Tag Archive for: Clive Cox

No hurry for connections to firm up Ghostwriter route

Clive Cox will not rush into making a plan for Ghostwriter having seen him finish fourth in his second Classic of the season on Sunday.

The Jeff Smith-owned colt finished three and three-quarter lengths behind the impressive winner Look De Vega in the French Derby at Chantilly.

That followed another meritorious run in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, with Cox feeling the rain-softened ground just blunted Ghostwriter’s turn of foot in France and is minded to keep him to quicker ground in future.

“He ran a really nice race and I think the amount of rain during the last week probably hindered his finishing kick,” said Cox.

“I couldn’t say he didn’t go on the ground as he’s finished close enough, but quicker ground would have just helped him a little more.

“Most importantly I’m really pleased with the way he has come out of the race, I’m very happy indeed that he’s come out of it really well.”

Ghostwriter found himself a bit short of room turning into the straight, but his trainer was making no excuses.

Cox said: “He was very lucky to get his way out of a tight spot turning into the straight and then he just lengthened to the line.

“I think the winner was pretty impressive but our lad ran a good, solid race and a drier surface will help him more in the future.

“I don’t think we’ll be dropping back to a mile, we’re quite happy that the trip was favourable and we’d be quite happy that he’ll continue to build on what he has shown so far.

“We’ve no thoughts about where next, he’s well entered up so we’ve got many options open and we’ll bear in mind what we thought about the ground as well.”

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Low draw pleases Cox for Ghostwriter’s Classic bid

Clive Cox was “very happy and relieved” to avoid a wide draw with Ghostwriter in Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

The son of Invincible Spirit carries rock-solid credentials into the French Derby after overcoming trouble in running to finish fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

That form has been franked by placed horses Rosallion and Haatem going on to dominate the Irish equivalent, while sixth-placed Inisherin dropped down in trip to secure an impressive success in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

With Ghostwriter having prevailed over a mile as a juvenile in the Royal Lodge and then staying on strongly in the Guineas, a step up in distance looks sure to suit the Jeff Smith-owned colt.

Cox said: “We’re very pleased with the two stall. With 15 runners, we’re very happy with that. We don’t have to worry about being out wide now, so thank goodness. We’re very happy and that’s definitely a piece of the jigsaw that has been sorted out.

“He’s in very good shape and we’re looking forward to travelling over. I really think stepping up to 10 furlongs will be beneficial for him and the ground is the same for every horse.

“He’s only performed on a quicker surface, so that’s a territory we’re just going to have to find out about, but I’m confident with the way he moves that he’ll handle himself on softer ground.

“We’ve had a good week so far and at this time of year it’s pleasing with some very nice races coming up.

“Ghostwriter’s main target was the Guineas to begin with and he ran a super race to finish fourth. Without a shadow of a doubt, the form of the Guineas is already showing how strong a Guineas it was.

“You have the first and second in the Irish Guineas and then the sixth horse winning the Sandy Lane. It’s very pleasing to see that form look so solid.

bet365 Spring Celebration – Sandown Park Racecourse – Friday 26th April
Trainer Clive Cox has plenty of faith in Ghostwriter (John Walton/PA).

“We’re looking forward to stepping up to a mile and a quarter, he’s out of a Champs Elysees mare and I very much believe that winning over a mile in the Royal Lodge last year gave us that confidence that with more strength we would be able to step up in trip.

“And after such a pleasing run in the Guineas, we’re really looking forward to it.”

Aidan O’Brien, who claimed this prize three years ago with St Mark’s Basilica, is also looking forward to trying Diego Velazquez over a longer trip.

The son of Frankel won the Group Two Golden Fleece Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown at two and was doing his best work at the business end when a close fourth in the French 2,000 Guineas first time out this term.

O’Brien said: “With Diego, we felt a mile is as short as he wanted to go and we thought a mile and a quarter might be his ideal trip.

“Obviously he could get further, but we always viewed him as a French Derby horse more than anything else.

“We thought and hoped Chantilly would suit him. Everything has gone very well since the French Guineas, he came out of it very well.

