Fittocks Stud’s Koora was our first runner following our last update when she contested the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes at York last Thursday and we were delighted with her second place finish. Her performance showed she is already better than last year even though the race did not pan out ideally for her as she found herself slightly hemmed in and could not use her big stride until the last furlong. It would have been nice to see her find a clear path through around three furlongs out and gradually make her way home but it was not to be. While we obviously have the option of going back up in trip with her next time, this performance showed she is clearly effective over a mile and a quarter, so the question now is whether we aim her for Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock on May 28th or the Group 1 Sea The Stars Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on June 26th. Ultimately, the two Group 1s for older fillies over a mile and a half in Britain, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks at York’s Ebor Festival in August and the Qipco British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot in October, are her big targets this year.
Clearly, we were expecting a bit better from Merry Fox Stud’s Second Step in the Group 2 Betway Yorkshire Cup the following afternoon especially after Flying Officer was withdrawn. There are two things with Second Step; firstly we are now of the opinion that he does not get a mile and three quarters. He slowed down dramatically in the final furlong of the Irish St Leger last September and did the same at York last Friday so the natural conclusion is that the distance was a bit too far for him. Secondly, we feel he is a horse who likes to run at a target rather than be in front too long. Andrea Atzeni had no choice but to take things up when he did, considering how well Second Step was travelling against the early leader Glaring, but it unfortunately meant Second Step became a sitting duck and he was run down by both Clever Cookie and Curbyourenthusiasm late on. We will now drop him back to a mile and a half with the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom on June 4th, the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, both in July, all under consideration.
Kangyu International Racing (HK) Ltd’s Shakopee made a pleasing reappearance after a 13 month layoff (gelded in the meantime) when fourth at Newmarket the same afternoon. He was simply too fresh which caused him to run too freely for the first couple of furlongs, which is understandable given his long absence from the track, and hopefully he will be much more relaxed next time out. He won his maiden on heavy ground so perhaps he does like to get his toe in, however, he also has form on good and good to firm conditions, so we hope he can win a nice handicap or two this year. Mr Stuart Stuckey’s Four On Eight also made an encouraging return when finishing fourth in a handicap at Newmarket last Thursday and he will now be stepped up to a mile and a quarter for his next start.
Beautiful Morning’s close second in the Listed Haras de Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury last Saturday was frustrating because we perhaps could have kicked on a bit earlier in what appeared to be a slowly run race and tried to put the contest to bed. However, we are pleased for her owners, Jon and Sarah Kelly, that she now has black type which is obviously very important for a filly with her breeding. She was rather caught flat footed at a crucial stage of the race but stayed on nicely and was coming back at the winner, We Are Ninety, in the closing stages. It looks more than likely that we will renew rivalry with that filly in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot where the step up to a mile and a half should suit Beautiful Morning.
That was the second time we have finished second to We Are Ninety this season as Mrs Angie Silver’s Cryptic had chased her home in a mile handicap at Chelmsford in April. Considering both horses had run off a mark of 70 that day it was obviously very disappointing to see Cryptic finish down the field at Lingfield on Tuesday off a 3lb higher mark. He perhaps found things a bit too quick for him around that track and we will probably step back up to a mile and make the transition from all-weather to grass next time.
Looking ahead, Mr Geoff Grimish’s War Story holds entries over seven furlongs at Haydock and over a mile at Newmarket on Saturday. We are edging toward the latter race, one which we have gone close in with Spiriting and Dubai Queen in recent years, and it is likely that he will be joined at the meeting by Fittocks Stud’s Laurence who is entered in the ten furlong handicap. Mr Leonidas Marinopoulos’ Banksea and Thrift Farm Stud’s Unnoticed look set to run on Monday at Leicester. As mentioned in our previous update, we are keen to try Banksea over a mile and a quarter, and the handicap he will contest is the same race in which Laurence was runner up in 12 months ago. Unnoticed was awarded a race as a two year old for his former trainer so is “technically” still a maiden after 12 starts and we are looking forward to him making his first start for us.