Tag Archive for: Luxembourg horse

Monday Musings: Shocks on the Derby Trails

So the age-old Derby formula will not be holding this year, writes Tony Stafford. Third in the 2,000 Guineas (well fourth it used to be, as I conceded last week) meant first in the Derby at Epsom, but Luxembourg is lame. He will therefore not be carrying the Coolmore/Westerberg colours into yet another very probable annexation of English racing’s most sought-after prize.

Just as well then that a legion of bench-warmers took the opportunity at Chester and Lingfield to step up into the principal positions. First it was Changingoftheguard, running all over Godolphin’s theretofore Derby second favourite, New London, in the Chester Vase. It was great to see a revitalised Ryan Moore dominating the entire three-day fixture with superlative tactical riding from start to finish.

Chester revealed Ryan back to his very best, remarkably so in the face of the continuing serious health problems of his younger brother Josh, which have brought universal messages of sympathy from all around the racing world.

Changingoftheguard won the Chester Vase by a wide margin and then, in picking up the Dee Stakes with Star Of India, the Ballydoyle team had already started stacking up the back-up squad for the first Saturday in June.

It’s probably worth mentioning that their other three runners at the meeting - the filly Thoughts Of June in the Cheshire Oaks (there’s a name to conjure with!), Temple Of Artemis in the three-year-old handicap on the Thursday, and a lone Friday runner, Cleveland, who picked up the Chester Cup almost as an after-thought - all also crossed the line in front.

Then on Saturday it was on to Lingfield for their Derby Trial and, faced by another Godolphin/Appleby/Buick favourite in Walk Of Stars, Ryan and his mount, United Nations, were comfortably the best on the day.

Paul Smith, son of Derrick, was quizzed at every call on Saturday (as was Kevin Buckley at Chester) as to where he thought the pecking order might now be behind Luxembourg, but that was before yesterday’s news that the favourite will not run. Now I’m sure if you were to ask Paul or Derrick Smith, or Michael Tabor, or John and the junior Magniers or Georg von Opel or even Peter Brant in whose colours he runs, they would all shout in unison, “Stone Age!”

Where did that colt suddenly appear from, you would be entitled to ask? Well, certainly not from the upper reaches of the Classic consciousness after his five winless, although not promise-free, runs as a juvenile.

They brought a couple of second places in Group races, notably a one-length defeat behind the James Ferguson-trained Kodiac colt El Bodegon in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud over ten furlongs in testing ground in late October. If it proved Stone Age’s stamina credentials – as if they were ever in doubt – it certainly also hurried Ferguson into the upper stratum of international racing.

El Bodegon has yet to appear since, but he has a Dante entry at York this week and then is a 25-1 shot for the Derby. That makes him ten times the price of Stone Age after a 13-length reappearance win at Navan on March 22 and then a five-and-a-half length romp in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown yesterday.

Each successive winning triallist won with authority, with Changingoftheguard and Stone Age showing the most. It will shock nobody to learn that all four colts – and the Cheshire Oaks heroine, too, are by Galileo, his famed Classic-winning genes still as effective a year on from his death at the age of 23.

Talking of Chester, only one of the five O’Brien winners was not by Galileo. Cleveland, who was stepping up a mile from his longest previous race distance to win the great staying handicap, is by Camelot, also the sire of Luxembourg. Camelot will doubtless have other chances of siring the winner of the second Classic he won.

The hardest part for any trainer is to break into the big league. Last week George Boughey won the 1,000 Guineas with Cachet and Ferguson must also be harbouring that dream, probably first imagined in the years his father John was, with Simon Crisford, at the helm of running the Godolphin interests of Sheikh Mohammed.

Another young Newmarket handler who may not be too far away from joining them is Tom Clover. On Saturday Clover took the Oaks Trial at Lingfield, his first stakes win, with the unbeaten Rogue Millennium, a bargain buy for the Rogues Gallery from the Shadwell dispersal. She was bought on the strong recommendation of her previous handler, Marcus Tregoning, who never got her to the track. A beautiful, strong daughter of Dubawi, she cost 35,000gns at auction and with her pedigree, looks and above all ability must be worth half a million!

I’d love her to win the Oaks. Tom and his wife Jackie, daughter of the late and much-missed Classic trainer Michael Jarvis, are showing signs of moving smoothly onto racing’s top table;

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One necessary ingredient in racing is luck. Another is the ability to take an opportunity when it comes along. On Friday morning in Kentucky, one of the original 20 horses in the field for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville, was withdrawn owing to a late injury.

That left the way for the 21st acceptor on the list, Rich Strike, an 80/1 shot trained by Eric Reed and ridden by the unknown South American jockey Sonny Leon, to squeeze into the line-up and race from the widest draw of all.

His two best runs this spring had been placed efforts (third and fourth) in minor stakes behind Tiz The Bomb, favoured on both occasions, each time as a 20/1 shot or longer at Turfway Park. That horse was also in Saturday’s field and started a 30/1 shot.

