July Cup is next on Glen Shiel’s agenda

Glen Shiel will head next for the July Cup at Newmarket after his gallant second in Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The seven-year-old ran admirably to finish a length behind Sir Michael Stoute’s big-race favourite Dream Of Dreams on Saturday.

Owners Hambleton Racing were thrilled with the Archie Watson-trained gelding, and now have a string of further Group One targets to look forward to this season.

Glen Shiel (left) finishing second in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes during day five of Royal Ascot
Glen Shiel (right) finishing second in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

“He’s just a complete legend of a horse – we were pretty confident he’d strip fitter for his first run at the Curragh, and he was right back to his best,” said the owners’ racing director Simon Turner.

“It was possibly even a marginal personal best, which is saying something at the age of seven – he ran his heart out.

“It was a super race – you’d have thought he won, with the ovation his owners gave him when he came back in.

“He’s just given his owners so much pleasure, and we can’t wait for the rest of the season.”

The July Cup will be next, with a trip to Deauville for the Prix Maurice de Gheest also under consideration before a bid to retain his Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes crown.

“He’ll go to the July Cup next,” said Turner.

“He’s got other Group One options in France, like the Prix Maurice de Gheest – then he’ll go to Haydock for the Haydock Sprint Cup and then the race he won last year at Ascot on Champions Day.

“Those would be the major races that would be at the front of our minds.”

Glen Shiel has been a model of consistency since specialising in sprint distances and has been unplaced just once when running over a six-furlong trip, in fourth on his first start of this season at the Curragh last month.

“If you look at him since he dropped to six furlongs and started sprinting, he’s never been far away,” added Turner.

“He really thrives on his racing, this horse. He deserved a break after last year, and I think Archie just felt he’d need that run (at the Curragh) just to get him right back to where he wanted him.

“He’s a super consistent horse and he’s just been a brilliant acquisition for us, to say we only paid £45,000 for him.

“He’s just been a super horse, and there’s nothing to say he won’t be just as good for the rest of the year, so we’ve loads to look forward to.”

Atomic Force overpowers Chantilly rivals

Atomic Force made every yard of the running to claim an impressive success in the Prix du Bois Longines at Chantilly.

Trained by Kevin Ryan for Hambleton Racing, the Cotai Glory gelding had finished second on his debut at Musselburgh in April before following up with victory at Hamilton last month.

Upped to Group Three company in France, Atomic Force was partnered by Stephane Pasquier – who had the British raider smartly away in the six-furlong heat.

Wesley Ward’s runner Napa Spirit sat on his heels, but Atomic Force was soon bowling along in front and he had his nine rivals in trouble from some way out, with Pasquier only having to keep him up to his work to prevail by five lengths.

Black Lives Matter finished best of the rest, with Best Sixteen a further length back in third.

“We were very hopeful, but we probably didn’t expect him to win quite as impressively,” said Simon Turner, Hambleton’s racing director.

“He looks a very good horse.

“He enjoys a little bit of ease underfoot, and we thought there was every chance he’d get it there (Chantilly) – it just looked a nice stepping stone.

“He’s progressing quickly and looks a quality two-year-old.

“The (Prix Robert) Papin could be an option for him. We’ll consider all the good Group sprint races that he’s eligible for, see how he comes out of it and be guided by Kevin really.”

Erasmo had earlier struck gold for Andre Fabre and Mickael Barzalona in the Prix Paul de Moussac.

The Oasis Dream colt had won twice as juvenile but could finish only second on his return in the Prix La Force, prompting Fabre to drop back to Listed company for his last two starts.

After winning at ParisLongchamp in May, he was switched back up to Group Three level for this mile heat – and while Erasmo had to work hard for the win, he kept on well in the final furlong to see off Best Lightning by a short neck.

Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard told “Erasmo is a very brave horse, who never runs a bad race, and this is a fantastic result for him.

“We will see how he comes out of the race, but he has been kept busy so far this season. We may give him a break before bringing him back for the autumn, possibly looking at one of the races on Arc weekend.”

Maxime Guyon took the other two Group races on the card, landing the Prix Bertrand du Breuil Longines with Ecrivain and the Prix du Lys Longines with Northern Ruler.

Hambleton lining up dual Ascot assault with Shiel and Mehmento

Glen Shiel and Mehmento will fly the flag for the Hambleton Racing Syndicate at Royal Ascot next week – but the team has been reduced by the sale of Twilight Spinner.

Already a Group One winner at the track, Glen Shiel will be running in the Diamond Jubilee for Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle, with Mehmento representing the same connections in the Jersey Stakes.

