A Cheltenham Update

It has been a fair while since the last entry on this blog but fear not I haven’t been sitting on my hands doing nothing, which is usually why there is often a lull in activity on here. We have been working on the Cheltenham Festival!

As majority of our attentions are beginning to be drawn towards the Cheltenham Festival next month, I have been working tirelessly along with good friend Charlie Sutton in getting the Cheltenham Tips website up-to-date after a quiet year last year.

Those of you have been visiting this website for a few years now will know that each year I try and do as many previews as possible revolving around the Cheltenham Festival, usually with the help of Jacob Cohen (Alias: Dancing Brave). However this year Jacob has been unable to find the time required to contribute towards the website so Charlie has been drafted in to work alongside myself.

Over the last week we have posted a whole host of previews of races which are going to take place at the Cheltenham Festival next month, and have spent plenty of time and hard work into making them as good as possible for you, our reader.

I have browsed around the web and haven’t found much in the way of previews available yet so we are up nice and early with plenty of time for users to read what we think will be winning at the Cheltenham Festival 2013, and then form their own judgements based on the knowledge we’ve put forward.

Races we have previewed up until this article was published:
Cheltenham ’13 – Supreme Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Arkle Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Champion Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Cross Country Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Neptune Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – RSA Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Champion Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Jewson Novices’ Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Ryanair Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – World Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Triumph Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Cheltenham Gold Cup

Feel free to click on any of the links above where you will be taken to the relevant article on the Cheltenhamtips website. You can alternatively go via the Cheltenham Festival Races tab on the Cheltenhamtips website, by clicking on the race you require and clicking through to the preview from there.

Over the next couple of weeks our attentions will be turning towards the handicaps at The Festival and thus more is still to be done with the website but we are aiming to make it the most informed place around ahead of the greatest show on turf.

Thanks for reading.

Gold Ship sails to success in Arima Kinen

On the greatest stage of all for the season finale, three-year-old GOLD SHIP put in a powerful performance in the home straight to lift the Arima Kinen for trainer Naosuke Sugai and rider Hiroyuki Uchida.

Settled in rear early, the grey son of Stay Gold made ground on the outside of the field into the second last turn before a strong sweeping move into the middle of the track rounding for home. Giving up lengths of ground to those on the inside, the Kikuka Sho and Satsuki Sho winner turned on the afterburners to drive himself into the lead inside the final furlong.

The Craig Williams ridden Rulership came wider still and ran as close to Gold Ship as he could but lacked the finishing gear of the winner, but it was quite a brilliant run in defeat after his well documented stalls problems resurfaced costing him four lengths at the start.

Rulership was narrowly claimed inside the last few yards by Ocean Blue and Christophe Lemaire who put in a strong late run more towards the inside of the track but was unable to reel in Gold Ship who’s jockey Uchida was already celebrating the victory as they crossed the line.

Gold Ship is the third three-year-old to win the Arima Kinen in a row after Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre was successful in 2011, and Victoire Pisa before him in 2010. Will Gold Ship now go for the Arc de Triomphe in 2013? Stay tuned.

Gold Ship was advised in our extensive big race preview on the blog here.

Marvelous Kaiser takes 135th Nakayama Daishogai

Majesty Bio winning the 2011 Nakayama Daishogai

The history of the Nakayama Daishogai dates back to 1934 when the biggest jump race in Japan was established in the aim of providing equal excitement to the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), which was the most popular race in flat racing. The highest level of steeplechase racing was originally held as a biannual event held in April and December until the spring version was renamed the Nakayama Grand Jump in 1999. Still, the two jump races continued to position itself as the only two obstacle races of J-G1 level of equal standard and its results serving as a decisive factor in the selection of the seasonal JRA award for Best Steeplechase Horse. In addition to the Nakayama Grand Jump, which was designated an international race in 2000, the Nakayama Daishogai became an international steeplechase event open to foreign contenders in 2011.

The Nakayama Daishogai features 11 jumps over the figure-of-eight-shaped course which includes six up-and-downs over the banks. The first half resembles that of the Nakayama Grand Jump while the Nakayama Daishogai does not include the movable hurdles along the outside turf track and the total distance being 150 meters shorter. The uphill stretch before the wire also is quite a test for many of the runners especially after running at a solid pace throughout the race.

