Tag Archive for: Ian Williams

Enemy catches Military Order off guard at Southwell

Enemy lowered the colours of some big names as he showed plenty of resilience to hold off 11-8 favourite Military Order in a thrilling finish to the BetUK Winter Derby Trial Conditions Stakes at Southwell.

In a classy contest at the Rolleston venue, it was Charlie Appleby’s Military Order who was fancied to get his career back on track in a race that also featured Dante scorer The Foxes and Royal Ascot winners Claymore and Sir Busker.

In the early stages, it was Claymore who led the field along, with Military Order content to race in his slipstream on his first start since being gelded.

Enemy, meanwhile, was ridden patiently at the rear of the field by Rossa Ryan and still had the whole pack to pass when things began to get serious entering the home straight.

Military Order was arguably travelling best as he edged his way to the front entering the final two furlongs, but Ryan was beginning to wind Enemy up to top gear and came to make his challenge inside the final furlong.

Enemy was soon flying home and, running on strongly, he bravely held on by a head after a tussle with last year’s Godolphin Derby runner in the closing stages.

The 17-2 winner has predominantly plied his trade over further of late and, having gone close over two miles at Newcastle last time, his trainer Ian Williams was thrilled to see him put in such a brave effort down in trip against some quality operators.

“It was a huge performance and we were a bit concerned running him over a shorter trip, but he has been a class performer at this trip on his day,” said Williams.

“That is probably a step up on what he has done before and will lead to some nice chats with his owner about what we do next. Over this trip, that was a good performance.

Team Enemy after landing a blow at Southwell
Team Enemy after scoring at Southwell (PA)

“We didn’t send him to Meydan this winter and we just needed a race to give him a blow in and see where our options were. We’ll see what our options are now and I’m not sure what we will do until I have spoken with the owners.

“He’s a horse who has travelled in the past and can travel, so lots of options remain open. He is entered in the Red Sea (Turf Handicap) in Saudi, which he was second in last year, but the owners aren’t mad keen, so we will just have to see.

“He’s beaten some good horses there and over that trip it was a massive performance.”

Daniel Tudhope did the steering aboard Military Order and felt his mount lost little in defeat.

He said: “It was a nice run and maybe he just doesn’t want to get there too soon – I felt that he got there and just wandered away a little bit.

“He’s a nice horse and he’s back and I hope connections get a good clear run with him.”

The Foxes finished third at Southwell
The Foxes finished third at Southwell (Steven Paston/PA)

It was Andrew Balding’s The Foxes who picked up the final spot on the podium, a length and three-quarters further back, and connections were thrilled with the Dante hero’s first outing since running in the Juddmonte International Stakes last summer.

“It was a good run and a prep run and we are pleased,” said Pippa Tuthill, assistant racing manager to owners King Power Racing.

“We’ll see how he comes out of this and make a plan from there. He’s a fun horse and we’re hoping to have a fun season with him going forward.”



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Enemy hunting Henry II honours at Sandown

Ian Williams’ Enemy returns to Sandown for another crack at the Racehorse Lotto Henry II Stakes on Thursday.

The six-year-old spent his winter in the Middle East and returned significantly richer having won the Dubai Racing Club Classic at Meydan before a second-placed finish in the highly valuable Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia.

He then came home eighth in the Dubai Gold Cup back at Meydan in late March, after which he began his domestic campaign in the Group Three Ormonde Stakes at Chester’s May meeting.

Enemy was fifth behind by William Haggas’ Hamish in the Roodee feature, though Williams feels he fared well considering the testing conditions and will be more at home on better ground in Esher, where Frankie Dettori takes the ride.

“The ground probably got a little bit too soft for him at Chester last time, but he acquitted himself well and remains in good form,” the trainer said.

“Conditions should be more to suit on Thursday.”

Enemy was fifth in the Group Three race last season as Quickthorn prevailed for Hughie Morrison, but the run was luckless and Williams feels the gelding was not shown to best effect.

He said: “I don’t know that it’s not a deeper race but the way that race was won last year, he got a long way out and had a lot of ground to make up, so I think you can put a line through that.”

Elsewhere is Andrew Balding’s Nate The Great, second last season and fifth behind Silver Sonic and Enemy in the Red Sea at Riyadh.

Haggas’ Roberto Escobarr joins the line-up, as do Harry and Roger Charlton’s Sleeping Lion and Hiroo Shimizu’s French-trained Princess Anne.



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Monday Musings: A York Debrief

They came in their droves to York on Wednesday just to see the best horse in the world, writes Tony Stafford. They saw him and he delivered by six-and-a-half lengths from the horse who had won the richest horse race in the world – if not this year, last.

A lot had been invested in the event. Not just the £1 million prize fund of which £567k went to the winner, Baaeed if you weren’t sure. A decent chunk went to the second, Mishriff, to bring his money-haul to £11,677,544, four times as much as Baaeed’s. Third home Sir Busker also picked up a six-figure prize for Kennett Valley and William Knight.

