Posts

Bell ponders Park Hill option for Heartbreaker

Michael Bell may step Heartbreaker up markedly in class for the Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes at Doncaster.

The Newmarket trainer is considering Thursday’s Group Two over the St Leger course and distance for the progressive daughter of Cable Bay.

However, he has also given her an alternative entry in the Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Persian Punch Conditions Stakes at Salisbury the following day.

Bell has been impressed by the four-year-old’s improvement in such a short time – because she was a late starter, making a winning debut in a bumper at Fakenham in March.

After then being well beaten in a Grade Two bumper at Aintree in April, Heartbreaker was not seen out again until the end of July when she got off the mark over hurdles.

Bell has since switched her to the Flat, and she was again successful at her first attempt when taking a novice auction event at Wolverhampton by seven lengths – after which she was bought privately by King Power Racing.

“She could go to Doncaster, but she’s also got an entry in the Persian Punch Stakes at Salisbury,” said Bell.

“We’ll have a look at the entries for both, and then take a view.

“She’s come a long way in the last six months.”

Bell also has high hopes for Improvise, who opened her account on her second start at Haydock on Friday.

The two-year-old, owned by the Queen, benefited greatly from her racecourse bow at Newmarket last month to land a battling head success over a mile.

“She’s a nice filly going forward,” said Bell.

“She’s very similar to her mother, Set To Music, and hopefully she’ll make into a nice middle-distance filly.

“She had a real good blow after Newmarket. I think she went there quite under-cooked in hindsight, and she’s come on a lot.

“There are no immediate plans for her.”

Tardis out of this world for Bell at Newbury

Tardis looks a filly on the up after flying home late to win the Listed BetVictor St Hugh’s Stakes at Newbury.

Michael Bell’s charge was a winner over five and a half furlongs at Bath last time out, and back down at the minimum trip she needed every yard to get up and win by a neck.

With a furlong to run the 11-1 chance looked to face a stiff task as a handful of horses were still in front of her, with Oisin Murphy on the far side of the track.

However, as Attagirl, who was attempting to make all, began to drift to her right, a gap opened up and Murphy did not need asking twice, as Tardis quickened smartly and began eating up the ground, eventually prevailing by a head.

The 2-1 favourite Delmona was a length away in third.

Bell said: “She’d been going well into the race and we’d been very happy with her preparation since Bath.

“Obviously she didn’t have the ideal passage through, but she showed a really good attitude and a turn of foot to get the job done.

“It was trainer error that she was beaten on her second start. She made a nice debut behind Ed’s (Dunlop) filly (Bellarena Lady, 10th on this occasion) but then I ran her back too quick at Haydock, only 10 days later.

“I then gave her a break and brought her back for Bath and gave her another break before bringing her back for this, she’s not a filly you can bounce into races.

“She’s got black type now. My son Nick (assistant) bought her and I’m sure he’ll have his own idea about plans and the Flying Childers might be an option, but she’s not a filly you’d run on autumn ground, she must have a decent surface as she’s not very big.

“I could see her making up into a decent little sprinter next year. Margot Did wasn’t very big and she trained on to win a Nunthorpe at three. Size doesn’t always matter.”

Spanish Star (right) was part of a double for the red-hot David Probert
Spanish Star (right) was part of a double for the red-hot David Probert (John Walton/PA)

Bell was among the winners at Goodwood with Prince Alex, who was making his stable debut. He holds an entry in the Sky Bet Ebor, but is highly unlikely to make the cut.

“The race I’ve got in mind for him is the Old Borough Cup at Haydock. He must have some cut in the ground and they usually get it there,” said Bell.

Murphy later doubled up on Andrew Balding’s Neenee’s Choice (100-30) in the Christopher Smith Associates Handicap. Balding had already taken the opening six-furlong maiden with Dubai Jewel (5-1).

The red-hot David Probert secured another double which took his tally to 10 winners in the past three days following his exploits at Ffos Las – which included a five-timer on Wednesday and a treble on Thursday.