Race commentator Larry Colmuss couldn’t have considered him much either because the second highest-priced winner of the race in the past 110 years had already run past the two favourites into the lead before he even noticed him.

Rich Strike bolted up and afterwards his trainer, who had the mortification of losing a large part of his string, his records, trophies and memorabilia in a stable fire a few years ago, said he had been very hopeful as he knew he would stay.

I don’t know what the horse is like in his stable but I can honestly say I have never seen so graphic a sight of one horse trying literally to savage another. For several minutes as Sonny Leon was trying to participate in a post-race interview his horse was attacking the pony, despite all the efforts of that horse’s rider.

Eric Reed certainly had luck on his side when he decided to claim the colt out of a race on the same Churchill Downs track last autumn. You pay your money beforehand over there, and if they run badly you have to bite the bullet.

Eric Reed and his owners didn’t have a bullet to bite, just the thrill of seeing the horse, bred and raced in the famed Calumet Farm colours, romp home by more than 17 lengths. Even then, thoughts of the Kentucky Derby must have been some way from even their optimistic minds.

It is hard not to sympathise with the jockey who rode him that day. That young man had to endure each of the two days of the meeting riding a single unfancied and unsighted horse, before watching the Derby. An Englishman who between 2010 and 2017 rode between a high of 39 and low of 15 wins over those eight seasons, he left for a new career in the US the following year.

Initially his move to the US brought great success and by early December 2018 he had ridden well over 50 winners, enough to put him second in the Fair Grounds, Louisiana, jockey standings.

No doubt he would never have expected to have ridden a Kentucky Derby winner in that horse’s only previous career win. The way Rich Strike finished on his return to Churchill Downs offers hope that the winning will not stop there.

Anyway, have you guessed the identity of the jockey? I think I’ d like to delay the revelation to allow me what I have always thought was the funniest moment ever at a disciplinary inquiry in the UK. Up before the terrifying if slightly out-of-touch gentleman in charge of the inquiry, upon being asked for his name, our hero said: “Beschizza” which the gent misinterpreted as “Biscuit, sir”. “Well Mr Biscuit,” he began. No wonder Adam of that name thought he’d better go elsewhere to ply his trade.

A nephew of Julia Feilden, he’s very much from a racing background and if he hasn’t quite made the big time in the US he will always be able to tell his grandchildren of the day he rode the horse that was to win the Kentucky Derby to a 17-length win also at Churchill Downs.

- TS

Monday Musings: Of Ryan, and Raiding Parties

“It’s a long way to Tipperary”, the first world war British army recruits used to sing as they trudged along the blasted fields of France, writes Tony Stafford. More than a century later, Ryan Moore fitted in an afternoon there sandwiched in between two successful days in Surrey, with a winner apiece at Epsom and Sandown Park.

Tipperary also provided a victory for Aidan O’Brien on Thursday but when the private jet touched down for its second Irish hop for Navan on Saturday, the serious business began. It is, after all, Guineas week – yes April 30th rather than the first Saturday in May - and the barely started flat-race season will be two-fifths of the way through the 2022 Classic races by May Day.

If we needed a sign that O’Brien senior, like his main adversary for the first Classic, Charlie Appleby, has his team in form, then Navan would tell us. Before the meeting Ryan told a mutual friend that all the maidens would run well.

In the event Ryan got on three of O’Brien’s five winners, Aidan matching stay-at-home Paul Nicholls’ tally on the final day of yet another victorious jumps championship at Sandown. Understandably, Nicholls preferred saving his best horses for the two four-runner and one five-runner highly-priced (if not as highly-prized as the swollen jumps pattern would wish) contests largely free from Irish interference. *Note: If you would like a detailed, reasoned evocation of the negative effect on the sport of the ever-growing jumps pattern, read editor Matt Bisogno’s highly informed piece on the subject.

Where the Irish did challenge, in the £90k to the winner Bet365 Gold Cup (nee Whitbread), they mopped up the prize, via 16/1 shot Hewick, trained by Shark Hanlon. Why he, of the flaming ginger hair, should be called “Shark” remains a mystery to me.

Indeed why he alone should have that designation when so many of his compatriots make an equally skilled job of matching and bettering his exploits by turning equine base metal into gold is probably a case for the Monopolies Commission, assuming of course that his nickname was acquired from his training days. But then it sometimes feels like there are other aspects of Irish stables’ domination of the major British jumps prizes every season that need referring to that body. All else seems to be failing as this year’s early false dawn at Cheltenham soon reverted to the usual bloodbath for the home team.

As a domestic aperitif to their top teams’ coming over at the weekend to Newmarket, there is the small matter of Punchestown, five days starting tomorrow and concluding on the day the 2,000 Guineas welcomes Luxembourg from the Coolmore boys to challenge the two prime Godolphin candidates, red-hot favourite Native Trail and market second-best, Coroebus.