It was the razzmatazz of the whole week, seemingly trying so hard to lighten the general mood of gloom surrounding the sport and country. It appeared to try to ape the Melbourne Cup with the jockey introductions and the like before Saturday’s Skybet Ebor, the half-million total fund of which makes it the richest handicap in Europe.

That of itself is not much of a distinction, as no other major racing administration has anywhere near the preponderance of handicaps, save Ireland of course.

Everyone got very excited when the William Haggas-trained four-year-old made it ten out of ten, approaching the flawless record of Frankel, who retired to stud after 14 unblemished runs. Although Frankel was also a four-year-old when he left Sir Henry Cecil’s care for Banstead Manor stud, he had won six races before June of his three-year-old season including the 2,000 Guineas. His shadow Baaeed had not even made his racecourse debut before June as a three-year-old.

Six races were crammed within 101 days in 2021 between June and October. Then Haggas gave him seven months to mature before another quartet, all at Group 1 level, in 95 days from May to August. The last three have been a mirror image of Frankel’s: Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne, Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes, and a first try beyond a mile in the 10½ furlong Juddmonte.

The incentive for the York feature for the Khaled Abdullah homebred was obvious as the late Saudi prince had sponsored the race for many years. This time, once the path had been set for Baaeed, the only argument going around was whether Haggas might try to persuade Sheikha Hissa, daughter of the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, to have a think about the Arc rather than end his career Frankel-like in the Champion Stakes later in October.

I had a lovely couple of days in York, securing a bed within walking distance of the track – although I did go by car – with Jim and Mary Cannon in their four-story abode in a quiet square near the Mount school, Alma Mater of Dame Judy Dench, so they told me.

Jim, a native of Carlisle, is a one-time Labour councillor in East London who moved with Mary to York nine or ten years ago and has had shares in loads of Wilf Storey horses for all that time and a little before. It’s like home from home and I can do my work, rifle the fridge and wait for him to rustle up something tasty for dinner.

That happened the first night, but on Wednesday I was in Delrio’s – known by all the racing crowd as “The Italian” and the only thing that beats it for its conviviality is the length of time it takes to turn orders into drink and especially food.

I had my back to the table immediately behind me, which among its ten squeezed-in bodies were several of the TV broadcasters. I’m pretty sure I did identify which of them pronounced: “It’s my mission to get him <Baaeed, no doubt> to the Arc”!

The way Baaeed finished off after coming from some way back offers every hope that he would stay the extra two furlongs, but would it make any difference to his appeal as a stallion? For all Sheikha Hissa and her family’s sporting and sensible policy of continuing her father’s work in a more streamlined manner, the fear that he might be beaten over a mile-and-a-half in the mud against the French (or Germans, or indeed Sir Mark Prescott’s Alpinista) should be incentive enough for the team to stay with the Champion Stakes.

Alpinista was the star of Thursday when she saw off a revived Tuesday – a little short of peak I was led to understand beforehand – in the Yorkshire Oaks. I always enjoy a chat with Sir Mark and, after he conducted interviews with every television station from the UK, Ireland and Dubai I finally got a word. His impeccable navy-blue pinstripe suit was set off with an immaculate tie, and it was only after studying him as I waited that I realised he had tucked in the tail part of it.

I said, “As you know I’m a year all but a day older than you, and I’m not too old to learn from you.” When I explained it was the tie issue that I noticed, he said he always does that. Then, after speaking to Richard Frisby, advisor to Kirsten Rausing, Alpinista’s owner-breeder, on the topic, he put me straight. “You learn that at prep school,” he revealed. I must have missed that!

Nobody missed the fact that Alpinista has won five Group 1 races including one defeat of Torquator Tasso, last year’s Arc winner. “We were lucky to beat him as he didn’t get a run,” said Sir Mark modestly.

So many amazing things happened at York. Like the 14-length win of Hughie Morrison’s ever-improving stayer, Quickthorn. Morrison and owner Lady Blyth had the option of a second shot at the Ebor, which he lost narrowly last year to Sonnyboyliston, who went on to win the Irish St Leger for Johnny Murtagh.

Instead, they took the bold step of taking on Stradivarius and Trueshan in the Lonsdale Stakes over two miles on the Friday. It was always possible that Trueshan may continue the Alan King policy of missing races when the ground was unsuitably fast and that was his eventual decision.

By that time, Stradivarius was already out with a bruised foot, so it was left according to the market as a match between Quickthorn, winner of the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown in May and a Group 2 in France last month, and Andrew Balding’s Coltrane.

Coltrane, winner of the Ascot Stakes under a big weight and then easily in a Listed over two miles at Sandown, proved best of the rest in the “finest stayers’ race ever run” when fourth in the Goodwood Cup behind Kyprios, Stradivarius and Trueshan at the Glorious meeting.