He struck first on Patrick Chamings’ Spanish Star (17-2) in the Download The BetVictor App Handicap and was then seen to great effect on Rod Millman’s Amazonian Dream (13-2).

On a horse who had thrown away races at the start in the past, he was nurtured into contention by Probert before nabbing Russelinthebushes right on the line.

Island Bandit was a 125-1 winner for Heather Main
Island Bandit was a 125-1 winner for Heather Main (John Walton/PA)

Earlier, Heather Main’s Island Bandit was a 125-1 winner of the first division of the BetVictor EBF Maiden Stakes.

With representatives from the Gosden, Haggas and Balding yards it looked an up-to-scratch maiden and there was no fluke about it as Jack Mitchell brought him through to beat Park Street by three-quarters of a length.

Summer special from Prince Alex

Michael Bell’s new recruit Prince Alex just got the better of Urban Artist to win the £100,000 Summer Handicap at Goodwood.

Trained to win five times last year by Ralph Beckett, he was moved to Bell’s Newmarket stable by owners Amo Racing after his defeat at HQ last time out.

That came on good ground, though, and he clearly much prefers to get his toe in so the rain which hit Goodwood before racing was very welcome.

Ridden by the owner’s retained jockey Rossa Ryan, who elected to stay towards the middle of the course while champion jockey Oisin Murphy directed Hughie Morrison’s Urban Artist towards the far rail, there was only a neck between them at the line. Future Investment finished third.

“We have not had the horse long, credit has got to go to Ralph and the team at Kimpton for preparing him,” said Bell’s son and assistant, Nick.

“It shows what a good constitution the horse has to be able to move stable early on in the week and then come and perform like he did today. He seemed to really relish that soft ground and stays very well.

“He’s been very laid back, hasn’t missed an oat in the feed bin, seems a very pleasant horse to have around the place and a nice addition to the yard.

“He has only won a short head today, so I don’t think he is going to go up enough to get in the Ebor and he is quite ground dependent. I’d say we’ll go wherever the weather takes us, but I believe this has been the plan for a while. It is nice for the horse’s sake that he got this head in front.

“I am sure he is a horse that is going to get better with age.”

Ryan, enjoying his second winner at this year’s meeting, said: “I was very happy this morning when I saw all the rain coming. Prince Alex has been crying out for it really.

“He ran a good race considering a lot of things went wrong for me the last day at Newmarket, but I knew that if I could get him to relax then he would always come home for me.

“My only worry was that he only does enough, he’s not a straightforward push-button job.

“He half rallied again in the last half-furlong when he spotted the other horse. I always thought I had everyone covered.

“He’s a lovely horse and, after the year he had last year, he’s back on track.”

Platform to build on for returning Bell ace

Platform Nineteen made a winning comeback at Beverley after a 648-day absence from the racecourse.

Contesting the two-mile 135th Year Of The Watt Memorial Handicap, the chestnut was running for the first time since October 2019 after injury ended a successful three-year-old campaign that saw him victorious in four successive races.

Now five and clearly retaining both his ability and enthusiasm, the Michael Bell-trained gelding breezed to a five-and-a-half-length victory under Clifford Lee after starting at a price of 5-1.

“It was a fantastic training performance,” said Harry Herbert, racing manager to owners the Royal Ascot Racing Club.

“He was on a very steep upward curve and then injury blighted him.

“He was off for all of that time, since Ascot in 2019, and you never know how they will come back as they obviously change and develop through the absence.

“It was absolutely remarkable to get him back like that, a huge round of applause is due to Michael Bell and all of the Fitzroy House team because it really is extraordinary.”

The five-furlong Taff Sarginson Memorial Handicap went the way of Adrian Keatley’s Twice Adaay, who benefited from the application of cheekpieces to take the contest when piloted by jockey Harry Russell.