2011 Best Steeplechase Horse Majesty Bio was the heavy favourite  having continued to excel this season with another overwhelming eight-length victory in the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) in April. He came off his third win this year in the Illumination Jump Stakes (3,570m) early this month. Basel River, who finished second in the spring J-G1 this year after his first grade-race victory in the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m), was also among the top favourites having come off a runner-up effort in the Kyoto Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,170m) last month. Meiner Neos, who finished fourth in the Nakayama Daishogai last year, had come off a ten-month break after recovering from a tendon injury, while Spring Ghent had also just come back from a leg injury incurred during his fifth-place performance last year—the 2009 Nakayama Grand Jump winner came into the race with one start on the flat earlier this month. This year’s line-up also included Merci A Time, a consistent jumper who won the 2007 version of this race while finishing second in six J-G1 events at Nakayama between 2005 and 2011. The ten-year-old son of Chief Bearhart, who also suffered a tendon injury after his runner-up effort in the Nakayama Grand Jump (held in July due to schedule change following the earthquake), made his return start over the flat last month to prepare for his first jump start in 17 months.

Symboli Montreux (JPN, by Mogami) set the record when winning the 1991 Nakayama Daishogai (Autumn) in 4:37.2.

Marvelous Kaiser’s first grade victory came in his first attempt at the highest level in this year’s Nakayama Daishogai, denying the challenges of two-time J-G1 winner and heavy favorite Majesty Bio and second choice Basel River who had finished first and second, respectively, in the spring version of the race in April but was nowhere near the winner in this race while with no excuse regarding their performances. The four-year-old son of Marvelous Sunday, also the sire of two-time Nakayama Daishogai winner  King Joy (2008, 2009), proved an immediate success over jumps in his first steeplechase test which he won by nine lengths in October 2011 after registering two wins out of 13 starts on the flat earlier in his career. Coming off his second win following a runner-up effort in the spring this year, he was third in his first grade-race challenge over jumps in the Kyoto High-Jump (J-G2, 3,930m) and scored another third-place finish in his fall debut prior to his Nakayama Daishogai start. Jockey Shigefumi Kumazawa, who is also well recognized in flat racing with three G1 titles to his name, had won nine grade-race jump titles since the grading system was first adopted in steeplechase racing in 1999, but a G1 title was his first this time. It was also the first G1 title for trainer Masami Shibata.

All broke smoothly with Sexy Sweet taking command to set the pace as Spring Ghent, I T Gold followed a few lengths behind. Marvelous Kaiser was forwardly placed behind that beside Merci A Time in fourth or fifth as all the horses cleared the water jump. Heavy favourite Majesty Bio sat around eighth position while Basel River kept track of the defending champion another length behind that in mid-pack.

The field continued to travel at a moderate pace over the course rated good after the rain earlier in the day as Sexy Sweet maintained a comfortable margin up to around two thirds of the race, but the four-year-old filly began to tire after clearing the big hedge (fence seventh) and was overtaken by Spring Ghent approaching the final fence.

Marvelous Kaiser also made headway to challenge and caught the 12-year-old veteran who gave a terrific fight to duel with the four-year-old chestnut up to the last turn. However, once entering the stretch for home, Marvelous Kaiser found another gear, despite keeping pace with the leaders for the whole trip, and was uncontested for the rest of the way as Basel River and Majesty Bio desperately rushed to contention but failed to close the gap behind the winner in second and third, respectively.

My 5 memorable racing moments

You never really know what’s going to grab your attention and imagination when you’re young. Football was almost literally my life. Rarely a day would go by without a game in some capacity – playing or supporting my beloved Leeds United. Two things have changed a bit since then – my life isn’t quite so concentrated, and the fact I’m still alive shows that my love of LUFC decreased in intensity.

I knew that my Grandad enjoyed the odd flutter and that my Dad was partial to a trip to the races so sparingly we’d make the short journey to one of the local racecourses, or even get out the Roses tin of coppers and play fantasy bookies in front of Channel 4 Racing. Slowly but surely the seeds were being sown, and I was becoming an avid horse racing fan. Some of our earliest memories are our most vivid and fondly remembered. Looking back over my encounters with the sport, five particularly stand out and contributed to where I am now.

  1. 1.       Spectested wins at Wetherby

The formbook simply reads “Held up and behind, hit 3rd, pushed along halfway, headway 3 out, ridden and stayed on from next, driven flat to lead last 50yds”, however, that last fifty yards probably was crucial to me writing this piece right now. Looking back, it was obviously a superb piece of form reading – a handicap debutant stepping up in trip – but in reality, the half-decent odds would have been 90% of the decision-making process. I remember this as my very first winner and it was special because I’d given up on the horse. It seemed to come from nowhere, or more likely I was too busy watching the queue for hot dogs, and I remember shouting “that’s my horse, that’s my horse!” as Wayne Hutchinson cajoled him to the front. The buzz I got from that was greater than the financial reward – even if a tenner is a lot of money to a young teen (heck, and a student!). I think most people will remember their first winner and that’s what puts a 94-rated hurdler into my top 5 memorable horse racing moments.

