With form figures of 3412223223 from our runners since last week’s update it has certainly been a case of what might have been. However, it was still pleasing to get to 20 winners for the year when Mr Stuart Stuckey’s homebred Pacharana completed her hat trick in a handicap at Kempton last Wednesday. It was a funny race, especially with Pacharana’s main danger coming down the opposite side of the track only to lose out on the nod, but it was a clever ride from Jamie Spencer who anticipated the lack of pace very early and, if you had stopped the race a furlong out, you would have said Pacharana was an easy winner. She did hang to the right after hitting the front, but Jamie was not worried about this in his post-race debrief, and pointed out that the surface at Kempton is very fluffy at present (official going given as standard to slow), which might have been a bit too slow for her. The race also showed, as we strongly suspected it would, that Pacharana stays a mile and a half, and hopefully she can land the four-timer off her new mark of 75 (up 5lb), which still gives us the option of taking on older horses at a realistic level. Stuart’s horses were also responsible for the first two of those second places, as Four On Eight could not quite reel in Vincent’s Forever on the same Kempton card and it was a similar story for Vanity Queen behind Plant Pot Power at Newmarket two days later. The surface might not have suited Four On Eight, either, as we know he does not like slow ground, and he will probably go up another furlong to a mile and a half for his next start. In hindsight, it perhaps was not the right thing to do to ride Vanity Queen from behind in a three runner race in which she was the only proven stayer. We know she has a fair turn of foot and she will hopefully be able to use it to better effect next time. We will look at giving her another run this year and we actually think being able to get her toe into the ground will suit her even though she has only run on good to firm so far.
Mr Leonidas Marinopoulos’ Diamond Geyser brought up the third second in a row when bouncing back to form in a handicap at Goodwood. Like Four On Eight and Vanity Queen’s races it appeared a steadily run affair, which ideally did not suit our horse, but we cannot have any real complaints as Guns of Leros won with something in hand. It was still good to see Diamond Geyser get back on track following his unfathomable run at Doncaster and, hopefully, there is another handicap to be won with him in the near future. His jockey Oisin Murphy suggested he could drop back in trip, while we note Timeform believe he should stay further, so perhaps it makes more sense to remain over a mile and a half for the time being. Completing our list of runners up were The Dukes Of Devonshire & Roxburghe’s Myopic and Fittocks Stud’s Dubara, who both ran at Goodwood on Sunday and Tuesday respectively. Myopic is a rather one paced filly, but she is honest and stays a mile and a half well, so there should be more races to be won with her this autumn when rain softened ground may well play to her strengths. She might not have been best suited by the Goodwood track either as she appeared to hang into the camber down the home straight. Dubara got caught in a pocket when Jamie Spencer wanted to make his move approaching the two furlong pole and was only beaten a neck in the end, although it might be pushing it to say she was unlucky not to win as she was racing upside the eventual winner from a furlong out.
Our third placed horses were Mr Jon Kelly’s Rickrack in a two year old maiden at Yarmouth, Merry Fox Stud’s Second Step in the Listed Sri Lanka August Stakes at Windsor and Normandie Stud’s newcomer Brodie in a maiden for three year olds plus at Goodwood. We probably won’t see the best of Rickrack until she tackles middle distances next year, although we still think she may be able to win a maiden this year, while Brodie, is also more of a longer term project, so we were rather surprised to see her start at 5/4. Second Step was clearly below the form he showed last year and indeed on a couple of his starts this time season. Things did not pan out well for him at Windsor and we still feel he can win again at Listed or Group 2/3 level. He was just gearing up to lay down his challenge when he got involved in a skirmish with Fire Fighting, which more or less caused Andrea Atzeni to stop riding for the best part of a furlong, and the race was over by the time he got into the clear. To be frank, it is possible that Windsor did not suit Second Step, especially over just short of a mile and a half, which was a concern beforehand, so we will look for a race on a more galloping track next time. We will probably keep the blinkers on, too. Finally, Thrift Farm Stud’s Unnoticed perhaps was not seen to best effect when fourth in a six furlong handicap but it is stretching it to say he was unlucky not to go close. We will probably step him back up to seven furlongs next time, maybe at Brighton next week.
Looking ahead, Al Shaqab Racing’s promising colt El Vip makes his second start in a 0-95 handicap at Haydock on Friday. It has been five weeks since his debut at Doncaster and it is fair to say we have found it difficult to find the right race for him, which is a common problem when any horse wins on its debut and is given an official rating in the 80s or higher. While El Vip’s opening mark was stiff enough (the runner up at Doncaster was beaten comfortably by a horse rated 76 a week later) it was still easier to take than the mark given to OTI Racing’s Testimonio for winning a four runner maiden at Brighton in which only one other horse ran its race. How he was given a rating 81 is baffling. Even acknowledging that the runner up Golden Reign was rated 74 going into the race (although she is yet to run in a handicap and actually might not be fully deserving of that rating), it is hard to figure out how Testimonio has come out of it with such a rating for beating her by a length and a quarter (carrying the obligatory 5lb extra for being a colt). He should be rated 76 or 77 at the most, surely? It feels like the handicapper has added on a few pounds for predicted improvement, which, if true, is not within the remit of his job. If Testimonio had been beaten by Golden Reign then he could not really have been rated higher than her rating of 74 (which, incidentally, she has been left on), whereas he has been hammered for trying his best and wearing down the filly late on. Like referees in football, handicappers get plenty of stick and do have a difficult job to do, but consistency and being able to see your workings out clearly are always paramount and on this occasion we feel they have given a dubious penalty.