Tag Archive for: Monday Musings

Monday Musings: Charlie’s Guineas Hat-Trick

He might have got the 2,000 Guineas the wrong way round for UK punters, but Native Trail’s defeat by stable-mate Coroebus left the way clear for the vanquished Newmarket favourite to gain his own piece of Classic hardware at The Curragh on Saturday, writes Tony Stafford.

In between, of course, Charlie Appleby, who trains both colts for Godolphin, also stopped off in France. There, he saddled Modern Games, the third of his elite three-year-old milers, to annex the Poule d’Essai Des Poulains and become the first trainer to win all three one-mile colts’ Classics in the same season.

Each is very talented and while for a time it looked as though Native Trail might have to be fully extended in the Irish “2,000”, he was well on top, going away steadily, at the finish. He beat two longshots, Sheila Lavery’s New Energy, almost two lengths behind, and Imperial Fighter (28/1), who was three-quarters of a length further back in third for Andrew Balding.

One trainer who would have been heartened by the result was William Knight, who went into the 2,000 at his home course of Newmarket with high hopes for the previously unbeaten Checkandchallenge. His colt made his move at the same time as William Buick on Native Trail – on the opposite (stands) side of the course to Coroebus – and got squeezed out by him and then hampered as he dropped into the pursuing pack.

He had beaten Imperial Fighter previously at Newcastle and Saturday’s result would have encouraged Knight in advance of Checkandchallenge’s likely target of the Jersey Stakes over a furlong shorter at Royal Ascot.

Appleby has only the three horses entered in the St James’s Palace Stakes on June 14, the first day of Royal Ascot, and the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner is usually the prime contender for that Group 1 prize for the colts. With the other pair running (and winning) more recently, one would expect Coroebus to be the one to take his chance.

No doubt their trainer will have more than a passing interest in the meeting’s opening contest where Baaeed transports his unbeaten record to the Queen Anne Stakes for trainer William Haggas and owner, the Shadwell Estate Company. Interviewed during a string of winners from his stable earlier in the week, Haggas, quite realistically talking about his present form and how that will go forward to the biggest meetings, simply said: “They might not be in that form then!”

Saturday proved a rare blank but a Group 1 international double yesterday with Alenquer in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on The Curragh and Maljoom in the Mehl-Mulhens-Rennen (German 2,000 Guineas) in Cologne brought his tally over the past fortnight to 17 winners.

This was a third success in a row for the unbeaten Maljoom, who made his debut only two months ago. The unbeaten Caravaggio colt may carry Ahmed Al-Maktoum’s colours in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

I enjoyed a nice chat during the sales at Newmarket earlier this year with Dermot Weld, one of the very senior Irish trainers but still one to target the big prizes over jumps as well as on the flat. Yesterday, in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, his filly Homeless Songs sprinted away from the Aidan O’Brien pair Tuesday, the favourite, and Concert Hall, winning by five-and-a-half lengths with the rest trailing way behind.

As the field approached the last two furlongs, Chris Hayes on the Weld filly could be seen coasting along on the outside and the daughter of Frankel, out of a Dubawi mare, accelerated from there and won pulling the proverbial cart.

Whatever preconceptions might be held by connections of Emily Upjohn, they will not be reassured unless Dermot decides not to send his filly to Epsom. Here was a performance to match that of Love in the same Classic race two years earlier although, to be fair, Love had already won the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Love clearly made spectacular progress from two to three and Homeless Songs is making similar strides. Seven weeks ago she beat Agartha, a filly she also overcame when making a winning debut last year, by a length. Yesterday, the margin to the fifth-placed Joseph O’Brien filly was more than six lengths.

Love of course won by nine lengths at Epsom and last year’s Ballydoyle winner Snowfall extended that to a record 16 lengths. It would need her owners, the Moyglare Stud Farm, to fork out the supplementary fee to allow her to run. Her near-at-hand entries are the seven-furlong Ballychorus Stakes on June 4 and the Coronation Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot.

Dermot seems to be treating her as a miler, but the sign that that might be a moving feast is suggested by later entries in the ten-furlong Pretty Polly and eventually at last over a mile-and-a-half in the Irish Oaks.

There was never a moment to question the veracity of Homeless Songs’ victory but there was plenty of questioning of the York stewards on Saturday when they allowed Believe In Love to keep the Group 3 Bronte Stakes after she weaved across causing interference to a couple of her rivals.

Inside the last two furlongs, Believe In Love, who at that point was on the inside of the whole field in the middle of the wide expanse of York, started to edge to her right. Admittedly Ray Dawson had his whip in his right hand, but when his mount continued to veer over, she was causing considerable discomfort to Ed Walker’s Glenartney who was carried all the way to right under the stands rails.