Coroebus’ style had many admirers on the day he and Native Trail both won their 2021 finales, the favourite in the Dewhurst and the back-up in a lesser race.

But Native Trail is the only unbeaten colt of the pair, a distinction shared by Luxembourg and just two others from the 24 that stood their ground before the field is whittled down once more at noon today. I dealt with the case of William Knight’s Checkandchallenge, winner of a deep race at Newcastle last weekend. Coincidentally the other unbeaten colt is also trained in Newmarket, in his case by David Simcock. He is Light Infantry, twice a winner last year, and like Checkandchallenge, a son of the deceased Fast Company.

At the time he was in training as a juvenile with Brian Meehan, Fast Company showed many of the attributes of a potential Classic winner, but after an excellent half-length second in the 2007 Dewhurst behind the following year’s Derby winner, New Approach, he never raced again.

I was a regular on Thursday work mornings at Manton in those days and it was a great disappointment to Brian when Fast Company was sold to Godolphin and sent to be trained by Saeed bin Suroor. If either of these relative longshots wins on Saturday it will be a long-awaited accolade for a horse that had been under-valued for all his stud career despite being in the care of Darley throughout.

In the manner of such things, now Fast Company’s son Checkandchallenge has inevitably been attracting interest from people who could more easily shrug off the disappointment of a below-expectation run in the race – be that fourth or eighth as anything better would be a triumph - than Mr Hetherton whose colours he has carried hitherto.

I recall a last-minute pre-Derby sale by Karl Burke around a decade ago that probably made all the difference financially to his training career which at the time looked to be stalling or probably worse. I hope this very smart, sweet-travelling colt does his owner (whoever he may be on the day) and his talented trainer proud.

I make no apology for interjecting here on the Nicholls plans for Punchestown this year which are miserly in the extreme. Nicholls has never been as enthusiastic a Punchestown challenger as Nicky Henderson – I travelled to see Punjabi at the meeting four years in a row for two wins, a nose second and a pulled up (wind).

At time of writing on Sunday afternoon, Clan Des Obeaux, the impressive Aintree winner, is ranged alongside Allaho, Minella Indo, Galvin and Al Boum Photo in Wednesday’s Punchestown Gold Cup. He is a 3-1 shot, a short-enough price for all the domination of Aintree if that quartet turns up.

The only other possible for the UK jumps champ is Monmiral, slated to take on the two wonderful mares Honeysuckle and Epatante, the latter another Aintree winner, in her case over further. With around €160K to the winner in each of a dozen Grade 1 races over the five days, you would think sending a horse with place chances might be worth the risk even for cautious Paul.

Yet tomorrow’s card, worth in all €735k, hasn’t attracted a single English, Welsh or Scottish challenger. It will be great to watch on Racing TV all week but with the wistful thought that surely things should be different.

Back in the Guineas, Camelot, by Montjeu rather than the more influential Galileo (both sons of Sadler’s Wells) but hardly his inferior in terms of producing Derby winners, is Luxembourg’s sire.

When asked about his abilities, Aidan O’Brien said he has superior speed to Camelot, a horse that just saw off French Fifteen in an epic battle for the 2,000 Guineas ten years ago. He followed up in the Derby and the much-sought third leg of the Triple Crown was denied O’Brien and son Joseph when Camelot lost the St Leger by three-quarters of a length to Encke, a horse trained by the subsequently disgraced Mahmood Al Zarooni for Godolphin.

That was Camelot’s first defeat after five successive wins and prevented the first English Triple Crown since Nijinsky graced the 1970 season for an earlier O’Brien – the revered Vincent.

It's always great when the champion two-year-old gravitates to winning the 2,000 Guineas and after his bloodless Craven Stakes return that is entirely possible. Charlie has the horse with the form, but Luxembourg has the Coolmore badge all over him, not just on the sire’s side, but the dam is by Danehill Dancer, a sprinter that ran in Michael Tabor’s colours but far exceeded his decent racing ability when sent to stud.

The mare Attire provides another major link to the glorious past of Ballydoyle. Ben Sangster, her owner-breeder, is of course a son of the late Robert Sangster whose inheritance from his Vernons Pools-owning father funded the domination of the international bloodstock market in the 1980’s and 90’s. Along with Vincent’s supreme training skills and the business acumen and animal husbandry of Vincent’s son-in-law, John Magnier, they were an unbeatable partnership for more than two decades.

I’m with Luxembourg to prove on Saturday that blood is thicker than form lines and take him and Ryan, not to mention Aidan and the Coolmore team, to beat Native Trail with the underdog Checkandchallenge coming from the pack late on to clinch third. Easy, really, this flat racing.

I have loved the 2021-22 jumps season as my little daily job editing fromthestables.com which involves sharing the thoughts of around 15 trainers, ended with a nice win in the William Hill Radio Naps table. The 2022 summer table started yesterday and we were off to a flier when Rogue Millennium won for Tom Clover at 9/2. Only seven months to go!

- TS