Leopardstown Races – Sunday 10th September
Diego Velazquez and Ryan Moore after winning at Leopardstown (Damien Eagers/PA).

“He stays and he’s uncomplicated. It was a very good run-out the last time, we were over the moon, and Christophe (Soumillon) was very happy with him as well.

“We definitely think he has plenty of class, especially for a mile-and-a-quarter horse.”

David Menuisier’s Sunway has been a beaten favourite in two starts this season but does have a Group One victory in France on his CV from last term, when upsetting the reopposing Alcantor in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on very soft ground.

Sunway (second right) represents David Menuisier
Sunway (second right) represents David Menuisier (Tim Goode/PA)

“One day, he’ll show the same class in the afternoon as he does in the morning,” said Menuisier. “Sunway proved last year that he was a very good horse and has a big race in him.”

Fast Tracker is rated the leading home hope by bookmakers, with the Henri-Alex Pantall-trained son of Churchill having been snapped up by Wathnan Racing since scoring by a wide margin at Listed level over this course and distance.

James Doyle takes the ride and Pantall said: “Fast Tracker is a straightforward ride as he races handily, doesn’t pull and he’ll be able to adapt. He exhibits just one flaw in his racing style, as he takes time to pick up when the pace quickens.”

Look De Vega is unbeaten after two outings for Carlos and Yann Lerner, while Ace Impact’s half-brother Arrow Eagle represents last year’s winning combination of trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and jockey Cristian Demuro.

Rouget also saddles Wahdan and Grecian Storm as he bids to complete a hat-trick of Prix du Jockey Club triumphs.

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Kingscote has chance to add French Derby honours to Epsom laurels

Clive Cox is backing Richard Kingscote to shine as he reunites with Ghostwriter in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

The Derby-winning jockey has ridden the Jeff Smith-owned colt in four of his three career starts to date, first partnering him on debut to take a Newmarket maiden back in August.

William Buick then took the ride when the son of Invincible Spirit won at Ascot the following month, but Kingscote returned to the saddle for a significant victory in the Royal Lodge back at Newmarket at the end of the season.

Ghostwriter made his three-year-old bow in the 2000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile, where he was steered to a most respectable fourth-placed finish by Kingscote in the opening colts’ Classic of the season, the form of which is already working out well.

Now the French Derby, beckons, where Kingscote will retain the ride as he bids to add the title to the Epsom win he secured aboard the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown in 2022.

“Richard will 100 per cent ride and I’m really pleased, he rode a superb Group Two winner for us in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday,” said Cox, referring to Kerdos’ weekend triumph.

“He’s won on him (Ghostwriter) twice and he rode him in the 2000 Guineas as well.”

Of the plan of attack this weekend, Cox added: “I don’t think he’s complicated, we can organise our plans according to how the draw provides us with choices.

“He is very versatile and very balanced, I’m more than happy. The better draw you get, the better you sleep at night, but in the meantime I’m happy that he’s a balanced horse and we will make our plans according to the draw.”

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Kerdos Temple triumph delights Clive Cox

Clive Cox was delighted with the victory of Kerdos in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, his third win in the Group Two in what was definitely a family affair.

Cox and owner Alan Spence had already won the Temple twice with Profitable in 2016 and Priceless a year later.

Kerdos, who Spence owns with John Connolly, is by Profitable and out of a mare whose dam is a half-sister to Priceless.

“I was really pleased but it was no surprise, we always believed he could perform at this level, especially after the way he won the Beverley Bullet last year,” said Cox.

Kerdos (left) saw off Nunthorpe winner Live In The Dream
Kerdos (left) saw off Nunthorpe winner Live In The Dream (Nigel French/PA)

“He’s a horse that normally takes a couple of runs to get into full flight and I was really pleased that he managed in that ground, but it shows he’s versatile as it was very quick when he won the Beverley Bullet, so we were very happy.

“He wasn’t beaten far in the Abbaye last season and I’m just delighted that he’s hit his stride at this time of year, with some very nice races to get excited about.

“What nobody picked up on on Saturday was his dam is out of a half-sister to Priceless and he’s by Profitable, so he really is the glue of our previous Temple winners, which was very nice.

