Quickthorn in the mix for York

Hughie Morrison is eyeing the John Smith’s Silver Cup at York on Saturday for his impressive Royal Ascot winner Quickthorn.

Having just the sixth run of his career the four-year-old justified 7-2 favouritism in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap.

Now rated 103, Morrison hopes he has a new stable star on his hands.

“As long as we don’t have any issues I think he’s a proper horse,” he said.

“If you watch him go up the gallops like I do most mornings, he has the most wonderful stride on him. You could imagine him hopping over Becher’s Brook and going round Badminton or Burghley – he’s one of those types.

“We’d like to run him on better ground so he might go to York for the Group Three over a mile and six furlongs.

“I think a little bit of cut helps because he’s strong and it doesn’t stop him.

“We need a good horse, we’ve only got 50 in so you need one. Recently we’ve had the likes of Telecaster and Marmelo and we need one to help us along.”

When asked if one day Quickthorn might go hurdling like stablemate Not So Sleepy Morrison said with a smile: “I think we’ll probably keep him to the Flat!”

Stay Well aiming to stake late claim for Derby honours

Hughie Morrison hopes to see Derby entry Stay Well live up to his name and his ancestry in Goodwood’s British Stallion Studs EBF Cocked Hat Stakes.

Stay Well, one of 29 possible runners in the premier Classic after this week’s forfeit stage, faces five rivals in Friday’s Listed event.

Formerly the Predominate Stakes, the Cocked Hat is one of the last feasible trials for the Derby early next month – and among the opposition at Goodwood, Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle and Charlie Appleby’s Yibir also both retain Epsom aspirations.

Morrison acknowledges he is setting Stay Well a stern test of his Derby credentials, on just his third career start following a highly-promising runner-up effort on debut in a Doncaster maiden last September and then an impressive Windsor victory in similar company on his return last month.

“He’s going to have to make a quantum leap from his maiden win to compete against proven Group horses,” said the Berskhire trainer, mindful of the presence of last year’s Zetland Stakes winner Lone Eagle.

In addition, Yibir was third in the Group Three Classic Trial at Sandown, while Ralph Beckett’s Aleas is seeking a four-timer and David Simcock’s Man Of Riddles was a winning debutant at Wolverhampton in March.

Stay Well’s eight-length Windsor success under Tom Marquand was eyecatching, and enough to keep the Derby dream alive for owners Ben and Sir Martyn Arbib.

Morrison said: “So far time has proven that those behind him haven’t complimented the form – but you can only win like that really.

“Tom (Marquand) just said he’s a nice horse, and we’ll find out plenty more on Friday – whether that’s ability or liking for ground.”

Any further deterioration from the forecast soft would be a concern for Morrison, who is nonetheless much happier with an ease in the ground than anything faster.

Stay Well, out of a dual winner up to a mile and six furlongs in the same colours, appeared suited by the move up in trip at Windsor.

Morrison is hoping he will be at home too over 11 furlongs this week, and further in time – although he explained the son of seven-furlong specialist Iffraaj derives his name from topicality rather than an anticipated abundance of stamina.

“He was named Stay Well in recognition of the sayings this time last year ‘Stay Alert, Stay At Home’ – not (necessarily) that he would stay well,” he added.

“But his mother did stay very well – she should have won at Goodwood actually (close second at Listed level).”

Stay Well’s owner-breeders hope he may rise to greater heights.

Morrison said: “Martyn and Ben breed to win the Derby – so if you’ve got half a chance of running in the Derby that’s what you do.

“It’s close enough to the Derby. (But) my feeling is, if we were going to the Derby, we’d have to give him a very good gallop some time in the next 10 days.

“(So) if we did end up in it, this is his racecourse gallop.

“If it was firm ground I’d be more worried. I think firm ground takes a lot more out of these horses than soft ground.

“What you don’t know is how much heavy ground will take out – which it could be by Friday.”

Lone Eagle (nearside) returns to Goodwood for the Cocked Hat Stakes
Lone Eagle (nearside) returns to Goodwood for the Cocked Hat Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Meade is expecting an improved performance from Lone Eagle after his seasonal debut at Sandown where was fourth to Alenquer in the bet365 Classic Trial, although he will have to shoulder a 5lb penalty.

Lone Eagle returns to the scene of his first victory in August.

“He was a little bit disappointing at Sandown. He just didn’t seem to spark, but then again it was his first time back and he is a lazyish horse,” said the Manton handler.

“He does need motivating and he was a bit ring-rusty, so maybe tomorrow we will see him in a better light.

“I needed to give him another run. It’s not ideal having to carry a penalty. That’s not good but at the same time if he’s good enough, he should manage with it.

“I just wanted to get him out and get him running. Hopefully the track will suit him. We’ll just see where to go from there.”

Morrison happy to go under the radar with Not So Sleepy

Not So Sleepy is bang on course to emerge from his winter break for a Champion Hurdle challenge next month.

Trainer Hughie Morrison is content with the long-term plan to keep his dual Betfair Exchange Trophy hero fresh for the Cheltenham Festival.

Morrison so far fears only Ireland’s brilliant, unbeaten and Festival-winning mare Honeysuckle, following her hugely impressive 10-length triumph in last weekend’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Otherwise, the Berkshire trainer has enjoyed watching Not So Sleepy’s potential rivals scramble to fit in their Cheltenham prep runs through the wintry weather of the past month – with the waters muddying along the way.

“As it gets closer, usually the races start to look more difficult – and I have to say Honeysuckle was very impressive on Sunday,” he said.

“She quickened up, and they couldn’t go with her, could they?

“I suspect the race (Champion Hurdle) could be set up for her as well.

“The rest of them, I wouldn’t be frightened of taking on.”