In the event, it was no contest. Tom Marquand took Quickthorn to the front, steadily building on an initial lead with consistent 12-second and change furlongs, and by the turn into the straight he was miles clear. Afterwards, Hughie told me, “I hadn’t realised how much he eased him.” The track record would have been his as well as a 20-length win at least.

I think the absent big two would have been fully stretched to have any more luck at staying with him than those that remained. He may well go the Irish St Leger route as that Group 1 win would look very nice on his CV, though that would very likely mean a shot at Kyprios.

Morrison is out of love with the Melbourne Cup nowadays after the controversy over conflicting veterinary conclusions by his own advisors and the local Flemington panel which ruled his Marmelo out of running in the 2019 edition on soundness grounds after he had finished runner-up to Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter the year before.

One trainer perfectly happy at continuing his love affair with that race is Ian Williams and he almost carried off an Australian-style coup at York this week. It is commonplace for Australian trainers to run their horses in the days coming up to the big race, sometimes even three days before and over vastly shorter than the two miles of the Cup.

On Wednesday, Williams won the £51k to the winner two-mile handicap with Alfred Boucher by three lengths. That gave Alfred a 4lb penalty, enough to slot him in at the foot of the Ebor field. After much debate, he decided to run the six-year-old again, reasoning he would never be able to run for three hundred grand any time soon.

Backed down to 8-1 and benefiting from a fine ride by P J McDonald he was beaten just a short-head, as Williams asserted, “victim of a Frankie Dettori masterpiece.” He added, “Dettori went off fast and wide of the field, crossed him over to the front and then steadied the pace. He rode the socks off the rest of them, no criticism to P J.”

How Williams must have wished Dettori’s brief exile from the Gosdens over the Stradivarius Royal Ascot issue had been more permanent. He chose his best ride on their Trawlerman to deny what would have been one of the headlines of the week.

Talking of the Melbourne Cup, last year’s winner of that race, the seven-year-old mare Verry Elleegant, has pitched up in France in the care of Francis-Henri Graffard, presumably with the Arc as her main objective.

Frankie was recruited for yesterday’s run in Deauville and I wonder whether her Aussie owners were enamoured by this ride, sitting well out the back, asking for an effort turning for home, and then only plodding on at one pace. She finished last of seven and will need to have a form transformation if she is to add to her massive home reputation over in Europe. Connections were putting on a brave face and suggested a more suitable rehearsal will be the Prix Vermaille in three weeks' time.

- TS



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Monday Musings: A Royal Return

A lot has changed in three years, writes Tony Stafford. Yes, it’s that long since I’ve been to Royal Ascot and it won’t be the same with different allegiances and in some ways different means of getting there.

Over the interim with first Covid and its continued effects – my younger daughter contracted it for the first time last week but seems well enough, thankfully – its impact and threat was never far away.

But what has changed is that I’ve succumbed to the era of the satellite in the sky that guides the car through traffic pitfalls, a practice insisted upon when my wife is travelling with me; never mind that I’ve been just about everywhere!

It’s then hard to shrug it off. I’ve known all the possible ways to Ascot, ducking through Windsor Great Park, sliding away from the track, and going through the same village that the Royal party uses to reach the straight mile, with the bunting put out every year by some of Her Majesty’s most loyal subjects.

Alan and Harry have since made alternate arrangements having been at the last “faux” Ascot I missed.  I think it was on my time before last when I might easily have subjected them to a police incident. There are two possible roads after that village street to turn down which take you alongside the start of the Royal Hunt Cup course. I slid in the first one, past a gun-toting police representative and was immediately confronted at the end of the immaculate gravel drive by the sight of the gates at the top of the straight.

It was a couple of hours before the Royal party would be decamping from the horse-drawn carriages into the limousines to cover exactly the same ground.

I did a quick about-turn; making a shame-faced soundless apology to the official. He by then was starting to take more appropriate attention to the potential threat posed by three men in their 70’s. Mouth wide open, he left us to re-join the correct route a hundred yards further on.

I’m not sure, travelling alone, I will venture anywhere near that approach to the track, but it always got us there quicker than the ‘tourist’ ways in. Resuming after five decades of going to Ascot will be just as thrilling as the 2000 Guineas and Derby have already been this year. I just hope this most British of sporting events proves to have lost nothing in the missing years for me.

Nowadays we have the benefit of 48-hour declarations, so we know the make-up of the seven-race opening card. Getting to Ascot by road is always a delicate balance, and with the start time now back to 2.30 p.m. and a 6.10 final race, travelling up every day will be a challenging and gruelling process.

If you want to arrive in time to get a trouble- and traffic-free approach, probably 11 a.m. might not be too early. I’m sure the track’s management will be delighted if everyone has a few hours to sample the (very expensive) catering on offer.