“Most definitely it will be the King Charles III (Stakes at Royal Ascot) now and we’ll sleep easy knowing he has won on both types of ground, which is always a relief.

“I’m pleased that we will be heading there with two realistic chances, with Diligent Harry in great form as well.”

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Ghostwriter expected to enjoy step up to French Derby distance

Ghostwriter will get the chance to further enhance the 2000 Guineas form when he runs in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Clive Cox’s Newmarket fourth is one of 21 colts left in the French Derby and he has been buoyed by how the horses who finished in his vicinity in the race won by Notable Speech ran at the weekend.

The Richard Hannon pair of Rosallion and Haatem, second and third at HQ, dominated the Irish Guineas on Saturday, while Kevin Ryan’s Inisherin, who led for a long way before fading into sixth, lowered the colours of Vandeek in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

“I’m very pleased indeed with him, he’s had a healthy timeframe between the Guineas and this weekend,” said Cox.

“He’s pleased me very much indeed and the form of the Guineas has worked out brilliantly, with Kevin’s horse winning as well as Richard’s two finishing first and second in Ireland, so we’re very happy.

“We’ve been looking forward to stepping him up to a mile and a quarter, more importantly. He did really well last year when he was unbeaten and winning over a mile at two would give us every indication that he should get a little bit further this year.

“I hope we fare well in the draw and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Diego Velazquez is well fancied for the French Derby
Diego Velazquez is well fancied for the French Derby (Damien Eagers/PA)

Also in contention this weekend from the UK and Ireland are Karl Burke’s Arabic Legend, John and Thady Gosden’s God’s Window, David Menuisier’s Sunway and the Aidan O’Brien pair of Diego Velazquez and Cambridge.

French Guineas winner Metropolitan and Henri-Alex Pantall’s Fast Tracker lead the home team.

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Kerdos lunges to Temple Stakes success

Kerdos swooped late to create a minor surprise in the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock.

Much of the attention in the five-furlong Group Two was focused on Australian challenger Asfoora, who was sent off the 4-1 joint-favourite on her British bow, but it was Clive Cox’s charge who prevailed.

Last year’s Nunthorpe hero Live In The Dream blazed an early trail on his seasonal bow and he looked like fending off all challengers as he entered the final furlong still in the lead.

However, Richard Kingscote was just hitting top gear on 12-1 shot Kerdos and he edged half a length ahead at the line, with Seven Questions grabbing third and Asfoora having to settle for fourth.

Coral cut Kerdos to 10-1 from 20s for the King Charles III Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Kingscote said: “We thought he’d improved from last year and we also thought he was better than he’d shown this year.

“I got a nice lead into it, through the first furlong I wanted a bit of cover but once I did he dropped his head nicely.

“There’s still things we can work with on him, but he’s a nice horse going forward. He’s the type of horse Clive does really well with.”

Part-owner Alan Spence said: “It’s the third time we’ve won this race as we won with his sire, Profitable and also with Priceless so we’ve had three Temple Stakes winners, all with Clive which takes a bit of doing.

Clive Cox is a dab hand with sprinters
Clive Cox is a dab hand with sprinters (John Walton/PA)

“The faster they are, the better Clive likes them!

“We were a bit worried about the ground today but they haven’t used the straight course and it’s not as heavy, if anything it’s only soft.

“It looked like he took a bit of getting going today but I think that is because the other one (Live In The Dream) goes so fast, but once he was settled we were there.

“Royal Ascot is the plan, it was before today.”

Adam West was more than satisfied with Live In The Dream’s first run since finishing fourth at the Breeders’ Cup meeting back in November.

He said: “That couldn’t have gone better. He missed the break by half a beat today and I think that was because the horse next to him was playing up.

“He’s done everything I wanted to see today and he’s having a nice blow – I think he’s going to be a superstar this year.

“All the others had had runs, fair play the winner is nice and has been produced brilliantly but knowing what he has left in the tank for next time, we’ve avoided a penalty so we couldn’t have asked for more.

