Tag Archive for: David Egan

Guineas hope Sakheer sparkles in Newmarket spin

Roger Varian is counting down the days until the Qipco 2000 Guineas with Sakheer after his exciting colt enjoyed a “perfect” workout at Newmarket on Tuesday.

A narrowly beaten second on his racecourse debut at Windsor last summer, the son of Zoffany went one better with a six-length success at Haydock before dominating the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury.

With Varian deciding against giving his three-year-old a run in any of this week’s Guineas trials, Sakheer instead took to the Rowley Mile for a gallop in company with an older sprinting stablemate.

After initially taking a lead, Sakheer extended clear in the hands of David Egan, leaving Varian suitably satisfied ahead of the season’s first Classic in less than three weeks’ time.

Sakheer after working at Newmarket on Tuesday
Sakheer after working at Newmarket on Tuesday (Nick Robson/PA)

“It was perfect to be honest. It was not meant to be a gut-busting work, but it got him a nice blow and he had a day away from home,” said the trainer.

“He got to experience the undulations, he was very well balanced through the work, he came out of the dip nicely, it was a bridle work but it was a strong work and he’ll come nicely forward from it.

“It was part of his schedule and he’s got a strong two weeks ahead of him. He’d only been here once before, so it was nice to give him experience of it.”

An unsatisfactory scope meant Sakheer missed an intended appearance in the Dewhurst in October, which would have at least answered some questions about his stamina.

As it is he will line up over the straight mile in the Guineas having not yet raced beyond six furlongs and Varian admits only time will tell whether he will stay the longer distance.

He added: “We are as confident as we can be and he’s bred to get the trip, even beyond a a mile. He was strong through the line in all of his starts, but he never ran further than six furlongs, so we won’t truly know until the Guineas because he is a quick horse.

“If he gets home he could be a very good miler, if he doesn’t we know we’ve got options back in trip. We wouldn’t be running him if we didn’t think he had a strong chance of getting a mile, but it won’t be proven until two weeks on Saturday.

“He’s got loads of ability and I thought he looked lovely today. He shows it at home but it’s nice to see it on a racecourse.

“He is a good horse, he looked it last year and looks it again this year. We’re not going to test him over a mile until the Guineas, so that is when we’ll find out.”

Sakheer after winning the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury
Sakheer after winning the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury (PA)

Varian was also pleased to see Sakheer apparently handling the rain-softened ground, adding: “I didn’t ask David about the ground but it looked to me as if he was fine on it.

“He’s been trained for the Guineas. If it was soft, combined with the trip, they are the two things he hasn’t encountered, but it’s been his target all year and if he’s fine I’m sure he’ll be here.

“He looks very good, but we’ve got to work out what his best conditions are.”

Another Varian-trained colt who could yet earn himself a tilt at Classic glory is Charyn.

Third behind Sakheer in the Mill Reef, the Dark Angel colt subsequently won a Group Two in France and will test his Guineas credentials in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

“It is testing his water to see where he stands. He’s a different type, he’s very laid back and he needs a race,” said Varian.

“He’s also in the Newmarket Guineas and also in at the Curragh (Irish 2,000 Guineas). The Greenham will give is a guide. He’s a good horse, I like him.”

Varian also reported his St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov to be “in great form” ahead of a planned reappearance in next month’s Yorkshire Cup, with the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot his primary objective.

Monday Musings: Doncaster Pays its Respects

They stood in the owners’ lunchroom at Doncaster yesterday on Mike Cattermole’s cue and perfectly observed the requested two minutes’ silence, writes Tony Stafford. Then, on the big screen behind the excellent cold and hot buffet, was the unforgettable image of Her Late Majesty’s greatest moment as a racehorse owner – never mind winning the Gold Cup with Estimate – the grainy St Leger victory of her home-bred filly Dunfermline in 1977, her Silver Jubilee.

Alone now of the principals of that moment, the indefatigable Willie Carson is still very much with us. With that distinctive head looking down style, along with the rhythmic punching action, he kept Dunfermline in touch with the super horse that was the previously unbeaten and never again vanquished dual Arc winner, Alleged, and Lester Piggott.

Unbelievably, the filly can be seen closing the gap that Lester began to extend once taking the lead at the four-furlong pole. In the last furlong, the filly joined her rival and inexorably gained the advantage. You can see Lester pointedly easing Alleged in the last few strides – no sign of a rat-tat-tat response once he knew the Vincent O’Brien colt was beaten.

Seven years earlier, the same peerless pair, O’Brien and Piggott, had arrived at Doncaster with a similarly unbeaten American-bred colt in the shape of Nijinsky. In his case he did indeed win the St Leger but his exertions in becoming the first (and last) Triple Crown winner since Bahram in 1935 prefaced defeats in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Champion Stakes.

