Adam Nicol is looking forward to next season with stable star Wise Eagle after deciding to draw stumps for the current campaign.
Bought out of Tom Clover’s yard for just 7,000 guineas three years ago, the six-year-old has proved a real money-spinner for his connections, winning a jumpers’ bumper and 10 races on the Flat.
He started off 2023 by beating subsequent Chester Cup hero Metier in the lucrative Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh before filling the runner-up spot behind the top-class Coltrane in Ascot’s Sagaro Stakes.
An ambitious tilt at Gold Cup glory at the Royal meeting failed to pay off, with Wise Eagle losing a shoe and finishing last of the 12 runners, but Nicol remains confident there will be more big days in a horse who has already improved a staggering 40lb in the ratings.
“We’re going to pull the plug this season and get him ready for the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh, which he won this year in early April,” said the Northumberland-based trainer.
“We were going to keep him for an autumn campaign and run him either at Doncaster (Doncaster Cup) or maybe in the Cesarewitch, but we’re just going to look after him and bring him back in December time and aim for Musselburgh, where he’s won four times.”
Reflecting on his performance in the Gold Cup, Nicol added: “He pulled a hind shoe off and was very sore the next day. It’s like us ripping our big toe nail off as he took a bit of foot with it as well.
“I think that happened quite early on, so that didn’t help, but Danny (Tudhope) was never happy with him and said he was hanging left from the minute the gates opened, which is not like him at all.
“We sent him down to Newmarket for a full MOT at the equine hospital and we found that he was just a bit jarred up in his front end.
“He’s absolutely fine now and he’ll be back next season. You’ve got to look after every horse obviously – but for a small yard like ours, when you’ve got a horse running in those type of races, we’re not going to flog him.
“There was a reason for the poor run in the Gold Cup, his run in the Sagaro Stakes was very good and we’ve seen what Coltrane has gone and done. There’s not many horses that have made a race of it with Coltrane, so if we can get this lad back right, I think there’s more races to be won with him.”
While Nicol’s initial focus will be on major staying races on the Flat next year, he is not ruling out a future switch to the jumping game, with Wise Eagle having finished second on his only start over hurdles to date in 2020.
He said: “I was thinking if he was in good form we could maybe give him a run in a novice hurdle in the autumn before the ground gets too heavy as he is a very good jumper.
“He’s very quick and has been from day one. I remember one day I schooled him over some tyres and I was like ‘Jesus, you’d think he was a handicapper’.
“That’s something to think about down the line. Every now and again we school him over barrels to keep his eye in and if he reaches his limit on the Flat or goes a bit sour and needs a change of scenery, we could look to go hurdling. We’ll just see what happens.”