Richard Spencer is looking forward to running his improving two-year-olds Waiting All Night and Ivory Madonna during Newmarket’s July Festival this week.
Both of the youngsters outran their odds at Royal Ascot last month with Waiting All Night relishing the step up six furlongs when keeping on strongly for fifth in the opening day Coventry Stakes, while similar applies to Ivory Madonna, who was good value for her bronze medal in the Albany Stakes.
Waiting All Night will now appear at Group Two level once again when he lines up in Thursday’s July Stakes, although Spencer is keen to see Ivory Madonna secure a first win and suggests she is more likely to appear in the fillies’ maiden on the opening day card than the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes later in the week.
Spencer said: “They are both in good form and both are intended for Newmarket this week. I would imagine Ivory Madonna will run in the maiden on Thursday and Waiting All Night will go for the July Stakes.
“Ivory Madonna holds entries on Thursday and Friday, but we are keen to run in the maiden. If we can get her head in front this week, then it will lead to bigger and better things in the future. She’s an exciting filly and hopefully can run well.
“They have been ticked over since Ascot and are fit and well. They haven’t done any galloping as they don’t need to do any galloping as they are fit and ready to go.
“It has simply been a case of ticking them over and freshening them up ahead of their scheduled runs this week. They seem in good form and hopefully they can run well at another big meeting.”
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Any rain at Sandown would be a bonus for connections as Peejaybee bids to land the hugely competitive European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.
The Grade Three contest, run over two and a half miles, has attracted a field of 17 and is one of the highlights on a fascinating seven-race card at the Esher track on Saturday.
Trained by Richard Spencer, Peejaybee is on a hat-trick after following up a course and distance success with a facile win at Sedgefield. He has won three of his five starts over hurdles and been placed in the other two.
His Newmarket trainer knows the task facing the six-year-old, however.
“Peejaybee has taken his racing well,” said Spencer. “He seems in good form and obviously being a course and distance winner does help, but it is going to be a tough race.
“This is going to be the hardest race he has run in and the biggest field. He is still going to have to improve from what he has shown so far.
“On his last run, the main aim was to finish in the first four. It was not a race to give him a hard time and leave our Sandown opportunity at Sedgefield, and James (Bowen) looked after him.
“He has been showing us the same signs all year, so I’m happy with him, but it not an easy task.
“Fingers crossed he can run well and I hope they just get a drop of rain. If they do, that will be great. We are looking forward to seeing him run – he has been a lot of fun this season.”
Thunder Rock completed his hat-trick last time at Huntingdon, beating Dorking Boy by a length and a quarter.
His trainer, Olly Murphy, still feels there is improvement to come.
“He is in good form and looks progressive,” said Murphy. “We are hoping he still has a few pounds in hand to play with. It looks very competitive as always, but our lad is on an upward curve and he is a hardy type.
“Hopefully he will handle the conditions of the race and whatnot and we are really looking forward to running him.”
Paul Nicholls saddles market leader Knappers Hill and Complete Unknown.
Knappers Hill won his first two novice hurdles with ease before finishing five and a half lengths adrift of Jonbon in a Grade Two at Ascot before Christmas.
Though beaten, he showed improvement in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time.
“He’s classy, was unbeaten in bumpers, won his first two starts over hurdles and ran with plenty of promise in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury a month ago,” Nicholls wrote on his Betfair blog.
“His jumping was really good that day and the way he kept on in the closing stages suggests he will be well suited by this step up in trip to two and a half miles.
“There is not a lot between my duo in this.”
Dan Skelton runs a trio – Our Jet, Hometrown Hero and Jet Plane – and insists they all have claims.
“Our Jet looks like he stayed very well at Wetherby the last day,” said the Alcester handler. “I’ve got a few in this race and to be honest, I’m having trouble trying to split them.
“Hometown Hero has got a chance. He won at Market Rasen the last day, and Jet Plane is in great form – he won the time before last (at Ludlow) and ran in a good qualifier at Leicester last time.
“We’re going there with a strong chance. They all have strong chances.”
Jet Plane will be ridden by 7lb claimer Tristan Durrell.
Skelton added: “You will hear plenty about him in the future, mark my words. He is a good rider and a good lad. He works hard and he’ll get plenty of chances.”
Elsewhere, the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race sees Mullenbeg head the market for trainer Milton Harris.
The five-year-old was one of the fancied British runners in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, but connections instead made the decision to switch to a race against her own sex.
She takes on 11 rivals in the two-mile contest, bidding to land a hat-trick for the yard, having arrived from Ireland in January.
Harris said: “It was a split decision with the owners, but we made the decision to go to Sandown. She is 6-4 tomorrow and she is 16-1 for the Champion Bumper. It just made sense to go there.
