The old adage says that you can wait an age for a bus then two turn up at once. We have patiently waited for four years, since the international glory days of Presvis, to succeed at the highest level and then, fifteen days apart, two Group 1 victories have set the Bedford House team alight. Postponed’s determined duel with Eagle Top gave us our first ever King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and then Second Step romped home in the 125th Grosser Preis Von Berlin at Hoppegarten. This was our 30th winner of the 2015 season, 48th Group/Grade 1 win overall and took our tally of countries in which we have won Group races to 13. As you can imagine, Second Step, along with his devoted lad Yusuke Sai and Traveling Head Girl Emthe Kuhle-Hansen were given a well deserved hero’s homecoming.
Going into the race at Hoppegarten it was hard to assess the form of Second Step’s opponents. Ito had won his last two races easily but we were unsure what he had beaten in those races while we were not sure about the strength of the German Derby which Nutan won easily. There was certainly an element of the unknown, though the professionals, those that do the ratings, appeared not to have the same concerns that we had (and, as it turned out, he did not actually need to improve to win according to the Timeform ratings). However, the race tactics appeared quite clear and we knew Ito would make the running and that Nutan would sit handy. The plan was for Second Step to sit third but he was a bit slow out of the stalls which held him in a wide position so Jamie Spencer had to sit and suffer until turning into the straight. Swinging wide in to the short home straight, Second Step, who is a laid back character, took his time to engage top gear but, his wonderful attitude and a determined ride, saw him power home to get up in the last half furlong. The win certainly brought back memories of when Purple Moon won the 2007 Ebor under Jamie for the same owner, Craig Bennett.
He will now be aimed at the Group 1 Palmers House Estate Irish St Leger at the Curragh and we are hopeful that the step up to a mile and three quarters on a galloping track can bring about more improvement. The Canadian International in October remains a possibility as Woodbine would be the most suitable of all the North American tracks for Second Step thanks to its big, sweeping bends and as long a straight as you are going to find over there. We have fond memories of winning the Canadian International with Infamy in 1988 so it would be nice to make a return journey.
Closer to home, it was good to see the Fittocks Stud owned Fiesole win at Brighton when making his own running which was not ideal, while another Fittocks owned colt, Duffel, made a successful handicap debut when dropped back to six furlongs at Wolverhampton. Duffel has more speed than his pedigree might suggest and it is likely he will stay over six furlongs for now and we have always thought that his action would prove suited to the all-weather surface. Stuart Stuckey’s homebred Frenzified won her third race this season when finding plenty at Salisbury under Lemos De Souza. She is a tough filly but not without her quirks and she still looks like she is improving. Being by Yeats we also have the option of going beyond a mile and a half with her though she seems to be handling the current distance rather well for the time being granted a reasonable gallop.
Penhill got back on track when second to an improving three year old at Pontefract and they probably did not go fast enough for him. It was good to see him settle better and we are looking forward to running him on softer ground given that his best performance last year came when winning on soft at Ripon. Similar comments apply to King Bolete who has been unlucky to run on fast ground on his last three starts. Haydock was good to soft when we declared on the Thursday, good on the Friday and good to firm on Saturday! Koora, a half sister to Milan, gave Fittocks Stud yet another winner when scoring with authority at Doncaster and we are hopeful she can make up into a black type filly. She will be suited by twelve furlongs so we are going to take a look at the Listed EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes at York on Thursday, a race in which we have enjoyed success in the past.
Another former Fittocks Stud resident, Al gave us great joy when winning at Newmarket in (almost excessively) decisive fashion. A 12lb rise in the official ratings was what we were expecting for his seven-length win and, on the positive side; he may now get in the Betfred Melrose Stakes at York on Saturday, in which we have trained the third for the last two years. Al will certainly stay a mile and three quarters, though whether he is good enough we will have to see. Lady of Dubai was unlucky in the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes where she didn’t get a run when it was needed and will probably line up in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. Finally, Mount Logan did really well when winning at Goodwood and is clearly effective over ten furlongs, though we would like to step him back up to a mile and half next but there few decent races at that trip in sight for him at the moment so we might have to wait a little longer.