  1. 2.       Not So Grand National

When On His Own crashed out at Bechers’ on the second circuit in the 2012 Grand National whilst looming large, you’d probably think it was the first gut-wrenching moment I’ve had at that particular obstacle in the big race. “Brook” wouldn’t quite be the word I used at the time and I wouldn’t be the only person to fall foul at this particular fence in 2005. There have been numerous hard luck stories in the National but Clan Royal certainly fits into that category having been headed late on in the 2004 renewal. What happened the following year was as harrowing experience as I’ve felt watching a horse race. It was too much to place on the heart of a 13-year-old lad who was thoroughly enjoying the vast majority of the marathon. In many ways it was made worse as I could see it happening in slow motion in front of my eyes. It wasn’t a simple fall or unseated rider; there weren’t even any rivals nearby to worry about. The danger appeared in front not behind. However, it actually manifested at the side. Tony McCoy, piling on the pressure from the front, was suddenly left with no option but to sit and suffer as a loose horse ran right across him, leaving him unable to jump the flight and be officially “carried out”.  I’m still not over it. In denial I selected him the next two years but it was never to be. I feel sorry for Clan Royal. I hope he feels sorry for me.

  1. 3.       Denmania at Newbury

When hearing about the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, only one horse comes into my mind. He put in a terrific effort in the 2010 renewal but it was his performance the year before that I consider the foundation for my love of national hunt racing, and the moment that sold me racing as a sport, and not just a financial game. Of course I’m talking about Denman. At the time of the race I did have a solid knowledge of horses in training and whatnot, and remember me and my Dad agreeing that he looked a good price considering he was comfortably the best horse in the field. It was only really after the race that I realised what a performance I had witnessed. Carrying 11-12 on his back (a full 22lbs and 29lbs higher than the second and third-placed finishers respectively), the “tank”, as he is affectionately known by many, jumped and galloped on strongly to put in one of the best displays in a jumps race in recent years. He could have folded when challenged by stable mate What A Friend but that wasn’t the Denman way. This would be the first time I was truly mesmerised by a horse and much like the experience of a first win, I view this as a fond memory and as a time where my true love for the sport was realised.

  1. 4.       Authorized To Print Money?

It was a pleasure to see Frankie Dettori get the Derby monkey off his back in 2007 when he partnered the hot favourite Authorized to a storming success at Epsom. The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained son of Montjeu routed some very good horses and it was a performance that suggested he was the real deal. The Coral Eclipse at Sandown the month after would be another comfortable victory and he’d be on his way to Longchamp as an outrageously short-priced favourite. Or not, as the case may be. Well, he did go off at 11/10 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but that didn’t go so well, and I’d rather not have to talk about the Eclipse either. However, for the sake of balance, and the truth – as this is a memorable moment – I will. I would go to my Dad’s every Saturday around lunchtime (if we weren’t going to Elland Road) and on this occasion he quickly brought up the race, basically asking me for confirmation that the Derby winner would prove successful again. Naturally I complied and he did something he wouldn’t do again (from memory) and placed a bet on an odds-on favourite. It was clear from some way out that Authorized wasn’t going to put in as authoritative performance as he had the month prior but it did appear as if he was just about going to edge it and save our blushes (and supper, quite literally). He narrowly got to the front and just as they came to the line…boom! As the action was so intense on the far side of the track, little attention was given to Nownowcato (not helped by an awful camera angle), who had gone it alone on the stands side. It soon was, however, as pictures showed that Ryan Moore had matters in hand and had secured victory by a length-and-a-half. I’m not sure anything was really said for a while afterwards. I think we both felt the same pain in the gut, for all I’d lost nothing financially. He never did say how much he placed on the 4/7 shot.

  1. 5.       Indian Summer At Ascot

When you like to write about the sport of horse racing, it’s enjoyable to watch great races and talk about the latest goings-on, but there’s nothing quite like getting something right. I’ve posted my thoughts and my views on particular races (and particular horses) for a few years now but one of the first real calls I got correct came at Royal Ascot in 2007. I didn’t win any money on it given I was fifteen at the time but I remember posting on the internet that I was keen on the Richard Hannon-trained Indian Ink for the Coronation Stakes. Rain came down on the morning of the race and it caught my eye given the filly’s best performances had come with some give in the ground. Even though subsequently the contest has been marked down as a bit of a sub-standard event due to the deteriorating conditions, her performance still rates as one of my favourites in flat racing – and maybe was outright prior to Frankel’s demolition job in the 2000 Guineas. Sure, there’s some sentimental value thrown in for good measure, but this was a Group One race and my word did she win it like a Group One horse. It took her a few strides to hit top gear but once she did she was away. “Indian Ink sets sail for home…and scampers clear!” roared Simon Holt in a manner which suggested he was also taken aback somewhat by the style of victory. 8/1 winners at Royal Ascot have come since but none stand out like that one does. I watch the video every few months and never get sick of it. She didn’t race again. Probably not a bad idea. Maybe I should have done the same when sticking a quid on Slavonic Lake to win a Wetherby hurdle at 50/1 a few years ago. You never forget.