Among them, Nicky Henderson’s title-holder Epatante met with a shock defeat behind Silver Streak in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle – and has since reportedly had successful treatment for a suspected back issue.

Hughie Morrison has singled out Irish Champion Hurdle heroine Honesyuckle as the Cheltenham rival he fears most for Not So Sleepy
Hughie Morrison has singled out Irish Champion Hurdle heroine Honesyuckle as the Cheltenham rival he fears most for Not So Sleepy (Niall Carson/PA)

The mercurial Not So Sleepy made an early exit when swerving and unseating his rider as Epatante went on to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November, only to return three weeks later with an all-the-way victory as he retained his crown in the valuable Grade Three at Ascot.

Morrison announced there and then that, unlike last year, there would be no attempt at another big handicap pot in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury – due to be run this weekend if the freezing temperatures abate in time.

Twelve months ago, habitual front-runner Not So Sleepy was hampered at the start in the Betfair and never got into the race, before being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle a month later.

Morrison has not been tempted to give the same schedule a second shot.

He said: “Last year, we weren’t sold on going to Newbury – but he was in such good form two weeks after (Ascot) we decided to, and I think he then just probably flattened out in the middle of January, and we never really got him back.”

This time, a winter breather followed Not So Sleepy’s mid-December win – and as long as no snow interrupts his remaining preparations at home, all is well.

Not So Sleepy was a runaway winner of Ascot's Betfair Exchange Trophy in 2019
Not So Sleepy was a runaway winner of Ascot’s Betfair Exchange Trophy in 2019 (Julian Herbert/PA)

“We gave him a break afterwards really,” added Morrison.

“We kept him going, then gave him a week or so off at the beginning of January, not really doing anything.

“Touch wood, I think that’s paid dividends.

“He’s a difficult horse to judge, but I’d like to think he’s in good form at the moment.

“We took him back to build him up again. We (just) wouldn’t want snow now, that’s all.”

Morrison is looking forward to another opportunity to take on Henderson’s reigning champion.

“Epatante was very, very good last year,” he said.

“Whether she’s as good this year, she’s got to prove it again after disappointing at Kempton.

“What we don’t know is what would have happened if Not So Sleepy hadn’t tried to refuse and Silver Streak hadn’t been taken out at Newcastle.

“So it didn’t prove anything really, did it?”

Not So Sleepy has shown his best hurdles form on soft ground – and ideally, Morrison would therefore prefer a return to wet weather following this week’s snow and frost.

“I think we’d probably like it to be very soft (at Cheltenham),” he said.

“He’s won on what I would call ‘soft Flat’ ground, and it suits him better than others.

“It wouldn’t stop us running if it was good ground, because that’s soft on the Flat really.

“You never know with Not So Sleepy. Realistically, he might not be good enough, but he is a very good horse underneath it all.”

In the meantime, should Newbury go ahead after all on Saturday, it will provide Morrison with another indication as to the merit of Not So Sleepy’s latest Ascot victory.

He beat his former stablemate Buzz there – in receipt of 6lb – and Henderson’s grey is set to be in action again in the Betfair, before a possible Champion Hurdle bid himself.

Naturally, a prominent showing from Buzz would breed further confidence at Morrison’s East Ilsley yard.

“It would be great for all concerned if he did (run well) really,” he said.

“Top weight is always difficult, but he nearly carried top-weight (to victory) the other day.”

Morrison targeting Listed honours with Miss Austen

Fresh from picking up a big prize with Not So Sleepy last Saturday, Hughie Morrison has his sights set on Tuesday’s Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Huntingdon with Miss Austen.

While her two outings to date were almost a year apart, she was due to run at the Grand National meeting before the pandemic struck.

She was last seen winning by almost 10 lengths at Ludlow in January and Morrison is hunting for black type.

“We were always aiming for Aintree with her, but of course it never happened,” he said.

“So we reconvened, we were thinking of going to Cheltenham or Huntingdon, but she had a slight niggle so we decided to wait for this.

“She’s got a great temperament and a really good little engine, I think she’s a decent mare. We’re hopeful she can get some black type.”

Michael Scudamore also enjoyed a good weekend with Nada To Prada picking up a Listed prize at Haydock and he is chasing another with Karlie, who won a point-to-point before scoring on her Rules debut on fast ground at Taunton.

Scudamore said: “She won her point on soft ground, but coped with quicker ground well at Taunton so she’s versatile that way.

“It’s hard to know what she achieved at Taunton, but she quickened up and did it in a nice fashion.

“Obviously she’ll have to step up again on that, but she’s fit and well and raring to go.”

Kim Bailey’s Flirtatious Girl is one of the more inexperienced runners in the field having had just the one run, but she did win at Warwick.

“The form hasn’t particularly worked out very well, but I think she’s improved since she ran,” said Bailey.

“It’s a very tough race, so if she’s in the first three I shall be delighted.

“She won on good ground on her debut, but I can’t see why she wouldn’t handle it softer.”

Fergal O’Brien runs both All Clenched Up and Blue Sans, while Alan King’s Nina The Terrier is another likely to be well fancied having won her only outing to date.

Monday Musings: of Hollie, Paisley and Sleepy

So Hollie Doyle finished third in the new-look BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2020 showing that technology can mix with the old-style modesty and courtesy which Ms Doyle, Jordan Henderson and Stuart Broad showed by bothering to turn up on a Sunday night in Manchester, writes Tony Stafford.

Henderson, the genuinely-likeable captain of Liverpool FC, team of the year and whose manager Jurgen Klopp was coach of the year, finished second and favourite Lewis Hamilton won for the second time having been successful six years ago. Standing next to a Christmas tree – “I didn’t decorate it!” he said, Hamilton was presumably at home in Monte Carlo rather than Stevenage. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Tyson Fury didn’t show up either.