However, Twilight Spinner, a hugely impressive winner of a Haydock Listed race last time out, has been sold to Scott Heider and will join Joseph O’Brien.

“Glen Shiel is in great order at home. He’s tightened up a lot, Hollie is very happy and Archie is delighted with him, so we’re very much looking forward to running him,” said Hambleton’s racing manager Simon Turner.

Hollie Doyle is overcome with emotion after Glen Shiel provided her with a first Group One
Hollie Doyle is overcome with emotion after Glen Shiel provided her with a first Group One (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I think as much as anything he thrived on a really busy schedule last year and after a fair break – he’s probably quite a stuffy horse – he just needed the run in Ireland first time out. He’ll be better for that race.

“When you look back at where he came from last season, running in handicaps over seven furlongs and he’d been running over further the season before that, it appeared worth a try with him sprinting. There was no stopping him once he did.”

Mehmento went close in the Greenham first time out before disappointing in the French Guineas, but he got his season back on track with an easy win in a Listed race at Epsom last week.

“You’d like to think he’ll be going to the Jersey with a good chance,” said Turner.

Mehmento powers away to win at Epsom on Oaks day
Mehmento powers away to win at Epsom on Oaks day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He ran a great race for one so inexperienced in the Greenham, France didn’t work out for a variety of factors, but he was very much back to himself last week and never looked in any danger to my eye.

“He probably ran to a similar level to the Greenham and that would be knocking on the door in the Jersey. He might need to raise it to win, but he’s not got many miles on the clock.

“Archie has the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville as a target for him, so we’d like to think he’ll go very well in the Jersey.”

It is a small but select team for Hambleton, which has been reduced by one this week.

“We’ve only got the two runners. We probably would have run Twilight Spinner in the Commonwealth Cup, but she has been sold to race for Joseph O’Brien,” said Turner.

“She is clearly a very smart filly and we wish her new connections all the best with her.

“She was bought as a yearling for £30,000, she’s returned a handsome profit for her owners and we genuinely wish Mr (Scott) Heider all the success with her.”

Jersey Stakes appeals to Mehmento camp

The Jersey Stakes is Mehmento’s most likely Royal Ascot target.

Archie Watson’s dual Southwell winner ran a huge race on his turf debut at Newbury in April – pushing Chindit all the way in the Greenham Stakes to earn himself a shot at Classic glory in the French 2000 Guineas.

He was ultimately well-beaten in Paris, but got his season back on track with a clear-cut victory in the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom on Friday – and will bid to follow up at next week’s showpiece meeting in Berkshire.

Mehmento holds an entry in the Group One Commonwealth Cup on Friday week, but is more likely to run over seven furlongs the following afternoon.

Reflecting on his Epsom triumph, Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said: “We were hoping he could do that, and he got the job done really well.

“We’d gone over to the French Guineas hopeful, so it was lovely to see him bounce back at Epsom.

“We’re looking towards Royal Ascot with him now – probably most likely for the Jersey, but also considering the Commonwealth Cup.

“I think Archie is probably leaning towards the Jersey at the moment, but we’re keeping an open mind.”

Mehmento is one of two Hambleton-owned horses bound for the Royal meeting, with Glen Shiel primed for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The seven-year-old provided jockey Hollie Doyle with her first Group One success when landing the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October – and blew away any cobwebs when fourth on his seasonal reappearance in Ireland last month.

“Mehmento and Glen Shiel will be going to Ascot for us – Glen Shiel will be going for the Diamond Jubilee,” Charlton added.

“Glen Shiel is in very good form, and we’ll see how he goes on quicker ground – because it looks like that’s what we’re going to get, looking at the weather forecast.”

Diamond Jubilee next for Glen Shiel

The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot is next on the agenda for Glen Shiel following his promising return to action in Ireland.

Making his first appearance since providing record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle with her first Group One victory on Champions Day at Ascot, Archie Watson’s sprinter was a hot favourite for the Group Two Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.

The seven-year-old could finish only fourth, but connections are optimistic of an improved performance when he returns to Berkshire for the showpiece meeting.

Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said of Glen Shiel’s Curragh effort: “We were happy enough with that for his first run of the year. He was always going to come on a bit.

Hollie Doyle after winning the Qipco British Champions Sprint on Glen Shiel
Hollie Doyle after winning the Qipco British Champions Sprint on Glen Shiel (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Although he handles heavy ground, obviously the meeting was nearly abandoned. First time back on that ground, Hollie felt he’d come on for the run – and I thought he might just have been on the wrong part of the track as well.

