Tag Archive for: Sandown

Cash handed Prix du Jockey Club target

David Simcock’s promising colt Cash will run in the Prix du Jockey Club after being pulled out of the Cazoo Derby.

The grey son of Shamardal has had just two starts, landing a mile maiden at Newmarket last October before being upped to 10 furlongs for his seasonal debut in the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown.

That Group Three contest did not go according to plan for Cash, who is owned by American businessman Earle Mack.

Cash (left) lost by the narrowest of margins to Westover
Cash (left) lost by the narrowest of margins to Westover (John Walton/PA)

The colt was reluctant to go into the starting stalls and spent most of the race at the rear of the field, before finding a useful turn of foot under Jamie Spencer, only to find Westover denying him by a short head.

Connections feel his running style and the extended 10 furlongs of the Chantilly Group One, as opposed to the mile and a half in the Epsom Classic, will better suit the inexperienced Cash.

Mack’s British-based racing manager, Anthony Burke, said: “He goes to the French Derby.

“We took him out of the English Derby this week as we felt the French Derby would suit him better.

“Whatever he does this year will be a bonus because he is a big horse, with loads of potential.

“He finished his race off very well at Sandown last time and we felt that Chantilly would suit him better than the hustle and bustle of Epsom.”

Francesco Clemente makes case for Royal Ascot run

Francesco Clemente backed up his win in the Wood Ditton with a facile success in the Coral Proud Supporter Of Sandown Park British EBF Novice Stakes.

With Subastar a notable non runner, the John and Thady Gosden-trained son on Dubawi made light work of his four opponents and his 2-9 odds over the mile-and-a-quarter trip, sailing to a smooth length-and-a-half victory under Frankie Dettori, who barely had him off the bridle.

Royal Ascot could well be on the agenda for the Peter Brant-owned colt, who has some lofty entries, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Gosden senior said: “He is a big boy and has done a lot of growing. He is still learning about life and has a big frame to fill out. He stepped up from the Wood Ditton and a couple of older horses made him race there. They haven’t gone much of a pace and Frankie says he is still a little bit clueless.

“We will see where we go and make plans. He is out of novices now.

“We were planning to run a bit earlier, but Frankie says he is still very green. It turned into a bit of a dash but he is learning all the time.”

He added: “Frankie taught him a lot today. We will obviously be happy over a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. The family strongly says a mile and a half on the dam’s side.”

When asked about the possibility of the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot potentially being a a big step up for Francesco Clemente next time, Gosden added: “Not necessarily. It is early. We’ll take one step at a time. We’ll see how the race shapes up, see how the horse is over the next few days and take it from there.

“He got put in some bold stuff, some big races, but he is a big frame of a horse and still needs to fill out a bit more. I like him, but he is very immature and he didn’t race at two. We need to take normal steps not huge ones.”

My Prospero gets the better of Reach For The Moon at Sandown

My Prospero came out on top in the Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown, with Reach For The Moon running a fine race in second on his eagerly-awaited return to action.

Hopes were high Reach For The Moon might be the horse to give the Queen a Derby winner in Platinum Jubilee year, but his recovery from a setback meant a delayed start to his campaign, having been on the sidelines since finishing second to Bayside Boy in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.

He was taken out of the Derby, with sights set instead on Royal Ascot, and he will undoubtedly have pleased his connections with his comeback effort, leading from the stalls opening under Frankie Dettori and still looking to be going strongly three furlongs out.

But just as Akhu Najla dropped away, My Prospero – a winner at Newbury last month who is entered in the St James’s Palace Stakes – came with surging finish to get on top inside the final furlong in the hands of Tom Marquand and hold his fellow 7-4 joint-favourite by a length and a quarter, marking himself out as another exciting prospect for William Haggas.

Of Reach For The Moon, who won the Solario Stakes at Sandown as a two-year-old, John Gosden said: “We were delighted. It was a lovely run and exactly what we had hoped for. We didn’t intend to make the running, but no one wanted to go on, so that was fine. He has run a super race and obviously wants stepping up in trip.

“That was a great run tonight and I’m really, really pleased with him. I didn’t want to go straight to a mile and three (furlongs, in the Cocked Hat at Goodwood). I definitely didn’t want to do that.

“I wanted to run at a track we know and wanted to run a bit under his trip because he basically is short of work. I was running out of time. I was definitely running out of time (for Ascot) and I made it clear he was 80 per cent, and I’m thrilled with his run.

“There are two races for him. The King Edward and the Hampton Court. The Hampton Court over a mile and a quarter and the King Edward a mile and a half. Oh, it’s early days. We’ll work it out and see how he is in the next few days and take it from there.”

The Haggas family celebrated the birth of a granddaughter at the weekend.

“We had a little girl. She has a little boy so she now has a little girl, so that’s great. We are a grandmother. Again,” smiled Maureen Haggas.

She added of the winner: “He is a very nice horse. I did have to talk to him beforehand and tell him that his sister (My Astra) won a Listed race by 12 lengths yesterday, so he actually did have a bit to live up to. But he is a baby still.