“We’re not going to Ascot, it’s too stiff a track for him, so we’re going for the Coral Charge at Sandown – that’s always been the plan and it’s a our home track. He can get some confidence there before he heads for bigger things but I’m absolutely delighted.”

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Diligent Harry firmly on target for Ascot after York near-miss

Clive Cox is excited to head to Royal Ascot with Diligent Harry after his agonising near-miss in the 1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes.

The six-year-old is somewhat part of the furniture at Cox’s Beechwood Stables and has arguably been better than ever this term, winning twice on his beloved all-weather earlier in the year before holding his own among the best sprinters in the world when third in Meydan’s Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night.

It looked like he might finally break his duck on turf when denied by only a neck at York last week, but far from being disappointed Cox is buoyed by the gelding’s recent form as he prepares to drop back to the minimum trip for the King Charles III Stakes on the opening day of the Royal meeting.

“He was so near and yet so far and didn’t do a whole lot wrong,” said Cox.

“It was probably a career-best really and I’m pleased to say he has come out of the race really well.

“We are very much looking forward to the King Charles III at Royal Ascot and that would be our preferred trip on a stiffer track at Ascot.

“He’s very versatile and I’m so proud he’s holding his form so well at the highest level. I think it was his best effort yet at York and we’re looking forward to Ascot.”

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Siyola going on trial at Newbury for possible Oaks bid

Siyola has the chance to add her name to the Betfred Oaks picture when she runs in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Held in high regard by her John and Thady Gosden training team, the daughter of Siyouni created a taking impression when scoring on debut at Sandown.

That earned the Juddmonte-owned filly a ‘win and you’re in’ ticket to the Oaks at Epsom and having seen the form of her Sandown success given a timely boost by Musidora scorer Secret Satire, connections view this Listed event as the perfect spot to step up in class and put Classic aspirations to the test.

“Her form got well franked at York, which is always nice to see. She’s a nice filly who won a nice maiden and it’s time to step up and see if we’re up to taking on something better or not,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for the owners, who saw their Bluestocking narrowly beaten in this race last year.

“I don’t think any soft ground will be an inconvenience to her unless it gets really deep ground, it’s an unknown but good to soft or soft should be fine.

“Ylang Ylang ran a lovely Oaks trial in the Guineas, Ralph Beckett had a nice filly win at Chester and the filly who won at York looked nice, but there hasn’t been a standout and it looks an open enough Oaks.

“We’re rolling the dice and hoping we can jump into that mix and if we’re not good enough, we will have to lower our sights.”

High-class fillies Warm Heart and Nashwa are the two most recent winners of this 10-furlong event, while William Haggas’ Sea Of Class is another top-level filly to graduate to better things after this contest.

Diamond Rain won nicely on debut at Ascot
Diamond Rain won nicely on debut at Ascot (Adam Davy/PA)

Charlie Appleby’s Diamond Rain definitely has the pedigree to follow suit and showed she possesses plenty of ability on debut at Ascot, while Roger Varian won with Eshaada in 2021 and hopes to learn plenty about the well-entered Ejaabiyah who could bolt into Classic contention.

Varian said: “We think she’s nice, but she has only run the once. She’s a filly we have quite a lot of faith in and hold in quite high regard.

“This looks a good starting point and this will give us a steer where we head next, she’s well entered up. She’s got plenty of quality and I’m looking forward to getting her back on track.”

The other Listed action on the card is the Highclere Castle Gin Carnarvon Stakes where James’s Delight attempts to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Shaquille having won the same Newmarket handicap earlier this month.

He is one of two runners for trainer Clive Cox alongside the three-year-old filly Symbology and he is hoping conditions allow both of his candidates to get involved at the finish.

James’s Delight (second right) winning well at Newmarket
James’s Delight (second right) winning well at Newmarket (Bradley Collyer/PA)

He said: “We’ve got a little bit of uncertainty with the rainfall predicted, but James’s Delight has made a wonderful start to the season winning at Pontefract and then when up 5lb at Newmarket on Guineas day.

“He’s in excellent form and will cope with any ease in the ground. I’m happy for him to take the step up to Listed company now he’s rated 102.