[information_box]Written by Ben Rowe
Ben studies in Liverpool but is born and bred in Yorkshire. A racing, Leeds United and Alan Partridge fan
Follow him on Twitter @cerealdestroyer[/information_box]
 

Q&A with Kevin Parsons (NASS)

National Association of Stable Staff or NASS for short, have recently won a bid from Union Learn Funding which will provide for a Union Learn Project Manager, who will based in Newmarket at the New Astley Club. They have recently appointed Kevin Parsons who started with NASS on the 8 November; Kevin has provided a short biography which outlines his history in racing and his plans for the Newmarket Learning and Community Project.

So having met with Union Learn who are funding the project last week, NASS are hoping to roll out courses with the help of local college’s and tutors starting in The New Astley Club, Newmarket in January. The main objective is to increase the workforce’s current skills and qualifications and to give them an opportunity to do so in areas they choose.

Then hopefully with success NASS will be able to progress nationally working on the same ideas in Lambourn, Epsom, Middleham, Malton, South West and The Midlands. This will give everyone involved in Racing all around the country a chance to enrol on the courses and help make this a success for all participants.

As with the sport side of things Kevin is looking to organise a National Football Cup competition between racing regions (as used to be in place years ago).  As well look to organise a National Go Karting competition starting off in each region then to a grand final somewhere central to everyone.  Another idea is to do something similar with paintballing.

Another task for Kevin is to get the Cricket day that used to be hosted once a year in Arundel going again as this is another sport event that has not been continued for the last few years and was always a fun day for those involved.

All in all the whole idea of the project is to re-engage stable staff with a community feel and to give them a chance in extra learning and taking part in events. At the same time adding members to our union that works and provides for them.

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kevo.png” href=”#”]Kevin Parsons with the Newmarket Ladies Team.[/frame_center]

Kevin Parsons – Biography

Kevin has been involved part time in racing since catching the bug at 14 and then started working full time in racing as when he left school aged 16.

Kevin has spent the last 18 years enjoying working with horses and held positions ranging from apprentice; conditional jockey; work rider; stable lad, head lad and travelling head lad. He has been lucky enough to travel all around the world including Europe and Dubai and worked with many good horses. In his time in racing he has worked for some excellent trainers like; Roger Charlton, David Loder, John Gosden, Chris Wall and Roger Varian.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kev.png” href=”#”]Kevin Parsons[/frame_right]

During his 18 year career in racing, Kevin has always been involved with organising football games including Roger Charlton’s vs.  Peter Chapple-Hyam’s , Newmarket vs. Lambourn, North vs. South and most recently the NASS national team.

He began at the British Racing School (course 90)1996 and has completed up to his NVQ Level 3 in Horse and Stable Management as well as FA Level 2 Coaching Badges and FA youth module 1. So he is now looking to combine all his experience and skills working with NASS in giving the people in racing something back.

Kevin will be looking to organise more sporting events, as well as putting on local course’s to offer IT courses along with core subjects such as maths,  English and any other course’s that may be of interest to people within the local community. They plan to hold a survey using a page on the NASS website which will be dedicated to sports events, to find out more about ‘what the people want’ as well as talking and interacting with racing staff to find out their interests and then looking to build events and courses around those.

Q&A with Kevin Parsons

Having filled various positions within racing over the last 18 years, what made you finally make the decision to take up a more active role within the racing community and go from being a general stable employee to your current role for NASS?

[quote]KP: Well firstly it was offered to me by NASS Chief Executive George McGrath whilst the bid for the funding was in motion. After we sat down and had a chat about what the job was to entail and what they were looking for, I went away to think about it and if I was the right man for the job. Firstly knowing it was going to be a massive change in career as all I have known since leaving school was early starts and horses, and having to be dedicated to a job that can be hard at times especially in the winter. But this is a job I have to have a good crack at for myself, the stable staff and racing as a whole, even though I will miss the day to day banter and riding out in the summer I feel if I can make a difference in this new role it will all be worthwhile.[/quote]

So NASS stands for National Association of Stable Staff, tell us more about what they do etc?

[quote]KP: NASS is the union for stable staff and was formed in the early seventies as the SLA (Stable Lads Association) unfortunately though it went through a dismal period in the early 2000’s and a regeneration took place, and this newly named organisation was formed in 2007 and renamed by a member to its current name. With its newly elected Chief Executive George McGrath who was voted in and started his role in August this year the whole Union is looking to expand, with 18,000 people in racing we need to have more than the current third of staff signed up. NASS meets with the National Trainers Federation every year to discuss wage and expense rises as well as improvement in working conditions. They also legally represent any member who needs representation in a dismissal case or with any grievances at work. So to be a member is free and only beneficial and we need to get more people on board.[/quote]

As Project Manager for NASS what does your job entail on a day to day basis?

