2016 was a difficult year for us in the respect that we had to deal with the fallout of our very own version of Brexit, ‘Obexit’, which left us with 40 fewer horses than we might have expected to have had in training with us. Despite that we managed two Group wins with our old stalwart Mizzou (who also finished second in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup) and the Group 3 Prix De Flore with Loving Things along with a couple of Listed contests too. It was not a season we were happy with but, given the numbers of horses we had in training and individual winners, it was one we were satisfied with. Neither of the aforementioned horses are with us this year having been retired, but Rosental who won a Listed race at Saint-Cloud last autumn remains in training. It is fair to say that we probably do not have a Group One winner in the yard this year, however, there is a good mix of older horses and three year olds of which there are a couple that look like intriguing prospects.
As usual, we have kept our powder dry over the winter and we did not have our first runner this year until last week at Lingfield. It is always a nervous wait until we can chalk up our first winner of the year, but three placed efforts from five runners suggest the horses are in good form and it will not be long until we get off the mark. Bedouin started that sequence off when staying on well at Nottingham in a handicap that was not run strongly enough for him before El Vip and Materialistic went close at Bath and Kempton respectively. We don’t often have runners at Bath, but the prize money on Good Friday was good and the stiffish mile looked sure to play to El Vip’s strengths. However, the pace in the first couple of furlongs was not that strong and he ended up over racing which looked to have cost him in the closing stages. All the same it was a very good effort considering he was conceding race fitness to both the winner (second in the Lincoln) and another that had been racing in Dubai. It was a very encouraging starting point for what will hopefully be a successful season and he will be kept to around a mile for now. Materialistic is another that we will probably keep to a mile, or maybe nine furlongs, for the foreseeable future. She ran a fine race when fourth to So Mi Dar last year at Yarmouth in what was more akin to a Group contest than a Listed race before disappointing twice afterwards. However, it looks as if the decision to keep her in training was the right one seeing how she buckled down well behind previous Listed winner Aljazzi and hopefully she will maintain her form for much longer this term.
We have several runners this coming week and, if we were to nominate one horse among them that has the best chance, it would have to be Manangatang at Beverley on Wednesday. He will relish the step up to a mile and a quarter and faces only five rivals, one of whom is penalised for a win in a modest Windsor handicap the other day. An opening mark of 76 looks well within his capabilities, even though the form of his debut win suggests he did not achieve much that day, and hopefully he should take this before going on to better things. We also run Pleasant Surprise at Beverley as we have very few options elsewhere to run her against her own sex. She is a nice filly and will come on for the racing experience.
Dubara and Spinnaka represent the stable at Newmarket on Thursday. Dubara has been training very well and ought to go forward this year and, while the same can be said of Spinnaka, the maiden she is in might well turn out to be a hot one but we need to get a run into her. Banksea is our highest profile runner on Saturday in the Be Wiser Insurance Spring Handicap at Newbury. There are very few handicaps open to him given his mark but, considering most of them are worth far more than Group 3 or Listed races, it makes sense to try and win another before a rise in class is forced upon him, although we fear he may need this first run. We also run a couple at Nottingham including Wannabe Friends who was an intended runner at Redcar on Easter Monday before the ground became too firm. A mile looks his trip and he seems well handicapped.
Looking further ahead, Rosental will make her seasonal reappearance in either the Group 3 Prix Allez France Stakes at Chantilly at the end of April or the Group 2 Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket the following week over the shorter distance of nine furlongs. The distance is not an issue in all reality, however, the ground is and, as she needs a bit of give underfoot, options in France are always under consideration. A filly we will be starting off at a mile and a quarter is Aljezeera, the daughter of Frankel who made a winning debut at Doncaster last year. She is pencilled in for the Oaks Trial sponsored by the Haras Du Bouquetot at Newbury in mid-May. Finally, another filly we are looking forward to running soon is God Given, a half-sister by Nathaniel to Postponed, who showed plenty of promise last year. She could be the type that develops into a Park Hill contender, and is another who could run over a mile and half straight away if only there were any fillies’ only races for her.
Picture Courtesy of Jonny Sumner