Seven world driving championships in overwhelmingly the best car proved too high a hill to climb even for Liverpool’s first winning captain in the life of the Premier League and an unassuming 24-year-old who rode her first Group winners in her eighth year as a jockey only this summer.

It had been quantity rather than quality until her recruitment by Tony Nerses to ride for his boss Imad Al Sagar and it was her win on Sagar’s Extra Elusive in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes, the fourth of a record five winners on a single day for her as recently as August 29 at Windsor that propelled her into the public perception.

It was a nice, albeit forlorn, idea to think she could supplant the well-established front-runners for the SPOTY award. At least the belated campaign put a few quid in the bookmakers’ coffers and a nice boost for British Telecom, although I’m sure the BBC will take a chunk of the phone receipts to help pay their quartet of highly remunerated presenters.

What Hollie will need now to be competitive in this rarefied arena is a step up, a job like stable jockey to John Gosden – move over Frankie, your time is up, maybe? Then she can ride steering jobs in Group races around the big tracks and leave the travelling to the gaffs to stack up the numbers to her fiancé, Mr Marquand! Alternatively, in true “promising debut, should win next time” racing tradition, she could even win it, as long as she gets her first championship in the meantime.

While all the talk around racing circles concerned the possible win against the odds of Hollie and the implications of Tier 4 for those of us in the now most contagious part of the country, Ascot provided two wonderful examples of talented hurdlers coming back from adversity.

The new normal won’t make much difference to me, for although I did make it to Newmarket on Thursday morning and actually saw a couple of horses, since March I’ve pretty much stayed at home. Others around where we live are not so compliant.

Later on Thursday evening, police cars swarmed past our block as they sought out the actual venue where hundreds of people, reckoned to be mainly in the 20-30 age bracket, were having an illicit drinking party. Helicopters were right overhead for at least an hour. Wasn’t us, guv’nor!

The Paisley Park story and its connection to his owner Andrew Gemmill was one of the strongest themes of the 2018-9 jumps season. The Emma Lavelle-trained hurdler went unbeaten through a five-race campaign triumphing emphatically in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, all the time accompanied by pictures of his enthusiastic owner who, as is well documented, has been blind from birth.

As a result, when at the track he relies on race commentaries and insights from his friends as to how his horses are going. It must have been a dreadful shock at Cheltenham this March when, with a second consecutive championship and another unblemished season in the offing, he first realised something unusual was happening. Where normally he would hear, “Paisley Park is starting to improve”, instead his star made no impression between the last two flights and finished a very tired seventh.

Initially all the stable representative could tell the stewards, understandably like the owner and many thousands of his supporters around the country wanting an explanation of what did go wrong, was he had lost two shoes during the run; but, soon after, a heart issue was discovered.

While such a finding might be alarming, it would at least be enough to explain what happened and probably why. Emma Lavelle went back to the beginning with Paisley Park after the shock had been accepted and, to her and her staff’s credit, she had him ready for the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, the race in which he began his previous campaign.

Whereas 2019 brought a five-length win over Thistlecrack, new contenders lined up, understandably sensing a chink in the previously impenetrable armour, making it double the field size of the previous renewal. As well as Lisnagar Oscar, the horse that now it seems may have “borrowed” rather than taken his crown, there were a number of regulars on the staying circuit but, more tellingly, two of the new generation at the top level in McFabulous, who started favourite and Thyme Hill.

McFabulous proved unable to beat Paisley Park, but the latter in turn was unable to match the speed between the last two jumps by Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill. One of the best novices of his generation he was unluckily beaten out of the frame in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle a year after his close third to Envoi Allen (still unbeaten and frankly untroubled) in the Festival Bumper of 2019.

Thyme Hill was getting 3lb from the old champion at Newbury and made the most of it, winning by a length and a half but Paisley Park was staying on very well at the finish. When they renewed rivalry on Saturday in the Long Walk Hurdle, a race Paisley Park won two years ago, this Grade 1 was a level-weight affair. Understandably, Thyme Hill, better off, and very much the progressive animal, was favourite to maintain his edge.

If Andrew had been nervous at any stage in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle, I’d hate to have been the one to tell him, apart from commentator Simon Holt, what his chances were. Until they were well into the straight Holt didn’t have the best of news to report.

After suffering some interference on the bend, he was in an unpromising sixth place coming to two out as Aidan Coleman guided him to the wide outside. By now Thyme Hill was going up to challenge Younevercall and Roksana. Holt said: Paisley Park is under pressure, who is responding, in sixth. At the last he said, “Only three lengths back is Paisley Park, still staying”, and then after the last, “Paisley Park is storming home and he’s got him. He’s pulled it out of the fire!” Thirty or more seconds of agony turned to ecstasy for the owner.

And that’s exactly what it was, a champion showing all his best abilities when everything seemed to be against him, not least his first experience of truly heavy going. After this the regaining of his Cheltenham Festival title must be a strong possibility.

The second back from – if not the dead, then certainly from adversity – was provided by Not So Sleepy, who also made a return win on the track; but, whereas Paisley Park’s first Long Walk was two years ago, Not So Sleepy had been the wide-margin winner of the concluding Betfair Exchange Trophy only last December.

Previously, Not So Sleepy had finished a creditable fourth in the Cesarewitch behind the Willie Mullins-trained Stratum and then won off what at the time looked a gift jumping mark of 122 at the November meeting on the Royal course. A 5lb rise never appeared enough to stop him on his return for the Betfair Handicap Hurdle and he duly romped home by nine lengths as the 9-2 favourite.

Trainer Hughie Morrison, who has managed the one-time Dee Stakes (more than once a precursor to Derby success) winner through seven full campaigns and 49 races, aimed higher after that. The Betfair Hurdle itself at Newbury in February was the plan despite a further, this-time restrictive, hike of 17lb.