“Symbology makes her seasonal reappearance and is a filly we have always held in high regard and she brings some very good form with her from last season. She has done very well from two to three.

“I still have plenty of confidence she is a nice filly and I just hope conditions don’t get too soft for her so she can show her potential and class we believe she has.”

Shaquille, of course, was a notable performer for the north last season and another hoping to fill those boots is the unbeaten Pocklington who puts his Royal Ascot credentials to the test for Yorkshire handler Geoff Oldroyd.

“I think he will run a big race and he has trained well. He has probably improved and got stronger since his last run,” said Oldroyd.

“The main danger we have is we could do with good ground really, or quicker, so we’re hoping it dries up and he wouldn’t want soft ground.

“He’s fit and well and going there with a big chance, but his family all loved quick ground, so we just hope we don’t get rain.

“This is sort of a trial for Royal Ascot and if all goes well here, I would say that is where he will head.”

Relief Rally is another with a Commonwealth Cup objective as she drops back in trip to take on the colts, while Adaay In Devon has claims judged on her second to Jasour in the Pavilion Stakes on Royal Ascot Trials day.

Also returning to a sprinting distance is Eve Johnson Houghton’s Mister Sketch after the Mill Reef runner-up struggled to trouble the judge in the Greenham.

“William Buick got off after the Greenham and said seven furlongs may be within his compass later in the year, but he’s a big horse and he showed plenty of speed so we have dropped back to six and will give it a try,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser for owners Wathnan Racing.

“He didn’t get the most ideal trip (through the race) in the Greenham, but it’s a very fast pedigree and I think we will see him back to his best at six.”

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Cox looking towards Haydock for Jasour before Royal Ascot

Clive Cox is keen to run Jasour in the Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Sandy Lane Stakes en route to the Commonwealth Cup having bounced back to top form at Ascot last week.

An impressive winner of the July Stakes last summer, he lost his way in the second half of the season when set some lofty assignments by his connections.

The hard work of his trainer and his team were justified on his return to action where he reignited Group One dreams with a stunning success in the Group Three Commonwealth Cup Trial Stakes.

That immediately brought the Commonwealth Cup itself at Royal Ascot into the equation, but before he tries to replicate the triumph of Golden Horde for the same connections in 2020, he could head to Haydock on May 25 for the Group Two sprint which feeds nicely into the Royal meeting and could also see the return of Vandeek.

“He’s come out of the race at Ascot really well and I was very happy with that performance,” said Cox.

“He was an impressive winner of the July Stakes last year and since then we did just have things go against us a little bit and he came a little bit keen in the second half of the season.

“The team at home have done a great job and he’s had a really good winter and that success in the Pavilion was very pleasing indeed – it couldn’t have been a better start to his three-year-old campaign.

“I think we will take in the Sandy Lane, that would be a tried-and-tested route. It is an obvious path for a horse of his calibre.

“I’m just pleased he settled well and gave such a good account at Ascot last week.”

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French Derby target for Guineas fourth Ghostwriter

They often say fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby – and Clive Cox hopes that rings true for the French equivalent as well, as he eyes a trip to Chantilly for Ghostwriter following his fine effort in the 2000 Guineas.

Unbeaten as a two-year-old, the son of Invincible Spirit was sent off at 14-1 in the hands of Richard Kingscote for the opening Classic of the summer, overcoming a stumble exiting the stalls and also becoming unbalanced entering the dip to finish a respectable fourth behind impressive winner Notable Speech.

It was a performance that suggested Ghostwriter will thrive once upped in distance and although the colt holds an entry for the Betfred Derby at Epsom, Cox is keen to stick to 10 furlongs and place a bullseye on the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on June 2.

“I don’t think there was any doubt we saw a very impressive winner, but I’m very happy he ran very well,” said Cox.

“Things didn’t go entirely smoothly for him, but it’s certainly not a disappointing reflection. He just stumbled coming out of the stalls and also got a bit unbalanced coming into the dip as well.

“He’s come out of the race very well and I think as a mile winner at two who has undoubtedly done very well over the winner, I was very pleased with the performance, and I now think he will be helped by going a mile and a quarter at this stage.

