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Glen Shiel ‘in great form’ for July Cup assignment

Glen Shiel will be the first leg of what could be a famous Group One double attempt this weekend for owners Hambleton Racing, as he goes for gold in the Darley July Cup.

With his Archie Watson-trained stablemate Mehmento due to contest the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on Sunday, the syndicate members are certainly getting value for money.

In Glen Shiel’s case he arguably sets the standard at Newmarket on Saturday, having won on Champions Day last year and finished a narrow second in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot.

“That was him right back at his best and I think he stripped a good deal fitter for his run in Ireland,” said Hambleton’s Simon Turner.

Glen Shiel was Hollie Doyle's first Group One winner
Glen Shiel was Hollie Doyle’s first Group One winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in great form at home, but obviously it looks a really good renewal this year.

“He’ll be there to do his best and hopefully run well. Needless to say we wouldn’t be too upset if we saw a lot of the possible rain fall, but Archie is adamant that he doesn’t need desperate ground to run very well.

“It’s going to be a big field and with the three-year-olds coming in it does look a really strong race, so it will be interesting to see how the younger ones match up against their elders.

“What we do know is that if it does rain it won’t affect us, whereas some of them might not be at their best.”

Mehmento impressed when winning at Epsom on Derby day
Mehmento impressed when winning at Epsom on Derby day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mehmento fared less well at Ascot when beaten in the Jersey Stakes – but had previously won a Listed race at Epsom, together with finishing second in the Greenham at Newbury.

“I suspect we’ll run Mehmento in France in the Prix Jean Prat over seven furlongs. I think it’s the plan,” said Turner.

“He does have other options, but at this moment Archie is leaning towards France.

“It’s an amazing weekend for us with two Group One runners – it’s what it’s all about.”

Hambleton lining up dual Ascot assault with Shiel and Mehmento

Glen Shiel and Mehmento will fly the flag for the Hambleton Racing Syndicate at Royal Ascot next week – but the team has been reduced by the sale of Twilight Spinner.

Already a Group One winner at the track, Glen Shiel will be running in the Diamond Jubilee for Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle, with Mehmento representing the same connections in the Jersey Stakes.

However, Twilight Spinner, a hugely impressive winner of a Haydock Listed race last time out, has been sold to Scott Heider and will join Joseph O’Brien.

“Glen Shiel is in great order at home. He’s tightened up a lot, Hollie is very happy and Archie is delighted with him, so we’re very much looking forward to running him,” said Hambleton’s racing manager Simon Turner.

Hollie Doyle is overcome with emotion after Glen Shiel provided her with a first Group One
Hollie Doyle is overcome with emotion after Glen Shiel provided her with a first Group One (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I think as much as anything he thrived on a really busy schedule last year and after a fair break – he’s probably quite a stuffy horse – he just needed the run in Ireland first time out. He’ll be better for that race.

“When you look back at where he came from last season, running in handicaps over seven furlongs and he’d been running over further the season before that, it appeared worth a try with him sprinting. There was no stopping him once he did.”

Mehmento went close in the Greenham first time out before disappointing in the French Guineas, but he got his season back on track with an easy win in a Listed race at Epsom last week.

“You’d like to think he’ll be going to the Jersey with a good chance,” said Turner.

Mehmento powers away to win at Epsom on Oaks day
Mehmento powers away to win at Epsom on Oaks day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He ran a great race for one so inexperienced in the Greenham, France didn’t work out for a variety of factors, but he was very much back to himself last week and never looked in any danger to my eye.

“He probably ran to a similar level to the Greenham and that would be knocking on the door in the Jersey. He might need to raise it to win, but he’s not got many miles on the clock.

“Archie has the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville as a target for him, so we’d like to think he’ll go very well in the Jersey.”

It is a small but select team for Hambleton, which has been reduced by one this week.

“We’ve only got the two runners. We probably would have run Twilight Spinner in the Commonwealth Cup, but she has been sold to race for Joseph O’Brien,” said Turner.

“She is clearly a very smart filly and we wish her new connections all the best with her.

“She was bought as a yearling for £30,000, she’s returned a handsome profit for her owners and we genuinely wish Mr (Scott) Heider all the success with her.”