“I think there were a combination of factors – and under a penalty first time out, it was no penalty kick. He could have got away with it, but it didn’t quite pan out.

“It was very much a prep, and it’s all systems go for Ascot now. He certainly handles plenty of cut, but Archie has made it very clear that decent ground won’t be a problem for him.”

Another exciting prospect for the Hambleton team is the David O’Meara-trained Twilight Spinner, who created a huge impression when streaking clear in the Cecil Frail at Haydock last week.

The Twilight Son filly has not taken up her entry in Wednesday’s Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh and does not as yet hold any at Royal Ascot, as connections consider their options.

“I’m not sure where she’ll go next at the moment – we’re just resting on that performance,” said Charlton.

“It was obviously very soft ground at Haydock, and a couple underperformed, but she couldn’t really have been more impressive – she pulled right away in the closing stages.

“She’s clearly a quality horse – and David thinks she could be very, very good, so fingers crossed.

“She’s not in the Commonwealth Cup. There’s a possibility she could be supplemented for something like that, but it’s early days and there is no firm decision on what we’re doing yet.”

Mehmento (right) remains an exciting prospect
Mehmento (right) remains an exciting prospect (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mehmento, who was last seen finishing down the field in the French 2000 Guineas having previously pushed the high-class Chindit all the way in the Greenham, is set for a more immediate outing at Epsom next week.

Charlton said: “The ground was just too slow for him in Paris. We thought he might be OK on it, having won at Southwell really well, but it didn’t work out.

“When he ran in the Greenham at Newbury the ground was on the quicker side, and he quickened up like a really good horse.

“Adam (McNamara) was delighted with him turning for home in the French Guineas, but he didn’t pick up on the ground – it’s as simple as that.

“We’re heading towards the Surrey Stakes at Epsom next Friday. Looking at the weather forecast, it should be decent ground.”

Spinner speeds home for impressive Cecil Frail success

Twilight Spinner took a step up to Listed class in her stride as she ran out an emphatic winner of the EBF British Stallion Studs Cecil Frail at Haydock.

Unraced as a juvenile last season, David O’Meara’s filly finished third on her racecourse debut at Pontefract last month before opening her account with a clear-cut victory at Ripon a fortnight ago.

The Hambleton Racing-owned three-year-old was an 8-1 shot for her latest assignment on Merseyside and could hardly have been more impressive.

Settled at the rear of the field for much of the contest, Twilight Spinner began to make inroads inside the final two furlongs and was in front passing the one-furlong marker.

Once asked to fully extend by Shane Gray, the daughter of crack sprinter Twilight Son displayed smart acceleration given the testing conditions to pull six and a half lengths clear of the significantly more experienced Ventura Diamond.

O’Meara said: “It was a bit of a gamble pitching her straight into this. She’s only run twice and won a maiden last time out. Going from a maiden to doing that is quite something.

“I thought in doing what she did at Ripon, she achieved a lot. She beat her own side by 12 or 15 lengths – it looked like she was well above average.

“The ground today was a bit of an unknown, but Spinatrix, the dam, liked soft ground. The sire, Twilight Son, we weren’t sure.

“Shane gave her a great ride. He got her across from the wing and took his time. Then she came alive.

“I’ll speak to Simon Turner of Hambleton Racing and see what they want to do.

“It’s early days in her career. She’s still only a frame, so I’d like to think she could go to the very top.

“She’s not going to be done and dusted at three – she’s got a huge future.”

Twilight Spinner’s rider was similarly impressed.

“That was very good. Obviously it was only her third run. She did it really well,” said Gray.

“She was still a bit green early doors, (but) two furlongs out she picked up really well.

“She loves the ground and I think she’s a smart filly.”

Market principals Last Empire and Dandalla were both disappointing, finishing second-last and last respectively.

Mehmento fires Classic dream for Hambleton Racing

A group of Hambleton Racing’s syndicate owners are dreaming of Classic success in Paris this weekend as bargain-buy Mehmento bids for glory in the French 2000 Guineas.

Bought for just £14,000 at last year’s breeze-up sales, the Archie Watson-trained colt was hugely impressive in winning his first two starts on the all-weather at Southwell, earning him a step up in class for last month’s Greenham Stakes at Newbury.

The decision to pitch the Mehmas colt in at Group Three level on his turf debut was fully vindicated as he was beaten just a neck into second by Richard Hannon’s Chindit, who has since finished fifth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Mehmento is now set to test the water Group One level in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Watson said: “Mehmento took a big step up in class in his stride and ran a huge race in the Greenham.