“I thought he looked very raw still in the race and he won on talent and a good ride. We are very lucky to have Tom on most of our horses and he really does make a difference. He have him a lovely ride. He had to get stuck into him a bit. He is a big beast.

“My Astra is a big filly and I ride her. She is tall, but this one is just enormous. I see him every day and you forget how big he is. The amount she has improved physically from three to four, he might do the same.

“I would maybe be a bit kinder to him than put him in the St James’s Palace Stakes. It is a big jump. This is a nice, easy five runners and it is a big jump and it might not be very kind to the horse.

“He might be a very good horse and it would be a pity to upset him. That is only my opinion.”

Cuban Mistress shows plenty of promise for the future

Rod Millman is reluctant to step Cuban Mistress up in class next time despite showing a marked improvement from her first run at Salisbury to take the Watch Racing Online Free With Coral EBF Fillies’ Novice Stakes at Sandown.

Ross Coakley’s mount, who had finished sixth of nine in a minor event on debut, was a different proposition on her Esher assignment.

The daughter of Havana Grey (18-1) broke smartly from stall six and got across to the far rail, and held on to win by a neck from Beautiful Aisling, who showed plenty of promise on debut.

Coakley said: “She sharpened from her first run and she was very quick away from the gates. Being drawn six, it allowed me to tack across. She travelled, showed plenty of speed and toughed it out well.

“She has plenty of good attributes. The first day I jumped well and the winner came around me and she got a bit crowded and a bit timid. Salisbury is a tricky track first time – you are running downhill and things happen very quickly. But she learned a lot from that and her experienced showed.

“I’ve ridden her a few times at home and she is a filly I have always liked. She is by a sire who is making waves.”

Millman added: “I am not sure about Royal Ascot. She’d be thereabouts, as I know she is a good filly. But there are some good bonus races to go for later on and I think we’ll keep her sights lower for the time being.”

The Queen’s colours were carried to victory by the powerful Duty Bound, a homebred son of Kingman, who looked better the further he went in the Coral ‘Beaten-By-A-Length’ Free Bet Handicap Stakes.

The three-year-old had shown plenty of promise on his seasonal return when upped to an extended mile and three furlongs at Haydock, but David Probert’s mount showed plenty more when taking the mile-and-three-quarter event by a length and a quarter from Moonlit Warrior.

Trainer Andrew Balding said: “It was really good. He is horse who is learning on the job and he has improved with every run, really.

“This step up in trip has helped him. He is in the handicap system and we will work our way through that for the time being.”

Marco Botti’s string have come out of a lean patch and War Horse (7-2) struck for the Newmarket handler in the Coral Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Stakes.

Andrea Atzeni’s mount improved for the first-time cheekpieces to gain the second win of his career in the mile-and-a-quarter event, wearing down Paradias, who was demoted to third after causing interference to Nolton Cross.

Owned by American Earl Mack, the Sea The Stars gelding had a length to spare at the finish.

“The cheekpieces were the trick. He hit the front and thinks he does enough and idles a little bit. The cheekpieces kept him focussed on his job and while the pace was moderate, which didn’t really suit him, it was job done and we have to be pleased,” Botti said.

“Andrea said he will gain confidence and progress from this. He is still an unexposed type and hopefully there is more to come from him. A bigger field would suit him.

“He is a horse who will mature through the season and we will look for a Class 2 handicap for him now.”

Williams planning fact-finding mission for Enemy at Sandown

Ian Williams is set to run Enemy in next Thursday’s Coral Henry II Stakes at Sandown before committing to take on Stradivarius in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.

The five-year-old gelding joined the Portway team from the French yard of Francis-Henri Graffard at the start of the year and Williams saddled him to land the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh on his first British run last month.

Owned by Tracey Bell and Caroline Lyons, the gelded son of Muhaarar is currently as short as 16-1 with Coral for the Gold Cup, yet is no certainty to line up against the likes of Stradivarius, who seeks a fourth success in the Group One feature of the Royal Meeting.

Williams was impressed by the John and Thady Gosden-trained eight-year-old when he landed a third Yorkshire Cup last week and is in no rush to put Enemy up in trip, since he has yet to race beyond two miles.

Williams said: “Stradivarius did what he had to at York. It was a workmanlike, solid performance for an exceptional racehorse. It didn’t prove whether he was still at his best, but he can do no more than win the race he was in. You would never underestimate Stradivarius.”

After being beaten half a length by Princess Zoe in the Group Three Sagaro Stakes at Ascot on his last run, Williams is urging caution to punters who feel Enemy could make a return to the Berkshire track next month.

“I don’t think the Gold Cup is really on our agenda for Enemy at the moment. I’m not convinced about the extended trip,” admitted Williams.

“Two miles is probably enough, but he will run in the Henry II Stakes, a race we won (in 2018) with Magic Circle, a week on Thursday and we will make out plan for the season on the basis of how we go there.

“I can’t rule the Gold Cup out, but can’t rule it in, either. We are keeping options open.”

Gosden reiterates Reach For The Moon warning ahead of Sandown return

John Gosden has again warned punters that Reach For The Moon will be better for the run in the Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown on Thursday evening.

