We have had several winners since our last update starting with Norway Cross who won a mile-and-a-half handicap at Windsor on very soft ground. She was out early in the spring but didn’t really show the form she had last autumn, so we gave her a break in the summer out at stud and she has come back better than ever by the looks of things. We don’t like to label her an ‘autumn filly’, but there’s no getting away from the fact she seems at her best at this time of year and now the rains have come and soft ground – which she relishes – seems to be everywhere, she will be out again soon hopefully to press home her advantage.
King Bolete and Shakopee both won two-year-old maidens, and both did it with something to spare too. Shakopee absolutely hated the ground at Leicester which makes his win all the more impressive. He’s off to the Sales later this month, but King Bolete will be around next year and he’s the sort that will thrive physically as a three-year-old and his opening mark of 80 doesn’t look too stiff.
The highlight of the past few days, however, was undoubtedly the victory of Second Step in a Listed race in Ireland. It looked a competitive contest, full of progressive types and, despite twice meeting trouble in running, he showed what he wasn’t able to show at Ascot the time before. The manner in which he won going away, for all it was a steadily-run race, encourages hopes that he’ll stay a mile and three quarters next year, which was something that wasn’t particularly apparent after his third at Goodwood. Having said that he’ll probably start next year off at a mile and a half and it may be that he will always need a bit of give in the ground to be seen to best advantage.
Hopefully Second Step will develop into a proper Group horse next year and that’s the feeling we get about Mizzou, too, who was narrowly denied at Ascot the week before by a very narrow margin on his first venture in Listed company. Had the race been run on a more conventional track with a long straight he’d probably have won quite convincingly, but he tends to hit a flat spot with around three furlongs to go, just at the point the bend comes up at Ascot, and on ground that fast he was always up against it trying to claw back the deficit. He’ll be put away now and could well reappear in the Yorkshire Cup first time out next season, after which something like the Henry II at Sandown might be on the agenda. The Gold Cup, for all our reservations about Ascot, may also get a speculative mention on his itinerary.
Bartholomew Fair is another horse we hope will make the grade in Pattern events next year. His run at Newmarket last week in the Autumn Stakes might appear disappointing on paper, but he came back with an injured foot which would explain why he was hanging and we haven’t lost faith in him. Connecticut didn’t really fire as we would have hoped under top weight in the valuable mile and a half handicap at Newmarket, but in hindsight we were probably too close to the fast pace. Had he been ridden with more restraint, as were the first two, we might well have been in the shake up, particularly when you consider we beat the second in the Melrose at York. Connecticut is still a weak colt and maybe the rigours of the season have caught up with him – he’ll make a far better four-year-old, that’s for sure.
We have two ‘big guns’ out on Champions Day at Ascot this Saturday; Silk Sari in the Fillies and Mares and Velox in the Balmoral Handicap. We’re not sure whether Velox will appreciate the testing ground as he has never run on it and the statistics for his sire are mildly discouraging in that respect, but seeing as he is off to the Horses in Training Sale (Monday, 27th October) we have nothing to lose and if he handles the ground his consistency and reliability will stand him in good stead. Silk Sari has the more obvious chance of the pair and shouldn’t mind the testing conditions. Indeed, the ground will place more emphasis on stamina and that will suit her seeing as she is dropping back from a mile and three quarters to a mile and a half. Also, the stronger the gallop, the better. That seems unlikely, however, looking at the run styles of her opponents, and if that’s the case she’ll be ridden prominently as it’s about time we got the better of Ascot instead of the course getting the better of us. Hopefully, she’ll repay the goodwill of Michael Watt who has paid her supplementary fee. She will run in his colours and he generously plans to give a percentage of the prize money to the Injured Jockeys Fund and Racing Welfare.
Looking further ahead we have been busy at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales these last few weeks and have around a dozen new recruits, though buying them at the right price has been very tricky given the strength of the market and the unlimited funds some of the buyers have at their disposal. We’re happy with what we have purchased, however, and will hopefully add to that number in the weeks to come as we bid to set ourselves up with a strong team across all ages for next year.