“If she can’t win at Sandown, we were not going to win the Cheltenham Bumper, were we?
“She is working better than ever and is much better form that she was when she won at Cheltenham.
“She just seems to be improving. I think the track will suit her and our concern was if the going went heavy at Sandown. But is doesn’t look like that will happen.
“All we don’t want is a slog and unless something desperate happens, she whips round at the start and the jockey falls off, the plan is to run tomorrow, rather than Cheltenham.”
Scene Not Herd heads into the Listed Paddy Power Novices’ Chase unbeaten in three starts this season.
The seven-year-old takes on five opponents over two and a half miles, with trainer Charlie Longsdon in confident mood.
He said: “Hopefully he will go very nicely. His form has been good this season. He has got to improve, don’t get me wrong, but there is no reason why he can’t.
“There were reasons for him disappointing last season, but hopefully we have got that right this year and we can now kick on.
“If he gets a clear round of jumping, he’ll have a chance and he goes there a fresh horse. This has been his target the whole way through.”
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Richard Spencer’s smart prospect Wonderwall will put his Cheltenham Festival aspirations on the line in the Ballymore Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon on February 10.
Seventh in the Champion Bumper in March, he opened his account at the second time of asking over hurdles at Doncaster in fine style.
Spencer had mooted the possibility of heading to Cheltenham on Trials Day with the six-year-old, but feels the timing of the Huntingdon race is more beneficial.
“The Sidney Banks is where Wonderwall is going next. We will run him there and then, all being well, it will be on to the Ballymore,” said Spencer.
“We had both the Sidney Banks and the Ballymore trial at Cheltenham on our mind after Doncaster.
“We just felt it would probably be better for the horse to give him a couple more weeks and go for Huntingdon as it is then a nice time frame on to the Ballymore. It just spaces his races out a little bit better.
“We want to try to give him as much chance to turn up at the Festival in top form instead of rushing him back quickly to run in the trial at Cheltenham.
“Hopefully, he can take another step forward at Huntingdon and we can then bring him to Cheltenham in tip-top shape.”
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Hollie Doyle recorded her 150th winner of the year as Space Cowboy capitalised on his Tapeta experience to book his place at All-Weather Championships Finals Day.
Richard Spencer’s colt was contesting Newcastle’s Watch Racing Free Online At Coral EBF Conditions Stakes, the first of this winter’s fast-track qualifiers for the championship finale – which is to be held back at Gosforth Park in April, following its switch from Lingfield.
Space Cowboy made all at 4-1 under Doyle – who was completing a double, having already won the Play Coral Racing-Super-Series For Free EBF Restricted Novice Stakes aboard Archie Watson’s Verona Star.
She was therefore also reaching the 150 milestone for the second successive year, doing so two months ahead of her 2020 schedule.
After seeing off Eldrickjones by half a length in the feature race, Doyle reflected briefly on her own achievement.
She told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s been a good year so far, really memorable. I hope I can continue the form.”
As for the winner, she added: “He’s a very strong horse – Richard’s done a great job with him, and we’ve always really liked him.
“I didn’t really want to make the running there – but no one else wanted to, so I kind of got left in front and did my own thing.
“He’s probably only worked for about a furlong and a half – and a few flicks, and he hit the line hard.
“That will probably be his last run for the year. He’s a really exciting horse for the yard next year.”
Spencer confirmed he has high hopes for the Rebel Racing-owned juvenile.
He said: “We were very pleased with Space Cowboy. He is a horse we hold in high regard, and it was great to see him step up from his maiden win last time out.
“He weighs 520 kilogrammes – and whatever he did this year was always going to be a bonus. He is a real three-year-old in the making, and a very exciting horse for next year.
“Finals Day is a nice option to have. It’s great that the final will be back at Newcastle, because it is such a fair track.
“We have had a lot of success at Newcastle, and our strike rate is good – Rajasinghe made his debut there before winning the Coventry at Royal Ascot.
“Myself and the owners will make a plan over the winter and work out where we want to go, but there’s great prize money on offer on Finals Day if we decide to go down that route.”
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Richard Spencer is confident his Weatherbys Champion Bumper contender Wonderwall is capable of running a big race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Spencer’s Ascot winner is a general 25-1 shot for the Grade One on day two of the showpiece meeting.
But the Newmarket trainer has high hopes the imposing five-year-old can mix it with those at the head of the market.
“Wonderwall is a really nice horse heading to Cheltenham,” Spencer told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s a bit of a freak really – he shouldn’t really be doing what he’s doing, the size of him.
“His work was very good as a four-year-old, and we gave him a bit of time to start off just before Christmas – and he won very well, after doing a really nice bit of work at Nottingham before going to Ascot for that debut.”