The measure of the stewards’ disapproval of Dawson’s ride – he didn’t take any corrective measure, say, stopping using his whip and grabbing hold of his mount’s reins to try to arrest the drift – was the eight-day ban he received.

Because the winning margin over strong-finishing runner-up Urban Artist was just over a length, the verdict was allowed to stand, but Believe In Love’s errant course gave Glenartney, who did well in the circumstances to finish third, no chance to win the race so badly was she discomfited.

Both Walker and Urban Artist’s trainer Hughie Morrison were considering appealing the result – and with £51k rather than £19k for second and £9k for third at stake, you can understand their irritation, not least with the kudos of a Group 3 win on the board for an older staying filly being denied them.

This rule of thumb whereby any interference in the case of a win of more than a neck is not normally reversed is like many issues in racing, a flawed convention. I still would prefer in the case of a horse badly interfered with by another, the offender should be placed behind the horse to which it caused that interference.

If that means, as in this case, the runner-up getting the prize, too bad. Without the ground towards the rails where she raced being badly compromised by the antics of the winner, Urban Artist could have won the race judged on how she finished once off the rail and getting a little clear running room for the last half furlong.


When Torquator Tasso won last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, it woke up many people to the talents of German horses and horsemen. The five-year-old is among the entries for this year’s Arc – yes, they’re out already! He will begin his season with runs at Baden-Baden a week today and then at Hamburg during the weekend of the German Derby according to his trainer, Marcel Weiss.

Meanwhile, yesterday in Rome at the Cappannelle, another talented German trainer, Markus Klug, sent Ardakan, a son of Reliable Man, to win the Derby Italiano and a prize of £244k. There was no English challenge for a race which in the past was always a target for horses perceived to be just short of winning at Epsom. Maybe we’ll be seeing him over here later in the year, or perhaps supplemented for the Arc.

- TS

Monday Musings: from Luxembourg to Oz

Luxembourg’s emphatic success in Saturday’s Vertem Futurity, the final Group 1 race of the year in the UK, reminded us not to under-estimate the power of the Aidan O’Brien team, writes Tony Stafford.

As he conceded after the victory, things have been going rather less his way than we have come to expect, but a year in which St Mark’s Basilica, Snowfall and now this feasible 2,000 Guineas alternative to the Charlie Appleby two – Native Trail and Coroebus - have been around, it is hardly the disaster it was being painted of late.

More of Luxembourg later but eight hours before the big race at Doncaster, a ten furlong Group 1 race, the private property of that unforgettable Australian mare Winx between 2015 and 2018, was being decided.

The Ladbrokes Cox Plate, run at the tight Moonee Valley racecourse in Melbourne, is universally known as Australia’s principal weight-for-age race – the even more valuable Melbourne Cup is a handicap. Joseph O’Brien, already winning trainer of two of the last four Melbourne Cups, as against his father’s still frustrating blank in the race that stops Australia on the first Tuesday of November every year, took the £1,700,000 first prize on Saturday morning with the three-year-old colt State Of Rest.

As befits a race of its value, the opposition was stern and the second and third home, the joint-favourites at 13-5, fully deserve such a description. It took a full 20 minutes’ deliberation from the stewards to decide that Craig Williams’ objection to the winner and his rider John Allen on behalf of short-head runner-up Anamoe would be rejected. Third, staying on, was the champion mare Verry Elleegant, veteran of both successful and less so Group 1 tilts with William Haggas’s globe-trotter Addeybb among 12 wins from 30 starts.

Moonee Valley might not be Verry Elleegant’s favourite track, but the five-year-old had to concede only 1lb to her three-year-old rival (actually she counts as only a year and a half his elder because of the difference in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere breeding seasons. Anamoe, who had won a Group 1 two weeks before, the £678k to the winner Caulfield Guineas over a mile, carrying 9st as the 11/10 favourite, was foaled seven months after the winner. He received 16lb from the O’Brien horse and while the same age, will not actually be three years old until next month.

Topically, Saturday was the anniversary of State Of Rest’s final run as a juvenile when finishing fifth behind subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney in last year’s Futurity. He had a busy time running six races between June and October of his juvenile season and was probably ready for a quiet spring.
O’Brien delayed his comeback until the last week in June when he tackled a one-mile Listed race at The Curragh.

Conceding 10lb to both the winner Fourhometoo and runner-up Khartoum, he struggled to get a run until the last 100 yards, then flew home and would have galloped right by those mid 100’s rated and race-fit rivals in another few strides.