The son of Sea The Stars was well supported to end the Queen’s wait for a winner in the Cazoo Derby following a promising second in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and victory in the Solario Stakes at Sandown.

However, he has been sidelined since finishing second to Bayside Boy in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.

Following an interrupted preparation ahead of his three-year-old campaign, he makes his debut against five rivals at the Esher track, with Derby plans shelved and Royal Ascot on the radar for the Clarehaven Stables team, should he come through his initial Listed test under Frankie Dettori.

Gosden said: “It is his first run of the season. He sustained an injury last year and he has been away for three months at the stud (at Sandringham) and they have done a good job with him.

“He is ready for a run – we have to get one into him – and he will come on for that run, but I have been clear about this, he would be around 80-85 per cent fit.”

Jockey David Egan feels Akhu Najla has plenty of speed
Jockey David Egan feels Akhu Najla has plenty of speed (Tim Goode/PA)

Rivals include exciting prospect Akhu Najla, who has had just two starts for Roger Varian, winning a Leicester novice over seven furlongs on debut last October, and opening his three-year-old campaign with a six-and-a-half-length win in a mile maiden at Yarmouth.

A half-brother to Classic hero Galileo Gold, Akhu Najla is already as short at 10-1 with Coral for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and his jockey David Egan feels his finishing kick could prove decisive.

Egan said: “He could not have won any more impressively last time. He did everything right and he was well behaved. He has matured a lot from two to three.

“He is a horse who showed a very good turn of foot at Yarmouth and that will be one of his greatest assets.

“He has got a quick pedigree – he is by Kingman and a half-brother to Galileo Gold, so there is plenty of speed there.

“At the same time, he is laid back at home. Roger, at the moment, thinks we’ll stick to a mile. You never know. He will have the potential to step up to 10 furlongs in time.

“A stiff mile at Sandown should be well within his capability.”

William Haggas wants to know where he stands with My Prospero
William Haggas wants to know where he stands with My Prospero (Steven Paston/PA)

William Haggas has his string in superb form and he is represented by My Prospero, who similarly makes the third start of his career, having chased home Claymore in a Newmarket seven-furlong novice in October before opening his account in a mile maiden at Newbury last month.

Haggas said: “It’s a strong race but we need to find out where we are before Ascot, so this has always been the plan.

“Obviously Roger’s looks very good (Akhu Najla) and Frankie’s is good (Reach For The Moon) so it will be tough but there you go, that is what we are trying to find out.

“The form of our race at Newbury hasn’t worked out at all, so it may be that he will be found wanting, but I think he’s a pretty nice horse.”

Big-race jockey Tom Marquand added: “He won beautifully at Newbury. He had a nice run at the backend of last year and obviously returned with a performance that was impressive at Newbury and we’re really hopeful following that.

“It’s a tougher race and stiff opposition, but hopefully he can take a step forward.”

Harrow has had plenty of experience and drops back in trip
Harrow has had plenty of experience and drops back in trip (Nigel French/PA)

Harrow is the most seasoned performer among the sextet, having run 10 times already.

The Andrew Balding’s charge won three times last year and was not beaten far in his last juvenile start behind subsequent French 2,000 Guineas winner Modern Games at Newmarket.

Though beaten 11 lengths by Star Of India in the Dee Strakes at Chester when upped to 10 and a half furlongs last time, Harry Herbert, managing director of owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, feels he has answered a few questions.

“Harrow didn’t stay at Chester,” said Herbert. “He travelled beautifully but simply didn’t stay.

“He has bounced out of it beautifully and on the one hand you think, why did we run him at Chester, because it so annoying, but you have to find out these things.

“I love the track for him. I think the stiff mile is absolutely his bag. He has done so well from two to three that, if you take Chester out, his other two runs this season (when runner-up at Kempton and Chelmsford) are extremely good, arguably on racecourses that don’t suit him.

“Probably we haven’t seen the best of him. Sandown smells right as far as track and trip are concerned but obviously it is a very hot race.

“We haven’t got beyond what plans are after the Dee. There is nothing for him at Royal Ascot I don’t think. The Jersey is going too short and there isn’t a mile race that fits. So this is an important one.”

Ian Williams saddles Oneforthegutter, a Muhaarar colt who makes his three-year-old debut, having finished runner-up in a French Group Three on his penultimate start last term, before a disappointing display behind Royal Patronage in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

Williams said: “He had a very good start to his career as a two-year-old and disappointed at Newmarket on his final start, when he didn’t handle the track.

“But he has had a good winter and will probably want a little further in time, but a mile is a good place to start him off.

Oneforthegutter (centre) makes his three-year-old debut for Ian Williams
Oneforthegutter (centre) makes his three-year-old debut for Ian Williams (Martin Rickett/PA)

“He ran well in Deauville. When you see the places The Wizard Of Eye (third) has turned up since, that form is not bad.

“We’ll make plans on the back of what he does tomorrow.”

Rounding out the field is the James Horton-trained Encourageable, who did not race at two, but opened his account on his second start at Wolverhampton last month and tackles a mile for the first time.

