Sacred Bridge all set for mouthwatering Cheveley Park

Ger Lyons’ unbeaten filly Sacred Bridge puts her flawless record on the line in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The two-year-old’s four runs thus far have produced four victories, beginning with a Naas maiden in June and progressing to the Listed Tipperary Stakes later in the same month.

The valuable Ballyhane Stakes was her next success before a step up to Group Three level that was deftly handled when the bay took the Round Tower Stakes last month.

This is another step up and Lyons expects the Juddmonte-owned daughter of Bated Breath to make the grade after her impressive three-and-three-quarter-length triumph at the Curragh.

Sacred Bridge and Colin Keane (second left) on the way to winning the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh
Sacred Bridge and Colin Keane (second left) on the way to winning the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I see she’s favourite, whatever that means, she’s rocked up four times and won four times,” he said.

“I wouldn’t change her for anything.

“What other trainers are doing is their business and my job is to get this filly there on Saturday in good health and if she rocks up and does what she has been doing all summer then happy days.

“This is her sternest test, she’s stepping into the big leagues now in Group One level and invariably they fail – and that’s not to be negative.

“In the Round Tower, I thought the way she did it in Group company was visually spectacular and it was also fast ground which I think is the key to her.

“She’s favourite, as long as she runs well I’ll take it, but I hope, as always, to win it. She hasn’t let me down yet.

“You live in hope you have a Group One horse, but normally you don’t and you are disappointed a lot of the time. After the Round Tower I don’t think she’s out of her depth.”

Andrew Balding's Sandrine
Andrew Balding’s Sandrine (Tim Goode/PA)

Vying for favouritism behind Sacred Bridge is Andrew Balding’s Sandrine, a three-time winner whose perfect run of form was interrupted when she was beaten a length by Zain Claudette in the Lowther Stakes at York.

The daughter of Bobby’s Kitten took her maiden in May before going on to triumph in the Group Three Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group Two Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket.

“She’s done nothing wrong this year,” said Balding.

“It was probably too quick a test and the draw didn’t work out as we’d have wanted at York.

“She doesn’t have to carry a penalty in this and she seems in good form, so we’re hoping she’ll run well.”

Zain Claudette winning the Lowther Stakes at York
Zain Claudette winning the Lowther Stakes at York (Nigel French/PA)

Ismail Mohammed’s Zain Claudette is a key challenger after enjoying a hat-trick of successes this term, a winning streak that includes a Newmarket maiden and the Group Three Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes in addition to the Lowther.

A run at the highest level is now imminent and Mohammed’s confidence in his filly’s chances has been boosted by her recovery from her past wins and her work at home.

“We have been running her every month, we don’t run her every few weeks and she has very good recovery and she is handling everything so well,” he said.

“It’s the same fillies, it’s only the Irish fillies that she hasn’t beaten.

“In the end we will see if she is the champion or not, but from my side I feel she is already a champion and she has shown us so much speed.”

Ownership group Nick Bradley Racing have two chances in the race, the most-fancied of which is the George Boughey-trained Corazon.

The filly has won twice this season, a Lingfield maiden and the Group Three Prix d’Arenberg, and was last seen coming home third in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster having led for much of the race.

“She won well in Longchamp from a good draw,” Bradley said.

“She went to Doncaster and the race wasn’t run to suit, she hit the front far too soon and then idled in front.

“She’s stepping up from five (furlongs) to six, which is a tiny concern, we were considering the Cheveley Park or the (Prix de) l’Abbaye and we may still try and do both.

“In terms of this field she’s a bit of an unknown, she hasn’t raced against a lot of this field already but I think she’ll run a big race – I think she’s my best chance of the weekend.”

The Bradley colours are also carried by Guilded, who is trained by Karl Burke and was a five-length winner when last seen at Beverley on Tuesday.

Prior to that the bay finished sixth in the Prix d’Arenberg at Longchamp, just one and three-quarter lengths behind Corazon.

“Based on that French run, myself and Karl thought she would have nearly won that Group Three,” Bradley said.

“She beat the filly at Beverley by five lengths earlier in the week, that filly (Dreams Of Thunder) was only beaten eight lengths in the Lowther and she beat her with Clifford (Lee, jockey) barely breathing on her.

“If she turns up in the same form we had her in going to Beverley then she will definitely outrun her odds.