Jersey Stakes appeals to Mehmento camp

The Jersey Stakes is Mehmento’s most likely Royal Ascot target.

Archie Watson’s dual Southwell winner ran a huge race on his turf debut at Newbury in April – pushing Chindit all the way in the Greenham Stakes to earn himself a shot at Classic glory in the French 2000 Guineas.

He was ultimately well-beaten in Paris, but got his season back on track with a clear-cut victory in the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom on Friday – and will bid to follow up at next week’s showpiece meeting in Berkshire.

Mehmento holds an entry in the Group One Commonwealth Cup on Friday week, but is more likely to run over seven furlongs the following afternoon.

Reflecting on his Epsom triumph, Cosmo Charlton, head racing manager for owners Hambleton Racing, said: “We were hoping he could do that, and he got the job done really well.

“We’d gone over to the French Guineas hopeful, so it was lovely to see him bounce back at Epsom.

“We’re looking towards Royal Ascot with him now – probably most likely for the Jersey, but also considering the Commonwealth Cup.

“I think Archie is probably leaning towards the Jersey at the moment, but we’re keeping an open mind.”

Mehmento is one of two Hambleton-owned horses bound for the Royal meeting, with Glen Shiel primed for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

The seven-year-old provided jockey Hollie Doyle with her first Group One success when landing the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October – and blew away any cobwebs when fourth on his seasonal reappearance in Ireland last month.

“Mehmento and Glen Shiel will be going to Ascot for us – Glen Shiel will be going for the Diamond Jubilee,” Charlton added.

“Glen Shiel is in very good form, and we’ll see how he goes on quicker ground – because it looks like that’s what we’re going to get, looking at the weather forecast.”

Mehmento books Royal Ascot ticket in Surrey Stakes

Mehmento delivered on his early-season promise to take Listed honours in the Play Coral ‘Racing-Super-Series’ For Free Surrey Stakes.

Hollie Doyle – completing an Epsom double after the earlier success of Corazon Espinado – was always going sweetly on the Archie Watson-trained favourite.

Runner-up in the Greenham Stakes and tried last time out in the French 2000 Guineas, the Mehmas colt was briefly threatened by Legal Attack but quickly eased clear when asked, winning by a ready two and three-quarter lengths as the 11-8 favourite.

Watson said: “I was delighted with him. We were quite worried about the ground because he hadn’t picked up on bad ground in France in the French Guineas, but Hollie said he handled it.

“He was always travelling well on it and at least now we know for the future.

“He stays the seven very well and I think he’s going to be versatile. I think he’s got the speed for six but on better ground he’ll get a mile as well.

“He’s shown today what he can do. I think he’s a serious horse. He’s one of the best I’ve trained.

“He’ll go to Ascot. We’ll have to have a few discussions on which race he’ll go for. It will either be the Commonwealth Cup or the Jersey, and the Jean Prat will probably be his main summer aim in France.”

Mehmento fires Classic dream for Hambleton Racing

A group of Hambleton Racing’s syndicate owners are dreaming of Classic success in Paris this weekend as bargain-buy Mehmento bids for glory in the French 2000 Guineas.

Bought for just £14,000 at last year’s breeze-up sales, the Archie Watson-trained colt was hugely impressive in winning his first two starts on the all-weather at Southwell, earning him a step up in class for last month’s Greenham Stakes at Newbury.

The decision to pitch the Mehmas colt in at Group Three level on his turf debut was fully vindicated as he was beaten just a neck into second by Richard Hannon’s Chindit, who has since finished fifth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Mehmento is now set to test the water Group One level in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Watson said: “Mehmento took a big step up in class in his stride and ran a huge race in the Greenham.

“I’ve been very happy with him at home since Newbury. The track at Longchamp should suit him, and it’s very exciting to have our first Classic runner.”

Mehmento has nine owners who are spread out from Scotland to West Sussex.

Simon Turner, director of racing for the Hambleton team, reports much excitement as they aim for further top-level honours following the success of Glen Shiel on Champions Day at Ascot last season.

“We were the only syndicate in Europe to win a Group One race last year and also enjoyed stakes winners in France and Ireland,” said Turner.

