Tag Archive for: Checkandchallenge

Jersey date in prospect for Checkandchallenge

William Knight is leaning towards dropping back to seven furlongs for a Jersey Stakes bid with Checkandchallenge.

Having scored at Wolverhampton on debut, the son of Fast Company followed up by scooping Listed honours on his second start, taking the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle on All-Weather Finals Day.

That paved the way for a run in the first Classic of the summer and Checkandchallenge was sent off 33-1 for the 2000 Guineas. But nothing went right for the colt on the Rowley Mile and he came home 10 lengths adrift of winner Coroebus in 14th place.

Having initially given his lightly-raced charge plenty of time to recover from his Newmarket exertions, Knight is pleased with how he is progressing ahead of his next outing at Royal Ascot, with the team favouring the Group Three on the final day of the meeting.

“The Guineas took a bit out of him so we have just freshened him up,” said Knight.

“From backing off him a little after the Guineas, physically he has done well and put on a lot of weight. It is always a bit of a rush to the Guineas and although he won very well at Newcastle, I just think the race at Newmarket and the occasion just took a bit out of him, so I just want to make sure we get him back to his usual self.

“By going straight to Ascot it just gives us that time.

“There are a couple of options – he’s in the St James’s Palace, but that is quite a big ask on the back of his last run in the Guineas, so there is also the Jersey Stakes, which is definitely an option, and a slightly left-field one is the Buckingham Palace Stakes – he would be off 108 and gets weight for age.

“But I would say most likely it would be the Jersey Stakes and that is favourite at the moment.”

The Rathmoy Stables handler is also looking forward to returning the evergreen Sir Busker to his beloved Ascot following his run in the Lockinge at the weekend.

The six-year-old has only twice finished outside of the first four at the Berkshire track and is set to take on the unbeaten Lockinge winner Baaeed once again in the Queen Anne Stakes, a race in which Sir Busker picked up a bronze medal 12 months ago.

“He probably got a bit further back than ideal on Saturday, they split into two groups and we were quite a long way out of our ground which wasn’t the intention. But he’s still run a very solid race and the plan is to go for the Queen Anne and then have a think,” explained the trainer.

Sir Busker, here ridden by Oisin Murphy (white cap) when winning the Silver Royal Hunt Cup, will run in the Queen Anne at this year's Royal Ascot
Sir Busker, here ridden by Oisin Murphy (white cap) when winning the Silver Royal Hunt Cup, will run in the Queen Anne at this year’s Royal Ascot (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

“He loves Ascot and you know what, I knew the Lockinge looked strong and it’s a kind of fast mile at Newbury and the stiffer mile at Ascot suits him better, but we were only going to gallop at home on Saturday, so we thought he may as well go to Newbury and pick up some prize money along the way.

“I think he’s won almost £150,000 in place money alone this year, so it can’t be sniffed at.

“We might be tempted into then trying a mile and a quarter, in which case there is a Group Two race at York that could be an option, just to see if he can get the trip. He obviously got a mile and one out in Dubai and he likes York, so we might try that, and if he stays 10 furlongs it could open up a few opportunities for us.”

Another member of Knight’s string that could have Ascot on the agenda is Gatecrasher Girl. The three-year-old filly has proven a revelation so far this summer, shedding her maiden tag in imperious fashion at Nottingham, before following up at Wolverhampton.

Connections are now pondering a tilt at the Sandringham Stakes and are hoping she can sneak into what is typically a competitive handicap off a feather weight.

Knight continued: “The owner is keen to have a shot at the Listed handicap at Ascot and it is sometimes the case the bottom weights run well in it. But the handicapper has left us off 80, so I’m not sure if we will get in off that, so we may have to run again somewhere beforehand.

“She’s a homebred of Chasemore Farm, but if it all looks like it might be too much of a rush and we’ve got to get a run into her, then we might bypass that idea and just progress her through the ranks, but we’ll see and that’s just an idea that has been suggested.”

Monday Musings: Of Ryan, and Raiding Parties

“It’s a long way to Tipperary”, the first world war British army recruits used to sing as they trudged along the blasted fields of France, writes Tony Stafford. More than a century later, Ryan Moore fitted in an afternoon there sandwiched in between two successful days in Surrey, with a winner apiece at Epsom and Sandown Park.

Tipperary also provided a victory for Aidan O’Brien on Thursday but when the private jet touched down for its second Irish hop for Navan on Saturday, the serious business began. It is, after all, Guineas week – yes April 30th rather than the first Saturday in May - and the barely started flat-race season will be two-fifths of the way through the 2022 Classic races by May Day.

