James Tate has both Windsor and Newmarket options as Top Rank bids to bounce back to winning ways after Royal Ascot.
The Lockinge third travelled well for a long way in the Group One Queen Anne Stakes, the opening race of the Royal meeting, but fell away in the latter stages of the contest to finish sixth behind Palace Pier.
Tate reports the grey to be in fine fettle after the effort and intends to strike while the iron is hot with a follow-up run on Saturday.
Newmarket’s Group Three Criterion Stakes and Windsor’s Listed Midsummer Stakes are both under consideration, with the trainer likely to be drawn to the fixture that offers the softest going.
“He came out of Ascot very well, fresh and bouncing,” he said.
“It just didn’t happen for him, whether that is because he was drawn on the wrong side or the ground was a bit quick – I don’t know.
“It just didn’t happen for him but he’s very well, so we’ve got him in on Saturday to back him up like we have in the past.
“At this stage I don’t know what’s more likely, a mile at Windsor, Listed, or the Group Three at Newmarket.
“We’d prefer to win a Group Three than a Listed race, but we might be more likely to get easy ground at Windsor.”
Top Rank was victorious in Haydock’s Group Three Superior Mile Stakes on soft ground in September – a factor that leaves Tate more likely to opt for the Windsor contest as conditions at the track are evidently very soft given their cancellation of Monday’s fixture.
“The quickest ground he’s run on was at Ascot and we were slightly disappointed with his effort,” he said.
“He came out of it so well, I think we’d have to say that he is a heavy ground Group Three winner.
“Windsor was abandoned so we’re probably more likely to get give there.
“He’s bouncing, fresh and well, I’m anxious to run him somewhere at the weekend because he’s in really good form.”
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James Tate is considering several options for Top Rank following his third place in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Having claimed a sixth win from his first eight career starts with a comeback victory in the Doncaster Mile in late March, the grey stepped up to Group One level for the first time in Saturday’s feature event.
While he was ultimately no match for the brilliant winner Palace Pier, or improving mare Lady Bowthorpe, Top Rank was comfortably best of the rest and Tate is looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store.
He said: “He’s come out of the race in good order. It was his debut effort in a Group One and if you’d told me on the morning of the race that we’d finish third, I’d have been happy enough with that, but we prefer winning.
“We knew Palace Pier would be hard to beat. You should never be afraid of one horse because anything can happen, but nothing did happen other than Palace Pier won easily!”
A potential rematch with Palace Pier in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot could be next on Top Rank’s agenda, although connections are not short of alternatives should they wish to head elsewhere.
“We have loads of options going forward at Group One, Group Two and Group Three level, but nothing before Royal Ascot,” Tate added.
“I think we’ll train him for the Queen Anne. We’ll see how he is, how the field is shaping up and what the ground is like and then decide whether to let him take his chance.
“Later on there are races like the Summer Mile at Ascot and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. I wouldn’t be afraid to drop him back to seven furlongs, which brings in the Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh, the Hungerford at Newbury and the Park Stakes at Doncaster.
“There’s also the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown, so there’s plenty of suitable races for him and a few different factors will decide where he ends up.
“He’s a bit stronger and a bit more muscular and heavier than he used to be, so I don’t think he necessarily wants really soft ground – just good ground would be perfect for him.”
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Top Rank is set to take on hot favourite Palace Pier in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes next month.
Newmarket trainer James Tate confirmed his impressive Doncaster winner will be his first runner in the Newbury Group One on May 15, as the prospective field was reduced to 23 at the latest forfeit stage.
Top Rank will be stepping up to the top level for the first time too, having begun his five-year-old campaign with a return to winning form in the Listed Doncaster Mile last month.
The grey defied a Group Three winner’s penalty on Town Moor, and Tate said: “We plan to go to the Lockinge.
“Obviously it’s a big step up in class. He’s a Listed winner and a Group Three winner, so the obvious step would be Group Two – but with the lack of a suitable opportunity, we are going to have a go at Newbury.