Horton said: “He has done nothing wrong in his two races and the form has worked out very well. His homework has been decent and we are going there to work out where we are.

“We’ll find out about the mile. It is an interesting race. You have some very solid yardsticks and then three horses who have exactly the same profile as him.

“It will be an interesting race and a few people will be a bit wiser on Thursday evening.

“He is in the St James’s Palace because the plan was to run in the Heron and if he went and won it and he wasn’t in the race, we would look very silly.

“I would be hopeful that after tomorrow night, we will be able to work out if he is a St James’s Palace horse or whether he is a Jersey horse or whether he is neither.”

Reach For The Moon poised for Sandown comeback

John Gosden has given a strong indication the Queen’s one-time Derby hope Reach For The Moon will make his seasonal reappearance over a mile in the Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown Park on Thursday.

The son of Sea The Stars was backed to end Her Majesty’s wait for a winner in the premier Epsom Classic following his encouraging second in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and victory in the Solario Stakes. But the three-year-old has been on the sidelines since finishing second to Bayside Boy in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.

Following an interrupted preparation for his three-year-old campaign, dreams of Epsom were ultimately shelved and attention turned to getting Reach For The Moon fighting fit for the Royal meeting later in June.

The Queen with Reach For The Moon and Frankie Dettori
The Queen with Reach For The Moon and Frankie Dettori (Andrew Matthews/PA)

His trainer now reports if that goal is to be hit, the colt needs to be on the track sooner rather than later and the Listed contest the Clarehaven team have dominated of late is the perfect place for Reach For The Moon to tune-up for Ascot duty.

Gosden told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme: “We all know he sustained an injury last year and he was unable to go to the Dewhurst and he’s been off for a long time.

“He’s been back at the stud farm at Sandringham and they did the most fantastic job with him and he came back to us and we have very diligently and carefully gone along with him.

“From his work now, he’s ready for a run, but I want to be very clear that he’s only around 80-85 per cent. But if I don’t run him in the Heron then we’re in trouble to get him to Ascot because if you look at it, from his rating, the only other options are carrying top-weight in an older horse handicap, so it makes sense to run him at Sandown, which I hope to do at this stage. Sandown, right-handed with an uphill finish, is a well-worn path to Ascot.”

The stable’s last three winners of the Heron Stakes have all gone on to compete in the St James’s Palace Stakes over a mile next time, and Gosden agrees it is still to be determined what Reach For The Moon’s ideal trip could be, also revealing the monarch’s wise words about the dam, who was a Listed winner over seven furlongs.

Gosden continued: “I think if anything after speaking to Frankie (Dettori) after his work yesterday, he could be a mile-and-a-quarter horse, that is the feel he gets and he’s a pretty shrewd judge at this stage of his young, burgeoning career.

“I think it would be the debate we would all be having, as Her Majesty points out, the mother was very, very, very quick.”

The Gosdens have enjoyed a fine few days, which has included the successful reappearance of Stradivarius and both Emily Upjohn and Nashwa cementing their position as two of the leading three-year-old fillies.

Another of their star acts, Inspiral, also holds an entry in the Heron Stakes but Gosden is less certain on her first port of call.

Dubai Future Champions Festival – Newmarket – Friday October 8th
Inspiral, here winning the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, is still to be seen this season (Tim Goode/PA)

The unbeaten daughter of Frankel was ante-post favourite for the 1000 Guineas before missing the race following a setback and her trainer is weighing up the merits of all her possible options, which include Sandown, the Irish 1,000 Guineas or waiting for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“I can’t (confirm her participation in the Irish Guineas) because I think it is something I’m going to discuss tomorrow,” Gosden added.

“At this stage we’re very happy with her, but it has been a difficult spring with her. We have been very open about that and we’ll just see whether that is the right thing to do, to put her on a plane and fly her over there for her first race, or whether we sit tight and maybe run here, or just wait for Ascot. There are three or four aspects to discuss.

“She got held up in the spring, that happens but she looks good, she worked well here yesterday, but when you miss time in your preparation, you don’t want to cut a corner to catch up, that never works.”

Sandown possibility for Trueshan as Gold Cup big guns advertise claims

Trueshan’s trainer Alan King was an interested bystander as Stradivarius took his third Yorkshire Cup on Friday and is keeping a wary eye on the opposition ahead of his bid for the Ascot Gold Cup.

John and Thady Gosden seek a fourth Gold Cup with the gallant Stradivarius, who was cut to 3-1 joint-favourite by Coral for the feature two-and-a-half-mile event at the Royal meeting, joining dual Group One winner Trueshan at the head of the market.

Last season’s Prix du Cadran winner was a Knavesmire absentee because of the fast conditions, as eight-year-old entire Stradivarius galloped to into the history books, winning an 18th European Group race and surpassing Cirrus Des Aigles.

Stradivarius was not the only stayer to have piqued King’s interest on Friday, with Adian O’Brien’s Kyprios powering to a 14-length victory in the mile-and-three-quarter Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown.

The four-year-old subsequently saw his odds halved and is now 100-30 third-best in the market with the same firm.