[quote]KP: At the minute it’s lots of organising and planning, interacting with tutors, organising to work with the British Racing School and Northern Racing College and trying to establish links. As well this I’m helping to design and set up the IT Suite in the New Astley Club. Its all very new to me though so learning as I go, whilst hoping to get numbers on the first courses to get the ball rolling.[/quote]

What do you think people within the racing community can achieve by taking part in courses provided by NASS?

[quote]KP: They can achieve qualifications which will enable them to progress from racing into other careers (if they so choose), not that we want to lose anyone from the industry but a more skilled work staff is better for our industry overall. Knowing they can learn and get qualifications to do other things will be good for the racing staff, and it will keep people more interested in their jobs whilst learning new things in their spare time.[/quote]

What are you most excited about introducing to the racing community over the coming months?

[quote]KP: Mainly the chance to add to their qualifications with new ones and even qualifications they never thought about trying. We are looking to put on courses to cover a wide range of activities, be it from IT Skills to Cooking or Gardening to Basket Weaving, basically whatever the racing staff want we will look to provide. Being sporty myself the National Go Karting Championship we are planning for next year will be great fun for members, and will help boost staff morale and be a great way to bring the community closer together![/quote]

If somebody would like to find out more information on the courses provided by NASS, where would be their best place to go?

[quote]KP: The NASS website which is currently being updated and modernised but the old website still remains available at www.naoss.co.uk this will eventually have a section for all this info on as well as the sporting events coming up and being planned. Otherwise NASS has a page on Facebook or ringing the office on 01283 211522.[/quote]

Anything else you would like people to know about?

[quote]KP: Well mainly that joining NASS is completely free and they work for you the racing staff! All these events and courses we are planning are to get more people involved in activities out of work time and to give them something else to do, aim for and hopefully achieve! Each event and course will be for members and you can sign up on the day, so at the same time as providing these activities NASS will also be gaining the union members and helping us to grow and become much stronger and more influential  in the national industry.[/quote]

 

Doing nothing this weekend and local to Newmarket? Get yourself down to the match and show your support!

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/nass.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]

What got me into racing?

I’ve always been a sports fan from the day I could walk. From Football to Rugby to Cricket and everything in between. But as a child, horse racing never caught my eye. I’d hate it when Grandstand would interrupt something to broadcast a race from Haydock or Sandown, it all looked the same to me at a young age. I had no appreciation for what I was watching and so would wander off outside with a football or a tennis racquet. My friend used to run https://www.radracquets.com/ – and was an avid tennis fan, so the glass-half full side was that I had someone to play with. The only member of my family to have been keen on it was my Grandfather who passed away many years before I was born. Without that influence it was football and cricket that became the sporting passions of my youth.

In the past few years however, horse racing has eclipsed them both. Not immediately at first. I’d watch the ‘big’ races; the Grand National and the Derby, then the odd handicap at a big race meeting, but before long I found myself watching maidens and sellers at Wolverhampton with almost the same zeal. Football isn’t the sport it once was, players are now celebrities rather than sportsmen and, in my opinion, care more about appearing on the front of a newspaper than the back of it. And as a purist there isn’t enough Test matches to keep me interested in cricket for any length of time. Racing however, never stops. The National Hunt season ends, the Flat season begins, old favourites return and a new crop emerges.  It’s impossible to get bored!

Obviously the interest skipped a generation from my Grandfather but has now manifested itself in me and I’m completely converted. Maybe I just didn’t understand it in my early years? It’s not the easiest sport to comprehend after all.  With so many horses, trainers, distances and venues, all over the world,  it can seem overwhelming to someone just finding the sport with no-one around to guide their hand.  This is an area I feel the BHA and even Racing For Change need to address.  Information needs to be more accessible to newcomers. Especially to those wanting to actively participate in the sport, even if that only amounts to having a flutter at the weekend.

But with this I’ve found horse racing rewards patience.  It rewards those who buy their copies of the Racing Post and watch The Morning Line religiously as I now do. And when those small sacrifices are made the ‘Sport of Kings’ gives back much more than it demands.  Nowadays, I wouldn’t dream of choosing a football terrace over standing by a parade ring, looking through a race programme for my selection as the  horses are led past,  (not always with the greatest success) and at the breeding of an animal that combines such grace with incredible power.