“She’s been unlucky, in the Newbury Super Sprint she hit the front too soon, she’s probably the most unlucky filly we’ve got but she got her head in front this week and we do think a lot of her.”

Illustrating is one of two Cheveley Park runners for Karl Burke
Illustrating is one of two Cheveley Park runners for Karl Burke (John Walton/PA)

Burke has another chance through Illustrating, who was a close third in the Prix d’Arenberg, while Joseph O’Brien’s Velocidad is looking to bounce back after a below-par effort in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

Attempting to take the prize back over the Channel is Florian Guyader, who brings Have A Good Day Over for the contest after her sixth-placed run in the Prix Morny and half-length victory in the Prix de Cabourg.

Stuart Williams’ Desert Dreamer was third in the same race and reopposes, with Simon and Ed Crisford’s Ripon Champion Two Years Old Trophy-winner Flotus also an entrant.

Charlie Fellowes’ Sirenia Stakes winner Eve Lodge is engaged, with Boughey’s second runner Thunder Love and the Aidan O’Brien’s Tenebrism completing the field of 13.

Dawson living the dream with Zain Claudette

Ray Dawson hopes Zain Claudette has the ability to provide him with the first Group One success of his career – if not in Saturday’s Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes then at some point in the future.

Trained by Ismail Mohammed, the No Nay Never filly has won three of her four starts, including an Ascot Group Three and last time out when taking the prized scalp of Andrew Balding’s Sandrine in the Lowther Stakes at York.

She is doing her bit to propel both her trainer and jockey into the big time, and Dawson has no doubt she belongs at the highest level.

“Zain Claudette’s form going into the race is unreal, and I certainly wouldn’t swap her. Going into it I’m very excited,” he said.

“I think the Rowley Mile will suit her, and that it won’t bother her at all. She is very balanced, and you wouldn’t even notice her change her legs because she does it so quickly, and the stiff finish there will suit her.

A big smile from Ray Dawson with Zain Claudette
A big smile from Ray Dawson with Zain Claudette (Nigel French/PA)

“We’ve worked her on the Watered Gallop – and although it is a bit different, she flies down it.

“No matter what happens on Saturday we know that she is good enough to be a Group One filly at some point next year, which is great.”

Dawson – who last year spoke candidly about his battles with addiction – added: “Going to the Cheveley Park with her on Saturday is weird, because last season was what I describe as my first proper one riding, and here I am just over a year later I’m now riding a horse that is near favourite for a Group One.

“I’ve put down the drink for good this time and got the proper help and continued to get the help. Once I could live a life without needing a drink on the weekends to deal with life, I was able to give my career a proper shot.

“I’m trying not to think about the result on Saturday – if it doesn’t happen you don’t want to be too disappointed, but it would be incredible if it happened.

“I don’t mind talking about my back story, but when I ride a winner I would like people to concentrate on the winner at that time to help me move on.”

Sacred camp considering options after Newbury victory

There could yet be more to come from Sacred after her taking Group Two victory at Newbury at the weekend.

The Cheveley Park-owned filly was an impressive winner on Saturday, comfortably claiming the seven-furlong Hungerford Stakes by a length under Tom Marquand.

That performance was the first time the bay, trained in Newmarket by William Haggas, had been seen since the 1000 Guineas in May, a race in which she finished seventh of 11 runners.

Unsuitably soft going had prevented her from making an appearance since, but Newbury’s good ground seemed to allow the daughter of Exceed And Excel to show her true potential as she cut through a quality field of 10 to triumph at 6-1.

“We were absolutely thrilled, she confirmed what we’ve been seeing at home on a quicker surface,” said Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director.

“It just was unfortunate that we haven’t had the ground when we’ve wanted to run her at both Royal Ascot and Goodwood.

“She came out of the race really well and and they’re (connections) very, very happy with that.”

A quick return for the City of York Stakes on the Knavesmire at the weekend has been shelved and although the Park Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting is an option, the ground conditions will be a crucial factor in deciding where to run the filly next.

Richardson said: “She came out of the race well, she lost 14 kilos so she obviously knew she had a race but she did it in style.

“There is the Park Stakes and for that we’d probably stick to seven (furlongs), but I think we are optimistic that with a winter under our belt we will potentially see further strength and more maturity, both physically and mentally.

“She certainly was more mentally on the ball when she ran through the horses and ran to the line and beyond which was so nice to see.”