Having had just one run this season, taking the Listed Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham early last month, King was hoping to get another run into six-year-old Trueshan before the June 16 Gold Cup, although he admitted he was hoping the current dry spell would break.

Team Stradivarius after victory at York
Team Stradivarius after victory at York (Tim Goode/PA)

King said: “Stradivarius produced a great performance – he was awesome. It was lovely to see.

“We just called it (not going to York) on Wednesday morning, as we thought by Friday the ground was going to be too quick. So, I didn’t really want to send them up there and not run him.

“I’m thrilled for Stradivarius. It was a great, wonderful performance again. We will just regroup and have a quiet couple of days.

“Sandown’s Henry II Stakes is a possibility a week on Thursday, but if we have to wait for Ascot, we will. This weather has got to break sooner or later, hasn’t it?

Kyprios did everything asked of him at Leopardstown
Kyprios did everything asked of him at Leopardstown (PA)

“It has been so long since we had decent rain. So, we’ll train him for Sandown and if that’s not going to happen, we will train him for Ascot.

“It is not a major issue if he doesn’t go there. I’m a bit more relaxed with it all the way through.”

King was similarly impressed by young pretender Kyprios and added: “It was wonderful to see Stradivarius run so well, but Aidan’s horse did awfully well as well, so it is all building up. And we’re looking forward to it.”

Reach For The Moon and Inspiral feature in Heron Stakes entries

One-time Classic hopefuls Reach For The Moon and Inspiral feature among the entries for Thursday’s Coral Heron Stakes at Sandown.

The pair, who are both trained by John and Thady Gosden, were ruled out of their prospective spring targets, with winter 1000 Guineas favourite Inspiral sidestepping Newmarket after connections decided she was not quite ready for the race.

It had been hoped Reach For The Moon would be a Cazoo Derby runner for his owner the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year, but he suffered a setback at the end of last year that has taken time to bounce back from and he was judged unlikely to be ready for Epsom on June 4 and sights set instead on Royal Ascot.

Inspiral could make her seasonal bow at Sandown
Inspiral could make her seasonal bow at Sandown (Tim Goode/PA)

The promising duo have been given the option of making their seasonal bows in the Listed mile highlight, although Inspiral is still engaged in the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Sunday week.

Other interesting contenders among the 10 possibles are William Haggas’ Newbury maiden winner My Prospero, the Charlie Hills-trained Tuscan and Andrew Balding’s duo of Imperial Fighter and Harrow.

Stoute sights set on Sandown for Bay Bridge return

Bay Bridge, the exciting Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt who won all four of his starts last year, is set to make his seasonal bow in the Coral Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown.

Last May, the son of New Bay was an impressive four-length winner of Newbury’s London Gold Cup – traditionally one of the season’s most informative three-year-old handicaps – but as ante-post favourite, was ruled out of the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot with a foot abscess.

He returned in October to score in a competitive handicap at York and followed up with a workmanlike success in the Listed James Seymour Stakes at Newmarket.

Now, Bay Bridge will bid to give Stoute a record 12th success in the 10-furlong Group Three event at the Esher track on May 26.

Stoute said: “Bay Bridge is going to go to Sandown for the Brigadier Gerard.

“He is almost ready to come out. He has had a good preparation and now it is time to get down to work.

“We will worry about any targets after he runs at Sandown. As always, we take it one race at a time.”

Stoute is also mulling over options for Lights On, who impressed when beating Mutasaabeq by a neck in the Group Two bet365 Mile at Sandown.

The master of Freemason Lodge Stables is keeping an eye on the weather before making firm plans for the five-year-old daughter of Siyouni.

“Lights On did it really well at Sandown,” said Stoute. “She doesn’t want the ground too fast, so she will be ground dependent.

“She doesn’t need it soft, but she doesn’t want it quick, either.”

Lights On was a Sandown winner
Lights On was a Sandown winner (Simon Milham/PA)

Stoute is “still thinking” about her next possible target, which could include a possible tilt at the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, for which she is currently a general 20-1 chance.

However, he ruled her out of Epsom, adding: “We will have another Cheveley Park filly to go to Epsom.

“Potapova was beaten a short head at Kempton last time (in the Listed Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes) and she will go to Epsom for the (Group Three) Princess Elizabeth Stakes (on June 4).”

Webber maps out Royal Ascot aim for Indefatigable

Paul Webber is planning an ambitious Flat campaign with his star mare Indefatigable, including a return to familiar territory for her first outing on the level.

The Cheltenham Festival-winning hurdler won her sole previous Flat appearance in a Pontefract maiden last October and that has whetted the appetite to keep the game daughter of Schiaparelli going throughout the summer while the ground remains in her favour.

She has finished the National Hunt season by running at Sandown for the past two years and that is the most likely destination for her next outing, with Webber pencilling in a run in the Group Three Henry II Stakes later this month.

“She’s come out of Sandown very well indeed and I’ve had a good hard look at the Flat programme. The problem is there isn’t a little novice race that’s not going to be a little sharp for her over say a mile and three (furlongs) or an easy mile and a half,” explained Webber.