Alleged, a late developer whose fragile forelegs had persuaded connections to race him in Europe despite his dirt pedigree, did not contest either of the earlier UK Classics. Piggott’s restraint on Town Moor left him fresh enough to win his first Arc three weeks later when Dunfermline did well to finish fourth. He followed up impressively in Europe’s Championship race twelve months later before retiring to stud in Kentucky.

In another uncanny moment, as the Dunfermline race was being shown, and the Royal hearse was making its six-hour roadside-packed way from Balmoral to Edinburgh, trainer Ben Hanbury happened to sit down at the next table to myself. We showed our respective respects without talking and I’m not sure quite how I recognised the former Newmarket trainer, soberly dressed, without the colourful trousers he always wore at Keeneland where Midway Lady was bought.

She won five of her six races and was unbeaten at three in 1986 when she won both the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. Injury prevented any further active involvement but she bred an Oaks winner in Eswarah, trained by Michael Jarvis, in 2005. You guessed it, Midway Lady was a daughter – the best daughter – of Alleged.

Earlier, on my way to the track, I listened to a Radio 5 Live broadcast where I’m sure I heard that Dunfermline, situated between Perth and Edinburgh, was to be one of the towns where the car could be seen.

I bumped into fellow Arsenal fan and Derby-winning jockey Willie Ryan (Benny The Dip, 1997) in the seats outside the Press Room as they milled around before the start of the big race. He had driven Frankie Dettori to the races, laughing as he related the former champion had cried off riding Emily Dickinson for the Coolmore team to partner another filly, Ralph Beckett’s Haskoy, for whom a £50,000 supplementary entry fee was paid.

“I’ve backed Emily”, said Willie. “Frankie keeps switching off winners”, he laughed. Ryan agreed that to consider the St Leger in any ground as a mile and three-quarters race was mistaken. “It’s a long 14 furlongs anyway, but here with that five-furlong run-in it’s really a two-mile grind”, he said.

Ryan works for Charlie Appleby in his day job – “From the floor, not on top anymore”, but went on to say that the trip on that track would be the worry for New London, the favourite for the race. His stamina appeared to run out in much the way of Alleged all those 45 years ago as he finished third behind the Roger Varian-trained Eldar Eldarov.

Frankie got one thing right, Haskoy going past the post three places ahead of Emily Dickinson in second, but what he didn’t do correctly was to satisfy the stewards that there was nothing wrong with his riding. They found he had caused interference to fourth home Giavellotto, trained by Marco Botti and ridden by Neil Callan.

They demoted Haskoy to fourth, promoting Giavellotto to third and also giving New London a knock-on promotion to second. It’s quite a big deal in prizemoney terms, second and third both doubling up their original earnings while Haskoy, far from gaining a profit on the deal after the £50k supplementary fee, is now in deficit. No wonder Beckett, “under the interference rules”, is planning an appeal.

If the last few days have been a changing of the guard in terms of the Monarch, it was very much a similar situation in the race itself. The previous five winners had all either been sons or grandsons of Galileo. Yesterday he didn’t have a representative and the only second generation runners were sixth-placed 150-1 shot El Habeeb, by Al Rifai, and last home Lizzie Jean (100-1), by Nathaniel. He died last summer, so a maximum of two more crops of three-year-olds can represent him as Classic contenders.

The winner, third-placed over the line New London and fifth home Emily Dickinson were all by Dubawi, Galileo’s sparring partner for the past decade. Now, with a freer field for a few years at least, he can enjoy a King Charles III-like interregnum at the top of the stallion charts until the next King of the Sires comes along.

For Varian it was a second St Leger triumph, following Kingston Hill eight years ago, but a first for David Egan, the highly personable and talented son of weighing room legend and shrewd bloodstock dealer, John.

I had the good fortune to be representing Jonathan Barnett, one of the owners in Varian’s sprinter Dusky Lord, along with part-owner Jennie Allen at her home course. We stood in the paddock together with trainer and rider before the race. Dusky Lord had a near impossible draw but ran well. I was delighted for both trainer and rider, for whom Eldar Eldarov looks a stayer to follow.

Over in Ireland Kyprios kept up the pressure in the staying ranks, the four-year-old seeing off fellow older gentleman Hamish in the Irish St Leger. By then his Goodwood Cup victim Trueshan had failed to deliver odds of 9-2 laid on in the Doncaster Cup, his erratic steering in the last 100 yards viewed low down from right on the winning line as Hollie tried to straighten him for a final flourish. Coltrane, expertly ridden by one of this site’s ambassadors, David Probert, was a deserved beneficiary of what Alan King clearly believes is the memory of Trueshan’s hard race at Goodwood behind Kyprios and Stradivarius on faster than ideal ground.

