m hoping that will be different come Saturday.”

Christian Williams won the Eider last season with Win My Wings and this time runs Kitty’s Light, second behind the latter horse in the Scottish Grand National last season and second behind stablemate Cap Du Nord in the Coral Trophy at Kempton.

Cap Du Nord heads south to defend that title and Kitty’s Light will return to a four-mile trip under Jack Tudor at Newcastle after the presence the highly-rated of Frodon pushed him out of the weights at Kempton.

“He’s very well, he’s being stepped back in trip to four miles and he seems to be an out-and-out stayer,” Williams said.

“There are only certain four-mile races on nice ground for a horse of his rating, so the Eider Chase was the obvious choice for him.

Christian Williams' Cap Du Nord
Christian Williams’ Cap Du Nord (Steven Paston/PA)

“He’s been running over three miles and I think a step up in trip will suit him, it’s great prize-money and it’d be great to win it again.

“You can’t question his stamina, he ran well over three miles at Kempton in the Coral Trophy last year and that’s great prize-money, but Frodon is stopping him from going there so we’ll go for the Eider instead.”

Ben Clarke’s proven stayer The Galloping Bear lines up under jockey Ben Jones, having falled in the Welsh National when last seen.

Happily the bay was unscathed after the incident and has been pleasing when schooling in preparation for the race.

Clarke said: “He’s been none the worse from his tumble at Chepstow. He’s done of plenty of schooling since, we’ve had him checked over and he seems to be absolutely fine.

The Galloping Bear
The Galloping Bear (Steven Paston/PA)

“Everything’s gone really smoothly for him, we think the track will suit him and we’re excited about running him. He schooled this week very nicely and worked well, so we’re hopeful of a good run.

“The trip is definitely no issue for us, there are a few in it that are open to improvement up in trip, but there’s no guarantee they are confirmed stayers. That’s got to be a positive, he’s on a mark that we know is workable for him and he’s pretty straightforward – we’re all happy this end and hoping he can run well.”

The Galloping Bear has relished heavy ground in the past, but Clarke does not expect good to soft will hinder him over an extended trip and under a weight of 11st 12lb.

“He hasn’t run on good to soft ground for a little while, if it was over three miles on that ground I might be a bit concerned that everything could happen a bit quick for him, but over four miles, I can’t see it being an issue.

“He’s got a lot of weight to carry and he’s done that in the past, he carried the same weight to victory in the Surrey National, but because he’s not the biggest horse, it might actually help if it’s not quite such a bog. I don’t foresee good to soft ground being such an issue over the trip.”

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Williams waits on Kempton call for Cap Du Nord

Christian Williams will make a late call on whether to allow Cap Du Nord to make a swift return to action and bid for back-to-back victories in the Coral Trophy at Kempton on Saturday.

The 10-year-old was a clear-cut winner of the prestigious handicap 12 months ago and struck gold for the first time since in last weekend’s LK Bennett Swinley Handicap Chase at Ascot.

Cap Du Nord would carry a 5lb penalty for that win if he were to turn out just seven days later and Williams admits the £150,000 prize is tempting.

He said: “We’ll probably make a final decision on Thursday morning, but he came out of Ascot in great form, so we’ll see.

“We could wait for the Scottish National, but it’s a very valuable race on Saturday, there might not be a whole lot of runners and we feel it’s a track that suits him very well and the ground will suit him.

“We’d like to see how the race cuts up before we decide whether to take a chance or not.”

Kitty’s Light made it a one-two for Williams when chasing home Cap Du Nord in last year’s Coral Trophy, before finding only another stablemate too strong in the Scottish Grand National in Win My Wings.

Kitty’s Light is 8lb lower in the weights than this time last year following an underwhelming season thus far and while he also has the option of running at Kempton again, Williams is currently favouring a trip to the north east.

Kitty's Light (right) in action at Sandown
Kitty’s Light (right) in action at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ll probably go to Newcastle for the Eider Chase with Kitty’s, as long as the ground doesn’t go too soft up there,” the Welsh trainer dded.

“If Frodon runs at Kempton it keeps us out of the weights a little bit, so I would have thought Kitty’s will go to Newcastle. If Frodon doesn’t run, then he’ll probably go to Kempton for the prize-money.

“He hasn’t won for two years and was struggling to win off those higher marks. The handicapper has given him a chance and the horse deserves to win a feature race, so let’s hope it’s on the weekend.”

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Monday Musings: The home defence prevails in Saudi

Two years ago the Saudi Cup was staged for the first time with a total prize fund of $20 million ($10 million to the winner) and therefore the richest single horse race anywhere in the world. There was little surprise when US-trained horses came out on top in the nine-furlong event on the dirt course close to Riyadh.

The winner that day was Maximum Security, the horse that had also finished first past the post in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.  Immediately after the Derby, Maximum Security was disqualified for causing interference on the final bend and was relegated to 17th of the 19 runners under the stringent US interference rules.

The horse’s owners, which include the Coolmore partners, must have been relieved that the Saudi Cup was at least a financial consolation for losing the Derby. Sensationally, though, within a few days of that inaugural running, news came that the colt’s trainer Jason Servis had been arrested. He is named as one of 27 individuals implicated in a US-wide horse doping conspiracy. Their inevitably complex trial is expected to begin next year.