Several false starts meant a farcical melee on the outside where Tom O’Brien lined him up in that handicap and, thereafter, he was never in contention. Morrison then took him to the Champion Hurdle and again false starts and interference at the gate precluded against his showing his merits.

So to post-lockdown and a Flat return at Pontefract in late September where he was a ridiculously-easy winner of a two-mile handicap off 94. The 4lb rise which followed in this year’s Cesarewitch could not prevent a repeat fourth place, this time to another Mullins ‘job’, Great White Shark, a six-year-old mare lined up for the purpose and a ridiculously-easy winner under Jason Watson.

Graham Lee set off at the front of the 34-strong line-up and Not So Sleepy did nothing to suggest his powers had declined. Less positive were my feelings after his abortive challenge for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last month when he jinked and jettisoned Paddy Brennan at the first flight of the race won so impressively by Epatante.

Lastly to Ascot at the weekend, off 2lb lower than in the “real” Betfair in February and, inexplicably with hindsight, Not So Sleepy was allowed to start at 20-1. I, like many others, was fooled by the trio of hurdles mishaps and temporarily forgetful of his Ascot hurdles and solid Flat form. Fortunately, some less short-sighted members and a few pals reading the From The Stables newsletter I edit every day, kept the faith and profited accordingly.

‘Twas ever thus, don’t do as I do, do as I say, or vice versa!

- TS

Not So Sleepy silences critics with second Betfair romp

Not So Sleepy repeated his front-running tactics to win the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot for the second year running.

Hughie Morrison’s talented dual-purpose performer has been called a few names in recent months because of his antics on more than one occasion.

He has been reluctant to race in the past and only recently decided to unseat his jockey at the first flight in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, before running loose and carrying out Silver Streak at the next.

Ironically Silver Streak’s jockey at Newcastle was Tom O’Brien, yet this time he got the leg-up off Morrison in the Ascot paddock – hoping the 20-1 chance would behave himself.

To his credit Not So Sleepy then never put a foot wrong, and nobody has ever denied his talent – he even ran in last year’s Champion Hurdle.

Having strung the field out, he began to tire having jumped the last – but O’Brien had saved just enough and held off top weight Buzz by a length and three-quarters.

Lightly Squeeze was third, with the well-backed Benson flying home for fourth to pip Belfast Banter.

O’Brien told ITV Racing: “He cost me a few quid at Newcastle – but he’s paid me back now!

“He has his quirks but he seems to love it here. I thought I was pressing on soon enough, but I didn’t want to disappoint him turning for home. He tried so hard.”

The competitive 17-strong race clearly suited Not So Sleepy, and O’Brien added: “It’s different at the start of a big-field handicap.

“We all wanted him to make the running at Newcastle, but he didn’t want to. Five wanted to make it today, so he had to fight for it.”

Morrison had observed before the race that Not So Sleepy won with a stone in hand last year, and just might have to fight a bit harder this time.

After he had done so, the Berkshire trainer was already planning a second Champion Hurdle attempt this season.

“He’s an absolute star, isn’t he?” he said.

Trainer Hughie Morrison is planning to run Not So Sleepy in the Champion Hurdle for a second time
Trainer Hughie Morrison is planning to run Not So Sleepy in the Champion Hurdle for a second time (Julian Herbert/PA)

“He’s in good form and was in great form going into Newcastle – it was just that things went slightly wrong there.

“But he didn’t quicken past (Champion Hurdle and Fighting Fifth winner) Epatante for nothing after the last with no jockey, having been halfway round Newcastle.

“So we were hopeful.”

Not So Sleepy’s route back to Cheltenham in March is set to be a quiet one through the remainder of the winter.

Asked about that date, Morrison added: “I think so, probably – we might as well go straight there, no messing around this year.

“I’ll give him a bit of a break – he obviously runs well fresh. We won’t be tempted by any other races, I don’t think.”

Great White Shark on the hunt in Cesarewitch

Great White Shark bids to provide Willie Mullins with a third straight victory in the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch at Newmarket on Saturday.

Ireland’s perennial champion jumps trainer broke his duck in the prestigious staying handicap with Low Sun in 2018, and doubled his tally 12 months ago with Stratum.

Great White Shark finished only 10th in last year’s renewal, but returns to the Rowley Mile in excellent form, having landed a valuable handicap hurdle at the Galway Festival on her latest appearance.

Four days earlier, the Malcolm Denmark-owned mare had finished seventh on the Flat, beaten little over two lengths by the remarkable Princess Zoe, who last weekend grabbed Group One glory in Paris for Mullins’ brother, Tony.

Mullins said: “I’m very pleased with her heading over there.

“She was good over hurdles the last day and her run behind Princess Zoe doesn’t look too bad now, does it?

“She stays well and handles soft ground, so that shouldn’t be any problem to her.”

Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York
Coltrane (left) on his way to winning at York (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Great White Shark is joined at the head of the market by Andrew Balding’s three-year-old Coltrane, the David Pipe-trained Leoncavallo and Not So Sleepy from Hughie Morrison’s yard.

Coltrane has had this two-mile-two-furlong contest as his primary target ever since completing a hat-trick for the season in the Melrose Handicap at York in August.

Balding, who also saddles Diocletian and Cleonte, said: “The weight-for-age allowance for three-year-olds is obviously attractive for Coltrane and he won the Melrose well.

“This looked the most logical target after York. It’s obviously a tough race and he has a wide draw (34), I don’t know how that will play out, but the horse is in good form.

“Cleonte needed his comeback run after nearly a year off last month and seems in good form. Diocletian has solid handicap form and at his best would also have each-way claims.”