“We did have a feeling that he might be bigger and better this year, so we were very pleased he could win at Doncaster giving 5lb to the rest of the field.
“He’ll have to leave that form behind again if he is to win the Lockinge – but we think the flat course at Newbury will suit him and, if it turned up something easier than good to firm, we would be hopeful of a good show.”
John Gosden’s Palace Pier sets a lofty standard, as a dual Group One winner last year and having recorded an eight-length success on his recent return in the bet365 Mile at Sandown.
Aidan O’Brien is also strongly represented too with a team which includes Order Of Australia and Lope Y Fernandez, first and third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and, intriguingly, top-class middle-distance performer Mogul.
Tate added: “I did watch Palace Pier on Friday, and he looked very good.
“That didn’t bother me too much. If you’d told me now that we were going to be second to Palace Pier, I’d take that.
“I’m a big believer in not fearing one horse. If I can get a career best out of my horse I will be happy.
“We have had a few Group One runners, and the closest we’ve been was a neck second in the French Guineas, but I’ve never had a runner in the Lockinge.”
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James Tate’s Final Voyage will bid to extend his unbeaten run in the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle on Friday.
The three-year-old was victorious on his last four starts on the all-weather, a winning streak that began in October last year and culminated in a half-length success at Wolverhampton in late February.
Friday’s contest represents a step-up in calibre for the son of Camacho, but Tate is hopeful that the colt can rise to the challenge and retain his form.
“He’s been a great horse for us over the winter,” he said.
“He’s won his last four and he’s five from six on the all-weather. Obviously it’s a step up in grade, but he’s been in very good form and he deserves to take his chance.”
Final Voyage will face only three rivals in the one-mile contest, but he has more runs under his belt than any other entrant having competed in eight races.
“He’s a very experienced horse, he knows exactly what to do,” his trainer said.
“I’d say he’d be tactically able to do whatever he needs to to give him the race, it’s just a question of whether he can step his form up again.
“He hasn’t disappointed us for the last four runs and I think he is unlucky not to be unbeaten on the all-weather, so we are very much looking forward to the race and as I say, he deserves to take his chance, so let’s see what happens.”
Final Voyage has run only twice on turf and was beaten on both occasions, leaving his Newmarket-based trainer pondering a future trip overseas.
“He has very few options because he appears to not go on the grass at all, so there are about two races on the all-weather in May and that’s about it,” he said.
“There really aren’t many options, we could even give him a break and wait for the autumn races, unless we think about racing him on dirt in a different country.
“We’ve been getting him ready for this race for a while, we’ve had it in mind and obviously he’s got to step up and he’s a bit of an outsider, but we’re certainly looking forward to the race.”
John and Thady Gosden’s Megallan will be Final Voyage’s main rival, with the Kingman colt beaten just a short head in the Listed Spring Cup at Lingfield on his last outing.
Roger Varian runs Legion Of Honour, who was a winner when last seen triumphing by a two and a quarter lengths over seven furlongs at Newcastle in November.
Making up the field of four is Mark Johnston’s Ghost Rider, who also returns to the scene of his latest victory having won at the track in a seven-furlong novice contest in February.
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Top Rank announced himself as an exciting miler for the forthcoming season with an eyecatching win in the Unibet Doncaster Mile.
James Tate’s grey had won five of his seven career outings before his seasonal reappearance – and as one of those was a Group Three he was conceding 5lb and more to some smart rivals.
But once PJ McDonald asked him to quicken up three furlongs out he moved through the field effortlessly, looking a class above, and he only needed to be pushed out with hands and heels to beat What’s The Story by a length at 11-2.
“He looked to be bigger and better this year, but there was also an outside chance he was just fat!” said Tate.
“Thankfully he was just bigger and better and that was great. He’d done two pieces of work on the grass and thankfully he wasn’t blowing too much after it.
“He’s a Group Three winner already so the obvious step would be a Group Two. There is one at Sandown, but that is quite a tight right-handed track and might not be for him. There’s also an option in France.
“We could just be brave and if he’s well and the ground isn’t fast we could go for the Lockinge and he might have a decent chance.”