For me it’s these two things that make it so easy, too easy, to become attached to the chief protagonists. They don’t always have to be the best ones either. I quickly fell for Lough Derg with his front running style and red blinkers. His all out win when off the bridle a long way from home in the Long Walk Hurdle was arresting to someone new to the game and even in defeat he would always give his all.  Exotic Dancer was another I instantly took to heart. Always clearly visible in any race due to his gorgeous bay coat.  And  It was the demise of Sir Robert Ogden’s French import that taught me how painful it can be too, learning of his death after the Aintree Totesport Bowl in 2009 was a bitter pill.

But for each low point there is an equally meaningful high. Watching Sea The Stars weave his way to the win the Arc from an unlikely position 5 furlongs from home with Jim McGrath describing him aptly as, ‘perfection in equine form’, on crossing the line, will live long in the memory. As well as following Cinders and Ashes all of last season knowing he was the Supreme Novice in waiting and to have my opinion vindicated is a feeling that only racing can give.

These are the ups and downs I’ve had to learn to endure for the love of a sport steeped in history. It’s impossible to watch a horse like Frankel destroying Group 1 fields without wanting to know how he came into being. What makes him so much better than the rest?  And where does he rank in comparison with those who came before him? Impossible questions to answer with any great certainty and nothing could be more subjective, but it’s this that’s grabbed my imagination now.

I’d love to sit down with my Grandfather and debate Frankel against Sea Bird II or Kauto Star taking on Arkle over the Gold Cup fences at Cheltenham . The two stand out horses of his era in both codes. Or even the jockeys, a titan like Lester Piggott against the greatest jockey of my era in Frankie Dettori.

Sadly this wasn’t to be. Maybe in years to come I’ll be able to have that debate with a grandchild of my own. Being told about a two year old winning the Royal Lodge Stakes in fine fashion and putting them in their place by showing a recording of Prince Abdullah’s wonder horse doing the very same thing all those years before.

This year saw my first visit’s to the Cheltenham Festival, seeing Sprinter Sacre make the Arkle Chase look like a racecourse gallop, Big Bucks claim a fourth World Hurdle, and Synchronised power up the hill to win the Gold Cup before his ill-fated attempt at the National.  Followed by a trip to Royal Ascot to see Black Caviar, not quite win in the manner I was hoping but a thrilling finish and an ‘I was there’ moment none the less.

It’s said that trainers find it so difficult to retire incase the next superstar is in their juvenile ranks. I guess it’s the same for me? I couldn’t turn my back on racing now, for the threat of not seeing another finish like Pour Moi’s Derby or Wichita Lineman coming from out of the clouds to win the William Hill Handicap Chase is unthinkable. No other sport can promise me so much drama all year round.

 

[information_box]This article was written by Mark Butcher
Sadly for some this wasn’t written by the former International Test Batsman but nevertheless it is a cracking read, and gives you an idea of how the ‘Sport Of Kings’ can really draw you into its beautiful majesty.

Follow Mark on Twitter @TheGr8WhiteHope[/information_box]
 
What got you into racing? Let us know how via the comment box below!

Favourite Racehorses – Dubawi

Anyone who’s been in this game for a while knows about how attached you can get to your ‘favourite’ horses. George Washington, Zarkava, Shawanda, Rio De La Plata, and even that enigmatic gelding Our Vic have all been on my personal radar since I really started getting into racing.

Dubawi however is something a little bit different for me. Before I really go into my own personal attachment to Dubawi though it’s important to remember that he was a fine racehorse, who’s three defeats could all be attributed to factors beyond his control..

Dubawi’s trademark turn of foot was evident throughout his juvenile career, especially on his first foray into Group One company in the National Stakes at the Curragh, where he cut down what was admittedly a below-par Group One field to take his two-year-old record to a perfect three from three. The quirks he had displayed in his maiden success were apparent in the Emerald Isle, as Dubawi jinked both ways when going clear in the final furlong- a trait Dettori convincingly put down to greenness.

The first major test for the colt was to be the 2000 Guineas of 2005. Shamardal, a star juvenile for Mark Johnston, had wintered as favourite for the Classic but new owners Godolphin rerouted him to Dubai in preparation for a crack at the Kentucky Derby. This left Dubawi as the outstanding candidate for the Newmarket contest, but come the day he faced an unusually lightening quick Rowley Mile- something connections considered to be very much against their horse. In the circumstances it was a fair performance from the colt in finishing fifth to the never-seen-again Ballydoyle runner Footstepsinthesand, but nevertheless it was disappointing to see Dubawi lose his unbeaten status.