High-class dual-purpose performer Not So Sleepy carries a 4lb penalty for winning on his return to action at Pontefract last month – his first start since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“We were very happy with his comeback run at Pontefract. We’ve just kept him ticking over since then and we are very much looking forward to the race,” said Morrison.

“He ran a very good race to finish fourth in it last year. He’ll have to raise his game to better that on Saturday, but he had a break during the summer, so he’s a fresh horse and we’re ever hopeful.

“It’s a long way – two miles and two furlongs. Fingers crossed for a bit of a luck.”

Other contenders in a huge field include William Muir’s Just Hubert, Mark Johnston’s pair of Mondain and Summer Moon and Rock Eagle from Ralph Beckett’s yard.

Telecaster to miss Arc after setback

Telecaster has been taken out of Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after a late setback.

His absence is a huge blow to connections, given the son of New Approach seemed assured to have his favoured soft conditions. Following a further 3.5 millimetres of rain overnight, the ground is described as very soft – with a penetrometer reading of 4.0 and further rain forecast through the week.

Trained by Hughie Morrison, Telecaster won the Dante last year – beating Too Darn Hot – but he arguably put up a career-best display last time out when winning the Grand Prix de Deauville by six and a half lengths.

It was his second win in France this year, following a Group Three success at ParisLongchamp in June.

Mark Weinfeld, of owners Castle Down Stud, said: “It’s a real shame, but this is what can happen with horses – he’s just wasn’t 100 per cent sound this morning.

“We’re absolutely gutted. It’s nothing too serious, but it’s just sod’s law.

“He’s in the Champion Stakes at Ascot – and as I haven’t heard what the vet has said, I’m not sure if he’ll make that or not. We just need to know what the problem is.

“It would be nice if he made Ascot, because that is likely to be soft ground too. It’s rather deflated the week, though.”

Looking further ahead, Weinfeld added: “I think he’ll probably stay in training next year.

“I was hoping we’d have had a good offer from a stud by now – but nothing has come yet, so we could continue next year and hope for a wet year.

“We’re all very disappointed. But the horse is in one piece, and we live to fight another day.”

At Tuesday’s forfeit stage the field was reduced from 22 to 15 – although Aidan O’Brien is expected to supplement Derby winner Serpentine on Wednesday.

As well as Telecaster, also taken out were John Gosden’s Logician and the five Joseph O’Brien-trained entries – Buckhurst, Crossfirehurricane, Thames River, Degraves and New York Girl.

The market leaders all remain – including Enable, bidding for a historic third win in the great race, and Love.

Cesarewitch aim for Not So Sleepy

Hughie Morrison is eyeing a second tilt at the Together For Racing International Cesarewitch with Not So Sleepy following his successful return at Pontefract last week.

The eight-year-old was having his first outing since being pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but Morrison feels that effort can be excused as it came at the end of a long season.

Prior to that he had shown himself to be very versatile, winning a big handicap hurdle at Ascot by nine lengths, but lost all chance in the Betfair Hurdle following a false start.

Making his first appearance on the level since finishing fourth in last year’s Cesarewitch, he beat a good yardstick in Dark Jedi over a mile and a half in West Yorkshire.

“All being well, it will be the Cesarewitch next, as long as the ground isn’t too quick,” said Morrison.

“He has actually won over a mile and a quarter on the Flat – albeit three years ago!

“Given the way we’ve campaigned him recently, you’d have to say we think he’s a hurdler, but we’ll take in a Cesarewitch any day – plenty of dual-purpose horses have won it.

“Winning seems to have done his mind good. I’m not sure he really stays two-mile-two, but if he relaxes, you don’t know what you’d get with this horse – you don’t know what’s going to turn up on the day.

“We intended to give him a rest last autumn but didn’t, he then had a couple of serious bites at the cherry before Christmas and come Cheltenham, I think it was just at the end of a long season and he’d had enough.

“He’s tricky, but we know how to deal with him now. With a hurdles mark of 142 there might be another handicap in him, but we might be brave and go for big races with small fields.”

Telecaster team tempted by Arc chance

Connections of Telecaster are leaning towards letting him take his chance in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Winner of the Dante Stakes last season, the four-year-old has already made two victorious trips to France this year, winning a Group Three at ParisLongchamp and a Group Two and Deauville in impressive fashion.

With all the trials now out of the way, trainer Hughie Morrison saw nothing to put him off, while respecting the two market leaders Love and Enable.

“It’s definitely a possibility that he could go,” said Morrison.

“Nothing really sprang out of the trials to put us off. The filly who won the Vermeille (Tarnawa) was impressive, but connections said afterwards that was her day.

“On quick ground the Vermeille was run three or four lengths quicker than the Foy. You might not be able to take that literally, but given all the results I think we have a right to be there.

“It was heavy when we won at Deauville so if it was soft that would be in our favour, I think – we wouldn’t want it quick, but hopefully at that time of year it wouldn’t be anyway.

“It all seemed to click last time, he seems to have taken the race very well.

“We’re realistic, but the owner quite rightly feels finishing third in the Arc might be viewed better than a Group One anywhere else in the world at this time of year – bar the Champion Stakes.”

Le Don De Vie won at the Derby meeting last season for previous connections
Le Don De Vie won at the Derby meeting last season for previous connections (Simon Cooper/PA)

Morrison also had news of Le Don De Vie, winner of a Listed race at Windsor last time out.

“He goes into quarantine on Wednesday and will go straight to Australia,” he said.

“I just hope he gets into one of the big races, it’s irritating that he didn’t get rated as high over there as he did here – especially given Communique franked the form on Sunday (second in German Group One).

“He’s probably a well-handicapped horse, but he probably needs to be rated a touch higher to get into one of the big races.

“Aidan O’Brien seems to be sending a very strong team this year, he’s even sending a Derby winner (Anthony Van Dyck), so he must want to win it (Melbourne Cup).”