But then, it is Ascot. Going racing isn’t cheap in the UK. One northern track the other day was charging £20 a head – plus the obligatory £3 for a programme. I wonder how many first-time attendees there will hurry back. Maybe if they backed a few winners they might?

Winner-backing is what racing is all about and, while elsewhere on this site there will be comprehensive analysis of all the races over the five days in one article or another, I’ll restrict myself to this first card which is nicely varied with a balance of top-class contests and tricky handicaps. Also, it’s nice to know what’s actually going to run.

Everyone will hope to have got all the preliminaries – and whether that will include a Royal procession involving herself, I have yet to hear – over well in time for the first race appearance of the potential number one equine star of the week, William Haggas’ Baaeed.

Although it will have been only a year and a week since the colt made his debut as a three-year-old in a novice event at Newbury, he has progressed with such sure-footedness that in seven unbeaten runs he has gone to the top of the international racing tree.

The Shadwell Estates colours may have become a little less prominent than they were before the death of Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, but Baaeed is on the way to becoming perhaps the most illustrious to carry the blue and white silks over the more than 40 years’ involvement he had with the sport, in the UK initially, and then worldwide.

His family have inevitably slimmed down the size of the Shadwell operation, but rarely can a cull have resulted in such a positive impact on other owners and trainers. Horses that would normally have been in training for Sheikh Hamdan have been sold to race, along with beautifully bred fillies and mares passed on to other paddocks. This will enable smaller-scale owners and breeders to have access to horses that would otherwise never have come on the market.

But for as long as the family has a horse of the quality of Baaeed to represent it I’m sure it will be an honour to continue the founder’s tradition. Baaeed will be long odds-on and I’d like to see a performance of Frankel magnitude and magnificence. I think Baaeed is the nearest we’ve seen to that unbeaten champion.

A more recent death will continue to have a major impact on the Haggas family as Maureen, the trainer’s wife, is the elder daughter of Lester Piggott, who passed in the lead-up to the Derby.

Not content with nine wins in the premier Classic, Lester also rode a preposterous 116 Royal Ascot winners, starting in the 1952 Wokingham with Malka’s Boy when a 16-year-old. College Chapel in the 1993 Cork and Orrery Stakes (now Platinum Jubilee Stakes) completed the set. That haul was all the more impressive given the meeting was then staged over only four days, with Saturday being merely ‘Ascot Heath’.

Ascot 2022 will start with a bang early on Tuesday afternoon and continue in like fashion right through to Saturday evening. Sprinters are to the fore in the King’s Stand Stakes, nowadays also a Group 1 contest but over the minimum five furlongs, a furlong shorter than the Jubilee. Here the home team are promised another potential roasting from some overseas greats, human and equine.

Wesley Ward has long been a devotee of the Royal meeting, most often with his fast juveniles and older sprinters, and he brings four-year-old Golden Pal – impossible to beat at home but twice defeated in the UK,  by a neck as a two-year-old at Ascot and last year when only seventh at York in Winter Power’s Nunthorpe.

That Tim Easterby filly will be back tomorrow to challenge him again, but they may both have to take special care of the threat posed by Australia’s greatest trainer, Chris Waller. His seven-year-old, Nature Strip, has won 20 of 37 career starts in Australia and has earnings that will pass £10 million if he wins tomorrow.

Between the opener and the King’s Stand, there’s an intriguing contest for the Group 2 Coventry Stakes. This is the premier juvenile contest of the week and, such is the level of competition that 15 of the 16 declared have already won races, with seven of them unbeaten.

Until his third race there was very little suggestion that Blackbeard, a son of No Nay Never trained by Aidan O’Brien, was held in particularly high regard.

But then, as the second favourite to even-money shot Tough Talk in the Marble Hill Stakes on the Curragh, he put the favourite away by more than three lengths and now heads the Coventry market. With so many of the Ballydoyle two-year olds winning first time out, fears of an almost Cheltenham-like monopoly might be imminent in the two-year-old races this week.

Meanwhile, Coroebus, the 2000 Guineas winner, is the day’s other star performer. It would be satisfying if Charlie Appleby’s Classic winner could maintain his position at the top of the mile three-year-old colts’ totem pole.

In the old days we used to get nearly all the top-category races on the opening day with just the two-and-a-half mile Ascot Stakes (Handicap) as a diversion for form students at a more prosaic level – in other words people like me! I’d love to see Reshoun win it again, but here I offer my suggestion for a value bet. Surrey Gold has never raced beyond one mile and three-quarters but Hughie Morrison has campaigned him as though there will be more to come. I believe there will.

It's a great day all round, but if you need Wednesday to Saturday information (as well as more detail for Tuesday), Matt Bisogno and the team will put you straight. I’ll be too busy taking it all in!