He added: “He looks an improved horse, his work had been better so it’s exciting to see him do it on the track.”
McDonald then doubled up on Artistic Rifles (8-1) in the Unibet Spring Mile – stepping in for Andrea Atzeni who was a late absente having been informed he had to isolate after being contacted by coronavirus track and trace.
Atzeni had been in Bahrain, and a passenger on his flight subsequently tested positive.
That did not take any shine off the victory for trainer Ed Bethell, though, saddling just his second winner since taking over form his father, James.
“Days like this are what it is all about, winning nice races on a Saturday,” said Bethell.
“This horse is not easy to deal with on a morning so a lot of credit must go to his lad, Liam Reeves, who battles with him every morning on the gallops and does a wonderful job. Liam said he’d run well, so he deserves a lot of credit.
“He only ever only just wins which is great when it comes to handicapping!
“It’s a shame for Andrea, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be winning big races before too long.”
Eve Johnson Houghton won Unibet Brocklesby Conditions Stakes with her first runner in the race as Chipotle secured an impressive success.
Sent off an 8-1 shot, Charlie Bishop brought him down the centre of the track to beat Wonderful World by two and a quarter lengths.
“He’s always worked quite nicely at home, but he’s not been really well drilled as mine aren’t normally this forward,” said Johnson Houghton.
“He did that really nicely, though, so that is a relief. He’s got a nice pedigree. I’m thrilled with that.
“The only issue now is that this was a Class 4 so he’ll have a penalty in a novice.
“He’s my first runner in the race so it’s pretty exciting.”
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Top Rank will have an early chance to confirm he is still an improving horse for the season ahead in the Listed Unibet Doncaster Mile Stakes.
Trainer James Tate senses the imposing grey, who has grown again from four to five, has progressed through the winter – having already established a high level of form in 2020.
Top Rank must concede weight all round when he returns on Saturday, as the winner of Haydock’s Group Three Superior Mile on his penultimate start last September.
But Tate is optimistic that he can step forward again – either over his proven trip of a mile, up to 10 furlongs, or even over shorter – after winning five of only seven career attempts to date.
“He’s ready to go, he’s in good form and he’s done extremely well through the winter. But it’s not a bad Listed race, and he’s got to give them all a 5lb Group Three penalty,” the Newmarket trainer said.
“It’s no easy task, but on the other hand, we are very happy with him and excited to see him back on the track.
“Obviously we’re at the start of a new season, but so far we think he’s improved.
“We’re just hoping he’s come on again. A little drop of rain wouldn’t do him any harm either.”
The son of Dark Angel has always towered over the majority of his rivals, and Tate added: “Believe it or not, he has grown from four to five.
“He’s a massive, big horse and he’s been working very nicely – so we’re just looking forward to seeing him back on the track really.”
Doncaster will be informative for the future in terms of trip, and to an extent ground too.
Tate added: “It’s hard (to know) with these horses – they’re not mature until later in their lives.
“Certainly earlier in his career, we swerved fast ground – because we felt it would be likely to injure him.
“He’s a much more mature horse now.
“First run of the year, ideally we would just like nice, good ground.”
As for subsequent targets, Tate expects to be wiser after this weekend.
“We’ll just have to get Saturday out of the way,” he said.
“Sometimes these horses do stretch out a little bit, and I have got him on all race searches – thinking ‘would he get a mile and a quarter?’.
“But then, sometimes they surprise you – they get bigger and stronger and they come back to seven.”
Montatham, who had Top Rank back in third place when landing a York handicap in August, is among the opposition.
The William Haggas-trained five-year-old meets Top Rank on 6lb better terms.
Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller is an interesting runner, having his first race since finishing sixth in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer. That was the only outing in 2020 for the Bated Breath entire, who won the Jersey Stakes and Boomerang Stakes in 2019.
Juan Elcano, fifth to Kameko in the 2000 Guineas, is given an early seasonal debut by Kevin Ryan, while Richard Hannon is double-handed with Beat Le Bon and Qaysar.
