The 2015 Flat season is drawing to an end for us now and we will use this update to reflect on what has been a fantastic season. However, first of all, we should mention our latest winner, Al Khafji, who scored on his nursery debut at Lingfield last Friday. We had suspected he was well handicapped off a mark of 70 as he had some decent entries earlier in the year but we had reservations about the drop back to seven furlongs especially around a track as sharp as Lingfield. Our hand was forced to a degree as there were no suitable opportunities to run him over a mile and, for a long way, our fears seemed about to be realised. However, once into the straight and in the clear, he picked up well and ran out something of a cosy winner catching one that had seemed to have got away. He has been raised 8lb for that run, which on the face of it seems harsh, but he is a very nice prospect for next year when he will come into his own over a mile and a quarter and later on a mile and a half.
Al Khafji was our forty ninth winner of the domestic season (it would be nice to reach fifty at home but we only have a few more two year olds left to run) and our fifty second in total as we have had three winners abroad which give us a strike rate bordering on 20% that places us bang near the top of the tree. The highlight of the year was undoubtedly Postponed’s win in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot which, even before his victory in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Foy, putting him right at the forefront of the Qatar Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe picture.
Postponed was not the only Group 1 winner during 2015 as Second Step, who had already won the Group 2 Dunden at Overbury Jockey Club Stakes earlier in the season, made up for an unlucky defeat in the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Arqana Racing Club Stakes at Newmarket by winning the Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten. He will be around again next year when hopefully he will improve a bit more seeing as he has not had much racing for one of his age. We also had a Group win from Mizzou, who promised much when winning the Group 3 Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot but was only seen twice thereafter, once when having an unlucky run in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup and then in the Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup when second to the improving Max Dynamite who went on to finish an amazing second in the Melbourne Cup. Mizzou will be five next year and, as with Second Step, is a rather lightly raced horse. We know he has ability and he proved he is competitive at the top level so hopefully he will go on to even greater things next year.
One of our favourite moments this year was Koora’s victory in the Group 3 Worthington’s Victoria Club Stakes (Registered as the St Simon) at Newbury and she is very much following the path of her mother Kithanga and brother Milan. Being a big, unfurnished filly she did not race as a two year old and was allowed the time to come into herself. As always with racehorses, especially fillies, patience is a greater virtue and this was evident when she finished a very good second in the Listed EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes at the Ebor Festival on her third career start and then by securing more black type in the St. Simon Stakes. She remains in training next year and we believe she will be a worthy opponent when competing in the mile and a half fillies races.
Connecticut winning the Group 2 International Bosphorus Cup at Veliefendi, Istanbul and a Listed race at Pontefract, Jordan Princess winning the Listed Newsells Park Stud Stakes (Registered as the Aphrodite Stakes) and Lady of Dubai winning the Listed Bibendum Height of Fashion Stakes and subsequently finishing third in the Group 1 Investec Oaks are also fond memories of an era that has now come to pass.
We also enjoyed success with some of our top handicappers such as Ayaar, Roseburg, Mount Logan and the improving Laurence. Ayaar will now join Matt Cumani who is embarking on a new adventure in Australia as a trainer. Ayaar was our first winner this season in the Be Wiser Insurance Spring Cup at Newbury and he has the perfect profile to be a successful horse in Australia. Mount Logan took the opening race at the Goodwood Festival in August while Roseburg was an unlucky second twice in big handicaps on his three starts this season. Laurence was perhaps one of the big surprises this season having come on nicely since his two year old year. We think he might be a black type horse disguised as a handicapper and we are expecting more from him next season.
Despite the loss of the Obaid horses we still have much to look forward to in 2016. The strength of our older horses will be down on what we have become accustomed to over the years though we still have some very nice prospects that have not been mentioned. Most notably the extremely promising Bess Of Hardwick who has only had two starts finishing second on her debut to the impressive Group 2 DFS Park Hill Stakes winner Gretchen and then, five months later, scoring more than impressively at Wolverhampton. We certainly have not seen the best of her yet and will be an exciting prospect for the future.
With regards to our two year olds, we have previously mentioned a number of fillies that we think quite highly of headed by Beautiful Morning, Materialistic, Haggle, Tiptree and Very Dashing. They have all put in some smart performances this year and, hopefully, at least one of them will be able to breakthrough at the top level next year. At present, we might be a little weaker with the two year old colts although we could have a few dark horses up our sleeves with some nice unraced colts and others, such as War Story who recently finished a very promising second on his debut at Kempton, that could all turn out to be nice horses when they develop and mature over the winter. You always have to be positive in this industry and it could be a completely different picture in six months’ time.
We would also like to take this opportunity to, once again, thank both our existing and new owners for their support and the way they rallied round to ensure that our yearling intake was right up to its previous level. We are confident that we have assembled a good team of yearlings with a mixture of fairly early types and our more usual later developing sorts. Next year will definitely be a challenge but it is one that we are ready to face.