The victory was a first for the filly, who has largely been campaigned on the all-weather thus far, and she lost her maiden tag convincingly when crossing the line two and a quarter lengths ahead of Elzaal at 6-1.

“We were delighted with her,” Keatley said.

“She showed potential a while a go, but it’s just taken her a few runs, the track suited today as well as the ground and everything came together.

“I think the draw helped more than the cheekpieces.

“My horses have been running well without winning for a while now, including this one, so hopefully this can be the start of turning a corner as we’ve a lot of catching up to do.”

Division one of the Racing TV EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes was claimed by debutant La Feile (14-1) as she made her first racecourse experience a winning one when registering a length and a quarter victory.

Trained by Richard Fahey and ridden by Paul Hanagan, the Aclaim filly was impressive when beating Karl Burke’s twice-winner Sophie’s Star.

“That was lovely and she’ll have learned a lot from it as well,” Hanagan said.

“They went quite hard early on and she just struggled to find her feet, but once she found the top gear she really motored home.

“To win first time out is a big achievement, she’s still very green and raw so there’s a lot to improve on after today.”

May Blossom was victorious in division two of the Racing TV EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes for Danny Tudhope and David O’Meara, striking at 9-2 to claim her second success by three-quarters of a length.

The Dr Eddie Moll Handicap was won by Tim Easterby’s Ugo Gregory, who went off the 11-10 favourite and duly triumphed under David Allan when crossing the line three and a quarter lengths ahead of Roger Fell’s Medicine Jack.

Clodovea then gave the trainer and jockey combination a quickfire double as the filly struck when evens favourite to take the Racing Again Next Monday Evening Nursery Handicap by a neck from Ben Haslam’s On The River.

The 25th Year Of The Hurn Racing Club Handicap, run over 10 furlongs, went the way of Berry Edge (7-1) for Connor Beasley and Michael Dods, with the Pro Versus Am Female Jockeys’ Handicap then taken by Contrast (7-1) for Joanna Mason and Mick and David Easterby.

Great Max stakes Chesham claim with triumphant Newbury bow

Great Max appears to have earned himself a last-minute ticket to Royal Ascot after making a winning debut for Michael Bell in the Betfair Racing…Only Bettor Podcast Novice Stakes at Newbury.

A 260,000 guineas yearling purchase for owners Amo Racing Limited, the Wootton Bassett colt was a 4-1 shot for his racecourse introduction over six and a half furlongs in Berkshire.

Having been ridden prominently throughout, Jack Mitchell’s mount displayed a smart change of gear to get up and beat the wayward Harrow by three-quarters of a length – setting up an intended tilt at the Chesham Stakes on Saturday week.

Winning trainer Michael Bell said: “He’s been working well at home and we were hopeful that he could do something like that.

“Provided he takes the race all right and eats up and trains well next week, he’ll run in the Chesham.

“There haven’t been many suitable maidens to run him in, but we’d had this plan in mind for a while.

“Phase one has gone according to plan, so if all goes well for the next week, we’ll head for Ascot.”

Sylvester Kirk admitted relief was his overriding emotion after Seattle Rock (5-2) made the most of having her sights lowered in division one of the Betfair British EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

The daughter of Fastnet Rock was placed in the Chesham at Ascot, the Sweet Solera at Newmarket and the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood as a juvenile last season.

Having also been set two demanding tests this spring – finishing down the field in the Nell Gwyn and the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket – Seattle Rock had far less on her plate at Newbury and duly opened her account with a two-length verdict under Ryan Moore.

“Relief is key,” said Kirk.

“You always worry when you’re taking a filly that’s been highly tried with decent form and a reasonable mark back into a maiden or a novice, so it’s nice the way she’s done it.

“It’s especially good that she’s done it over a mile because her form is obviously better over shorter.”

Seattle Rock stretches clear at Newbury
Seattle Rock stretches clear at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “It will be interesting to see how the handicapper assesses the form. Ryan was reasonably complimentary about her, so we’ll sit down with Jeff (Smith, owner) and work out a plan from here on.