If we needed a sign that O’Brien senior, like his main adversary for the first Classic, Charlie Appleby, has his team in form, then Navan would tell us. Before the meeting Ryan told a mutual friend that all the maidens would run well.

In the event Ryan got on three of O’Brien’s five winners, Aidan matching stay-at-home Paul Nicholls’ tally on the final day of yet another victorious jumps championship at Sandown. Understandably, Nicholls preferred saving his best horses for the two four-runner and one five-runner highly-priced (if not as highly-prized as the swollen jumps pattern would wish) contests largely free from Irish interference. *Note: If you would like a detailed, reasoned evocation of the negative effect on the sport of the ever-growing jumps pattern, read editor Matt Bisogno’s highly informed piece on the subject.

Where the Irish did challenge, in the £90k to the winner Bet365 Gold Cup (nee Whitbread), they mopped up the prize, via 16/1 shot Hewick, trained by Shark Hanlon. Why he, of the flaming ginger hair, should be called “Shark” remains a mystery to me.

Indeed why he alone should have that designation when so many of his compatriots make an equally skilled job of matching and bettering his exploits by turning equine base metal into gold is probably a case for the Monopolies Commission, assuming of course that his nickname was acquired from his training days. But then it sometimes feels like there are other aspects of Irish stables’ domination of the major British jumps prizes every season that need referring to that body. All else seems to be failing as this year’s early false dawn at Cheltenham soon reverted to the usual bloodbath for the home team.

As a domestic aperitif to their top teams’ coming over at the weekend to Newmarket, there is the small matter of Punchestown, five days starting tomorrow and concluding on the day the 2,000 Guineas welcomes Luxembourg from the Coolmore boys to challenge the two prime Godolphin candidates, red-hot favourite Native Trail and market second-best, Coroebus.

Coroebus’ style had many admirers on the day he and Native Trail both won their 2021 finales, the favourite in the Dewhurst and the back-up in a lesser race.

But Native Trail is the only unbeaten colt of the pair, a distinction shared by Luxembourg and just two others from the 24 that stood their ground before the field is whittled down once more at noon today. I dealt with the case of William Knight’s Checkandchallenge, winner of a deep race at Newcastle last weekend. Coincidentally the other unbeaten colt is also trained in Newmarket, in his case by David Simcock. He is Light Infantry, twice a winner last year, and like Checkandchallenge, a son of the deceased Fast Company.

At the time he was in training as a juvenile with Brian Meehan, Fast Company showed many of the attributes of a potential Classic winner, but after an excellent half-length second in the 2007 Dewhurst behind the following year’s Derby winner, New Approach, he never raced again.

I was a regular on Thursday work mornings at Manton in those days and it was a great disappointment to Brian when Fast Company was sold to Godolphin and sent to be trained by Saeed bin Suroor. If either of these relative longshots wins on Saturday it will be a long-awaited accolade for a horse that had been under-valued for all his stud career despite being in the care of Darley throughout.

In the manner of such things, now Fast Company’s son Checkandchallenge has inevitably been attracting interest from people who could more easily shrug off the disappointment of a below-expectation run in the race – be that fourth or eighth as anything better would be a triumph - than Mr Hetherton whose colours he has carried hitherto.

I recall a last-minute pre-Derby sale by Karl Burke around a decade ago that probably made all the difference financially to his training career which at the time looked to be stalling or probably worse. I hope this very smart, sweet-travelling colt does his owner (whoever he may be on the day) and his talented trainer proud.

I make no apology for interjecting here on the Nicholls plans for Punchestown this year which are miserly in the extreme. Nicholls has never been as enthusiastic a Punchestown challenger as Nicky Henderson – I travelled to see Punjabi at the meeting four years in a row for two wins, a nose second and a pulled up (wind).

At time of writing on Sunday afternoon, Clan Des Obeaux, the impressive Aintree winner, is ranged alongside Allaho, Minella Indo, Galvin and Al Boum Photo in Wednesday’s Punchestown Gold Cup. He is a 3-1 shot, a short-enough price for all the domination of Aintree if that quartet turns up.

The only other possible for the UK jumps champ is Monmiral, slated to take on the two wonderful mares Honeysuckle and Epatante, the latter another Aintree winner, in her case over further. With around €160K to the winner in each of a dozen Grade 1 races over the five days, you would think sending a horse with place chances might be worth the risk even for cautious Paul.

Yet tomorrow’s card, worth in all €735k, hasn’t attracted a single English, Welsh or Scottish challenger. It will be great to watch on Racing TV all week but with the wistful thought that surely things should be different.

Back in the Guineas, Camelot, by Montjeu rather than the more influential Galileo (both sons of Sadler’s Wells) but hardly his inferior in terms of producing Derby winners, is Luxembourg’s sire.