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Shimmering Dawn put herself on course for all-weather championship finals day with a decisive victory in the chelmsfordcityracecourse.com Fillies’ Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford.
James Tate’s mare was sent off 15-8 favourite in the fast-track qualifier, and justified her market position with a three-quarter-length success from the front-running Amber Island.
Shimmering Dawn, second to the unexposed and potentially classy Amniarix in a similar race at Wolverhampton early last month, had little trouble going one better.
Tom Eaves had the five-year-old held up last, on her return to the Polytrack – following three previous victories at Chelmsford and a Lingfield success too when first moved back up to this seven-furlong trip in December.
Shimmering Dawn was still at the rear of the six-strong field entering the straight but, challenging wide off the bend, closed well and duly collared Amber Island inside the final furlong.
Tate confirmed the plan to head back to Lingfield for the fillies’ and mares’ championship on Good Friday, April 2 – with another attempt on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton also possible in between.
“She did it well – I thought Tom gave her a lovely, ice-cool ride,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“They weren’t going very quick, and she had to come a bit wide, but she seemed to pass them easily enough – it all looked in control.
“Chelmsford definitely suits her.”
Shimmering Dawn has proved she appreciates Lingfield too, and her major target is there.
“That’s been the plan since we kept her in training,” added Tate.
“We might possibly drop off at the seven-furlong Listed race against the boys at Wolverhampton (first) – the Lady Wulfruna, on March 13, three weeks on Saturday.
“That then still gives us three weeks from there to Good Friday.”
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Victory Heights is to head for the Ladbrokes All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championship Final without another run.
The James Tate-trained colt booked his place at Lingfield on Good Friday with victory in a fast-track qualifier at Wolverhampton in early December.
“I think he’ll go straight for the final. He goes well fresh,” said Tate.
“We toyed with that fast-track qualifier at Newcastle at the end of February.
“Bar that, there isn’t anything suitable for him, so we’ll probably just get him ready and give him a gallop at Chelmsford or somewhere and go straight for the final.”
Tate cannot wait to start off Top Rank’s 2021 turf campaign in the Doncaster Mile at the end of March.
The Newmarket handler reports the five-year-old to be thriving and is hoping he can continue to progress.
The son of Dark Angel has won five of his seven starts, with his biggest success so far coming in the Group Three Superior Mile at Haydock in September.
“He’s in great form. He’s huge – he gets bigger and bigger. He’s about 580 kilos at the moment,” said Tate.
“Fingers crossed he can progress from four to five like he has done every other year. He’s the size and stamp that should.
“We’re dying to get going, so we’ll probably turn up at the first grass meeting at Doncaster for the mile Listed race and use that as a springboard to decide what are the best Group targets for him later in the year.
“He handles a bit of mud, and there is usually at bit of mud at Doncaster. Fingers crossed, it’s a good plan.”
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Trainers have been reminded of their responsibilities regarding coronavirus protocols at their yards following claims from a leading vet that standards were slipping.
Peter Ramzan, a partner at Rossdales Veterinary Surgery in Newmarket, said he believed complacency is setting in when it comes to mask wearing and social distancing – something which has been denied by trainers in the town.
Ramzan told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “My exposure is to Newmarket yards. To date, thankfully, Newmarket has been a fairly healthy little bubble and it’s a fairly small community.
“It’s a fairly bad look for racing in general when one drives into Newmarket yards, masks are pretty thin on the ground, there are very few people wearing them.
“It’s very nuanced and all the baggage that goes with working with a tight group of people, working outdoors, doing a physical job and moving in and out, I get all of that, but it is simply the case that until now a lot of racing staff had been mixing and feeling fairly confident, which builds up a degree of feeling that you are immune.
“Staff are in tack rooms, offices, feed rooms without masks, as well as congregating in the yards with limited social distancing.
“Cases are really going up and we hear on the grapevine of cases here (Newmarket) and at the end of the day it’s a respiratory virus, so it’s a sensible thing to wear a mask.
“I don’t want to get into a big scientific debate about the benefits of wearing a mask, but it’s a pretty bad look that masks and social distancing are not being widely used in training yards.