“That would be our intention as long as he is fit and well. He’s done a very gentle canter this morning and I’m thrilled he has come out of the race really well.

“I hope he will continue his progress and I would say, after speaking with Jeff (Smith, owner) this morning, that the French Derby is going to be our likely target.”

Ghostwriter also holds an entry in York’s Dante Stakes later this month, but with a short span of time between the the Guineas and his French Classic assignment, Cox is willing to forego a fact-finding mission over 10 furlongs and cross the Channel with a freshened-up Derby contender.

Clive Cox was thrilled with Ghostwriter's Guineas efforts
Clive Cox was thrilled with Ghostwriter’s Guineas efforts (John Walton/PA)

“The Dante comes soon enough and although the Dante would be ideal, we were very keen to run in the Guineas and he justified that with a really solid run,” continued Cox.

“York will come soon enough and then the timeframe between the Guineas and the French Derby is probably going to be much more suitable.

“He’s a very nice horse and I’m just very pleased he has come out of the race well and we can now look forward to him going a mile and a quarter.”

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Jasour stakes Commonwealth claim with smooth success

Jasour showcased his incredible turn of foot to power to victory in the Commonwealth Cup Trial Stakes at Ascot.

The Clive Cox-trained colt kept his cool at the back of the field before surging through a gap with just over a furlong remaining to join Purosangue at the front.

Adaay In Devon was challenging on the inside rail, but jockey Jim Crowley gave his three-year-old the nudge he needed to click into another gear and lead outright.

The 9-1 shot drifted over to the inside but was still stretching his advantage in a dominant performance, securing a one-and-a-three-quarter-length success over Adaay In Devon.

Jasour was cut to 12-1 from 33s by Paddy Power for the Commonwealth Cup at next month’s Royal meeting.

“He was class last year in the July Stakes and then in the Prix Morny they split and he was left in the middle and he just got a bit free,” said Cox.

“I think he got a bit frightened as a juvenile and he pulled far too hard in the Middle Park. We’ve worked and we’ve worked, and he enjoyed some precious turnout time up until Christmas at home. The whole team has worked really hard to make sure we’ve kept him this way.

“I was very disappointed things hadn’t worked out (in the second half of last season), but it was quite rewarding to watch him through the winter become more confident.

“He’s an individual personality and quite his own person, but today has been so rewarding to see him do that. It’s very special.

“Jim seemed to strike a chord with him last year in the July Stakes and I’m just pleased it has all worked out today. Jim has given him a super confidence-building run back and I really feel winning is a super bonus, I wasn’t entirely sure about happening.

“I was a little bit worried the ground might be too easy for him, but that didn’t seem to be a problem and his July Stakes performance on quicker ground give us a clear feel in that respects.

“He’s just come back here with a completely different look in his eye, understanding life isn’t that difficult if he gets it the right way round.”

Cox has tasted success in the Commonwealth Cup previously with Golden Horde striking in 2020.

Jasour could head to Haydock for a tune-up before his Commonwealth Cup tilt (Adam Davy/PA)

Like Jasour, he was owned by Sheikh Sultan’s Al Mohamediya Racing and connections’ latest speedster could tune-up for his main summer target at Haydock on May 25 in the Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Sandy Lane Stakes.

Cox added: “The Commonwealth Cup absolutely has to be the target and we were worried about the weather today and how he would cope. After today I will sleep a lot easier and I don’t think I will be watching so many weather forecasts so many times before his next run I would say.

“Sheikh Sultan has been an absolute gentleman and fully on board with our plan to try and what we’ve been doing to try to engineer Jasour’s confidence. He wasn’t here today, but hopefully he will next time.

“Golden Horde was a completely quieter individual to deal with and I didn’t lose any sleep over him at all.

“I think going via the Sandy Lane (to the Commonwealth Cup) would be nice and I look forward to seeing him on a sounder surface.”

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Smith excited by double chance of ending Classics hoodoo

Owner Jeff Smith is still searching for that elusive Classic victory, but could have his strongest-ever hand to play in this season’s Guineas, as Ghostwriter and See The Fire head to Newmarket in pursuit of big-race glory next weekend.