Leicester – Tuesday October 12th
Trainer Paul Webber could seek a third Royal Ascot victory with Indefatigable (Mike Egerton/PA)

“So, I think we might take a bit of a punt and stick her in the Henry II at Sandown, because that track suits her very well. Often that race will only have six or seven runners and we’ll know exactly where we are for the next step.”

The Cropredy Lawn handler has already tasted success twice at Royal Ascot, first with Ulundi in the 2002 Wolferton Stakes and then five years later with Full House in the Ascot Stakes. It is that latter prize which is being lined up as Indefatigable’s summer target, with Webber looking for his third victory at the summer showpiece.

He continued: “Royal Ascot is certainly on the radar, but she would need another run to qualify for the Ascot Stakes. But obviously there is the Queen Alexandra if, for whatever reason, she didn’t get a mark or she got a mark that was too high for the Ascot Stakes. I don’t think we will be supplementing her at 37 grand for the Gold Cup though!”

Rob Hornby relishing Derby chance with Westover

Rob Hornby is excited at the prospect of linking up with Westover in the Cazoo Derby following his victory in the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown.

The son of Frankel overcame signs of greenness to hold off David Simcock’s fast-finishing Cash, with handler Ralph Beckett stating recently the strapping three-year-old will now head straight for the Epsom Classic, for which he is a best price of 25-1.

Hornby has been aboard Westover for three of his four racecourse appearances and is confident there is still plenty of improvement to be seen from the Juddmonte-owned colt.

He said: “He’s very exciting. We always thought a lot of him as a two-year-old and he did very well to win first time out being such a big horse.

“We always thought he’d improve a great deal and be a better three-year-old and to go and do that on his first run of the year, when we hadn’t really asked to many questions at home, was really good.

“There was always going to be a great deal of improvement from the run and to go and be able to win and put in a performance like that was really taking.”

Beckett provided Hornby with his first Group One win when he partnered Scope to land the Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp in October and Westover could continue a blossoming partnership between the trainer and jockey at Epsom, with the pair going within a neck of victory in the 1000 Guineas through Prosperous Voyage.

Epsom Downs Spring Meeting – Epsom Downs Racecourse
Rob Hornby is excited by the prospect of linking up with Westover in the Derby (John Walton/PA)

“For myself it is really exciting and it’s great for the whole yard, there’s a real buzz about the place. The horses are running really well and hopefully it bodes well for an exciting season,” continued Hornby.

“The link up with Ralph has been really fruitful for the past three years now and I’ve always been attached with Andrew Balding since my apprenticeship. Obviously there has become a few more opportunities there this year with Oisin’s (Murphy) absence, so it will be nice to grab as many of those opportunities while I can and keep pushing forwards.”

Five-star Nicholls enjoys perfect finale at Sandown

Paul Nicholls stole the show on the final day of the season at Sandown as he was crowned champion trainer for the 13th time before saddling a spectacular five-timer.

By his own admission it has been an up and down campaign for the master of Ditcheat, with his form early in the new year a genuine cause for concern.

The Cheltenham Festival also came and went without a Nicholls winner, but the arrival of spring has led to a turnaround in form and it all came to a fantastic crescendo in the Esher sunshine – also proving a fitting farewell for assistant trainer Harry Derham, who will now strike out on his own.

Knappers Hill set the ball rolling for the team with victory in the opening bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle, with the 3-1 favourite conceding upwards of 6lb but still proving far too good for his rivals, beating Boombawn by four and a half lengths in the hands of Harry Cobden.

Though disappointing in the EBF Final here in March, he had easily landed a novice hurdle last week and Nicholls said: “He is a really nice horse and we knew we had to qualify at Newton Abbot and we kept him fresh for that. That race brought him on a bit and he has done that nicely off top weight.

“He was sixth in the Betfair Hurdle off a mark of 135 and it was inexperience that got him a bit behind. On that form I knew he was going to be hard to beat today.

“He just loves good ground. The time I ran him in the EBF was probably an error, really. The owners were keen to go because they didn’t really want to go to Cheltenham that week with him.”

He added: “A race like the Gerry Feilden would be a good starting point. He has to improve, but he just might – I think there’s lots to come.”

McFabulous and Lorcan Williams landed the Select Hurdle
McFabulous and Lorcan Williams landed the Select Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

Saint Calvados (evens) and Greaneteen (11-8) completed the Nicholls-Cobden hat-trick, claiming big-race wins in the Oaksey Chase and Celebration Chase respectively.

An hour later came winner number four, with Lorcan Williams in the saddle this time as 4-1 shot McFabulous claimed Grade Two honours in the bet365 Select Hurdle.

In a tactical affair, the eight-year-old made virtually all the running and had just enough left up his sleeve to see off the challenge of Indefatigable by a length.

“McFabulous has loads of ability and he loves that ground. I don’t know why he saves his best for going right-handed, but he will go chasing now,” Nicholls added.

“He is not the easiest of rides, but he has lots of ability. It is a good pot to win this year and he runs well at Aintree. He will go chasing in October. I will start him at Chepstow and then see what happens.

