Shimmering Dawn on top at Chelmsford

Shimmering Dawn put herself on course for all-weather championship finals day with a decisive victory in the 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.”

Tate plotting direct route to Finals Day for Victory Heights

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.”

Newmarket vet raises concerns surrounding mask wearing in yards

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.

A masked groom and his charge at Nottingham races last summer
A masked groom and his charge at Nottingham races last summer (Tim Goode/PA)

“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.”

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Jockeys sporting masks at Kempton Park racecourse
Jockeys sporting masks at Kempton Park racecourse (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.

Newmarket trainer James Tate is also a qualified vet
Newmarket trainer James Tate is also a qualified vet (Simon Cooper/PA)

“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.

Trainer Charlie Fellowes insists yards are doing all they can
Trainer Charlie Fellowes insists yards are doing all they can (Simon Cooper/PA)

“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.”

Tate hopes Top Rank can improve again next year

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.”

Bickerstaffe bids for Rosebery honours at Ayr

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.”

Newmarket could be next for QEII contender Top Rank

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.”