After that November success, Wonderwall returned to the same track little more than three weeks later – and although he again ran well to be third at Listed level, Spencer believes he is capable of better.
“He probably wasn’t 100 per cent where I’d have wanted him to be when he went to Ascot (again), looking back,” he added.
“But the last 10 days he’s really come to life
“I think we’ll see a different horse again, and I hope on a bit better ground he’ll run a big race.”
Wonderwall will arrive at the Festival after a three-month break, which Spencer hopes will also help.
He added: “We thought of maybe going to Newbury for the Listed race, but it was going to be too close running in February and then trying to go to Cheltenham – so we’ve kept him a fresh horse.
“He worked yesterday (Wednesday) at home on the grass at Newmarket, and he worked very well.
“I’m really looking forward to going to Cheltenham.”
Spencer will keep sights lower with another winning bumper debutant, Peejaybee – while he reports that stable star Tyson Fury has improved again through the winter and will begin his four-year-old Flat campaign at Newbury in the middle of next month.
The giant Tyson Fury won two of his three career starts last year, doubling his tally at Ascot in October – having run with credit in the St Leger at Doncaster in between.
Reflecting on his Ascot win, Spencer said: “It just shows what class of horse he is.
“It was only his third start, and we did throw him in the deep end a bit – but he didn’t disgrace himself in the Leger.
“At Ascot, the ground was probably soft enough (for him), and he did have to carry a penalty.
“It’s hard to win under a penalty. But he’s definitely improved over the winter, and I’m looking forward to starting him off this year at Newbury.”
Tyson Fury has won twice over a mile and a half, but Spencer believes the son of Iffraaj could perhaps have the speed to be effective over shorter too.
“He’s in really good form, cantering away and has done very well over the winter,” he said.
“He’s weighing in at about 580 kilos. But all being well, he’s going to go to Newbury at the first meeting – that will be our starting point.
“We’ll see how he starts off there. I think he’s got enough speed to come back to 10 furlongs, but I don’t think we want to be doing that at the moment.
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Champion Bumper hopeful Wonderwall has two possible stops on his road to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
A National Hunt Flat winner on his racecourse debut at Ascot on Saturday, the four-year-old prevailed by half a length ahead of the Nicky Henderson-trained Hamilton’s Fantasy, who is owned by the Queen.
Purchased for 105,000 euros from last year’s Goffs Land Rover Sale, Wonderwall is owned by Rebel Racing, a partnership formed by owner Phil Cunningham and trainer Richard Spencer.
Cunningham said: “He’s a lovely horse, he’s very exciting for us.
“He’s very good and he’s come out of it well – it’s all very exciting for us for the rest of the season.”
Cunningham has two Listed engagements in mind as the horse is prepared for Prestbury Park in March – a return to Ascot next month and the Winter Bumper at Newbury in February.
“He’s got a couple of options, possibly back at Ascot for the Listed race and then obviously there’s the race in February at Newbury,” he added.
“His main objective will of course be the Festival Bumper – that’s the dream. If he’s fit and well he’ll possibly line up at one, or maybe both, of those options on the way.”
Beyond this season’s Festival, Cunningham is hoping Wonderwall can develop into a useful hurdler and eventually come into his own as a staying chaser.
“We think he wants further, and he’s hopefully a three-mile chaser in the making,” he said.
“Whatever he does now is just a really lovely bonus. Obviously I spend more time on the Flat – and I think for a jumps horse, he’s really very athletic-looking.”
A son of Yeats, Wonderwall is as short as 20-1 for Cheltenham with William Hill, BetVictor and Unibet.
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Richard Spencer is confident Tyson Fury can develop into a genuine Group-race performer next year, after deciding to draw stumps for this season.
The Newmarket trainer believes the best is yet to come from the son of Iffraaj – who is named after the reigning WBC heavyweight boxing champion – and has earmarked the Group Three John Porter Stakes at Newbury in April as a potential starting point.
After finishing ninth in the St Leger at Doncaster on his penultimate start, Tyson Fury added to his debut success at Town Moor with victory in a novice contest at Ascot earlier this month.
Spencer said: “He came out of his race at Ascot really well, but we have decided to give him a break and put him away for the rest of the season.
“We will start him off in Group races, and hopefully he can progress again. We will target something like the John Porter at Newbury with him, although that is a long way off.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him mature and develop over the winter, because he is a big horse. I think he will strengthen up and be a nice four-year-old.”
Reflecting on his latest success, Spencer feels the victory was made all the more impressive because it came on ground that would have been far from ideal.
He added: “He had the penalty to carry at Ascot, and the ground would have been on the soft side for him.
“He is still raw and learning, but it was great to finish on a winning note like that.
“It was good to see him get his head back in front after the St Leger – it would have given him a bit more street-craft and confidence.”
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