When asked about his abilities, Aidan O’Brien said he has superior speed to Camelot, a horse that just saw off French Fifteen in an epic battle for the 2,000 Guineas ten years ago. He followed up in the Derby and the much-sought third leg of the Triple Crown was denied O’Brien and son Joseph when Camelot lost the St Leger by three-quarters of a length to Encke, a horse trained by the subsequently disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni for Godolphin.

That was Camelot’s first defeat after five successive wins and prevented the first English Triple Crown since Nijinsky graced the 1970 season for an earlier O’Brien – the revered Vincent.

It's always great when the champion two-year-old gravitates to winning the 2,000 Guineas and after his bloodless Craven Stakes return that is entirely possible. Charlie has the horse with the form, but Luxembourg has the Coolmore badge all over him, not just on the sire’s side, but the dam is by Danehill Dancer, a sprinter that ran in Michael Tabor’s colours but far exceeded his decent racing ability when sent to stud.

The mare Attire provides another major link to the glorious past of Ballydoyle. Ben Sangster, her owner-breeder, is of course a son of the late Robert Sangster whose inheritance from his Vernons Pools-owning father funded the domination of the international bloodstock market in the 1980’s and 90’s. Along with Vincent’s supreme training skills and the business acumen and animal husbandry of Vincent’s son-in-law, John Magnier, they were an unbeatable partnership for more than two decades.

I’m with Luxembourg to prove on Saturday that blood is thicker than form lines and take him and Ryan, not to mention Aidan and the Coolmore team, to beat Native Trail with the underdog Checkandchallenge coming from the pack late on to clinch third. Easy, really, this flat racing.

I have loved the 2021-22 jumps season as my little daily job editing fromthestables.com which involves sharing the thoughts of around 15 trainers, ended with a nice win in the William Hill Radio Naps table. The 2022 summer table started yesterday and we were off to a flier when Rogue Millennium won for Tom Clover at 9/2. Only seven months to go!

- TS

Checkandchallenge bursts into Classic picture with Newcastle triumph

Checkandchallenge may have earned himself a tilt at the Qipco 2000 Guineas after maintaining his unbeaten record with an eyecatching victory in the Coral Burradon Stakes at Newcastle.

A narrow winner on his racecourse debut at Wolverhampton in November, William Knight’s colt faced a significant step up in class for this Listed contest and was priced up at 15-2 under Danny Tudhope.

Andrew Balding’s Imperial Fighter, runner-up in two Group Threes and not beaten far into fifth place in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster last season, was the 7-4 favourite.

But while the market leader was perhaps unfortunate not to make more of a race of it after encountering traffic problems, Checkandchallenge only had to pushed out hands and heels to win by a length and a half.

Winning owner Andrew Hetherton said: “William Knight and his team have done a smashing job and we’re looking forward to what comes next.

“As he did at Wolverhampton he came from the back to the front and won very convincingly.”

Betfair cut Checkandchallenge to 33-1 from 100-1 for the season’s first Classic at Newmarket on April 30.

Hetherton added: “It (2000) Guineas was very realistic when I paid the entry fee! I think we’ll see what happens and I’m very much in William’s hands.

“Danny said he’s a good horse and I said to him ‘have a word with William if you want to ride him in the 2000 Guineas’. Let’s see how we go.

“Today was worth the trip up from Southampton. We stopped up in York on the way last night and we’re having a great day.”

Knight, who was not at Gosforth Park, said: “I was absolutely delighted and excited with the manner in which he’s done it, in what looked a competitive field.

“He had to go and win today to warrant a run in the Guineas and that’s still on the agenda.

“It looked like there was a bit left there, which there needs to be to be competitive in the Guineas.

“We’ve always liked him and we put a Guineas entry in earlier in the year so we obviously hold him in high regard.

“This was to see where we are and we’ve got to be at least thinking that way. There’s improvement still to come from him, it wasn’t all about today.

Owner Andy Hetherton can dream big with Checkandchallenge
Owner Andy Hetherton can dream big with Checkandchallenge (Richard Sellers/PA)

“The big challenge is he’s got to convert his all-weather form across to turf, but there’s no reason why he can’t. He did a nice bit of work on the grass gallops last week which pleased us and made us feel he was definitely above average – he had to prove it on the track, which he’s done today.”

Tudhope was impressed and said: “I was lucky enough to sit on him the other day and galloped him for the first time.

“He’s a lovely big horse who had obviously only had the one start before today and today was all about finding out how good he is.

“Fair play to William and his team. He travelled well and when he got to the front he was only just doing what he had to do.

“He’s still inexperienced and I’m sure he’ll come on leaps and bounds.”