“I’ve been very happy with him at home since Newbury. The track at Longchamp should suit him, and it’s very exciting to have our first Classic runner.”

Mehmento has nine owners who are spread out from Scotland to West Sussex.

Simon Turner, director of racing for the Hambleton team, reports much excitement as they aim for further top-level honours following the success of Glen Shiel on Champions Day at Ascot last season.

“We were the only syndicate in Europe to win a Group One race last year and also enjoyed stakes winners in France and Ireland,” said Turner.

“We’re selling a dream when syndicating these horses, and horses like Glen Shiel and Mehmento are making that dream a reality.”

2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is on course for a Classic double
2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is on course for a Classic double (John Walton/PA)

Mehmento’s potential rivals this weekend include Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas hero Poetic Flare and Aidan O’Brien’s champion two-year-old from last season St Mark’s Basilica.

Turner added: “Sunday will be a big thrill for our owners to see their horse racing in a Classic against last year’s champion two-year-old and this year’s (English) 2000 Guineas winner in France.”

Mehmento will be ridden by Adam McNamara, who is quarantining locally before the race.

The Lir Jet (left) winning at Royal Ascot last year
The Lir Jet (left) winning at Royal Ascot last year (Julian Finney/PA)

There were 13 remaining contenders for the French 2000 Guineas following Wednesday’s latest forfeit stage – but among them, Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet will skip the race in favour of the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock next week.

David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing who part-own The Lir Jet with RacehorseClub, said: “Having discussed with Michael Bell and the team at RacehorseClub, we have decided that the best route for The Lir Jet is to target the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot on Friday 18 June, taking in the Sandy Lane at Haydock on route.

“As a result, he will not be declared for the French 2000 Guineas this Sunday.”

Mehmento in line for French Guineas bid after fine Greenham effort

A tilt at Classic glory in the French 2000 Guineas could be next on the agenda for Mehmento following his narrow defeat in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Sunday.

The Hambleton Racing-owned colt faced a big step up in class for the Group Three contest, having registered two wide-margin wins on the all-weather at Southwell since the turn of the year.

However, the Archie Watson-trained son of Mehmas proved he is a horse of considerable potential with an excellent effort in defeat – looking the likely winner after kicking clear under Hollie Doyle before being run down late by Richard Hannon’s hot favourite Chindit.

Cosmo Charlton, Hambleton Racing’s head racing manager, said: “The owners are absolutely flying and they were certainly flying at the furlong pole, that’s for sure!

“He broke really well and travelled great and when Hollie asked him to pick up, he put a couple of lengths between himself and the Coventry winner (Nando Parrado) in a couple of strides, which is the sign of a good horse.

“We thought we might have won it a furlong out, but we got picked up by a possible Guineas winner.

“Hollie couldn’t have been happier with our horse. She said he’s got a willing attitude and puts his head down – he’s the perfect horse to own and train in terms of attitude.

“He was unraced a handful of weeks ago, so he’s open to further improvement.”

While Chindit is bound for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday week, Mehmento is more likely to contest the French equivalent the following weekend.

“We’ve done some work on his stride pattern and that is suggesting he wants seven furlongs to a mile, so that’s where we’re looking at the moment, rather than coming back in trip,” Charlton added.

“Looking ahead, Archie is thinking of the French 2000 Guineas. He just thinks it’s a little bit of a sharper test than Newmarket and the ground might also be more suitable.

“He handled that watered ground very well, but he obviously handles the surface at Southwell well, so it if it was on the soft side of good in France it could suit him even better.

“You never say never as far as Newmarket is concerned, but I think we’re very much looking forward to the French Guineas as the nature of the race might be a bit better for him.”

Outbox is another high-class performer for Hambleton Racing
Outbox is another high-class performer for Hambleton Racing (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mehmento was one of two Hambleton-owned horses to run well at Newbury, with his stablemate Outbox finishing third behind the impressive Al Aasy in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes, better known as the John Porter.

Charlton said: “We were getting the vibes that the winner was a Group One horse, so we have no problems getting beaten by him.

“Hollie was really happy with our horse and he’s cemented himself as a proper Listed/Group Three performer.

“He’s going to go for a Listed race at Ascot in a few weeks’ time and we’ll see where we go from there, but I think he’s a horse you could travel abroad with for opportunities as well.”