Monday Musings: Never Mind The (Gender) Gap

Watch out Oisin, and for that matter Tom, Hollie’s on the prowl! The estimable Master Murphy might be a 6-1 on shot to retain his title in the 2020 Flat Jockeys’ Championship, but in the world of sport (yes Sky it’s sport not sports!) momentum is everything, writes Tony Stafford.

The 23-year-old pocket battleship already had one record on her growing honours board – I bet Mr Marquand has to look at it every day in their shared home in Hungerford – that of the 116 best-for-a-female wins in 2019. At Windsor on Saturday, while Tom was an hour and a half away at Newmarket drawing a blank from his five mounts (two favourites), Hollie had five memorable winners at Windsor. While the cat’s away, one might say.

Needless to say, this was the first time a female rider had ever ridden a five-timer on a single UK card. No doubt Julie Krone, the American who retired from professional race riding in 1999 when Hollie was barely two years old, will be aware that in this unassuming young lady, there are many similarities with herself.

In July 1992, the Daily Telegraph sports editor, in his wisdom, despatched me off to Redcar for a Wednesday night meeting that really did attract attention. The first race was the Julie Krone Maiden Stakes and, fittingly, the then 28-year-old Michigan-born sensation was duly set up with a winner. Al Karnack, an 11-2 on shot trained for Ecurie Fustok, major owners at the time, by Mohammed Mubarak, won by 20 lengths.

Four more rides followed, with two wins. I spoke to Ms Krone a few times during the event and, thinking back, like Hollie today, you were immediately struck by her small stature but most obviously the strength in her powerful broad shoulders. Picture Ms Doyle in five years’ time after many more hours in the gym and on the Equisizer and you will have Julie Krone mark 2.

Krone at that time was really about quantity, just as Hollie had been until the recent flurry of Listed and Group wins following her initial Royal Ascot success two months ago on the Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon. At Windsor she collected two more stakes victories, a Listed on Hughie Morrison's Le Don De Vie and the Group 3 Gallagher Group Winter Hill Stakes on the Roger Charlton-trained Extra Elusive for her new retained boss, owner Imad Sagar. The following summer from that Redcar evening, in June 1993, Krone won her only Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair, highlight of her 3,704 career wins.

Both Hollie’s big winners and the other three that comprised her epic achievement owed as much to her ability to find a clear course on her mounts and the determination with which she sometimes contrives such a position through sheer willpower. On to Yarmouth yesterday, where three more victories followed and only bar narrow reverses by a short head and then, irritatingly, a nose, was a second five-timer within 24 hours foiled.

I noticed one race at Beverley on Thursday where the Archie Watson–trained Harrison Point looked in danger of being reeled in by Tony Hamilton on fast-finishing Zip. But as he came alongside, Hollie allowed her mount to edge slightly left, making her own mount’s mind up and possibly persuading the eventually runner-up to think again.

Watson of course, one of racing’s young innovators, was first to give more than a passing acknowledgement of the young rider’s potential – although Wilf Storey says he beat Archie to it! -, putting her on the majority of his flying juveniles painstakingly-schooled at home and often in barrier trials to show their form first time.  She repaid that confidence by almost invariably getting them quickly away from the gate – a vital skill in sprints that many other riders find elusive. No names, as Mr Bolger might say.

At Windsor, on the rain-softened ground, Hollie identified the need to get to the favoured far rail, tailoring her tactics with that in mind. Every time she was first onto the far side, she stayed there until the finish. At Yarmouth, she made it to the front four times, and while it looked as though each of her mounts was vulnerable to a challenge from behind, it was only in the last stride that Jamie Spencer, on a typical last-to-first flourish on Ilalliqa could get to her on the Crisfords’ Late Arrival.

Her other near miss, Little Brown Trout, would have needed only another couple of strides to catch the Tom Queally-ridden Spirited Guest. Ten winners in two days surely would have been too much, for the racing world generally and especially for the boys at the top of the table.

Momentum in the Jockeys’ Championship race can be vital. Oisin Murphy, at 6-1 on might seem uncatchable on 94 wins, bolstered by the first three at Goodwood yesterday, but he has an eight-day suspension to serve out which means he misses the St Leger meeting this week. Ben Curtis, more annoyingly for another of the go-to men for big southern stables when their horses head north for minor meetings, has an automatic  14-day exclusion for his ill-judged foray into the nowadays-sacrosanct owners’ area at Newmarket last week, breaching the strict - but of which many may now say - outdated Coronavirus rules.

Those rules, though, were the basis that racing was allowed to start and remain the cornerstone of its license to persist. Curtis’ mistake was that he chose to talk to the owner of the one horse he was going to ride at HQ, annoyingly a late switch because Hamilton was abandoned through waterlogging. As one trainer who uses Curtis’ talents said to me, “He could have arranged to meet him in the garage half an hour earlier, sat down and had a coffee, no problem.”

So, after a momentous weekend, after Murphy there’s a massive gap to William Buick (7-1) and Marquand (9-2) both on 70. Curtis is next on 63 with Doyle up to 60. She is almost certain to narrow the gap in the coming week given her present rate of progress and while talk of a championship this year might well be so much pie-in-the-sky, second place at the main expense of her partner Marquand looks entirely possible.

Tony Nerses, someone I’ve known for almost 40 years since the time he looked after the racing affairs of Prince Yazid Bin Saud, has been the power behind the upward mobility of Imad Sagar who, with Saleh Al Homaizi, owned Derby winner, Authorized. In recent years, Al Homeizi withdrew from their Blue Mountain stud operation, leaving Sagar to go it alone. Nerses was a constant factor throughout that time and the public face of the operation. I love his ads in the Racing Post when one of the Sagar horses wins a race, which say, purchase Authorized by Tony Nerses.