- TS



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Monday Musings: Williams truly a man for all seasons

The Dubai Carnival 2022 has crept up on me, but I had a quiet day at home on Friday and had a good look as William Buick and Charlie Appleby dominated their home meeting with a hat-trick in the last three of six at Meydan, writes Tony Stafford. They cleaned up with Lazuli, 8-11 in a Group 2 sprint; Manobo, 4-9 in a Group 3 over 14 furlongs; and a “handicap” where Valiant Prince bolted home at 13-8 with stones seemingly to spare in completing the set.

The Racing UK coverage for Dubai has never been over-critical of the hosts but the way Angus McNee and Rishi Persad over-gushed after Manobo’s undoubtedly impressive performance in the 89k to the winner Nad Al Sheba Trophy, at the exclusion of all others in the 15-horse field, was an exercise in stating the obvious.

Here was a horse unbeaten in four runs in Europe, starting when a 5-1 scorer under Adam Kirby at Newbury in May – from Mojo Star whose next outing was when runner-up to Charlie’s Adayar in the Derby. He followed up the next month with Buick in the saddle, emphatically by six lengths at 4-11 at Kempton.

Charlie then gave him a break before moving him up in grade, collecting a Listed race at Saint-Cloud at 7-10 by ten lengths with James Doyle riding in September. Doyle again had the mount, and 7-10 was also the price when he out-pointed fellow Appleby three-year-old Kemari, the Queen’s Vase winner from Royal Ascot, in the Group 2 Prix Chaudenay at Longchamp’s Arc meeting.

Over-qualified to a degree then for a ballast-filled race nominally a notch lower, actually rather more so. Thus it was hardly unexpected when he drew away easily to make it five from five given his rating of 114. The winning margin was almost six lengths. A second Godolphin runner, Global Heat ridden by Frankie Dettori for Saeed Bin Suroor, was third. He was just bettered for second favouritism by the regular Group performer Rodrigo Diaz, trained by David Simcock, who finished a modest sixth.

Totally unnoticed, or if he was, never mentioned in all the time I waited for it, were the identities of the other money-earners.  Even after they came back from the domestic action for the next Meydan race, Rishi was revealing: “We’ve been talking about Manobo the whole time!” I’ve no doubt they were.

Anyway I’d like to keep you in suspense for a little while longer. On the day of Manobo’s Newbury debut, a six-year-old gelding fresh from the UAE where he had been trained for all of his 14 career starts, none successful, lined up in one of the handicaps at Newbury with an opening UK rating of 70.

I remember looking on the morning of the race thinking that was stern enough especially when taking it in the context of a £6k (30k AED) sale price out of Doug Watson’s stable more than two years earlier.

The horse was called East Asia, the new trainer Ian Williams and his owner Sayed Hashish, a businessman in Dubai, wanted to give him a chance in the UK. Partnered by Richard Kingscote, the 16-1 chance shot clear two from home in the mile-and-a-half mile handicap and won by almost five lengths.

Stepped up in trip for his next two races at Goodwood, Williams turned to William Buick and, riding him with great confidence, he won twice more, comfortably each time as his turf rating rose.

Buick was not employed in the immediate aftermath with the obvious difficulty of timing the races with his Godolphin commitments and East Asia had a relatively quiet spell. Then, coming to the last rites of the turf season, Buick became available for a race at Nottingham and normal service resumed. All that remained was a tilt at the November Handicap where Buick was otherwise engaged riding a double at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar; so Kingscote stepped back in.

This time there was no happy ending: East Asia, held up a long way back, hated the cloying mud of Town Moor and finished just below halfway. That left him with a mark of 90 and anyone who has ever sent a horse out to the Carnival with a rating as low as that will know how difficult it can be to get into a race.

But Sayed Hashish is an optimistic chap and fuelled by the four wins from nine starts his UK trainer had supplied him from the previous non-winner in 14, he decided to take the risk. Balloted out in the early weeks, Williams found the answer with Friday’s Group 3, in which East Asia had the lowest rating of all.

He also gave the same entry to a second stable runner, Enemy, there on his second run since being bought in November in France for €92k out of the stable of Francis Graffard, the Aga Khan’s new principal trainer.  Enemy had been running over a mile and a furlong or less in France and started at that trip a week earlier. He finished unplaced, albeit barely five lengths behind Lord Glitters.

Williams told me he thought he would stay and that the much-increased trip would suit but he too was among the lowest-rated in the line-up. The pair, understandably both 66-1 shots, turned for home in the last trio with Enemy right at the back. They both took a rails course coming home and if East Asia had not been slightly blocking his stablemate at a crucial stage, according to Williams: “They might have finished the other way around.”

Anyway East Asia stayed on for second under Richard Mullen, greatly out-running his rating (24lb less than the winner) with Enemy and Andrea Atzeni an eye-catchingly closing fourth. In case you hadn’t noticed, Racing TV – and, don’t worry, I still prefer your coverage to ITV, except of course when they show Ascot or Doncaster on a Saturday – this was a monumental training performance.