It was gloom all round for the Trueshan team of owners. Their best-known member, Andrew Gemmell, had taken the 10.30 train from King’s Cross, travel time 90 minutes and arrived via a taxi five minutes before Trueshan’s race – scheduled off time 2.45.

All through what remained of the afternoon, Tony Hunt, Andrew’s “eyes” for the day monitored the denuded Sunday service which promised delays and cancellations, so I thought it appropriate on such a day to offer a lift to Central London.

We had a lovely three hours listening to the Test match, reminiscing about the Queen – yes, I did meet her and shared a few words when she visited the Daily Telegraph and talked about reading the racing page every day! – and learning the latest about Andrew’s great staying hurdler, Paisley Park. What a day!

- TS

Monday Musings: Saudi Success for Mishriff

In the latter half of last week’s missive I took you back to June 1989, writes Tony Stafford. Today I’m going another year, all but two days, and the eve of day one of Royal Ascot. The feature and only Group 1 event of the day, and in those days carrying more than double the prizemoney of the Group 2 Queen Anne and Prince of Wales’s Stakes on that afternoon, was the St James’s Palace Stakes.

I’d gone on the Monday evening down to Holland Park Road in leafy West London with trainer Geoff Huffer and I remember there was much discussion about whether Persian Heights, whom Geoff trained for Prince Yazid Saud (son of King Saud, the Ruler of Saudi Arabia in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s) should take his place in the field.

Until checking back I’d forgotten the reason for what was in effect a summit meeting as it entailed something of a gamble. Persian Heights had made his seasonal reappearance as recently as the previous Wednesday at Newbury, when he won a conditions race by an easy four lengths.

Obviously it was going to be a risk and I’m not quite sure why I was there, but there I was. Also in the house that evening was Tony Nerses, nowadays the brains behind Kuwaiti Imad Al Sagar’s bloodstock interests, but in those days the secretary for Prince Yazid.

Mr Sagar, with his then partner Saleh Al Homaizi, also a Kuwaiti, won the 2007 Derby with Authorized, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam; and that victory has provided Tony with a great advertising vehicle. Whenever his boss has a non-home-bred winner, it’s always accompanied with “purchase Authorized by Tony Nerses”.

At some time later that evening, mid-discussion, Geoff and I crossed the road to another of the grand houses in that select enclave – God knows what they would be worth now!  I did look, you wouldn’t want to know!

There we met one of Prince Yazid’s fellow Saudi Arabian Royal family members, Prince Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faisal, and blow me down when on Saturday night his horse Mishriff, trained by John Gosden and ridden by 21-year-old David Egan, exceeded all previous expectations by winning the world’s most valuable race, the Saudi Cup, from the American-trained second favourite Charlatan, in turn ridden by one of the world’s most celebrated and successful jockeys, Mike Smith.

I’m delighted for the Prince who goes sometimes as Prince A A Faisal but more often as plain – well not so plain, just look at the Garrards of London-made all-gold trophy that’s almost as tall as its recipient – Prince Faisal. At home he needs the initials, there’s a bit of competition for that first name among the family.

They were all friends and indeed relatives with the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman (late son of the present King Salman) of Thoroughbred Corporation fame. He won the 1999 Derby with Oath, four Triple Crown races in two successive years without managing to get all three together as well as umpteen other major races around the world.

Even before 1988, when they were very young men, Yazid and Ahmed were partners together in several good horses, often high-class sprinters trained by Bill O’Gorman running precisely in those two first names.

Well to cut a circuitous route slightly shorter, the decision was made. Persian Heights ran and won comfortably and, while never really graduating any further in his own career, he did leave an indelible mark on the thoroughbred breeding world by being the sire of the great stayer Persian Punch.

Winner of 20 of his 63 career starts for trainer David Elsworth and owner Jeff Smith, only four times did he step below stakes class and he won on all those four occasions. Sixteen stakes wins is right up there and I know from experience that Mr Elsworth never likes to worry about winning a small race when a tilt at a much bigger target is in his sights.

I bought Prince Yazid a few horses after my own first trip to Saudi Arabia in the late 1990’s to race in France where he was based at that time and I later lost touch. I know on returning home, he was in charge of arrangements for the Hajj where Muslim  pilgrims travel to the Holy City of Mecca, a journey they are required to make at least once in their lives.

Prince Faisal meanwhile was breeding some top-class horses to run in his purple, grey epaulettes colours from his prolific broodmare Rafha, winner of the 1990 Prix de Diane for Henry Cecil. The best was easily Invincible Spirit, a sprint-bred son of Green Desert who won seven of 17 starts for John Dunlop but turned into a phenomenal stallion for the Irish National Stud.

