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Monday Musings: Champions and Sweet Selections

 

Churchill and Ryan Moore after winning The Dubai Dewhurst Stakes Newmarket 8.10.16 Photo HEALY RACING.

Churchill and Ryan Moore after winning The Dubai Dewhurst Stakes

Even before the metaphorical ink was dry and last week’s offering was on its way to you and the world via the mysterious ether, I was off and up the M11/A14/A1 to Pontefract, writes Tony Stafford.

This 4 a.m. lark doesn’t get any easier - <not impressed, Ed> - but after a short pause I was into a decent rhythm, making the track mid-meeting for the late running of the three-year-old mile and a half handicap featuring Harry Champion.

Two runs previously, five minutes after Dutch Law’s big win at Ascot, he’d looked a bit of a snail around seven furlongs of Kempton, nowhere near the sort of ability level Hugo Palmer and staff felt he had as a juvenile.

The big, almost desperate decision was taken to step him up, initially to ten furlongs at Redcar. After a sleepy, over-relaxed beginning there, he (as the comments said) plodded home in sixth, but more significantly, “it took until the end of the back straight to pull him up” according to jockey Marc Monaghan.

The obvious response was another extra quarter mile up the stiff Pontefract hill and Harry and Marc navigated it with flying colours, nabbing Mark Johnston’s pacemaking Kelvin Hall, to whom he conceded 10lb, less 3lb apprentice allowance, in the last five strides.

Hill, trip and softish ground all seemed not to bother this powerful gelding who previously had appeared a one-trick (all-weather) pony but not now. He’s in Tattersall’s Horses in Training sale and another winning effort back at Redcar (14 furlongs) on Friday, twice as far as Kempton, would either make him a target for jump trainers at Park Paddocks, or persuade Ray Tooth to retain him in the hopes of getting another Punjabi.

When that horse appeared at Tatts in October 2006, he’d run 14 times with three wins for Geraldine Rees, whose father Capt. Jimmy Wilson owned and bred him. The last of them came off 69 over a mile at Ayr, the longest distance he tried and at the sale he was rated 73. Harry has run 11 times for two wins, one last year, and I reckon in tomorrow’s new ratings he’ll be either 73 or 74.

Ten years on, why shouldn’t Ray think that particular type of Champion Hurdle-winning lightning could strike twice? Harry Champion appears sure to stay two miles over jumps. Cockney Rebel, his sire, has an excellent record with jumpers from an admittedly small sample, the ill-fated but talented duo Cockney Sparrow and Seedling leading the way.

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So, Redcar it is, or is it? He’s the highest rated – 76, old rating of 70 plus 6lb penalty – of the 37 entered, unsurprisingly as this is a 0-75, but it’s not that straight-forward. Eighteen of them are three-year-olds, who even this late in the season have a 9lb weight-for-age allowance.

All through the late summer, trainers of older staying handicappers are routinely frustrated by the apparent leniency in weight terms for the younger brigade. The snag here though is that Redcar’s 14 furlongs can accommodate only 12 horses and even though there are very few races at longer distances to find around the country, Redcar sees fit not to divide, favouring sprints for that treatment, where 20 (therefore 40) can run.

Ten older horses have ratings above 67, so carry more weight than Harry. Five others are slap bang on 67, therefore equal with him. In those cases, a ballot is held at the BHA’s Weatherbys base before the confirmed list is published at noon the day after entries and sure enough, Harry came out bottom of the six.

I say sure enough advisedly. Mr Tooth has only two horses above two years old in action this autumn, the other being Dutch Law. Both at Ascot in the valuable Totesport race on Oct 1 and next Saturday’s Balmoral Handicap there, he shared (and shares) a critical borderline mark with other horses. From memory, I think it was three last time and there are four this week and he’s bottom of the draw every time.

Just as my conclusions about Galileo’s possible future eminence were more a function of arithmetic than equine knowledge – eight runners from his first bunch of three-year-olds on a single Royal Ascot afternoon – so my suspicions have to be aroused by an unlikely 71-1 treble, 3 x 4 x 6 to be bottom of the pile.

With only 12 getting in, there is actually a chance that a 0-75 race for three-year-olds and upwards could have none of 18 representatives of the younger group in the field, surely not the intention when the race was framed. Sir Mark Prescott could well be foiled of running any of his five candidates of that age, but my calculation is that Harry will be just about all right – never mind the others: sorry, Sir Mark.