“I think it’s fair to say a lot of trainers have done as much as they can, but it still seems like it is a cosmetic thing at the moment and it is starting to jar that racing is not quite following the lead of many other parts of the community.
“Ultimately it is about health. We’ve been privileged to have racing continue, but a lot of yard staff are elderly or vulnerable and it is only a matter of time before we start losing people, and to not do everything possible will seem pretty poor.”
Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, said: “Everybody knows the protocols. All the details are available in our daily advice to trainers on our website.
“We strongly urge trainers and their staff to follow the protocols to the letter.”
Newmarket trainer James Tate, himself a vet, insisted staff at his yard strictly adhere to protocols.
“Obviously Pete doesn’t come to our yard because as I’m a vet myself, we do the majority of our own work,” said Tate.
“We are very strict on mask wearing. I tell our lads they don’t need to wear a mask when they ride out, although some of them still do. But around the yard everyone wears them.
“There are signs up telling them to wear them at all times and to our knowledge nobody has caught Covid at our workplace.
“Obviously he must have gone into yards where people aren’t wearing masks as much to have made those comments, but I can’t really comment on that.
“Everyone can see on TV how stalls handlers manage to keep away from each other, even when they are dealing with a troublesome one. It’s all about washing hands and keeping space and even when they come together, it’s only for a split second – outside as well.
“I know there is the new variant, but as far as I know, if you are spending 99.9 per cent of your time outdoors, keep two metres apart and wear a mask then I don’t really share his concerns. But that is maybe based on my workplace and not others.
“He’s maybe trying to bring it to the attention of other workplaces who aren’t as strict. He is at more of a risk as he’s going to multiple yards and occasionally doing tricky procedures.
“At our yard people have breakfast sat in their own cars. Racing has done so well and personally I feel being outdoors helps a lot. It must be virtually impossible to socially distance 100 per cent of the time indoors.
“Everyone is right to flag it out as we must continue to be careful to keep our industry going.”
Fellow Newmarket handler Charlie Fellowes concurred, adding: “You’ve got to use a fair amount of common sense, which we try to initiate as much as possible.
“We take everyone’s temperatures as they walk into the yard on a morning and evening, they are reminded that if they feel or experience any symptoms they are not to come to work and must get a test.
“We are lucky, we have a spacious yard so it is not hard to maintain social distancing and we have signage up everywhere, we restrict people gathering in enclosed spaces.
“I feel the racing industry has done a fantastic job so far, so the last thing we want to do right now is slacken off and give people a reason to think we are being complacent, which we absolutely aren’t.
“From our yard’s perspective, we are doing everything we possibly can.”
The British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill said: “We are grateful to Mr Ramzan for raising this issue. It is essential that everyone involved in the industry takes personal responsibility for following racing and Government protocols, both at work and in their domestic lives.
“Now more than ever, it is important that everyone involved in the sport continues to play their part by following these protocols closely.
“Overall the response from racing to the strict Government and industry coronavirus protocols has been excellent. However, as the situation continues to worsen nationwide owing to the new variant of the disease, it is critical that we do not take the foot off the pedal.
“The BHA continues to work closely with racing’s stakeholder bodies and guidance has been shared with industry participants on a regular basis, both through the BHA and bodies such as the NTF, NARS and PJA.
“Racing has strict protocols in place on racedays which have helped minimise any transmission of the virus on the racecourse, with no clear evidence of onwards transmission from the 800+ fixtures which have taken place since June 1.
“However, ultimately it is up to our people to ensure they observe all the guidance, both on the racecourse and away from it. Observe social distancing, wear face coverings, wash hands, stay at home where possible and protect the NHS, and definitely do not go into work if you feel unwell – instead isolate, get tested and let the BHA know your results.”
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Top Rank is likely to be put away for the winter as connections draw a line through his disappointing performance at Newmarket.
The four-year-old colt went into the Joel Stakes in fine form, on the back of victory in the Group Three Superior Mile at Haydock, only to suffer just his second defeat from seven starts.
