Dante Festival Week Review

For the past week, at least, the sunshine decided to make an appearance in Newmarket which, we hope, will be music to the ears for some of our fillies who have rather struggled with the inclement weather over the last few months.

It was warm last Friday when we sent out three runners, headed by Mr Leonidas Marinopoulos’ Banksea, who ran very well to finish second in a seventeen runner three year old handicap at Ascot. The race did not exactly go to plan as Banksea found himself at the front of the field without much cover. Ideally, we would have liked him to have tucked in behind the lead in order to save himself for the finish; however, he travelled nicely throughout the race and showed his competitive attitude in the finish beaten only half a length and coming back decisively at the winner. He is clearly very effective over a mile and we believe there is more to come from this son of Lawman.

Kilim and Pinstripe both needed their first runs of the season. Kilim in particular has been a fresh horse at home and the race should have done her good. Both of them will probably be better suited by middle distances in due course based on their pedigrees.

We have three runners today, including Koora, who finished a length and a quarter second to Beautiful Romance in the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes at York.  She was back down to a mile and a quarter for the first time today since winning her maiden. Her big success last year came in the Group 3 Worthington’s Victoria Club Stakes (formerly registered as the St Simon Stakes) over a mile and a half on soft going. Her female line, of course, suggests a mile and a half should be her ideal trip but, Pivotal’s influence is important, and she had shown enough speed in her gallops to suggest she would be as equally effective over  the mile and a quarter today.

Normandie Stud’s Wannabe Friends will make his debut for the yard in a maiden at Newmarket and, as mentioned in a previous update, he is a horse who has done everything we have asked of him so far. He has only been with us since February, so we are still getting to know him, but he has been pleasing us in his homework and we believe he is a nice horse to look forward to. Mr Stuart Stuckey’s Four On Eight has the services of Ryan Moore in the mile handicap for three year olds on the same card and should also go well. The slight drop back in trip should be fine for him at this stage, though he is from the family of our Melbourne Cup runner up Bauer, and will definitely be a mile and a quarter horse in time.

Merry Fox Stud’s Second Step (pictured with Assistant Trainer Amy Murphy and his lad Seamus Flaherty) runs in the Group 2 Betway Yorkshire Cup over a mile and three quarters at York tomorrow and we see that Timeform believes he has a very good chance – we certainly hope they are right. We do not anticipate there being any problems with the trip for him, though he may not get much further, and he continues to please us on the gallops. We also run Shakopee in a handicap at Newmarket on the same afternoon. He sustained an injury after his first run of the 2015 season at Newmarket last April and has not seen a racecourse since.   Hopefully he can pick up from where he left off as he appears in good form.

Mr Jon Kelly’s Beautiful Morning runs in the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. She is a difficult customer to get to know – she can be brilliant at times and less so at others – and we are hoping she puts her best foot forward at the weekend.

Our first winner of the year, War Story, has been handed an opening handicap mark of 85 and could have the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot next month as a potential target. We are half thinking of running him in a valuable seven furlong handicap at Goodwood next week, but he might not get in there, so we also have the option of heading to Haydock just in case.

Finally, we were absolutely delighted to see our son and former assistant trainer, Matt, have his first winner as a trainer when Our Covenant was successful at Bendigo in Australia last Friday. We were particularly pleased as we bought the horse together at Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale when he was known simply as Covenant.  It was also fitting that he carried the colours of OTI Racing who have been a big supporter of ours down the years. Matt trains around a dozen horses at his base in Ballarat, Victoria, with a similar number of yearlings until August 1st, so it is fantastic that he is on the scoresheet already.