His Cesarewitch favourite, St Michel, duly scraped into Saturday’s field, but faded late on as Sweet Selection probably surprised herself and maybe Hughie Morrison by living up to my lofty prediction on her behalf in the closing lines of last week’s offering.

I cannot believe that when people take facts like “17lb well in”, as she was on official handicap terms, they then fail to translate them to the distance of the race. A sprinter with a nominal 17lb in hand has approximately six lengths to work with. A slow start, gaps closing and progressive opponents could trim and even eradicate that advantage.

Over a distance like the two miles, two furlongs of the Cesarewitch, I reckon six lengths becomes more like 18, so it is much more probable that such a horse will take advantage. St Michel was almost as well favoured, as in the winner’s case, from the same Doncaster Cup form, but his tendency to hang was always a potential downside.

On Saturday I saw Malcolm Caine, owner with Gareth Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett of Curbyourenthusiasm, who was sixth in the Doncaster Cup, almost four lengths behind fifth-placed Sweet Selection. Curb is rated 107, so actually it would have been quite in order for Sweet Selection to be awarded 108, especially as higher-rated Clever Cookie and Clondaw Warrior were further back. That would have placed her not level with top-weight Fun Mac on Saturday, but 4lb higher! She was indeed some certainty, but they still need the constitution to carry it off.

When you look back on what you’ve written over the years, there are always things you wish you hadn’t, and that goes for me, too. However, the person who started out the “Aidan O’Brien will be booted out of Ballydoyle in favour of up-and-coming David O’Meara” claptrap - was it last spring? - must be pleased with himself.

Maybe he’ll be writing, whoever and wherever he is, that the Coolmore partners were furious with O’Brien that he didn’t run a third horse in either the Fillies’ Mile, behind Rhododendron and Hydrangea, or the Dewhurst, Churchill and Lancaster Bomber, to equal the stable’s clean sweep of the Arc.

The part I liked the best about Newmarket on Saturday was that 66-1 shot and pacemaker Lancaster Bomber could collect a six-figure pay-out for "the lads", also helping Aidan past £7m in Britain this year. Colm O’Donoghue came back and said: “He’s improving”. You couldn’t write it.

Emotionless set to star at Dubai Future Champions Festival

Emotionless the Apple-by of Godolphin's eye

Emotionless the Apple-by of Godolphin's eye

After a scintillating weekend at Longchamp, attention for Flat racing fans now turns to Newmarket and the Dubai Future Champions Festival.

The inaugural event is staged over two days, and with over £2million in prize money is sure to attract high-class juveniles from the most powerful yards. On Friday the feature event is the £500,000 Dubai Fillies’ Mile, one of the most valuable Group 1 two-year-old contests in Europe.

On Saturday the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes could prove one of the most exciting juvenile contests of the season, with Godolphin’s undefeated Emotionless set to clash with Ballydoyle’s leading two-year-old Air Force Blue.

O’Brien’s colt was mightily impressive last time at the Curragh when cruising to a comfortable win in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes. Emotionless left a similar impression when sauntering to a wide margin victory in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

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Yet it is Jim Bolger who has the outstanding recent record in the Dewhurst, with five wins from the last nine renewals. Teofilo, New Approach and Dawn Approach were among those high-class winners. The victor on Saturday is sure to become a short-priced favourite for next year’s Guineas.

Also on Saturday’s card is one of the most prestigious handicaps of the season, the Betfred Cesarewitch. Often billed as a clash between Flat and National Hunt horses, the 2m2f contest has gone to a number of Jump racing’s finest trainers in recent times.

Philip Hobbs took the prize last year, when his Big Easy won in the hands of Tom Queally. Hobbs had won the race in 2006 with the wonderful grey Detroit City. Nicky Henderson has also found success, with Caracciola in 2008 and with Landing Light in 2003. The former won at the grand old age of 11.

Martin Pipe was another to score twice in the Cesarewitch, back in 2000 and 2002. And not to be outdone, an Irish Jump racing legend, none other than Tony Martin, sent Leg Spinner across the Irish Sea to take the prize in 2007. The Irishman is set to send Quick Jack over at the weekend in an attempt to add to that lone success. The six-year-old came third in last year’s race, and will be ridden by Ryan Moore.