Sacred is set to stay in training as a four-year-old
Sacred is set to stay in training as a four-year-old (David Davies/PA)

Sacred has Group form over five, six and seven furlongs and connections feel that she may stay further still, but there is no rush to step up as she is considered a filly that will be even more impressive as a four-year-old.

“I think next year is going to be her time,” Richardson said.

“With the autumn approaching, the ground is probably not going to be in her favour going forward.

“Hopefully she might be able to step up a bit further next year, but we’ll enjoy the moment for now.”

Dandalla camp confident in Cheveley Park

Trainer Karl Burke is full of confidence as Dandalla returns to Newmarket for the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes.

A winner on her racecourse debut at Newcastle, the daughter of Dandy Man turned in one of the most impressive performances of this year’s Royal Ascot meeting with a six-length demolition job in the Albany Stakes.

She was given a fright by fellow Nick Bradley Racing-owned juvenile Fev Rover in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes on the July Course the following month, but clung on grimly by a head – and the runner-up has since won in Listed and Group Two company.

Burke remains adamant his filly was not at her best on that occasion, having spiked a temperature during preparation – but having since sidestepped a possible tilt at the Prix Morny, the Spigot Lodge handler believes she is back at the top of her game.

Karl Burke (right) with Dandalla following her latest victory at Newmarket
Karl Burke (right) with Dandalla following her latest victory at Newmarket (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“We couldn’t be happier with her. She’s ready to run and hopefully she’ll do herself justice,” said Burke.

“It took her a little while to come to herself (after the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes), but the last month has been very good.

“I think the bit of rain they’ve had will help, although she is a good-actioned filly and we were surprised how well she handled the ground at Ascot. I don’t think she’s ground dependent.

“It’s going to be an exciting race, with some nice Irish fillies coming over, but you want to be taking on the best in these races.

“We’re looking forward to running our filly – hopefully she can prove us right.”

Nick Bradley is similarly optimistic about Dandalla’s chances, saying: “I think she’ll be four from four by Saturday evening.

“There’s nothing better in my eyes – we go there full of confidence in her.”

The highest-rated filly in the field is Ken Condon’s Lowther Stakes winner Miss Amulet, who will carry the colours of Coolmore powerhouse Michael Tabor’s wife Doreen for the first time.

“She’s a very progressive filly. I thought it was a good performance at York, and she’s done very well since,” said Condon.

“She needs to step up again, but all the signs are good.

“She deserves to take her chance in a Group One now, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Richard Hannon-trained Happy Romance has produced one of the feel-good stories of the season.

Bought for just £25,000 for first-time owners the McMurray Family, she has won four of her six starts to date – including the Super Sprint at Newbury, another valuable sales race at York and, most recently, the Group Three Dick Poole Stakes at Salisbury.

Happy Romance has been a real money spinner for connections
Happy Romance has been a real money spinner for connections (David Davies/PA)

Happy Romance had the option of running in the Group Two Rockfel Stakes on Friday, but Hannon decided to bid for top-level honours.

He said: “Happy Romance is in great form. She has run well and improved all year. She has not run a bad race yet, and this is the logical next step up.

“What she has done has not surprised us, because she has always shown us a lot. She did well at Salisbury as she did travel wider, but she picked up well.

“This is a much harder race than the Rockfel, but you would rather be winning a Cheveley Park. There are only certain opportunities to win a Group One, and this is one of them, so we have to try to take it.

“It would be lovely to see her win a big one, with the season she has had – she deserves it.”

James Ferguson hopes Zoetic can make her presence felt
James Ferguson hopes Zoetic can make her presence felt (Steven Cargill/PA)

The William Haggas-trained Sacred would not be winning out of turn, having finished second in the Queen Mary Stakes, the Lowther and the Flying Childers this season.

Richard Fahey’s Umm Kulthum turns out seven days after winning the Firth of Clyde at Ayr, while Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free was less than a length behind Happy Romance at Salisbury a few weeks ago and re-opposes.

The Mick Channon-trained Illykato and Zoetic from James Ferguon’s yard complete the field, with the latter bidding for a third straight win for her fledgling trainer.

“She’s been progressing with every single run of her life – she’s grown up and developed mentally and physically,” said Ferguson.

“She might not be one of the favourites, but I think she’s done enough to earn her chance at this level.”