“We’re selling a dream when syndicating these horses, and horses like Glen Shiel and Mehmento are making that dream a reality.”

2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is on course for a Classic double
2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is on course for a Classic double (John Walton/PA)

Mehmento’s potential rivals this weekend include Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas hero Poetic Flare and Aidan O’Brien’s champion two-year-old from last season St Mark’s Basilica.

Turner added: “Sunday will be a big thrill for our owners to see their horse racing in a Classic against last year’s champion two-year-old and this year’s (English) 2000 Guineas winner in France.”

Mehmento will be ridden by Adam McNamara, who is quarantining locally before the race.

The Lir Jet (left) winning at Royal Ascot last year
The Lir Jet (left) winning at Royal Ascot last year (Julian Finney/PA)

There were 13 remaining contenders for the French 2000 Guineas following Wednesday’s latest forfeit stage – but among them, Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet will skip the race in favour of the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock next week.

David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing who part-own The Lir Jet with RacehorseClub, said: “Having discussed with Michael Bell and the team at RacehorseClub, we have decided that the best route for The Lir Jet is to target the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot on Friday 18 June, taking in the Sandy Lane at Haydock on route.

“As a result, he will not be declared for the French 2000 Guineas this Sunday.”

Mehmento in line for French Guineas bid after fine Greenham effort

A tilt at Classic glory in the French 2000 Guineas could be next on the agenda for Mehmento following his narrow defeat in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Sunday.

The Hambleton Racing-owned colt faced a big step up in class for the Group Three contest, having registered two wide-margin wins on the all-weather at Southwell since the turn of the year.

However, the Archie Watson-trained son of Mehmas proved he is a horse of considerable potential with an excellent effort in defeat – looking the likely winner after kicking clear under Hollie Doyle before being run down late by Richard Hannon’s hot favourite Chindit.

Cosmo Charlton, Hambleton Racing’s head racing manager, said: “The owners are absolutely flying and they were certainly flying at the furlong pole, that’s for sure!

“He broke really well and travelled great and when Hollie asked him to pick up, he put a couple of lengths between himself and the Coventry winner (Nando Parrado) in a couple of strides, which is the sign of a good horse.

“We thought we might have won it a furlong out, but we got picked up by a possible Guineas winner.

“Hollie couldn’t have been happier with our horse. She said he’s got a willing attitude and puts his head down – he’s the perfect horse to own and train in terms of attitude.

“He was unraced a handful of weeks ago, so he’s open to further improvement.”

While Chindit is bound for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday week, Mehmento is more likely to contest the French equivalent the following weekend.

“We’ve done some work on his stride pattern and that is suggesting he wants seven furlongs to a mile, so that’s where we’re looking at the moment, rather than coming back in trip,” Charlton added.

“Looking ahead, Archie is thinking of the French 2000 Guineas. He just thinks it’s a little bit of a sharper test than Newmarket and the ground might also be more suitable.

“He handled that watered ground very well, but he obviously handles the surface at Southwell well, so it if it was on the soft side of good in France it could suit him even better.

“You never say never as far as Newmarket is concerned, but I think we’re very much looking forward to the French Guineas as the nature of the race might be a bit better for him.”

Outbox is another high-class performer for Hambleton Racing
Outbox is another high-class performer for Hambleton Racing (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mehmento was one of two Hambleton-owned horses to run well at Newbury, with his stablemate Outbox finishing third behind the impressive Al Aasy in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes, better known as the John Porter.

Charlton said: “We were getting the vibes that the winner was a Group One horse, so we have no problems getting beaten by him.

“Hollie was really happy with our horse and he’s cemented himself as a proper Listed/Group Three performer.

“He’s going to go for a Listed race at Ascot in a few weeks’ time and we’ll see where we go from there, but I think he’s a horse you could travel abroad with for opportunities as well.”

Trainer Archie Watson
Trainer Archie Watson (Simon Cooper/PA)

Charlton was keen to credit Watson for purchasing both horses for relatively modest sums, adding: “Outbox cost £16,000 and Mehmento was £14,000.

“Outbox is worth a lot more than that now and Mehmento is probably worth a small fortune, I’d have thought. Happy days.

“It was great to have two Group-race runners running so well.”