Smith’s famous purple and blue silks have been made popular by the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch down the years, while Chief Singer went closest to breaking the Hampshire-based owner’s duck in the year’s most prestigious races when finishing second in the 2000 Guineas four decades ago.

However, he has now been given cause to dream once again by this year’s aspiring three-year-olds, who head to Newmarket with leading claims.

First up for his shot at Classic honours is the Clive Cox-trained Ghostwriter, who was unbeaten during his two-year-old campaign, finishing off by dazzling over the Guineas track and trip when claiming the Royal Lodge.

That kind of profile has Smith excited for when his son of Invincible Spirit returns to the Rowley Mile to do battle against the likes of odds-on favourite City Of Troy and Rosallion.

He said: “I haven’t seen him for two weeks but Clive is very upbeat and couldn’t have the horse in better condition, given there is only a week to go – and we’re extremely hopeful.

“He’s an unbeaten two-year-old with cracking form and we would go there with every chance. If you take the favourite out of the colts’ race, then it is wide open.

“Chief Singer came second but Norse Dancer came third and was beaten slightly less, so you could argue that was better. I’ve had the second, third and fourth, so it’s time for that to change.”

Chief Singer finishing second in the 1984 2000 Guineas
Chief Singer finishing second in the 1984 2000 Guineas (PA)

It is 40 years since Chief Singer’s silver medal in the colts’ one-mile showpiece, but the Littleton Stud owner still speaks fondly of the horse, who may have narrowly failed to scoop Classic honours but would go on to strike in three of the summer’s biggest contests.

Trained by Ron Sheather, Chief Singer would win the St James’s Palace Stakes, the July Cup and the Sussex Stakes at three to earn a special place in his owner’s affections.

“He was very special and I was very lucky to get him very early on in my time owning horses, it was just amazing,” said Smith.

“I think at the time, I realised how lucky I was, but if I didn’t then, I certainly realise how lucky I was now.”

See The Fire (right) in action against Ylang Ylang last season
See The Fire (right) in action against Ylang Ylang last season (Nigel French/PA)

More recently, it was Alcohol Free who excelled in Smith’s colours and although only fifth when sent off 5-2 joint-favourite for the 1000 Guineas in 2021, she would follow in the footsteps of Chief Singer and go on to strike at both Royal Ascot and in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

Alcohol Free was trained by Andrew Balding, whose family have long been custodians of Smith’s finest equine talent, with the Kingsclere supremo in charge of preparing See The Fire for her 1000 Guineas tilt.

A daughter of Sea The Stars, out of Smith’s Group One-winning mare Arabian Queen, she is bred for the role of top-class performer and showcased her ability when placed in two hot contests at the end of last season.

It is Andrew Balding preparing See The Fire for Classic action
It is Andrew Balding preparing See The Fire for Classic action (Mike Egerton/PA)

She has a length and a quarter to find with ante-post 1000 Guineas favourite Ylang Ylang from when the two clashed in the Fillies’ Mile, with Smith feeling See The Fire has just as good a chance as Ghostwriter of adding her name to the Classic-winning roll of honour.

He continued: “They are two proper chances, I’m extremely hopeful of both and I know all owners are balmy and optimistic and so on, but Ylang Ylang is favourite and we were beaten just over a length.

“On that occasion, we came too early if you look at it retrospectively and hung across the course, so why would that be favourite and we be much bigger? I think we go there with a great chance.

“We’ve never had a hand as good as this and if you can’t be enthusiastic about two Classic runners with chances, you may as well give up.”

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Ghostwriter gallop sparking Cox’s Classic dream

Clive Cox has been buoyed by a racecourse gallop ahead of Ghostwriter’s Qipco 2000 Guineas bid, confident his smart Newmarket form can prove a positive in the opening Classic of the season.

The son of Invincible Spirit was unbeaten throughout his two-year-old season and finished 2023 with a statement victory on the Rowley Mile in the Royal Lodge Stakes.