Ian tells me he thinks East Asia, who collected almost 30k for those efforts might now be getting an invitation to the Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup Day. No wonder Mr Hashish is telling his friends what to do with their old handicappers. Meanwhile, Enemy’s new owners, Tracey Bell and Caroline Lyons, have the prospect of an exciting season ahead with their five-year-old.

It might seem much longer ago, but it was as recently as the autumn of 2017 that Williams encouraged Dr Marwan Koukash to buy the apparently fully-exposed Magic Circle from Ralph Beckett towards the end of his five-year-old season. Few trainers would expect to induce much improvement from that trainer’s skilled handling but, for 70,000gns, Williams had a project.

First up, six months later, it was the doctor’s Holy Grail, the Chester Cup, and with Fran Berry in the saddle Magic Circle ran out a six-length winner from Hughie Morrison’s Fun Mac. The Group 2 Henry II Stakes at Sandown came next and it was another six-length romp for the six-year-old, this time excellent yardstick Red Verdon took second for Ed Dunlop.

Immediately after (or probably knowing the connections, sometime before) the plan was hatched to go for the Melbourne Cup.

Nine years previously, a much cheaper buy, Munsef, led out unsold at £11k from Dandy Nicholls, was then bought privately as a seven-year-old on May 20th 2009 and, by late summer, within weeks he had won three and finished second twice including in a Swedish Group 3. That resulted in a Melbourne Cup qualifying mark and so, that November as a 50-1 chance, he carried the Koukash silks to a close up 11th of 23.

Contrastingly, for most of the summer of 2018, Magic Circle was the favourite for Australia’s most coveted race, but on the day at Flemington he started a point longer at 6-1 to Aidan O’Brien’s 5-1 market leader Yukatan.

The winner this time was the Appleby-trained Cross Counter, a top-class three-year-old who just held off Hughie ‘s Marmelo, now a stallion, and Charlie Fellowes’ Melbourne Cup regular – until last year – Prince Of Arran.  Magic Circle finished in the back third having faded over the last two furlongs, but the dream, as with East Asia for his owner, had been more than fulfilled.

As he returns to his yard near Birmingham, this trainer for all seasons and all types of horses, faces one of his biggest ever challenges. Tomorrow he sends out Glen Again for his hurdles debut at Market Rasen in Raymond Tooth’s colours. I’ll be there, so let’s give it a good show!

Williams had a good second with his promising novice chaser Tide Times at Wincanton on Saturday but the highlight for me was the great attempt of Kim Bailey’s 25-1 shot Two For Gold in the Betfair Ascot Chase. If Joseph O’Brien had forgotten to enter J P McManus’ Fakir d’Oudairies, Two For Gold would have won. Only one Irish runner all day and inevitably the best prize of the afternoon goes west!

Kim will have been more than delighted with second especially as the novice Does He Know had already spread-eagled the opposition in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. Pre-Irish domination, that was the race I always liked to see my three-mile Cheltenham novice chase fancies win, but nowadays pretty much all the contenders lurk over there.

Before you look round, Cheltenham will have come and gone, but one possible entry that I am looking forward to is Poetic Music who might tackle the big Irish boys in the bumper. We know she can fly up the hill so getting a hefty 17lb from the hot Mullins favourite and the rest, anything may be possible for the apple of Sally Randell’s eye!

- TS



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Monday Musings: Haggas a Dab Hand with Addeybb

On February 6th 1954, two years to the day after her accession to the throne, Her Majesty the Queen, on a Royal visit to Australia, was present at Randwick racecourse, Sydney, to witness the first running of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, writes Tony Stafford.

Inaugurated by the Australian Jockey Club in 1851 in honour of Queen Victoria, it was staged as the Queens Plate throughout her reign. Later it became the AJC Plate with single-year editions in 1928 and 1934 as the King’s Plate, honouring the present Queen’s grand-father, King George V.

Early on the morning of the funeral of HRH Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, Englishmen William Haggas (trainer) and Ton Marquand (jockey) fittingly won the 4millionAust$ 2021 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the seven-year-old gelding Addeybb in the colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, youngest and least publicised of the four Maktoum brothers who so transformed UK and world racing.

Like the Queen, Sheikh Ahmed has had a recent family death to endure after Sheikh Hamdan, second in terms of age of the quartet and mastermind of Shadwell Farm, passed away last month in the week leading up to the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan.

So, 67 years after that initial running, the QE Stakes is still going strong. In its pre-QE history it was won by many of Australia’s best horses, none more so than the legendary Phar Lap, winner of the Plate in 1930.

That was in the midst of a late-flowering career that brought a sequence of wins (career total 37/51) after a halting start. Sent to race in the US, he started with a track record before dying in agony after what was subsequently identified as a massive dose of arsenic. It is believed that his murder was at the behest of criminal elements worried that Phar Lap would be a threat to the profitability of the Mafia’s illegal bookmakers.

