Epsom & Royal Ascot Review

After all the excitement and build up to last week’s Investec Oaks at Epsom we have now had time to take a deep breath and reflect on what was a proud effort from the diminutive Lady Of Dubai.  It is always our goal to go out and be as competitive as possible, especially in the premier league, and although she did not win, she matched Volume’s third place last year and I think it is clear we have a top class filly on our hands for the second year running. The race looked a strong one beforehand with the Qipco 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo at the head of the field as well as several other impressive Oaks trials winners aiming to take the second fillies’ classic of the year and, if anything, Lady Of Dubai probably improved a little on the form that Volume had shown twelve months previously.  The television commentary suggested that it was a steadily run affair but that is a misrepresentation of how the race panned out as it looked to us, and this was confirmed by the final time for the race, that the gallop was a fair one which did not inconvenience any of the runners. Having sat in mid division until swinging out of Tattenham Corner, Adam Kirby began to make his move down the outside of the field with about three furlongs to travel.  The slight bump she received as the favourite was pulled out for a clear run was inconvenient but it did not cost Lady Of Dubai anything other than a slight loss of momentum as she made her challenge alongside the eventual second. Ultimately, on the day, Qualify and Legattisimo proved to be the two stronger stayers; however, third place in Classic race is quite some achievement given that Lady Of Dubai had been slow to come to hand this year.  Further improvement is hopefully on the cards as the season progresses and the Darley Irish Oaks and Darley Yorkshire Oaks are obviously two summer objectives. She could readily cope with a drop back to a mile and a quarter which would open up more options such as the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. It may well be that the current crop of three year old fillies are a better bunch overall than the older middle distance fillies currently in training which might well also influence our choice of next race.

Other than Lady Of Dubai it was a quiet weekend for the Bedford House team with Fiesole making a promising reappearance to finish third at Goodwood last Sunday.  Hopefully this should set him up nicely for a summer campaign in handicaps.  We had a welcome winner, after a short dry spell, when Aranka scored at Windsor on Monday. It is hard to know exactly what the form is worth with the Godolphin representative in second place looking awkward and clearly not running up to her official rating of 85.  If the official handicapper takes her run at face value then Aranka might face a struggle in future handicaps. The distance of six furlongs looked barely far enough for her and she now has the option of stepping up to a mile if we feel her opening handicap mark is too harsh. It was good to see Bermondsey settle better at Haydock yesterday (Wednesday 10th June) than he had at Newmarket on his debut and he was rewarded with a narrow win in what was probably a decent maiden. He will now be stepped up to a mile and a quarter in a handicap next time. What route we take with Bartholomew Fair remains to be seen after another frustrating effort in the mile handicap where he pulled too hard. He works well at home, so the ability is there, it is just a question of getting him to repeat it on the racecourse. Knight Of Wands ran a very promising race in the mile and a half maiden and would have finished closer without probably winning had the favourite not hampered him twice in the straight.

We have several runners at the end of the week before our attention turns to Royal Ascot and hopefully there should be a winner or two amongst them.  La Boheme runs in a mile and a quarter fillies maiden at Newbury today (Thursday 11th June) and is looking to regain some of the promise she showed first time out at Sandown.  Conditions came up too soft on her second start at Salisbury and the predicted faster ground will definitely suit her. Frenzified heads to Nottingham for a mile and a quarter handicap and still looks to be on a good mark though she will ultimately be better suited by a mile and a half. Laurence will make a quick reappearance at Goodwood on Friday off his old mark of 85 in a bid to get back to winning ways. He has only just turned three so there should be some more improvement to come from him. Noro Lim faces a tough task in the mile and a half handicap on the same card but deserves to take his chance up in class after winning at Chelmsford City.  The step up in distance should help him overcome what looked like a steep rise in his rating for his second career win. Barsanti makes his racecourse debut, also at Goodwood, in the mile maiden and he is a reasonable animal who should go quite well so long as the track does not expose his inexperience.

With the mention of fast ground this brings us nicely round to Royal Ascot and with the weather set fair, according to the ever reliable forecast, for the next few days we are hoping the ground will be on the quick side next week as it will suit all our runners. We do not have anything for the opening day of this spectacular meeting, but Ayaar will make his eagerly anticipated reappearance in the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday and will hopefully have much better luck in running than he did last year. Mizzou bids to give us a long cherished win in the Group 1 Gold Cup on Thursday and, while fast ground will probably rule out one of his sternest challengers in Forgotten Rules, it certainly looks a tough renewal with the likes of Brown Panther and Tac De Boistron amongst the contenders. Progressive from the beginning, Mizzou will again need improve from his win in the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes but with only a handful of races under his belt that is by no means out of the question and the trip will not pose him any problems. We will also have Pamona running in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes on the same day and King Bolete in the King George V Handicap Stakes, while on Friday we have Ajman Bridge, and maybe Penhill, in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap Stakes. Mount Logan will represent us on the Saturday in the Listed Wolferton Handicap Stakes but, with all due respect to him, our focus that day will be on Postponed in the Hardwicke Stakes. Despite it being a Group 2 it promises to be a tougher race than the Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom last weekend and Postponed will almost certainly have to produce a career best performance to win it and on a track that probably is not totally ideal. Nonetheless, the return to a mile and a half for the first time this season will be in his favour and we can only hope the ground is still fast by then. He has had unsuitably easy underfoot conditions on both his starts this year so we feel he has not yet been seen at his best.

On a final note we have to say how sad we are that Newcastle’s turf track will be no more from this autumn. Although we do not have many runners there nowadays due to the low prize money and their programme of races not suiting the majority of our horses, but we have gone close in the Northumberland Plate in recent years as well as winning the odd maiden or two and it really is one of the best grass circuits in the country. We rarely have runners at Catterick either but that seems the better candidate to go all weather in the North, though the news they will continue with their bid to switch surfaces, is a warning for us all to adopt a long term strategy to guard against an increasing and  improper balance of turf and all-weather fixtures.