His performance in routing Oratorio in the Irish 2000 Guineas was much more like the Dubawi we had seen as a youngster, as he made easy headway and quickened right away from the well-backed Oratorio, who would go on to prove himself as a genuine Group One horse in the Eclipse. This was the first real sign that Dubawi could be a star, and he was immediately aimed at Epsom, where his ability and, much more worryingly, his stamina would be tested to the maximum. Having travelled enthusiastically throughout the first mile of the mile-and-a-half trip, it was no surprise to see the colt failing to make an impression on the stoutly-bred Motivator after swinging round Tattenham Corner, and it was apparent that he would be seen in a better light back at a mile.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/dubawi2.png” href=””]Dubawi winning the Prix Jacques Le Marois[/frame_right]
In defeating a small but high quality Jacques Le Marois field at Deauville, Dubawi confirmed that he was the top-notch miler of his crop. Behind him that day were Whipper (winner of the race in 2004), Valixir (dual Group One winner) and the darling of French racing Divine Proportions, who up until that defeat had a nine-from-nine career record.

Unfortunately the final race of Dubawi’s career became a bit of a disaster, with Frankie ignoring instructions to follow his pacemaker and ending up in the middle of the track in the QEII. Eventually re-joining the stands side group, Dettori had allowed Starcraft an advantage which he was unable to recover and Dubawi finished an unlucky second.

All of the above adds up to a very smart career, but on figures a rating of 123 does not put Dubawi in anything like the top category. As well as enjoying a smart performer in action, the reason I was so gutted that Dubawi failed to get passed Starcraft is in his background.

First of all Dubawi is by one of the great racehorses of the last generation. What Dubai Millennium did to his rivals in the 2000 Dubai World Cup was visually incredible, setting a gallop that would see most horses crying enough after about six furlongs and visibly quickening off it with two furlongs to run. He followed up by thrashing Sendawar in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes back on turf, and had he not suffered a career-ending injury he could well have become the first true world champion on dirt and turf. Because of his injury and subsequent death due to grass sickness, Dubai Millennium only produced one incomplete crop at stud… the best of which was Dubawi.

This is where the emotional connection to Dubawi starts to really develop. Dubai Millennium’s owner was Sheikh Mohammed, a man who’s involvement in British racing has probably saved the sport’s existence as we know it. Dubai Millennium was the apple of the Sheikh’s eye (he famously quoted that he “could see the winds of heaven” between the colt’s ears) and his highness was present during the operation in which the colt lost his battle with grass sickness. This was a man who had everything in life, but who cared deeply for his horses and was now focused on finding a son of the one that mattered most to him who was good enough to fill his father’s box at Dalham Hall.

As by some way the best of the crop, the small, compact son of Oaks winner Zomaradah carried the dreams of one of the weathiest men on the planet every time he set foot on the racecourse. Instead of potential covering fees or winners prizes Dubawi’s victories brought with them the raw emotion of having found a worthy successor to his great sire. I couldn’t help but find it amazing that such a powerful man could be so wrapped up in the performances of this small bay individual!

It helps that as a stallion Dubawi has been a phenomenon. His Group winners from five furlongs to a mile-and-a-half include 2000 Guineas winner Makfi, Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso, and QEII winner Poet’s Voice, while he is also responsible for this season’s Ascot Gold Cup fourth Gulf Of Naples. Standing at stud for £75,000, Dubawi is part of an elite band of stallions in Europe alongside the likes of Galileo, Dansili & Oasis Dream, as well as the recently deceased Montjeu.

For me Dubawi represented everything that is good about racing. He was small, genuine, ridden by the greatest jockey of my lifetime and owned by a man who has the world (and an amazing wife…) but to whom Dubawi meant so much. He ran his heart out to finish 5th in the Guineas when all at sea on the ground, he was still trying entering the 12th furlong of a race that was blatantly too much for him at Epsom, and when he came alongside Starcraft in the QEII it was as if a pony had ranged up beside a shire horse. But did the colt shy away from the challenge? Like his owner, Dubawi did not know how.

Mayson ploughs through mud for July Cup success

Bad weather has been the story of the season so far, as an overnight torrential downpour on the Newmarket July Course turned the ground heavy, and with that went the chances of antepost favourite Bated Breath’s participation in the race – and he was pulled out first thing this morning.

Bated Breath was followed by Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Krypton Factor and then Libranno in the list of non-runners for this Group 1 prize as rain continued to pound down in the headquarters of racing, and with questions marks surrounding the capabilities of a few challengers in handling this ground threw the race wide open.

This morning also saw a bizarre market move for Sepoy, peddled by the support of Pricewise – who despite both his former trainer Peter Snowden, and jockey Kerrin McEvoy said he would struggle on soft ground was punted like he was an absolute good thing, but sadly failed to act on the surface as expected by those who know him best.

The field split into three groups as soon as the stalls opened, but Paul Hanagan soon took charge at the head of affairs down the centre of the track aboard the Richard Fahey trained Mayson, previously a dual winner on the Rowley Mile course earlier in the season.