“He would have gone there this year if he had not had an accident in the yard and then it was too late to go chasing – he slipped up and fractured a tiny vertebra in his wither and it just kept him back.

“He will be an exciting chaser. He will get three (miles) round Kempton on a flat track. He would be a good one for the Kauto Star at Kempton and we might work back from that, but that is a long way off.”

Samarrive (100-30) made it a fitting end to a near perfect day with victory in the concluding bet365 Handicap Hurdle, providing Cobden with his fourth success of the afternoon, although the rider finished the campaign on a slightly frustrating 99 winners.

Nicholls said: “Five winners – what an amazing day! The only mistake I made was steering Cobby (Cobden) towards Scaramanga, not McFabulous, otherwise he would have ridden 100 winners.

“That’s how it goes. I got it wrong and we can’t get it right all the time, but I just felt for Cobby to be that close to that ton.

“It has been an amazing day. We have an amazing team and Kate (Nutt, travelling head girl) and Harry’s last day with the horse they saddle is a winner. It is a new thing next year with a new team and we move forward. It never stops.

“Clifford (Baker, head lad) has been with me such a long time and we both love the game and that’s why we do it. We have some lovely horses and this week we have had an amazing week with a few winners.

“The horses have all come right and why they weren’t back in January, I’ll never ever know.

“Of course, any day you’d go racing, you’d be happy with one winner. To get five is just amazing. I did six one day at Wincanton, but five, on a day like today, on the last day of the season, is incredible.”

Derham was delighted to end his Ditcheat tenure in such spectacular style, adding: “It could not have been much better. This week has been amazing. Today has been a little bit of a daze, really.

“It has been my life. I’ve known nothing else and Paul has been the boss forever.

“Honestly, I’ve not known how I have felt all day. I have tried to soak it all in and enjoy the day and then this has happened. It will take a long time to sink in.

“I could not have dreamed of it being better. We will have a good celebration tonight – and tomorrow!”

Fitzgerald delighted to see Hughes gain just reward at Sandown

Things were a little different for Brian Hughes at the bet365 Jump Finale at Sandown on Saturday.

Two years ago, when he lifted the champion jump jockeys title for the first time, the country was in a Covid lockdown. No crowds, no presentations, no celebrations, no reward for the sheer hard graft.

Mick Fitzgerald never had the ammunition or the luck to topple Richard Dunwoody, Sir Anthony McCoy or Richard Johnson to become champion, but he had plenty of big days to go with plenty of major injuries.

He knew what it took to be a champion, yet even in his halcyon days, he simply had the misfortune to be riding in the Martin Pipe era, just as the equally brilliant Adrian Maguire had found.

It says plenty about the man that one of his biggest racing moments – one of the most little known – came far from the spotlight, long after he quit the saddle, after a long drive to Sedgefield.

“It is a big deal to win the title and it is a big deal to him (Hughes),” said Fitzgerald. “I think that was a little bit lost as I don’t think people realised what a big deal it was.

“To be champion jockey it takes an awful lot. You have to make sacrifices, you have to push yourself all the time to be constantly striving to be ahead of the guy behind you.

“I can’t emphasise enough how big a deal it is to be champion jockey. You ask Brian, and he would tell you the truth, he will say that he never thought he would be champion. He wanted to be, but you never think you are going to be. Then you are, and then you don’t have anything to signify you are champion jockey.

“The trophy that goes with it is beautiful, but it is the list of names on that trophy that makes it so special because you are thinking, ‘I’m one of those’.

“That is why I could not believe he had no trophy.”

Fitzgerald added: “I interviewed him at Southwell and said, ‘well, at least you have the trophy’, and he said, ‘what trophy?’

“You could see the disappointment on his face, and while he never said it, I felt he should have had his day at Sandown, but because of Covid it was nobody’s fault, but I felt, ‘at least let him have his trophy!’.

“So I rang the BHA and they said it had nothing to do with them, it was Great British Racing who organised it.

“I spoke to them and they said they had the trophy and were waiting for a date to give him it at Sandown, and I said, ‘you don’t know how long this virus is going to last’. They said they wanted to let him have his day to celebrate, but I said, ‘he’s not going to have it – give him the trophy, he’s earned it!’.

Hughes rode his 200th winner of the campaign at Perth on Wednesday
Hughes rode his 200th winner of the campaign at Perth on Wednesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

“So I asked if it could be delivered to me and I took it up to him. I spoke to the guys at Sky and they filmed me giving him the trophy.

“You could see on his face and his wife’s face how proud he was. I don’t think he could quite believe it – and it is only when you have physical evidence – that this champion jockey’s trophy is yours.

“No-one is giving it to you, you’ve earned it. It means an awful lot to him.

“It has nothing to do with me. I just felt he deserved it, just wanted to have his due reward.

“He deserved to have the trophy on his sideboard, because not having it, he had been robbed of it, because eight or nine months later he would have to hand it back.”

