I think it would be appropriate to say that we are extremely pleased with the performances of all our horses since the beginning of the season and, although we would have naturally preferred a bit more luck in running for some of them, we are nonetheless thrilled with their continued good form. Thankfully it was ability rather than luck that saw both King Bolete (pictured) and Laurence finished first past the post over the weekend. Having ridden several placed horses for his new retainer, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, Adam Kirby got his first winner of the season for the Derby winning owner on King Bolete. The three year old son of Cape Cross lined up at Newbury in what looked like an extremely competitive one mile three furlong handicap. The race comprised of a number of lightly-raced, well-fancied maiden winners going handicapping for the first time. Sitting in mid division King Bolete made headway with over two furlongs to go and then showed a good burst of acceleration to take up the lead inside the final furlong. He appears to be a handicapper very much in the mould of some of our previous progressive types over the years and the King George V Handicap Stakes at Royal Ascot will most likely be his next target. The form of his Doncaster fourth behind Subcontinent has already received a boost by the winner following up at Windsor, and it was made to look even stronger with the runner-up, Dutch Uncle, finishing third to Time Test at Newbury on Saturday. With his form panning out in such good fashion we were more than expecting the rise in his official handicap rating to 89. The extended distance at Newbury was very much in King Bolete’s favour and the way in which he finished would suggest that a step up to a mile and a half would also suit him. Whether Ascot, with its short straight, will suit him as well as Newbury remains to be seen, however, he is an exciting long term prospect who will continue to progress as the season goes on.
The same can be said of Laurence who made what looked like hard work of winning his maiden over a mile at Newmarket on Saturday. It is easy to forget he is not yet three, having been foaled very late in May (the 26th to be exact), but we could not have been happier with his attitude and determined fight to get up on the line after looking in trouble with a quarter of a mile to run. Also ridden by Adam Kirby; he reported that Laurence was running lazily and, while there is an element of truth to that, he also clearly needs a step up to a mile and a quarter sooner rather than later. Now that we know which direction we are heading with him we can plan a sensible campaign and he will be a useful handicapper in the making for later in the season.
Had the dice fallen a little bit differently, we may also have been celebrating victory with Pamona and Ajman Bridge, but circumstances conspired against both of them. At Newbury on Lockinge Day, with an impressive £750,000 race card courtesy of the day’s sponsor, Al Shaqab Racing, Pamona took her chance in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies Trial Stakes over a mile and a quarter. Ridden by Andrea Atzeni and sent off the 100/30 favourite she came up against the very promising filly, Crystal Zvezda, whose winning performance was impressive to say the least. However, while the latter had a clear run down the outside enabling Ryan Moore to see what was happening ahead of him, Andrea, who was drawn three off the rail, found himself stuck in behind a wall of horses for the best part of two furlongs. By the time he had found daylight and got Pamona into the clear the winner had gone. Nonetheless, it was hard not to be impressed with the manner in which Pamona picked up – enough to think she would have given the winner plenty to think about in different circumstances. The Investec Oaks at Epsom or the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot will be on her agenda now although it is very difficult to take in both races in the same year. Our feeling is that the longer the straight at Epsom will be more suited to her liking. Ajman Bridge, once again, ran very well under William Buick when trying a mile and a half for the first time at York and he is likely to be campaigned at this distance for the remainder of the season. He is a horse that does not want to be in front for too long so William was nice and patient with his challenge. Unfortunately the winner and the second rather got away from the field with over a furlong to run and, try as he might, Ajman Bridge just couldn’t rein them in. There is an option for him at Epsom at the Derby meeting or he could well go straight to the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap Stakes at Royal Ascot where we may well be double handed should Penhill run as well.
Back at Newmarket, Bess Of Hardwick made a very promising racecourse debut on Friday afternoon. It looked a very warm maiden and there will be few better bred newcomers this year than the winner Gretchen. However, being a half-sister to the high class stayer Ask, Bess Of Hardwick also has a nice pedigree and, once the penny had dropped, she made an eye catching late challenge to run into third place. If she turns out to be as promising as the last horse that made his debut for us over a mile and a half – Mizzou – then we will be extremely happy. She looks a certain winner of a maiden and she will not have any problem with longer distances later in the year, so something like the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster could well be the aim once she gets her maiden out of the way.
While our trip to the Rowley Mile proved successful with Laurence and Bess of Hardwick, we did not have much joy with Lunasea or Wistar. Lunasea still looks like a big baby in need of experience and, on top of that, he did not help himself by getting distracted during the preliminaries. He will be gelded and dropped back to a mile and a quarter and we will aim to find a nice handicap on some good quick ground which should help bring out the best in him. On the other hand Wistar will be stepped up to a mile and a quarter after getting outpaced early over a mile. Both of those were beaten favourites and we had another in La Boheme at Salisbury earlier in the week. The track had received plenty of rain and the conditions underfoot were probably too soft for her having travelled strongly for much of the way. As we know from her work at home, she is much better than that run would suggest, and we will find a maiden on better ground for her next time out.
We shall be studying the weather forecast with great scrutiny this week as we hope to run Postponed at the Curragh on Sunday in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup. It would appear that the weather might be going against us as showers are forecast for the better part of this week. Should the ground be unsuitable we will reroute him to the Group 3 Cantor Fitzgerald Research Brigadier Gerard Stakes on Sandown’s evening card the following week. Should we have to take this route; we are hoping the ground will not be as misleadingly soft as it was when Postponed made his seasonal reappearance a month ago. Before the weekend, though, we have Lady Of Dubai declared to run in the Bibendum Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on Thursday. Like Pamona, she has been a bit slow to come to hand this spring, but she has been showing much more in her recent work and, as long as the rain stays away and the going is no softer than good, we are hopeful of a good run.
We also run Richard Of Yorke in the mile and a quarter handicap at Sandown on Thursday which, at the time of writing, looks like a tough race on paper. Being slightly behind King Bolete in terms of ability right now might provide him with a somewhat tougher test than he is ready for. However; he surprised us at Windsor on his debut so he could be the type of horse that saves his best for the racecourse. We also step Spiriting up to a mile at Haydock after he has come up short twice this year over six furlongs, while Frenzified looks quite well treated off her mark of 70 and she will either run at Bath on Friday or Salisbury on Saturday over a mile and a quarter.
Back at home away from the racecourse; our two year olds are gently building up to their first proper piece of fast work. It is fair to say that we might be a little short of speedy precocious types, but some of them do look quite forward and hopefully they may find their way to the racetrack in a month’s time.