“She has nice black type already and it’s nice to get the maiden tag off her.”

Division two was a much closer run affair, with the William Haggas-trained Evident Beauty and Tom Marquand getting the better of fellow 5-2 joint-favourite Subtle Beauty by a neck.

Bell targets Royal Ascot repeat with The Lir Jet

Michael Bell will choose between the Commonwealth Cup and Jersey Stakes as The Lir Jet bids to win at Royal Ascot for the second successive year.

The three-year-old was not at his best when last seen finishing 10th of 10 in the Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock last month.

That run followed his third on seasonal comeback at Newbury in April, in the Greenham Stakes.

Bell could find no obvious reason for the colt’s below-par Haydock performance, and has reached the conclusion that the heavy ground interfered with his stride when jockey Oisin Murphy made a challenge at the furlong pole.

“Haydock was an absolute mystery – because we scoped him, blood-tested him and had him checked over by the vet afterwards, and we couldn’t find anything wrong,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“For me, he just lost his action in that very deep ground.

“He travelled well – and as soon as Oisin asked him to quicken, his back end seemed to go. Since the race, he’s been great and training really well.”

The Lir Jet’s highest-profile victory to date was at the Royal meeting last summer, when he won the Group Two Norfolk Stakes by a neck.

Bell is weighing up this year’s options, over six furlongs in the Commonwealth Cup and seven in the Jersey.

“He’s certainly got form over seven furlongs in the Greenham, which was a very solid run,” he said.

“He ran very well over a mile in the Breeders’ Cup, so I think he could get a mile around a bend again. His trip is between six and seven furlongs, but I don’t want to be completely tied to it.

“There’s been many horses who have repeat good form at the track. It’s a strange surface, especially the straight track – there’s a membrane under the grass, and certain horses seem to really take to it.

“You get many horses that back up year in year out, so I’m hoping he can be one of them.”

The Lir Jet ready for lift-off in Juvenile Turf

Connections of The Lir Jet are confident he will not be inconvenienced by a step up to a mile in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Michael Bell’s charge narrowly outpointed Wesley Ward’s Juvenile Turf Sprint favourite Golden Pal in the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, before being touched off by Richard Hannon’s Ventura Tormenta in the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly over six furlongs.

The Lir Jet finished second again on his next start in the Phoenix Stakes, before placing fifth in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

The Qatar Racing-owned colt will be going two furlongs further than he has been before at Keeneland, but is reported to have arrived in Kentucky at the top of his game.

David Redvers, racing manager for owners Qatar Racing, said: “Both the trainer and jockey (Oisin Murphy) believe the trip won’t be an issue for him.

“He’s in very good form. He did a nice piece of work before he went out and they say he’s travelled out extremely well and is taking everything in his stride, which is half the battle.”

The Lir Jet is a general 33-1 shot for his Breeders’ Cup assignment, with Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground the 9-2 favourite.

The strong European challenge is completed by Ralph Beckett’s pair of New Mandate and Devilwala together with the Jessica Harrington-trained Cadillac, plus the French duo of Sealiway and Go Athletico.

The Lir Jet set for Newmarket lift-off in Middle Park

Saturday’s Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket is next on the agenda for The Lir Jet after connections opted to sidestep an engagement at Doncaster.

A narrow winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Michael Bell’s star juvenile has since finished second in both the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly and the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

The Qatar Racing-owned colt was due to revert to five furlongs for the Group Two Flying Childers Stakes on Town Moor, but was declared a non-runner on the morning of the race and he will now bid for Group One honours on the Rowley Mile.

Bell said: “We just felt five furlongs on drying ground wouldn’t necessarily be his thing. We had the Middle Park as an alternative and, all being well, we’ll head to Newmarket.

“I’m sure it will be a very good race, but the horse is in very good form and good order, so we’re looking forward to it.

“Hopefully Newmarket will produce a nice, safe surface for everybody, which I’m sure they will.”