Another trainer more commonly known for his horses exploits over the obstacles is Alan King. He’s sent out a fair few winners this summer on the flat and could be double-handed on Saturday. Grumeti was a top-class juvenile over hurdles, but the seven-year-old has only shown flashes of his best form in recent years.

First Mohican could be a more interesting contender. He ran well at Goodwood a couple of weeks back, though this trip is sure to test his stamina to the limit. He does have a touch of class, and will be ridden by last year’s Cesarewitch winner Tom Queally.

It’s set to be a wonderful two days of top-class racing, with an exciting mix of equine youth and experience set to ‘tickle the fancy’ of an expectant Flat racing fraternity.

The Cesarewitch: Clash Of The Codes

Cesarewitch

Cesarewitch Handicap

On Saturday the second leg of flat racing’s ‘autumn double’ takes place at Newmarket. The Cesarewitch was established in 1839 along with its handicap sibling the Cambridgshire.

Run over 2m 2f and finishing on the famous Rowley Mile it regularly attracts a large and competitive field. As such it has often become a bookies' accomplice as opposed to a punters' patron. The last two renewals were won by horses at 66/1, with only two favourites victorious in the last 20 years.

Aaim to Prosper became the only horse to win twice, when doing so in 2010 and 2012. His double was completed under the substantial burden of top weight. The race tends to favour those carrying less than nine stone, with only five horses since ’95 having carried more.

In recent times this famous ‘stayers’ event has been targeted by National Hunt trainers. Martin Pipe sent out the winner in 2000 and 2002. Nicky Henderson matched him in 2003 and 2008. In between there were wins for Philip Hobbs and Tony Martin. The latter has the market leader this time round with Quick Jack. Money has continued to come for the Irish raider during the week. The horse has a cracking record on the flat, finishing first or second in his last six outings. His most recent win came in a competitive handicap at Galway. Having Richard Hughes on-board is also a significant plus.

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Jonjo O’Neill saddled third placed Tominator in 2012 and has another crack at the major prize with Saddlers Rock. An intriguing entrant formerly with John Oxx, this classy son of Sadlers Wells is on his lowest handicap mark since winning the Doncaster Cup in 2011. He’ll need decent ground to be seen at his best.

Nicky Henderson relies on Earth Amber. It’s interesting to see that Kieran Fallon has been secured for the ride, though the horse finished well down the field in last year’s race.

John Quinn came within half a length of victory two years back. His stable star Countrywide Flame, sadly no longer with us, just failed in a thrilling finish. This time the Malton trainer is double-handed with Moidore and Swnymor both well fancied. The latter was last seen finishing strongly behind Quick Jack at Galway. He’s far better off at the weights and twice the price of the race favourite. Moidore ran respectably in the race last year and looks to be on a fair handicap mark.

Philip Hobbs has another crack at the race with Big Easy. Down the field in 2013, he ran a belter in the Cesarewitch Trial Stakes at the course last month. Tom Queally retains the ride, and further rain would not hinder his chances.

Other trainers known for their exploits over obstacles with entrants here include Willie Mullins, Demot Weld, Ian Williams and Lucy Wadham. Frankie Dettori gets the ‘leg-up’ on Wadham’s Noble Silk. He ran well in the Northumberland Plate earlier this summer when suffering interference late on.

It would be folly to solely focus on horses trained by the National Hunt fraternity as potential winners of this historic race. After all, they have failed to lift the prize in the last five renewals. Yet there can be little doubt that the modern day Cesarewitch is greatly enhanced by the clash of codes at the celestial home of flat racing.

Sat TV Trends: 12th Oct 2013

Aaim-To-Prosper-wins-Cesarewitch_2515748

Aaim To Prosper Winning in 2012

Excellent cards at Newmarket and York this week and as usual Andy Newton’s got all the key TV Trends for the LIVE C4 races..... Read more

Newmarket Trainer Stats 12th October 2013

Rowley MileAs we gear up towards the excellent Newmarket card this Saturday, Andy Newton gives you three yards that do well at the track, plus three that you might want to avoid..... Read more

Sat TV Trends: 21st Sept 2013

Ayr Gold Cup

Who'll Be Kissing The Gold Cup on Sat?