The Group Two contest did not go to plan, with James Tate’s charge eventually finishing last of the six runners behind 2000 Guineas winner Kameko.
“It just didn’t play to his strengths,” said Tate.
“He probably wants more of a testing race. That kind of downhill, tailwind, good ground, Newmarket didn’t really suit him, but he’s fine afterwards.
“We haven’t decided fully, but I wouldn’t have thought we’d run him again this season. I thought we’d put him away for next year.
“He’s had a good year – and hopefully he can improve over the winter.”
Top Rank is set to kick off the 2021 campaign over a mile, but Tate will consider stepping the son of Dark Angel up in trip.
“We’ll certainly start him over a mile, but there is a possibility we could try a mile and a quarter at some stage,” added the Newmarket trainer.
“That fast mile at Newmarket seemed a little on the sharp side for him.”
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Karl Burke’s Bickerstaffe tests the water at Listed level in the Shadwell Stud/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes at Ayr on Friday.
The Mayson colt made a thoroughly impressive start to his career over five furlongs at Hamilton at the start of the month and returns to Scotland for a race his trainer won with subsequent Royal Ascot heroine and dual Group One winner Quiet Reflection five years ago.
Burke said: “I wouldn’t say I was surprised he won at Hamilton, but I was a bit surprised by the manner of his performance as he’s bred to stay further than five furlongs.
“He showed a very good turn of foot, the speed figures were very good and the second horse (Cottam Lane) gave the form a bit of a boost by winning at Beverley on Wednesday.
“I’ve no doubt he’ll improve when he steps up to six furlongs as there’s plenty of stamina on the dam’s side of his pedigree, but he showed so much speed first time out we thought we’d stick at five for now and see how we go.
“Hopefully he’ll run a big race.”
The Spigot Lodge handler has a second string to his bow in the form of Rebel At Dawn. The son of Dandy Man has won just one of his seven starts to date, but has been keeping good company.
“He’s a solid horse who has shown a good level of ability,” Burke added.
“He’s probably just short of Listed class over six furlongs, but coming back to five, he deserves to take his chance.”
Richard Fahey and Kevin Ryan are represented by once-raced winners in Regional and Roman Encounter respectively.
David O’Meara’s Nomadic Empire, fourth in the Group Three Sirenia Stakes a fortnight ago, also features in a 12-strong field.
The Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies’ Stakes also carries Listed status and has attracted 17 hopefuls.
Irish trainer Fozzy Stack saddles American Lady, while the home team includes Fahey’s Exceptional and the James Tate-trained Magical Journey.
The latter has already been placed twice in Listed company, most recently on her latest outing at Pontefract last month.
Tate said: “She’s been knocking on the door in Listed company, so hopefully we’ll get there in the end.
“She’s in very good form and I’m hoping for another good run.”
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James Tate has the Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket on September 25 in mind next for Top Rank, although the weather could scupper his plan.
The rapidly-improving four-year-old was impressive at Haydock last time out in the Superior Mile, and Tate has his eyes on a crack at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day.
He would prefer that Top Rank goes to Ascot having contested a Group Two first – but the grey does not want fast ground.
“What I would like to run him in next is the Joel at Newmarket, but he wouldn’t be a fast ground horse,” said Tate.
“That’s the first possible race, so we’ll just have to take it as it comes. Other possibles are the Prix Daniel Wildenstein in France or the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket I’ve entered him in, but that’s over seven and he really would want cut in the ground for that.
“At the end of the year obviously there is the QEII but we’re looking for a Group Two next, ideally.”
Tate went on: “He came out of Haydock in very good order and is crying out for another run. I’d like that to be the Joel, but I would like to see some rain between between now and then.
“I’d rather give him a run in a Group Two before a Group One, but I can see problems in that so we could end up in a Group One straight away. Either way, I think he’s going to be some prospect next year.
“Should he win the QEII then obviously there’s a stud career to think about, but that would be a lovely conversation to have. At this stage I’m going into the autumn thinking we’re going to have fun with him next year.”
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