Unfortunately, Craven week turned out to be slightly frustrating and did not bring us the results we had been hoping for. However, it was a good educational learning curve for the horses making their racecourse debuts and it also enabled us to gauge fitness levels at this stage of the season. In 2014 our first winner came in the shape of Sir Mike under Frankie Dettori for Al Shaqab Racing and it was somewhat of a repeat performance, this time with Ayaar, who got us off the mark in style when scooting home in the Be Wiser Insurance Spring Cup at Newbury. This horse loves good fast ground, so we were slightly fortunate that it came up firm at Newbury, which is a rarity in April, and there was no denying that this was a huge positive for him as he ran out an impressive winner. Ayaar went up 6lb for his win and will now be put away until the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot. He was unlucky in the this race last year when denied a clear run in the later stages of the races and then running on closest at the finish line. He tends to go well fresh so running him again before Royal Ascot may not be the best strategy.
With the highs, come the lows and White Lake did not perform as expected in the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Craven Stakes. We had hoped that he would go close on the back of some good homework but he was still a bit immature down at the start and, once the race was under way, he became lit up when receiving a bump after a hundred yards or so. It is difficult to know where to run him next but it will probably be the Heron Stakes at Sandown which is run around a bend. This should help him settle better and, in turn, help to bring out the best in him. Wren Castle, Bermondsey, Shakopee and Spiriting all shaped well, not least Shakopee who did not have the clearest run in the mile and a quarter handicap and yet still worked his way to the front inside the last furlong only to be caught, possibly unawares, in the final strides. He has only gone up 2lb for that run, which is less than we anticipated, and there is definitely more to come from him when he gets the chance to tackle a mile and a half.
Postponed is another horse that likes rattling fast ground so it was extremely frustrating, not to mention disappointing, that underfoot conditions at Sandown last week were inconsistent and bordered on good to soft. We declared on good to firm and there wasn’t an inch of firm anywhere on the track not even on the walkways. In the circumstances, Postponed ran a fantastic race. It was clear beforehand there was very little pace in the race so we set out to make use of Postponed’s stamina without overdoing things from the front. We were unfortunate to find the horse with the best turn of foot in the race, Western Hymn, sitting behind us with two furlongs to run. Nonetheless, Postponed held his nerve and was coming back at the winner in the closing stages. A Group 1 win at a mile and a quarter would be a big boost to his value as a stallion so we shall persevere with him at this trip for the time being. The Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh is an option next month, ground permitting, before a crack at either the Prince of Wales’s Stakes or the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. On the same card, La Boheme made a very encouraging debut in the mile and a quarter maiden and was beaten more by inexperience than anything else. Looking the likely winner with two furlongs to run, her greenness caught up with her, and she was just touched off at the winning post. Nothing is ever certain with horses, least of all fillies, but she is as close to a certain future winner as you will get.
We didn’t have any luck over the weekend, though Ajman Bridge made the winner of his race work very hard for victory at Doncaster and he might have won the race himself had he not come widest of all while the winner stuck close to the stand rail. He is not a horse that likes to be in front for very long, so a more ‘conventional’ race would have suited him better. He has gone up 3lb for that run which means placing him in the future will not be easy. The same can also be said for Stars And Stripes who is an odd type that can pull and race lazily within the same contest. He needed his reappearance at Leicester but how the official handicapper has seen fit to give him an official rating of 85 defies explanation.
Richard Of Yorke made a winning debut under our very own Lemos de Souza at Windsor on Monday and looks a useful prospect. He was bred by his owner Stuart Stuckey and is the first foal of his dam Cascata, who we trained, and is a sister to St Nicholas Abbey. He hadn’t shown a great deal at home, so we weren’t sure what to expect, and his prospects did not look promising halfway through the race when urged along off a modest pace. However he showed a tremendous attitude and no lack of ability to make up around seven lengths in the last two furlongs to lead on the line. As the cliché goes, his immediate future is in the hands of the official handicapper, but we will hopefully look for a handicap first and then step him up to a mile and a half. On Tuesday, Noro Lim, who made an encouraging start to the season when finishing third at Nottingham, took the mile and a quarter handicap at Chelmsford. This was his second win on the artificial surface and Adam Kirby’s first win of the season for us.
Mizzou (pictured – left) stamped his staying authority in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot when taking up the lead with a furlong to go. Powering to a two length victory he in turn broke the course record over two miles by one hundredth of a second. Having been slightly hampered at the start Mizzou was then able tosit off a decent pace towards the rear of the field and find his rhythm. In his final start in 2014 it appeared that the Ascot straight was too short for him having only just failed to get up in the Noel Murless Listed Stakes, however, William Buick made a decisive move before the home turn and the end result never looked in doubt. The future now looks extremely exciting with a possible visit to Sandown for the Henry II Stakes and then on to the Ascot Gold Cup. Saigon City made a more than satisfactory reappearance back at Ascot after sustaining a small problem last year. This quirky son of Mount Nelson found himself in front in the middle of the track with over two furlongs to go. Notorious for being a hold up horse, Saigon City obviously took advantage of his situation, and took a dive for stand side rail and in turn gave the winning advantage to Directorship. Pleasant Valley made her seasonal debut in a fillies handicap at Pontefract and led from pillar to post under a confident ride from Adam Kirby. Out in front Adam was able to dictate the pace of the race to his own advantage and, when he asked the filly to quicken three furlongs from home, the race was all but over.
Looking towards the weekend, Second Step runs in the Dunaden at Overbury Jockey Club Stakes and Jordan Princess in the EBF Stallions Daisy Warwick Listed race at Goodwood, ground permitting. Second Step needs to improve again, but he promises to be a better horse this season and, as we do not have many alternatives with him right now, Newmarket seems to be as good an option as any to get his season underway. Jordan Princess does not want soft ground, so hopefully the rain will stay away and there won’t be anything like the amount of watering there was at Sandown last week. Spiriting will run at Doncaster along with Comedy King who starts the season in a mile and half handicap for apprentice jockeys.