It's Ayr Gold Cup day up at the Scottish venue, while the C4 cameras also head to Newbury and Newmarket for LIVE races this Saturday - Andy Newton's got all the key trends and stats....... Read more

Fallon wants big rides to keep him going

A few more Saturdays like the last one and Kieren Fallon might be thinking again. His jockeyship on 66/1 Aaim To Prosper in the Cesarewitch was outstanding, and this was certainly not a race he would include in those he described last week as “boring”. Read more

Sat TV Trends: 13th Oct 2012

It's Cesarewitch Day at HQ!

Excellent cards at Newmarket and York this week and as usual we’ve got all the key TV Trends for the LIVE C4 races..... Read more

Sat TV Trends: 22nd Sept 2012

Can Dr Marwan Koukash Land Another Gold Cup?

It's Ayr Gold Cup Day, while there's also decent cards at Newbury and Newmarket - We've got all the C4 TV races covered from a trends angle...... Read more

TV Trends – Sat 8th Oct

Newmarket

Don't Forget the Draw Change at Newmarket This Year......

The Betfred Cesarewitch takes centre stage this Saturday, but did you know 70% of the last 10 winners were aged 5 or older? This trend whittles the 36 runner field down to 18! Andy Newton wades through all eight LIVE C4 races this weekend....... Read more

Trainer Trends – 6th Oct

Michael Bell

Michael Bell: 48 Days Without a Winner!

Andy Newton brings 13 hot trainers to your attention this week, plus there’s a familiar look to the high-profile handler who is still on the cold list, can he end his lean spell this week?......... Read more

Race history 1: The Cesarewitch

Saturday sees the running of the 170th Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket. Like its counterpart in the Autumn Double, the Cambridgeshire, the race was established in 1839 and has been run every year since with the exception of two years during the Second World War. Read more

Aaim To Prosper Just Hangs On In Cesarewitch

The Brian Meehan trained Aaim To Prosper held on well under pressure for a victory in the totesport.com Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

Brian Meehan

Brian Meehan

The same event last year saw Meehan's charge coming home in seventh place, but gave a determined running this time out go all the way on this occasion.

Ridden by Barbados born jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, Aaim To Prosper led the field from three furlongs out, but had plenty of challengers set to battle it out.

La Vecchia Scuola, the eventual runner up, pushed the victor to the end, applying the pressure to challenge inside the final furlong, but Beuzelin's mount held on well to score the victory by just a neck, with Plymouth Rock claiming third place a length and three quarters further behind.

Winning trainer Meehan said, "Louis spoke to Frankie Dettori and Martin Dwyer about the horse, walked the track this morning and gave him a real copy-book ride.

"He ran well in the race last year and it's a great result. We will have to talk to the owners about what we do next."

Beuzelin added, "I just let him relax in the first part of the race. I thought I had hit the front too soon but he just took me there.

"He's a horse who can half-think about it, but Martin Dwyer told me just to keep grafting and he did stick his neck out.

"I have been here for two years now and this is definitely my biggest winner."

Red Cadeaux Date for Murtagh in Cesarewitch

Jockey Johnny Murtagh will be aboard the Ed Dunlop trained Red Cadeaux in the Totesport.com Cesarewitch at Newmarket on October 16, with the booking of the jockey announced on Monday by the trainer.

Johnny Murtagh

Johnny Murtagh

Leg Spinner with Murtagh aboard scored a victory in the 2007 Cesarewitch, with the jockey also riding Red Cadeaux when runner up to Theola in the like course and distance event in September, the Investec Cesarewitch Trial.

The four year old Dunlop charge has been the runner up in his trio of recent outings, with the decision made that the Ronald Arculli owned horse will don blinkers in the event in an effort to help his concentration.

Dunlop said, ''Johnny was very keen to ride again. He was aboard Red Cadeaux in the Cesarewitch Trial over the big-race course and distance last month and told me that he thought that they were going to hack up coming out of the Dip but that the horse started to prick his ears and look about him up the hill.

"So we have decided to put a small pair of blinkers on Red Cadeaux on Champions Day so as to make him concentrate and, hopefully, put the race to bed."

"Red Cadeaux is a solid stayer with a turn of foot and a horse who enjoys getting his toe in," the trainer commented on his website.

"But genuine autumn ground would suit him perfectly and, with Snow Fairy in mind, we won't want a mud bath."