It has been a particularly exciting couple of weeks especially with both our 2015 Group 1 winners, Postponed and Second Step, in action at Longchamp and the Curragh respectively. Although Second Step was unlucky not to have finished second in the Group 1 Palmerstown House Estate Irish St. Leger, Postponed, under Andrea Atzeni, sailed through his Qatar Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe trial in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Foy and, at the time of writing, remains on course for the big race itself on Sunday 4th October. As it was well documented, the time for the Prix Foy was quicker than both the Prix Vermeille and the Prix Niel, courtesy of the exceptionally well judged ride from our apprentice Kevin Stott aboard Roseburg. Both Treve and New Bay had pacemakers in their trials but, as so often happens on that side of the Channel, their pacemakers set a rather slower tempo and, as a result, both races were typically steadily run French affairs. Let’s take a simple example – Roseburg ran the first 7 furlongs almost 4 seconds faster than the leader did in the Prix Niel and almost 5 faster than the leader did in the Prix Vermeille. That sort of time difference is not a gap even a filly as brilliant as Treve can claw back in the final furlongs so it would not be right to make too much of that. Nevertheless, Postponed once again showed great courage and determination on ground that was probably as soft as he would want it to see off his rivals including another top French filly, Dolniya, and the circumstances of the race meant that he was never going to be able to quicken clear in the manner that Treve did. Hopefully he will have a good draw back there in three weeks’ time and a large field to ensure a good pace (it is prohibitively expensive to supplement a pacemaker) as it is unlikely Golden Horn will make the running back at a mile and a half. We will be pleased with a top-four finish.
There is good reason to believe that Order Of St George is one of the best three year old in Europe right now and the decision to reroute him from the St Leger at Doncaster to the Irish equivalent was unwelcome news. We would not have beaten him however we had ridden Second Step but, had Brown Panther not sustained his sad injury, we believe we would have finished second. With the leader around five lengths clear of Brown Panther when he broke down and, in turn, Brown Panther another five ahead of Second Step, it was then left to Second Step, in a race run at a very strong gallop, to bring the remainder of the runners into the race and he paid for those exertions later on as those ridden more patiently swamped him for second in the final furlong. As we have said before, Second Step is a horse that needs time between his races and given he finished very tired at the Curragh that makes finding him another race this season rather problematic. The Canadian International at Woodbine might be off limits now as there is not much recovery time and also involves a long plane journey. We will have to see how he is in the next few days before making any decisions. It is easy to forget he has come a long way since in the space of just a few races so there is every chance he will improve again next year.
Lady Of Dubai ran as well as she was entitled to in the Group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes on the same card. She has not quite been at her best since the Investec Oaks at Epsom and, like some horses, she just did not seem at home on the surface at York in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. We had doubts whether the ground at the Curragh would be fast enough for but she ran right up to form and was still inching closer at the line. If anything, it was a performance that rather confirmed she probably needs a step back up to a mile and a half.
Besides Postponed, we have had a very pleasing time of things so far as winners are concerned with Blue Waltz winning impressively at Doncaster, Fei Kuai breaking her maiden at Chepstow, Four On Eight looking a nice prospect at Windsor and Grand Spirit finally getting his head back in front at Wolverhampton. Blue Waltz is an autumn filly who relishes the long straight and flat expanse at Doncaster and seems unsuited by the undulations of Newmarket. She was very impressive in the manner in which she disposed of a good field of handicappers and, although she was not quite up to it last year when tried in Listed company, she is a much better filly now and worth another try. The ideal race (if it was not at Newmarket) would have been the Princess Royal EBF Nayef Stakes so it may be that we will head to the Betfred TV EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Gillies Stakes at Doncaster at the end of the season (weather permitting). There is no shortage of options for fillies of her type in France at the end of the season so a trip across the Channel also remains an option for her as well. Fei Kuai did not beat much at Chepstow and her official rating has not changed for the win, however, she did what was asked of her and looked more amenable than on her previous start when she got rather worked up. We will keep her at seven furlongs for now given that she seems best dropped in off a strong pace which is not always the case when running over a mile. Four On Eight has made great strides this season and was far too good for the opposition that faced him at Windsor. He has the potential to develop into something better than a handicapper in time but, for now, we will look for a nursery given his opening handicap mark of 81 does not seem too excessive. Grand Spirit appreciated the return to an all-weather surface and the new Tapeta at Wolverhampton looks to be an extremely consistent surface unlike a couple of the other synthetic tracks. He won well under a clever and aggressive ride from Adam Kirby who made up his mind for him a long way home.
Koora ran well but not quite well enough in the Group 2 DFS Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster last week. The trip seemed to catch her out, having travelled into the race very smoothly, but there is also the possibility that she is still a bit too weak for a top class race at this trip having stepped up from a mile and a quarter to a mile and six furlongs in a short space of time. She is unlikely to be seen again at this trip until the Park Hill Stakes next year, so we shall take our time with her, drop her back to a mile and a half, and hopefully she will win a pattern race at some point next season.
We have a promising set of two year old fillies and Myopic was another to run a very encouraging race first time out when second at Leicester. She came there to win her race and was in front for the best part of a furlong but seemed all at sea there and could not fend off the late challenge of the winner. Hopefully she will go one better next time, as will Haggle who runs at Newmarket this weekend. The form of her debut could not have worked out any better – seven fillies from her first race have won next time out and the first two home, Ballydoyle in particular, look extremely useful – and she should only have to repeat that form to get off the mark. Mount Logan will not run in the Listed William Hill Doonside Cup at Ayr this weekend as the ground seems likely to be too soft, but Laurence looks like getting in to the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury and he will make a bold bid to extend our very good record in this race.
Finally, this weekend sees the return of the Newmarket Open Day which has now been expanded in to the Newmarket Open Weekend. As always the main aim of the event is to raise money for three wonderful local charities. This year the beneficiaries will be the National Horse Racing Museum, Racing Welfare and Magpas: The Emergency Medical Charity. On Saturday morning there will be the chance to see horses train on world famous Warren Hill Gallops plus tours around facilities such as the British Racing School, Newmarket Equine Hospital, The National Stud and Tattersalls. In the afternoon it is full steam ahead as racing returns to the Rowley Mile where seven local trainers will take to the microphone for the first time to provide commentary on each race. Each trainer has a Just Giving link which can be found under Newmarket Open Weekend on the Just Giving website and it is a race to the finish to see who can raise the most amount of money.
On Sunday morning there will be numerous trainers, including ourselves, opening their doors to the public before the afternoon entertainment at the Rowley Mile. This includes Gary Witheford – The Horse Whisperer, Trainers vs Jockeys Show Jumping and Stable Staff Tug of War competition. There will also be a host of tradestands and the return of the Food & Drink Festival over the two days at the racecourse.
For more information on the event please visit www.newmarketopenweekend.co.uk