Until Saturday, there had been one more run, a highly-ambitious challenge to his father’s beaten Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet at Saratoga. After Epsom, Bolshoi Ballet had gone some way to restoring his reputation with a win the following month at Belmont Park and the Saratoga Derby, a Grade 1 worth £390k and run over 9.5 furlongs at the Spa in mid-August at the time looked his for the taking. Its timing for the younger O’Brien was ideal as it gave State of Rest time to recover from his returning Curragh exertions.

Understandably, dad’s runner was a shade of odds against while the main dangers according to the betting were Jessica Harrington’s Cadillac at 9/2 and Charlie Appleby’s Secret Protector at 5/1.
Having looked back at the Curragh comeback third and the way he finished the race it seems inconceivable that State Of Rest could have been allowed to start at more than 20/1 in that company. The betting clearly suggested the home team was nothing much, yet here was a horse already worth a rating in the mid-110’s starting that price – and he had legendary East Coast rider John Velazquez in the saddle to boot.

The outcome was a one-length win in the colours of Teme Valley Racing, while Bolshoi Ballet was only fourth and the other raiders were further back. The win was much to the elation of the owners’ Racing Manager Richard Ryan, who has a wealth of experience in many facets of the racing industry.

Ryan was the long-term assistant to the late Terry Mills, who made his money in the waste disposal and demolition businesses. Many Epsom habituees ascribed much of the stable’s success to his quiet and ever discreet right-hand-man. Then after Mills’ death and son Robert’s brief spell at the helm, he left Epsom and worked the sales, before joining Ian Williams as assistant.

In that period and then since relinquishing that full-time role he has continued to unearth good horses for the trainer’s clients. Now he represents Goff’s at auctions as well as his role with Teme Valley and also maintains a close relationship with Williams.

To run horses trained in Europe for major races in Australia was always akin to a military exercise, but Joseph outlined in detail the extra hoops that are required post-, or rather, where Australia is concerned, mid-Covid. Those, together with the increased veterinary procedures imposed after Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck’s fatal injury in last year’s Melbourne Cup, have caused a number of UK trainers to abandon proposed Melbourne Cup challenges this winter.

Anthony Van Dyck’s demise took some of the family gloss off Joseph’s success with the seven-year-old Twilight Payment in the Cup last year. At least Aidan can point to his own Cox Plate seven years ago with Adelaide, now a stallion in Australia, while last year’s Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet spent his formative years, indeed all his races before the Cox Plate, at Ballydoyle.

The beaten 11-4 favourite in Anthony Van Dyck’s 2019 Derby, he ended his time with O’Brien with a second to the great Magical in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh in July last year. His first run under Chris Waller’s care brought his Cox Plate win at the main expense of another former stable-companion Armory and he was then sixth in the Melbourne Cup, although his form this year has been nowhere near that level.

Doncaster’s confirmation that Luxembourg was indeed a potential Classic horse was underlined on Saturday as he drew steadily if not spectacularly away from three nice horses. Sissoko (Donnacha O’Brien), was just under two lengths behind the winner and only narrowly in front of another of Teme Valley’s (with Jock O’Connor’s Ballylinch Stud), the Roger Varian colt Bayside Boy, and Hannibal Barca inches back in fourth. This made it ten Futurity victories in 24 years for O’Brien enabling him to match the late Sir Henry Cecil’s record within the precise same time scale.

Brian Meehan had been bullish when we spoke on Saturday morning about the place chances of Hannibal Barca and it looked for much of the last furlong that the 50-1 each-way taken about the Sam Sangster-owned colt would collect. Sadly though track position on the far side as they came up the middle probably didn’t help rider Paul Mulrennan on the run home.

I’m going to the sales on Tuesday and it will be interesting to look into the box scheduled to be housing Hannibal Barca who until Sam and Brian wake up after the inevitable party they had for getting the 55,000gns son of Zoffany to a rating of at least 110, they will almost certainly pull him out. Then again they might let him have a spin round the ring with a big reserve. That would be nice. I’ll be there boys – and how I love a show!

Jumping proper started again with two days of Cheltenham and record crowds for the October meeting. The last time they had a crowd at Cheltenham, in March last year, the blame game merchants pointed to that largely outdoor gathering as a major component in the spread of Covid-19. With figures going up again that fixture is again a possible target for criticism, but the 76,000 crammed in at Old Trafford to watch Liverpool demolish Manchester United would potentially be a larger worry I would have thought. The maladies for distraught home fans might extend beyond Covid!

The most impressive Cheltenham performance for me was the flashy chase debut of the Skeltons’ First Time Lucki. A 144-rated hurdler after three wins from seven starts adding to two out of four in bumpers he looks destined for a much higher level over fences.