The first actual recipient of the Saudi cash therefore – before Newcastle United and the golfers wanting to play in the Kingdom-inspired planned breakaway from the PGA tour – was Prince Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faisal. The Prince, usually referred to as Prince Faisal in the UK, with his Gosden-trained Mishriff, won the race last year. He, of course, is from the Saudi Royal family.

His horse was back again for the Cup’s third running on Saturday, but he finished last, virtually pulled up by David Egan. The home team this time enjoyed both sides of the triumph, not just a Saudi-owned (again a Prince from the ruling family) but also by dint of its Saudi trainer.

That horse was Emblem Road, a US-bred son of Quality Road, sourced as a two-year-old for around $80,000 at Ocala in Florida, and he came into Saturday’s race with six wins in eight starts, yet started 80-1 (or 50-1, depending on which report you believe).

The price was understandable as he faced the reigning Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun, also unbeaten in three runs since that day before Saturday, as well as well-touted fellow Americans Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon.

The former of that pair is trained by Bob Baffert, another high-profile US trainer several of whose best horses have been found to have had illegal substances in their post-race samples and who is soon to face an inquiry into one of those instances. Interestingly, it was to Baffert that Maximum Security was switched after the Jason Servis licence was suspended two years ago.

Hopes for Emblem Road were drastically reduced when the colt started very slowly but his 53-year-old rider Wigberto Ramos did not panic. A Panamanian who has been riding in Saudi Arabia for the past 24 years, “Wiggy” knows the track as well as any jockey and he steadily made up his ground.

There was still more to be retrieved as Country Grammer set off for home, offering Baffert high hopes of his cut of the $10 million; but Emblem Road, buoyed by his own extensive experience of his home track, would not be denied and got up close home to win by half a length.

The victory was a massive triumph for his local trainer Mitab Almulawah and it must be very possible that his smart and tough four-year-old might be deployed to Meydan to challenge for the Dubai World Cup, victory in which would propel him even higher up the world top earnings table.

I remember when I first started working back in 1990 with the late Prince Ahmed Salman and his Thoroughbred Corporation team which won so many major races around the world, asking whether the family was on a par with the Maktoum family.

The answer came from my pal Jack Rusbridge, the late Prince’s main security advisor, who replied: “No contest. The Saudis’ wealth is a bottomless pit!” Phil Mickelson and Eddie Howe are well aware of that, never mind Baffert who for all the disappointment of his near miss in the big race, collected his share of around $3.5 million for Country Grammer’s second and the victory of his 7-4 favourite Pinehurst in the Saudi Derby earlier on the card.

The rivalry between Dubai and Riyadh is such that the failure of any of the Godolphin ten to win a race would have been regarded as a triumph on the ground for the home team. Rather than any of the more anticipated centres of success, the remaining four races open to the invaders all went to that upwardly-mobile source of big-race excellence that is Japan.

Two wins on the second day of the Breeders’ Cup with Marche Lorraine – sixth to Emblem Road on Saturday – and Loves Only You, who went on to win the Longines Hong Kong Cup in December, jolted many of us to their ever-expanding horizons.

But this was something on an altogether different scale. All four were ridden by Christophe Lemaire who, in the manner of all true international jockeys of the highest order, instantly knew how to handle this track. Three turf races opened the feast, Lemaire making all in two with a come from behind run in between. Then later, in the Turf sprint, he was back in making-all vein, completing an astonishing four-timer for this powerful racing nation.


There was some decent jump racing back home at the weekend and it was good to see Milton Harris winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton with the now unbeaten-in-five over timber, Knight Salute, who needed to overcome a 5lb penalty for his earlier two Graded wins.

Expensive recruits from the flat were easily brushed aside and while it might have been tight if the Gary Moore-trained Teddy Blue had jumped the last two flights better, Knight Salute looks the main domestic hope for the Triumph Hurdle against the Mullins/Elliott platoon.

Staying chases were the other prime targets for owners and trainers, and both Newcastle’s Eider Chase and then Kempton’s Coral Handicap Chase were mopped up by the mop-haired (although he has trimmed it a shade!) Christian Williams.

Always a shrewdie in his riding days as a generally second-string jump jockey, he seems even more astute as a trainer. He says the plans for the multiple entries for these two valuable prizes were fixed months ago and they were rewarded when Win My Wings justified heavy support down to 11-2 favouritism at Newcastle. Cap Du Nord, 15 minutes later, with Williams – anxiously on course in the paddock at Sunbury - led home a stable one-two completed by Kitty’s Light.

The three Williams contributors collected almost £160,000. On what was the worst performance of his life Mandaloun “earned” £222,222 for finishing ninth in the world’s richest race.

For anyone waiting for news of Glen Again who now has been taken out twice so far when due to make his hurdles debut, I can tell you he has two possible entries later this week. Ian Williams has to choose between Ludlow on Thursday and Newbury the following day. At least the ground will not be heavy wherever he goes.

- TS

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