I’m sure he had more than a minor part in securing Hollie’s services. So far from only seven rides, she has recorded four wins including Group race success in the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and Saturday’s big race both on Extra Elusive, yet another example of Roger Charlton’s skill in improving horses, along with the beneficial effect a gelding operation can bring.

The main issue here was that while Extra Elusive likes to go from the front, it was almost inevitable that he would be challenged for that position by the Mark Johnston candidate, Sky Defender. But instead of going head-to-head, Ms Doyle allowed Franny Norton to have the lead, tracking him a length behind before moving up on his outside to get the rail position she wanted after the point where the figure-of-eight crosses over. From there she was never going to be denied.

Earlier, on Hughie Morrison’s Le Don De Vie, she engineered a similar position at a crucial stage and the Australia-bound four-year-old won with some authority starting off what was to be a memorable weekend for the trainer.

Yesterday at Goodwood, his five-year-old mare Urban Artist, running for the first time in a handicap after winning her novice race at Windsor second time on the Flat, signalled a profitable future with an emphatic all-the-way win against some highly-regarded younger fillies. A couple of hours later Telecaster, continuing his French love affair with Christophe Soumillon, replicated the mare’s front-running exploits with a six-and-a-half length demolition of his Grand Prix de Deauville (Group 2) opponents.

Both horses are home-bred, Telecaster by the Weinfeld family’s Meon Valley stud and Urban Artist by the late Tim Billington. Morrison was very subdued when I spoke to him yesterday morning in advance of the Goodwood race. He said that Tim had died unexpectedly three weeks earlier. In all the debate about racing and its place in the world he said that Billington had paid £2,000 for yesterday’s winner’s fourth dam and she over time had been responsible for at least 30 winners and Tim, via his syndicates – “he couldn’t afford to own them outright himself” – had brought at least 50 people who would never have thought of owning a horse into the sport.

“That’s what it’s all about – or should be” said the trainer, who at the time could not have envisaged a better afternoon than the one he was to experience. Both yesterday’s winners are excellent examples of the value of continuity in racing and breeding. Telecaster is something like a sixth generation product of one of the two main Egon Weinfeld foundation mares, and the way he has progressed from somewhat flighty and disappointing Derby candidate last year to a potential Group 1 middle-distance winner as a four-year-old is testimony to his trainer’s patience and skill.

When Urban Artist was unsuccessfully tried last winter in a Newbury novice hurdle following two bumper wins (one Listed at Cheltenham) she was stepping outside her mother’s comfort zone. Urban Artist is only the second foal to race of Cill Rialaig. She too won two bumpers, one a Listed also at Cheltenham, but never raced over hurdles. Instead she went Flat racing and got into the 100’s while winning races among them at Royal Ascot. I remember her well, but I doubt she had quite the power of this talented mare who sluiced through the ground to complete the Oisin Murphy hat-trick with complete authority to suggest a big hike from her initial 80 is inevitable.

It was Hollie’s weekend though, so I make no excuse for returning briefly to Julie Krone, about whom it is sad to relate that she never rode again in the UK during her professional career. But to get an estimate of how talented she was, she did ride in two consecutive Legends’ races at the St Leger meeting. In 2011, a full 12 years after retiring, and at the age of 48 she came to Town Moor for the mount on Declan Carroll’s Invincible Hero who started 4-1 favourite in a field of 16. He won with ease. Third that day was George Duffield who had been the runner-up to Krone 19 years earlier when on Richard Whitaker’s Gant Bleu, a 9-1 shot, she rode her second winner. “Led on bit two out and stayed on well” was the close-up comment.

As I said at the start, for me Hollie Doyle is the new Julie Krone. It’s amazing to think that now with Hayley Turner, Josephine Gordon and Hollie, all in turn riders with 100-plus wins in a season on their record, and with a host of French female riders benefiting from their continued (if in the case of the UK trio, unnecessary) weight allowance, the first female champion is not far away. I think we know who that will be!

- TS

Monday Musings: Rapid Start Far From Flat

The two unbeaten favourites didn’t collect the first two Classics of the UK racing season as many, including the bookmakers, were expecting, writes Tony Stafford. Pinatubo was a slightly one-paced third as Kameko gave Andrew Balding a second UK Classic in the 2,000 Guineas, 17 years after Casual Look was his first in the Oaks. Yesterday, Love made it six 1,000 Guineas triumphs for Aidan O’Brien, four in the last six years, as the Roger Charlton filly Quadrilateral also had to be content with third place.

For quite a while in Saturday’s big event, staged behind closed doors of course, it looked as though O’Brien would be celebrating an 11th “2,000” – from back home in Ireland as he left on-course matters to be attended to by his accomplished satellite team. Wichita, turning around last October’s Dewhurst form both with Pinatubo and his lesser-fancied-on-the-day stable companion Arizona, went into what had looked a winning advantage under super-sub Frankie Dettori until close home when the Balding colt was produced fast, late and wide by Oisin Murphy.

The young Irishman might already be the champion jockey, but the first week of the new season, begun eight months after that initial coronation last autumn, suggests he has a new confidence and maturity built no doubt of his great winter success in Japan and elsewhere. A wide range of differing winning rides were showcased over the past few days and Messrs Dettori and Moore, Buick, Doyle and De Sousa clearly have an equal to contend with.

It was Dettori rather than Moore who rode Wichita, possibly because of the relative form in that Dewhurst when Wichita under Ryan got going too late. This time Arizona got his lines wrong and he had already been seen off when he seemed to get unbalanced in the last quarter-mile. Kameko will almost certainly turn up at Epsom now. Balding was keen to run Bangkok in the race last year despite that colt’s possible stamina deficiency. The way Kameko saw out the last uphill stages, he could indeed get the trip around Epsom a month from now.