Tulloch, another Australian great, won 36, finished second in 12 and third in four of his 53 starts, with only one unplaced. This despite his being off the track injured for a full two years after his three-year-old campaign. He won the Randwick race in 1958, 1960 and 1961.

Tulloch was the only triple winner since 1954 until along came Winx. The great mare had won her first three races, then went the next seven with only a single victory before embarking on a 33-race unbeaten spree until the end of her career.

Three consecutive Queen Elizabeth Stakes fell to her spell, the last at 10-1 on as a seven-year-old in 2019 after which she retired having won 37 of 43 starts and, helped by the massive prize of the Sydney race, with world-record earnings and Group 1 wins.

Winx’s retirement left a vacancy in 2020 and William Haggas, who sent down the then six-year-old Addeybb, previously best known as a mudlark, was aiming to fill the void.  Addeybb, another late bloomer, first hit the headlines when winning the Lincoln on his four-year-old reappearance and had won six races and finished second to Magical in the 2019 Champion Stakes before that first Australian jaunt.

On March 21 last year, five days after the first lockdown was announced by Boris Johnson, Tom Marquand was in Sydney to ride Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes and in the first of four memorable clashes with the two-years-younger Verry Elleegant <what an inelegant name!> beat her by half a length.

Five weeks later – Marquand having been marooned away from partner Hollie Doyle by Covid19 restrictions – he enjoyed a more emphatic defeat of the filly in the QE II.

The relative exploits of the two developing stars between that day and last month again in the Ranvet Stakes where they renewed their rivalry, was stark, largely governed by the need for Haggas to take account of his horse’s tough time away from home base.

He fashioned a minutely-planned three-race home campaign, returning to finish an excellent runner-up to Lord North in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He then duly collected the Listed Land Of Burns Stakes at Ayr before winning another big pot, the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he avenged defeats by both Magical and Lord North. A 9-1 shot, he also numbered the Gosdens’ future Middle East money-spinner Mishriff among his victims.

Meanwhile, Verry Elleegant was making hay at home.  After a break she won over a mile in August; was fourth in September and was victorious twice in October over a mile then a mile and a half before stretching out with a creditable seventh in the two-mile Melbourne Cup. Freshened up, the mare was third and then won, both races in February, before lining up for the Ranvet last month.

Fully conditioned, she got the better of a possibly ring-rusty Addeybb, but memorably on Saturday, the Haggas horse gained fulsome revenge. As a gelding and given the trainer’s skill with older horses, he could easily return next year aiming to match the three-time exploits of Tulloch and Winx.

I’ve been remiss in not yet collecting my always-valued copy of Horses In Training as I’ve been nowhere for more than a year and the usual sources either at Cheltenham or from Tindalls In Newmarket High Street have been unavailable.

I do see this morning that I can get it from Amazon at a discounted price of 20 quid so when I finish these words I’ll get a move on. It will be interesting to see the status of the Haggas string which numbered 199 last year. One definite change will be among the stable’s trio of assistant trainers as Harry Eustace is now training in his own right.

He has succeeded his father James, who ended a 30-year stint at the end of last season and his son is sure to have learnt plenty. I believe he (and possibly brother David) spent time in Australia learning his trade as did George Boughey who has been pulling up trees in his early training career.

I know they were house-mates in that hothouse of thrusting young training talent a few years back with George Scott, who was a little in front of his colleagues in his career. Others there included Ed Crisford, who now shares the billing with father Simon and James Ferguson, son of John, former colleague of Simon Crisford for many years in running Sheikh Mohammed’s racing affairs in the UK and Dubai in the winter.

It’s become fashionable for trainers to hand over either joint-, as in the case of John and Thady Gosden, or outright, like Eustace and also the Bethells up in Middleham. Listed as assistant trainer in last year’s HIT, Edward Bethell has taken over seamlessly from father James at the palatial Thorngill Stables just outside Middleham and threatens to take the family fortunes by storm.

He’s already up to the six-winner mark from only 28 runners and the recent victories of Briardale (twice), Grantley and Blu Boy, his by miles and a in a canter, threaten an explosion. There were 30 horses in last year’s Bethell team. I can imagine a flood of new owners wishing to take part in what looks sure to be an exciting project and sending horses to him.

Yesterday, two meetings delayed from Saturday to free up mid-afternoon for The Duke’s funeral made for exciting viewing and Al Aasy promises to be another potential Group 1 horse for the Haggas stable and in the colours of Shadwell Farm. Not a home-bred, Al Aasy easily won the Dubai Duty Free Stakes (the John Porter to you and me)  and will be following in Addeybb’s footsteps no doubt as the season progresses.

Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting was one of the last jumping highlights in the UK before the domestic season ends next Saturday at Sandown. Harry Skelton’s inexorable pursuit then rapid-fire passing and drawing clear of Brian Hughes has all but clinched his first title and you have to think that with brother Dan’s fire-power and a greater readiness to take nice outside rides, he could be in for a longish spell in the number one spot. Congratulations to jockey, trainer and of course father Nick whose determination to support his sons was only exceeded by the far-sighted planning to set up their operation.

I would also like to congratulate Ian Williams for a superb training achievement in sending out One More Fleurie to win the highly-competitive novice handicap chase over three miles at Ayr.

Setting off in front, the gelding jumped every one of the 19 fences like an assured veteran, easily kept ahead of his 12 rivals throughout and stretched away for a six-and-a-half-length success with Charlie Todd not having to do much more than steer.

The exhibition was one almost of an automaton so perfect were the parabolas he executed at every fence. He didn’t gain his first career win, off a mark of 105 on his third chasing start, until seven weeks ago. He won twice more, with only a concentration lapse in between at Fakenham spoiling the sequence. This was his fourth success, now off 23lb higher than the initial winning mark.

It is easy to imagine him one day coming back to Ayr for a Scottish Grand National, or with his mix of stamina – he was going away from talented rivals rather than coming back yesterday – and jumping prowess, later on winning a Grand National.

Ian Williams is one of the truly versatile trainers who can win with any type of horse, but One More Fleurie could put him and his young rider deservedly onto a different level.  I reckon he’ll be elevated to somewhere near 138 – those iniquitous handicappers are never very lenient with Ian’s winners – so that means he will probably get in the Ladbroke Handicap Chase <Hennessy> next November. Cloth Cap won it this season off 136, so go on Ian - fill your boots!



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Stat of the Day, 7th September 2020

Saturday's pick was...

3.10 Kempton : Recovery Run @ 5/2 BOG 2nd at 13/8 (Tracked leader, close up when ridden 2f out, ran on well to dispute lead close home, not quite match winner)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.20 Leicester :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Normally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.30am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Shady McCoy @ 9/2 BOG

...in a 13-runner, Class 3,  Flat Handicap for 3yo+ over 7f on Good To Soft ground worth £7,439 to the winner...

Why?...

We'll start with the racecard...

...which, whilst not as informative as some other days, tell us that we've an in-form horse (2 wins from last three starts) who scores well on the Geegeez Speed ratings and who will be ridden by a jockey with a good recent record here at Leicester with 9 wins from 35 (25.7% SR) since 2016.

Our boy might well be 10 yrs old now, but seems to be enjoying his own personal Indian Summer, having won two of three this year to take his career record on the Flat to a more than acceptable 11 wins from 58 and that 19% strike rate has yielded the following under today's conditions...

  • 9 wins and 11 further places from 51 for trainer Ian Williams
  • 8 wins, 10 places from 38 over a 7f trip
  • 4 wins, 2 places from 11 on Good to Soft
  • 2 wins from 3 in 2020
  • 1 win plus 1 place from 3 under jockey William Buick
  • 1 win plus 1 place from 2 here at Leciester
  • and 1 win, 1 place from 2 over course and distance

And now to trainer Ian Williams, who has been very good over the years at getting horses to win back to back races on the Flat, especially when not left off the track too long and when the market deems them to have at least a fighting chance. So, basically my Ian Williams LTO winner micro-angle is to look for those sent off at 7/1 and shorter within 45 days of that last run/win and since 2014, such runners are...

...with a win ratio of almost 2 in 5 at an A/E approaching 1.5 generating over 55p in the pound profits at Betfair SP giving us grounds for optimism here today, especially as they contain the following of relevance today...

  • 36/86 (41.9%) for 58.49pts (+68%) in races worth less than £17k
  • 34/91 (37.4%) for 50.5pts (+55.5%) in handicaps
  • 16/27 (59.3%) for 26.42pts (+97.9%) at 1-10 dslr
  • 13/28 (46.4%) for 28.91pts (+103.3%) during September/October
  • 8/15 (53.3%) for 26.7pts (+178%) over 6/7 furlongs
  • 5/10 (50%) for 13.77pts (+137.7%) on Good to Soft ground
  • 2/3 (66.6%) for 6.74pts (+224.8%) under jockey William Buick
  • and 1 from 2 (50%) for 0.97pts (+48.5%) here at Leicester...

...whilst from the above, in sub-£17k handicaps at 1-10 dslr, they are 16 from 23 (69.6% SR) for 30.42pts (+132.3% ROI), including a perfect 6 from 6 at an A/E of 3.77 in September/October generating 19.42pts profit (+326.6% ROI)...

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Shady McCoy @ 9/2 BOG as was widely available at 8.00am Monday, but as always please check your own BOG status (*some firms are not BOG until later in the morning)To see a small sample of odds offered on this race...

...click here for the betting on the 3.20 Leicester

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!



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