Trainer Archie Watson
Trainer Archie Watson (Simon Cooper/PA)

Charlton was keen to credit Watson for purchasing both horses for relatively modest sums, adding: “Outbox cost £16,000 and Mehmento was £14,000.

“Outbox is worth a lot more than that now and Mehmento is probably worth a small fortune, I’d have thought. Happy days.

“It was great to have two Group-race runners running so well.”

Greenlands Stakes target for Glen Shiel

The Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh has been identified as a likely comeback target for star sprinter Glen Shiel.

Bought for £45,000 out of Andre Fabre’s yard in the spring of 2019, the Pivotal gelding has proved an excellent acquisition for the successful Hambleton Racing team.

The seven-year-old has won five times for his current connections, with the highlight being his thrilling triumph in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October – a first Group One success for jockey Hollie Doyle.

Glen Shiel also landed the Group Three Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh last summer – and a return to the home of Irish Flat racing on May 22 has been pencilled in as a potential starting point for the new campaign.

Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for Hambleton, said: “Glen Shiel is in fantastic form. Everyone is very happy with him.

“He’s stepped up into faster work now, and Archie (Watson, trainer) is really pleased.

Victory with Glen Shiel was a special moment for Hollie Doyle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
Victory with Glen Shiel was a special moment for Hollie Doyle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’re weighing up possible starting point options, but it might be the Greenlands Stakes over in Ireland – a Group Two at the end of May.

“The Duke of York (at York) is still under consideration as well, but I think the likelihood is he’ll go to the Greenlands and then on to Royal Ascot for the Diamond Jubilee.”

Hambleton on a high after Glen Shiel’s breakthrough win

Members of the Hambleton Racing syndicate can finally take in what it means to be Group One winners, following Glen Shiel’s breakthrough success at the highest level at Ascot.

Having gone close in the Haydock Sprint Cup, Archie Watson’s charge was surprisingly overlooked in the betting under Hollie Doyle on Saturday.

However, Doyle was on the crest of a wave after winning the opening race on Champions Day on Trueshan – and she took the early initiative before holding off the late lunge of Kevin Ryan’s Brando by the narrowest of margins in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

“Saturday was a massive moment for us,” said Hambleton’s Simon Turner.

“Our blueprint has always been to buy in the more affordable area of the market with top trainers, and try and compete at the highest level possible.

“At £45,000, Glen would be one of our more expensive purchases – but he seemed ridiculous value at that level. He’s been a revelation since dropped back to sprinting, and has been superbly handled by Archie Watson, who is destined for the very top of his profession in my opinion.

“Archie’s numbers are simply superb. Some have him pigeon-holed as two-year-old trainer, but there are countless examples of Archie achieving superb results with cast-offs from other yards too, many of them cheaply acquired.

“On a personal level, to win a race at the highest level with Hambleton Racing makes me very proud. We owe much of our success to Kevin Ryan, who has always looked after us exceptionally well and has provided us with any number of good horses along the way.

“I regard Kevin as a good friend, and it was no surprise he was the first on the phone on Saturday to congratulate me, despite the fact he’d just missed out with Brando. That’s the mark of the guy – he’s not just a just an outstanding trainer, but a true sportsman too.”

There are many different business models that syndicates adopt, with some offering shares for as little as £50, but Hambleton Racing hope theirs is one of the more robust on the market – with the loyalty shown by members as living proof.

Turner said: “Owning with us isn’t cheap – typically an owner will spend between £2-4,000 on their share and another £3,000 on the annual costs.

“We’d be among the more expensive syndicates but operate with some old-fashioned values. We certainly don’t penalise owners when their horses do well, so won’t be taking a penny of the £275,000 that Glen Shiel has won for his owners this year.

“We’re very proud of the fact many owners have been with us for over 10 years, which must mean we’re doing something right.

“I don’t think we’ll suddenly change our approach and start spending twice as much at the sales now. We’ll continue to seek out the best value we can at the sales. Thankfully, there seems to be a lot of value around at the moment.”

While most of the publicity around Glen Shiel’s win concerned Doyle, given it was her first Group One win, the same also applied to Watson – who was understandably delighted.

“I’m so proud of Glen Shiel, Hollie, and the whole team after the Champions Sprint,” said the Lambourn trainer.

“Hollie gave him a fantastic ride, and he was so tough. He hasn’t stopped improving all year, and to win a Group One is unbelievable.

“I am so pleased for Hambleton Racing, who are such huge supporters of ours, and for all his owners.

“Huge credit must go to Tom Biggs, who bought Glen Shiel for just £45,000 as a five-year-old horse in training last year.”