Alcohol Free sparks Cheveley Park celebrations

Alcohol Free prevailed in a tight finish for the Group One Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Andrew Balding’s filly was less exposed than most of her rivals in the six-furlong prize, but Oisin Murphy gave her a positive ride.

The champion jockey was happy to take up the running from favourite Miss Amulet at half way and she was there to be shot at running up the hill.

The previously unbeaten Dandalla moved into contention briefly, but her challenge petered away and it was Richard Fahey’s Umm Kulthum, a winner at Ayr last weekend, and Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet who gave Alcohol Free the most to do.

Despite having just the third run of her life, Alcohol Free showed a willing attitude and while Umm Kulthum challenged on her far side and Miss Amulet on her inside, Alcohol Free, a sustained late gamble, won by half a length and a head.

The winner was given a 20-1 quote for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Alcohol Free had finished second behind Happy Romance last time out, but turned that form around with Richard Hannon’s filly who was only fourth this time.

“She didn’t have a great draw at Salisbury and she showed a bit of inexperience and we knew she would come on for that,” said Balding.

“At the end of the day, Happy Romance was likely to be one of the favourites and we only had a couple of lengths to find on her. We had the option to run in the Rockfel, but Jeff (Smith, owner) was keen on going for the Group One and he was dead right.

“She has been on a fast track really, as she only started faster work about three weeks before she ran and we went to the races not knowing quite what to expect as she was the first two-year-old filly we had run.

“She won very easily there (Newbury) and the next logical step was to go for the Dick Poole and she showed enough there to warrant coming here.

“She should stay (a mile) I would have thought. She relaxes well. She acts better with a bit of cover. Oisin was intent that he couldn’t see any pace in the race and he didn’t want to be too far back.

“I’m well past giving him instructions. He did a fantastic job. Just for the yard, it is fantastic, as Jeff has been with us a long time, with dad (Ian Balding) and he has been a big supporter of ours, so it is great to get him a Group One winner again.

“She won’t run again this year. We will see how she does in the spring and we will make a decision nearer the time (whether she runs in a trial). She is obviously good enough to go (to the Guineas), so we don’t need to go to a trial to find out – it’s just whether she would benefit for a run in the spring.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free's victory
Oisin Murphy celebrates Alcohol Free’s victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Murphy added: “Andrew has done a top job with her because he’s had to carefully manage her training regime. She’s very generous at home and he’s kept a lid on her.

“It’s brilliant for the owner and brilliant for the stable. We’ve a class of horse in the yard at the moment that we’ve never had before.

“She’s a Group One winner now and certainly fits into the 1000 Guineas category for next year because she hits the line well and she also relaxes. She’s a super filly.

“I don’t win enough Group Ones for Andrew and he’s supplied me with two this year. Hopefully we can continue to add to the tally.”

Ferguson excited to pitch Zoetic into Group One company

Fledgling trainer James Ferguson will saddle his first Group One runner when Zoetic lines up in Saturday’s Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Ferguson, who was Charlie Appleby’s assistant for three years at Godolphin, only took out a licence at the end of 2019, but has made great strides in the interim.

With 15 winners on the board already at an impressive strike-rate of over 20%, the Newmarket handler has made an impressive start and in Zoetic he has found a first headline horse with a Listed win already in the bag.

“She’s an intended runner – my first in a Group One, so it’s hugely exciting,” said Ferguson.

“The way she won the St Hugh’s at Newbury, I think she thoroughly deserves to take her chance at the highest level.

“She’s been winning over five furlongs, but we actually started her off over six because she relaxes so well at home. First time out at Kempton, she was keen, which was the last thing I was expecting.

“There was a sign of that at Doncaster as well, so we dropped her back to five as she was using too much energy too early. She’s growing up now though and in three runs since she’s relaxing.

“At Newbury, Oisin dropped her out at the back which I thought was beautiful to see as she relaxes so well, which is how she is at home.

“William Buick will ride as Andrew Balding has first pick on Oisin, so he’s on Alcohol Free. Me and WIlliam go back a long way – we worked very closely together at Godolphin when I was Charlie’s assistant for three years and there’s no one I’d rather turn to.

“I didn’t think we’d be having Group One runners this early in my career, so it’s a credit to the yard and to the owners for giving us the opportunity to do it. If we don’t get another for a while, we’re going to enjoy it.”