A drop back to Group 3 company proved just the ticket for The Tin Man, as he proved a cut above the rest in the Bet365 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
The jury remain undecided as to just how good James Fanshawe’s sprinter is, after he was soundly beaten in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. However, a combination of lesser opposition and a sounder surface brought about an impressive victory, in a race where other leading contenders disappointed.
Ridden with supreme confidence by Tom Queally, he scythed through the pack inside the final furlong to win cosily under a hands and heels ride. The jockey clearly rates his mount highly, when after the victory he said: “He has to be ridden like that. Things didn't go to plan the last day. He has to be ridden with confidence. I think he's different gear when he's on form and I have huge aspirations for him going forward. I think he's a force to be reckoned with. It was a brave, bold call by James. A lot of people would have been pushed into running in the July Cup and we didn't. We'll wait for the big races at the back-end. He's very exciting.”
Fanshawe was similarly impressed after the race, saying: “I'm relieved more than anything. This horse has got enormous talent. He had an interrupted preparation before Ascot, so after the disappointment there we decided to come here rather than the July Cup. Tom was brave and this horse has a great turn of foot and he quickened up well. Ridden that way he's really useful. Tom felt he almost got there too soon, so he could go over five. His dam was good over five, so you wouldn't discount York (the Nunthorpe Stakes), but in my mind I've still got Haydock and the Champions sprint (at Ascot).”
Godolphin’s Divine proved best of the rest, with Raucous back in third, both at odds of 20/1. More fancied challengers Charming Thought, Ibn Malik, Mr Lupton and Buratino, all failed to land a blow. Despite making up 50% of the field, only one three-year-old finished in the first six. It’s four-year-olds who continue to dominate this summer’s sprints with The Tin Man joining the likes of Limato, Profitable and Twilight Son.
For last year’s impressive looking juveniles, this campaign continues to prove a difficult one. The transition from two to three is often tough, with those appearing world beaters at two, failing to progress, and this summer is no exception.
Buratino, and to some extent Illuminate, were both perfect examples on Saturday. The former was one of the leading juvenile colts, winning the Coventry Stakes before finishing runner-up in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. So far this year his best performance from four starts is a fourth place finish at Haydock. It was hoped that Saturday’s quick ground would bring the best out of him, but it failed to make the slightest difference. Mark Johnston’s colt looks a shadow of the horse that promised so much 12 months ago.
Illuminate was another that promised much but has delivered very little. I for one, certainly thought that a return to quicker ground would play to her strengths. However, when Saturday’s race came to the boil, Hannon’s filly faded tamely towards the back of the pack. It’s likely that a return to the minimum trip will help a little, but in all fairness, last year’s Cheveley Park runner-up has not progressed.
If the failures of these two are disappointing, then the major three-year-old flop has to be Coolmore’s Air Force Blue. His juvenile form links in closely with that of Buratino, and like the Godolphin colt, he has also been a major let-down so far this summer. Desperately poor in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, he then ran just as bad in the Irish equivalent. Last time out he finished down the field in the Darley July Cup, though he got no kind of a run that day, when trapped behind a wall of horses. That performance gave some hope that he could still make it as a sprinter. Though keeping faith with a failing three-year-old can prove an expensive pastime.