The 2020 Guineas weekend follows closely the example of its immediate predecessor. Last year there was also a big team of O’Brien colts, including the winner Magna Grecia, and none was by their perennial Classic producer, Galileo. The following afternoon, the 14-1 winner Hermosa, was Galileo’s only representative in their quartet in the fillies’ race. This weekend, again there were four Ballydoyle colts in their race, and none by Galileo. Two, including Wichita, are sons of No Nay Never. As last year, there was a single daughter of Galileo in yesterday’s race, the winner Love. Her four and a quarter length margin must make it pretty much a formality that she will pitch up at Epsom next month.

Love was unusually O’Brien’s only representative yesterday which rather simplified Ryan Moore’s choice. It will surely be hard to prise her from him at Epsom whatever the other Coolmore-owned fillies show at The Curragh and elsewhere in the interim.

With Irish racing resuming at Naas this afternoon, attention will be switching immediately to the Irish Classics next weekend. What with those races, which Ryan will sit out under the 14-day regulations, the Coolmore owners and their trainer will have a clear course to formulate their Derby team and Oaks back-up squad. It would appear that the good weather enjoyed in the UK after which so many big stables, notably Messrs Johnston, Gosden and Balding, have made a flying start on the resumption, has also been kind to Irish trainers.

I know that sometimes in the spring the grass gallops at Ballydoyle have barely been usable by the time of the first month of action. The delayed and truncated first phase should continue to be to the benefit of the more powerful yards and maiden races, just as those in the UK, are already looking like virtual group races, especially on the big tracks.

Aidan O’Brien has 11 runners on today’s opening card, including four in the second event for juveniles, where Lippizaner, who managed a run in one of the Irish Flat meetings squeezed in before the shutdown, is sure to be well fancied. A son of Uncle Mo, he was beaten half a length first time out and the experience, which is his alone in the field, should not be lost on him.

The shutdown has been a contributor to a denial of one of my annual pleasures, a leisurely look at the Horses in Training book which I normally buy during the Cheltenham Festival but forgot to search for at this year’s meeting. The usual fall-back option of Tindalls bookshop in Newmarket High Street has also been ruled out, and inexplicably I waited until last week before thinking to order it on-line.

There are some notable absentees from the book and it has become a growing practice for some of the bigger trainers to follow the example of Richard Fahey who for some years has left out his two-year-olds. John Gosden has joined him in that regard otherwise they both would have revealed teams comfortably beyond 250.

Charlie Appleby, William Haggas, Mark Johnston, Richard Hannon and Andrew Balding all have strings of more than 200 and all five have been quick off the mark, each taking advantage of a one-off new rule instigated by the BHA. In late May trainers wishing to nominate two-year-olds they believed might be suitable to run at Royal Ascot, which begins a week tomorrow, could nominate them and thereby get priority status to avoid elimination with the inevitable over-subscription in the early fixtures.

In all, 163 horses were nominated with Johnston leading the way with 11; Charlie Appleby and Fahey had eight each; Hannon and Archie Watson seven and Haggas five. All those teams have been fast away in all regards but notably with juveniles. The plan, aimed at giving Ascot candidates racecourse experience in the limited time available, has clearly achieved its objective.

Among the trainers with a single nominated juvenile, Hughie Morrison took the chance to run his colt Rooster at Newmarket. Beforehand he was regretting that he hadn’t realised he could have taken him to a track when lockdown rules could apparently have been “legally bent” if not actually transgressed. Rooster should improve on his close seventh behind a clutch of other Ascot-bound youngsters when he reappears.

When I spoke to Hughie before the 1,000 Guineas he was adamant that the 200-1 shot Romsey “would outrun those odds”. In the event Romsey was the only other “finisher” in the 15-horse field apart from Love and, in getting to the line a rapidly-closing fifth, she was only a length and a half behind Quadrilateral. So fast was she moving at that stage, she would surely have passed the favourite in another half furlong. The Racing Post “analysis” which said she “lacked the pace of some but kept on for a good showing” was indeed damning with faint praise. Hughie also could be pleased yesterday with a promising revival for Telecaster, a close third behind Lord North and Elarqam in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock despite getting very warm beforehand.

No doubt I’ll be returning to Horses in Training quite a lot in the coming weeks, but just as the long list of Galileo colts and fillies was dominant among the Ballydoyle juveniles for many years, the numerical power of Dubawi among Charlie Appleby’s team is now rivalling it. Last year, when I admit I didn’t really notice it, there were 40 Dubawi juveniles: this year the number has grown to an eye-opening 55. At the same time the yard has gone well past 200, reflecting his upward trajectory ever since taking over the main Godolphin job ten years ago. I’m sure Pinatubo has some more big wins in his locker.

I always look forward to seeing the team of Nicolas Clement, French Fifteen’s trainer, in the book, and he is there as usual with his middling-strength team. Nowadays much of what used to pass for free time for this greatly-admired man is taken up with his role as the head of the French trainers. He confessed that carrying out his duties over the weeks in lockdown and then the changes in the areas in France where racing could be allowed had been very demanding.

This weekend, Nicolas along with everyone in racing had a dreadful shock when his younger brother Christophe, who has been training with great success in the US for many years, suffered a terrible tragedy. On Saturday a Sallee company horsebox, transporting ten Clement horses from Florida to race in New York burst into flames on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing all ten animals. One report suggested that the horsebox had collided with a concrete stanchion. It added that the two drivers attempted to free the horses but were unable to do so.

At the top level, where both Clement brothers have been accustomed to operating on their respective sides of the pond, the rewards can be great. But as this incident graphically and starkly shows, there is often a downside for trainers and owners, though rarely one of quite this horrific finality.

- TS