Initially standing at a cost of €10k, as his accomplishments increased so did his fee and, at its height from 2016-9, he commanded an investment of €120,000. Down to €100k last year it has taken another little trim to €80k, but his shareholders who took the initial risk won’t be complaining. After all that’s not bad for a 24-year-old!

Kodiac, his half-brother by top Classic sire Danehill, didn’t measure up as a racehorse. I met the Prince at Newmarket on a July Saturday in 2003 and we had a cup of tea together before his colt’s juvenile debut. He was optimistic before the race and was happy afterwards about his third place finish.

Four wins came from his 24 career starts, none in stakes, but Tony O’Callaghan, the shrewd boss of Tally Ho Stud, bought him and quickly turned him into the world’s most consistent and prolific sire of two-year-olds. His fee, originally €5,000, has been at a high of €65,000 for the last three breeding seasons and the now 20-year-old shows no sign of slowing down as neither does Tony.

It was remarkable that the Prince was so astute to secure the services of the then 20-year-old David Egan as early as he did in his career. Egan travelled to Riyadh for the meeting last year when Mishriff, on his three-year-old debut, finished second in the inaugural Saudi Derby.

Mishriff then returned to Europe and won a Listed race at Newmarket under Egan, but wins in the French Derby and a Group 2 at Deauville were unavailable to the jockey with the Covid travel ban in place. Ioritz Mendizabal and then Frankie Dettori were the happy recipients of Egan’s misfortune. He ran his only disappointing race, again with Dettori in the saddle, when unplaced behind Addeybb at the Champions meeting at Ascot in October on what Gosden has described as the worst ground at any UK meeting he can recall.

Saturday’s victory, on his first run since – this time Dettori was on an unplaced stable-companion – carried the astronomic winner’s prize of £7.29 million, so a nice windfall in percentage terms for Mr Gosden – whose handling of this home-bred colt has been masterful – and Egan. His opportunistic and unflustered riding has to be taken in the context of the opposition and importance of the day. How proud his father John, in the crowd and still a potent jockey in his 50’s, must have been.

Mr Sagar was in Riyadh for the weekend as was Hollie Doyle principally to ride his gelding Extra Elusive – who seemed not to enjoy the dirt surface – in the big race. To show in just how high regard she is held, she got the ride on the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old mare True Self in a ten and a half furlong turf race and they won comfortably. Hollie’s share of the £439k first prize will keep partner Tom Marquand happy down in Sydney while he waits out his quarantine.

While the top two were from the upper end of racing’s hierarchy – the runner-up was a $700,000 dollar buy and ran for Bob Baffert - the third horse home has a much more proletarian heritage.

The five-year-old Great Scot was originally prepared for sale by Rachael and Richard Kempster of Kinsale Farm near Oswestry, Shropshire, and was led out unsold as a yearling for 2,500gns at the mixed Ascot sale. The Kempsters also got a less than brilliant result at the same venue when offering some disappointing Raymond Tooth horses also raised on their farm.

Unlike them Great Scot went on to race for a syndicate of owners – the Empire States Partnership and was originally trained by Tom Dascombe. Seeing the names involved at the time of that yearling sale, I suspect some footballers possibly associated with Michael Owen, who owns Dascombe’s stables, might have been involved.

He won four of 11 races, getting up to a rating of 111, so I expect they got a nice windfall when passing him on. Next time he appeared it was in last year’s Saudi Cup where he finished only 12th of 14 at 100/1 running off the boat as it were.

The latter part of last year was much more fruitful  with wins by 12 lengths and then three lengths before a four-length success in a £78k Listed race last month.

Intriguingly – I hinted there was a Prince Faisal or two – Great Scot is owned by Prince Faisal Bin Khalid (so son of a previous King) and trained by Abdullah Mushrif. Confused? You will be. When the Empire State Partnership people realise that yesterday’s run, still at 66-1 despite the three spectacular wins, earned this Prince £1,459,000 they will no doubt take a moment from watching the football on telly. As for the Kempsters, who run a very nice efficient farm where Punjabi has spent his retirement, they can congratulate themselves for their part in the story.

On the domestic front, Saturday also featured the reincarnation of Goshen, incidentally a son of Authorized, in Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle. Beaten three times since his last-flight fall in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle and in those defeats, showing little sign that he was still a smart performer, he slaughtered his field by 22 lengths, surely ending Song For Someone’s Champion Hurdle hopes.

More interestingly, as the ground dries out will the connections of Honeysuckle, so impressive last weekend at Leopardstown, start to think that maybe the mares’ race over an extra half mile will provide less of a gamble. Faster ground and two miles suits Goshen and almost certainly Epatante. Decisions, decisions!