His jumping was fast, accurate and spectacular. At no time did Harry Skelton have a second’s concern and the eight lengths and the rest he had over some good horses in this initial novice chase could easily have been doubled had the champion jockey wished. Allmankind was similarly impressive for the brothers at Aintree yesterday.

That man (Harry) is going to be very hard to beat in his attempt at a second title and brother Dan might be an outside bet for the trainers’ title. Admittedly Fergal O’Brien is setting a very fast pace already up to 60 and if some of his potential stars waiting in the wings come through he could figure in the argument too.

Meanwhile Hollie Doyle, faced with what had looked a daunting calendar year record score of 152 for a female jockey she set in 2020, has passed it with two months to spare. Her initial title will not be long delayed.

Talking of titles, Johnny Weatherby, long-time Queen’s Representative at Ascot has been knighted. Was it Arise Sir John, or Arise Sir Johnny? I’m not sure if anyone’s taking money on it – it’s a bit like those bets on the Queen’s hat colour every day by those bookies before racing attracting once-a-year racegoers on the way from the main entrance to the grandstand. I’m sure they have their card marked! Psst- it was Sir John!!!


Monday Musings: Charlie Gives Maurice the Blues

Until York next week, there isn’t very much of great moment happening on the racecourses of the United Kingdom, but Sunday in France and Ireland was highly interesting and informative, writes Tony Stafford.

Every year the Prix Maurice De Gheest offers a fascinating mid-season barometer of the relative merits of the classic and older generations. At the same time its 1300-metre (6.5 furlong) straight trip brings together pure sprinters and horses that stay further. Often it’s the latter grouping that comes out on top and so it proved yesterday when the four-year-old Space Blues got the better of a field chock-full of Group 1 performers.

Space Blues is trained by Charlie Appleby who sent the four-year-old over 12 months earlier to finish a staying-on third behind the Martyn Meade-trained Advertise.

Appleby showed great enterprise in bringing him back for this repeat attempt, barely a week after a smart win at Goodwood. The field was headed, form- and betting-wise, by the Andre Fabre-trained but also Godolphin-owned Earthlight, unbeaten in six starts and twice a Group 1 winner in a five-race unblemished 2019 juvenile campaign.

Earthlight had every chance throughout and was moved into contention by Mickael Barzalona in the middle of the track, while Space Blues seemed to be struggling after making a sluggish start close to the stands rails.

But then William Buick could be seen to be manoeuvring him into a challenging position and once he secured a gap inside the last furlong, he breezed through and comfortably held Hello Youmzain and Lope Y Fernandez with the favourite only fourth.

Space Blues began life by winning a late-season Nottingham juvenile maiden over a mile and started out last year over 10 furlongs at Newbury, finishing fourth. Dropped in trip he won two seven-furlong races, a York handicap and Epsom Listed before that initial trip to Deauville.

This year – following a single run in Dubai in the winter - he has moved quickly though the grades, collecting a Haydock Listed; a Longchamp Group 3, and then up one more level for the Lennox Stakes (Group 2) at Goodwood where his turn of foot quickly settled that argument.

His ability to quicken characterised yesterday’s display and I have no doubt that for the rest of the season he will be hard to beat at the highest level at anywhere between six and eight furlongs. Considering his pedigree, it was understandable that initially middle-distance racing was at the forefront of Charlie Appleby’s plans.

The son of Dubawi was bred to Miss Lucifer, a triple winner for Barry Hills, and a daughter of Noverre. Noverre was trained for his first seven races by David Loder, all as a two-year-old when Loder had just re-located to train at the recently de-commissioned Evry racecourse near Paris. Noverre had already won twice before retaining his unbeaten record when coming over to Newmarket for the July Stakes.

In all, his form figures with Loder in Europe were 111212, but the decision to send him to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the end of that year proved unsuccessful, Noverre finishing nowhere: 11th of 14. Sent to be trained at three by Saeed Bin Suroor, he was to win only once more from 14 starts, but that one was pretty good, the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood!

Space Blues enlivened events at Deauville barely half an hour before another exceptional performance, this time by the Jessica Harrington-trained filly Lucky Vega in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh.

This six-furlong race attracted most of the best of the Irish juveniles to have raced so far as well as The Lir Jet, Michael Bell’s Royal Ascot winner. Steel Bull, so impressive when winning the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood was also in the very strong line-up.

Lucky Vega had been caught late on in a recent run at The Curragh by the big outsider Laws Of Indices, but here she had that rival well in arrears as she strode to a near four-length margin in a style that suggests the Matron Stakes must be on her agenda, as well as all the top fillies’ races elsewhere in Europe.

- TS