Brian Hughes and his family at Sandown
Brian Hughes and his family at Sandown (Nigel French/PA)

Hughes had his day at the Esher track on Saturday. In the warmth of friends, family and plenty of supporters, he received his trophy from The Grand Tour and former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond and his wife, Mindy.

Naturally enough, he was quick to pay tribute to those who helped him take a second title.

Hughes said: “I’m the lucky one who gets to ride a lot of winners, but the early mornings, late nights and being away from family for days at a time is tough.

“Every jockey works hard and you see today it looks glamorous and all that, but all the lads put their heart and soul into it to do their best, so to be champion is hard work, but I’m the one getting all the rewards, so it is a lot easier when you are getting the rewards.

“Donald McCain has been a mainstay. I have had over 100 winners for him this season and he has had a career best of 155 and that is massive.

“Everyone at Cholmondeley has worked extremely hard to get me horses to ride this year, so I massively appreciate their help.

“Obviously, I ride for Nicky Richards, Charlie Longsdon, Brian Ellison and lots of trainers – I’ve ridden for 35 different trainers and I’m very lucky they have supported me for a lot of years.

“I have been lucky to have ridden winners consistently week in week out. I never thought I would achieve 200 winners, but I’m delighted to have achieved that and it is something I am proud of.”

Hughes with his trophy
Hughes with his trophy (Nigel French/PA)

Now the silverware has whetted his appetite, he will make space for more on the mantelpiece, should the opportunity present itself.

“Another championship would be nice and that will always be the goal until I retire,” he added.

Fitzgerald looking on, smiling as Hughes was presented with the trophy, said: “Today makes all the stuff that has gone, it makes all this immaterial.

“Because this is his day and everyone is here to share it with him and it is lovely for him. I’m really pleased for him. He is a proper champion and deserves every accolade going.”

Irish raider Hewick strikes Sandown Gold for Hanlon team

Hewick provided Ireland with another big-race success on British soil when running out an impressive winner of the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

Winner of the Durham National at Sedgefield in the autumn, Shark Hanlon’s charge was pulled up on his return from a break in last month’s Midlands National at Uttoxeter.

But back on a sounder surface for the traditional seasonal finale, the seven-year-old proved a different proposition in the hands of leading Irish conditional Jordan Gainford.

Step Back, winner of the race four years ago, gave a bold sight in front for much of the three-mile-five-furlong journey under amateur rider Lily Bradstock, but was a tired horse turning for home.

As he faltered, Hewick swept to the lead and never really looked in danger of being caught as he galloped all the way up the hill to score comfortably by eight lengths.

Musical Slave filled the runner-up spot, just ahead of 4-1 favourite Kitty’s Light in third.

Jockey Jordan Gainford with his trophy
Jockey Jordan Gainford with his trophy (Nigel French/PA)

Hanlon said: “He is a lovely horse. He was very unfortunate at Uttoxeter and but for the loose horse there, I think he would have won.

“He was hitting the front and that is his strong point at home.

“He is a summer horse and he is only starting now. We will see a lot of him over the year in England, though there are no immediate targets.”

The Hewick team after the race (
The Hewick team after the race (Nigel French/PA)

Hanlon continued: “He’s going to have plenty of weight wherever he goes, but he’s a tough little horse. The ground on the last day was soft enough which wouldn’t have been ideal.

“We’ve nothing planned, but all those long distance chases would be on the radar, he’ll probably end up as a National horse at some stage.

“I think he’s tough and you have to have a tough horse for the National and while he’s not fast, he’s got plenty of gears. He’ll jump out there like a two-mile horse but he’ll stay the whole way.

“The plan was to go home this evening, but the plan just changed!”

Philip Hobbs believes runner-up Musical Slave will eventually enjoy his day in the sun after failing to follow up a victory at Haydock last week.

He said: “It was very much another good effort in defeat today. He has run well here before.

“He didn’t have a penalty today, so he was entitled to do what he did as long as he kept his form from last week as you never know sometimes when you run them two weeks running. We are very pleased with him.

“The way he has run you wouldn’t think the quick turnaround has had any impact. I’m delighted and think there is a race like this in him.”

Kitty's Light (nearside) finished third
Kitty’s Light (nearside) finished third (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Christian Williams, trainer of Kitty’s Light, said: “It was a great run from Kitty’s Light. I thought he travelled well in the cheekpieces and is definitely one to look forward to next year.

“He has run in all those good races and will do again next season. We might put the camera down him and check his wind before next season. He has won us over £100,000 without winning a race this season which isn’t bad.”

Williams also fielded Scottish National winner Win My Wings, who fell two fences from home racing off a 14lb higher mark, and fifth-placed Cap Du Nord.

The handler added: “I’m not sure what we are meant to do with Win My Wings now. We will speak to the handicapper but if he has no intentions of helping us, we might have to retire her, but we will speak to the owners and see. She has walked back in fine. Rob (James, jockey) said the weight might have told and the ground might have been a bit dead for her.

“Cap Du Nord (who finished fifth) maybe doesn’t quite stay this trip. He jumped nicely and picked up some nice prizemoney and the owners have had a good day out. We might stick to keeping him to places like Kempton that really suit him.”