With that experience under the colt’s belt, Cox was happy to forego an early-season trial in favour of a pipe-opener at Kempton, with Ghostwriter – a general 14-1 shot to claim the scalp of Aidan O’Brien’s odds-on favourite City Of Troy on May 4 – reported to have thrived over the winter.

“I’m very happy with Ghostwriter and he has his Newmarket course form,” explained Cox.

“I’m very pleased he has done exceptionally well over the winter and we will be going there with a racecourse gallop under his belt. He’s done very well and that is why he hasn’t run in a trial.

“He’s been to Kempton and he’s a very athletic, clean-winded horse who has done well over the winter and we think that will have benefitted him far more than racing on testing ground, with his previous experience at Newmarket hopefully holding him in good stead.”

Another star juvenile for the Beechdown Stables team last season was the Kennet Valley-owned Dragon Leader, who suffered defeat just the once in five starts in 2023 as he proved a real money-spinner for connections.

Dragon Leader has been a real money-spinner for connections
Dragon Leader has been a real money-spinner for connections (PA)

Big victories at York and Redcar sandwiched a near miss in a valuable Doncaster event and Cox is eyeing stepping the son of El Kabeir up in trip this term when ground conditions allow him to return to action.

“He was a very productive runner last year earning over £300,000 in prize-money,” continued Cox.

“I’m pleased to say he’s wintered well, but he’s definitely better with a dry surface and we wouldn’t be making any concrete plans at the minute. When the ground gets a little bit quicker you will see him.

“Last year he was looking like seven furlongs would help him and I would be very hopeful he will get a mile. We kept him at six last year simply because he was so well qualified for those races. Six and a half was no problem for him at Doncaster though in the Weatherbys race.”

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Cox undecided on Guineas trial for Ghostwriter

Clive Cox is “open-minded” as to whether to give his unbeaten colt Ghostwriter a prep run ahead of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The son of Invincible Spirit won each of his three starts as a juvenile, completing his hat-trick with a taking Group Two victory in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket in September.

Cox is delighted with how his charge has wintered and is now readying the Jeff Smith-owned three-year-old for a tilt at Classic glory on the first Saturday in May.

“Ghostwriter is really pleasing me, we’ve had a great winter with him and he’s trained well through the spring,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“I’m not sure about a trial, I think we’re open-minded. We definitely need to have him on fire for the Guineas in the first week of May and the going will play a part in whether we do have a trial or whether he has a racecourse gallop.”

Ghostwriter also holds an entry in the Derby at Epsom on June 1, with Cox optimistic he will stay further than the straight mile of the Guineas.

He added: “He won over a mile at two and being out of a Champs Elysees mare, I think he could stay a little bit further.

“He’s got an entry in the Dante as well, so we’ve got longer trips in mind, but obviously he’s got a bit of class to win like he did at two and we’ll feel our way as we go regarding that (trip).

“I think he’s quite versatile ground-wise, but he’s only run on a quicker surface.”

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Cox in no rush to map out Diligent Harry campaign

Clive Cox can justifiably target all the major sprints on home soil this summer with Diligent Harry following a fine effort in defeat on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan on Saturday.

Following successive Listed wins on the all-weather in February, the six-year-old faced a step up to Group One level for the Al Quoz Sprint and emerged with plenty of credit after passing the post in third place behind Hong Kong speedster California Spangle and Charlie Appleby’s Star Of Mystery.

An appearance at Royal Ascot looks likely to be on Diligent Harry’s agenda, with next month’s 1895 Duke of York Stakes at the Dante meeting a potential port of call along the way.

“I was thrilled with how he ran on Saturday – very, very pleased,” said Cox.

“He’d always promised at home that we had a big performance in him and to justify that with that run, on the back of two Listed wins this year, was absolutely wonderful. I’m really proud that he’d produced what we always hoped and believed was there.

“He appears to have come out of the race well and travels back home later in the week. He’s effective at five and six (furlongs), which is great, and ground is more suitable drier than wetter for him.

“We’ll see how he comes back. He has got an entry in the Duke of York, but we’ll see how he comes home first and gather our thoughts.”

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