As the field started to come under pressure in-behind; Hanagan let out an inch of rein on the likeable free-going son of Invincible Spirit, and he quickened up smartly in the conditions to extend his advantage on the run to the uphill section of the track. The Eve Johnston-Houghton trained The Cheka tried valiantly in second to close on the leader, as did Society Rock who came through late for third, but neither looked like laying a glove on the uber impressive winner.

This win crowned the first domestic Group 1 win for both Paul Hanagan and Richard Fahey. The pair had previously teamed up with then two-year-old Wootton Bassett to win the Jean-Luc Lagadere at Longchamp back in 2010.[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/mayson2.png” href=””][/frame_right]

“I was standing looking at the betting and he was the outsider of the lot and I was thinking this is the biggest joke in a long time. At York he got very upset and got his back leg caught in the stalls (for a few seconds) and at Newcastle it was bottomless and he couldn’t cope with it. He loves soft ground but not like at Newcastle (where you could see water collecting in your footprints). He’s in the Nunthorpe but I’d have worries going back there after that experience but I’ll speak to the owners and see.” – Richard Fahey

Defending Champion jockey Paul Hanagan left his role as stable jockey to Richard Fahey to pursue a career as a retained jockey to Hamdan Al Maktoum after the retirement of Richard Hills, but still picks up as many big rides for Richard Fahey as he can in amongst working for his new employer.

“He really enjoyed himself out in front and the big positive was that he loves the ground. He jumped so well and I didn’t want to take him back and I knew if I could keep him going he’d be hard to peg back – which he was. He’s got a lot of speed but I’d rather be looking at races over six furlongs rather than the Nunthorpe.” – Paul Hanagan

This is a first Group success for owner David W Armstrong, and hopefully Mayson can continue to improve off the back of this convincing success, and given the manner in which some of his rivals performed in the softer ground he will most likely be a half decent price to do so next time too.

Farewell So You Think

The Aidan O’Brien trained six-year-old So You Think retired to stud this week, after a bout of lameness ruled him out of the Coral Eclipse – a race where he was aiming to land back to back renewals of the Group 1 prize, on what was to be his swansong before embarking on a return to his native Australia to assume stud duties.

The son of High Chaparral began his career in Australia under the tutelage of ‘Cup King’ Bart Cummings, where he quickly became a superstar landing a total of 5 Group 1’s including two Cox Plates, a Mackinnon Stakes, an Underwood Stakes and Yalumba Stakes before finishing a massive third in the biggest prize of all, the Melbourne Cup despite failing to settle throughout the contest. That was to be his final run in Australia, as in late 2010 the powerful Coolmore outfit purchased a controlling interest in the powerful entire and was subsequently moved to trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Tipperary base.

It didn’t take the giant long to transfer his southern hemisphere ability over to our shores, after hacking up hard on the bridle on his debut in the Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes, he quickly added a Group 1 in similar style with a facile success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and after a minor blip at Ascot being beaten by Rewilding, he added another Group 1 when taking out the Coral Eclipse at Sandown, before adding the Irish Champion Stakes to his resume. Things didn’t go to plan in the Arc de Triomphe where he flashed home late into fourth, but he returned to form with another huge run at Ascot but found one too good in the shape of the high-class globetrotter Cirrus Des Aigles.

A trip to America was next for So You Think, where he would contest the Breeders Cup Classic despite having never race on dirt before. He wore blinkers for the first time and held every chance turning in at the top of the straight, but gradually weakened out of things in a typical gritty battling display, going out on his sword – eventually finishing sixth.

His campaign this season started off in Dubai, where he would tackle Group 1 opposition from across the world again this time in the Dubai World Cup. Ridden close to the pace, he had every chance two furlongs from home but he was worn down by those with more tactical speed in the closing stages, plugging on gamely for fourth. This was then followed by a change in routine by the master of Ballydoyle, after acknowledging live on TV that he had been “training the speed out of So You Think”. So You Think then returned at the Curragh in a bid to retain the Tattersalls Gold Cup, which he’d won a year previous and did so in effortless style again.

His final career start would be to come at Royal Ascot, where he avenged the defeat a year previous by Rewilding with a dominant and truly brilliant display in the Prince Of Wales Stakes 2012. Ridden handy in the early stages, he travelled noticeably well throughout his race, and quickened up smartly with that long powerful ground-devouring stride taking him to the head of affairs two furlongs out. He was then challenged by Carlton House (third in the Epsom Derby 2011), and in true battling fashion the giant So You Think showed his heart in battle yet again, breaking his rival before extending his advantage in the closing stages.

So You Think has been one of the most consistent horses I’ve ever came across since I started compiling my speed figures, especially in the very top grade and goes down as an all-time great in my opinion at least and I believe he will make a fantastic stallion prospect. His figures for me read (recent-furthest) 130-126-130-125-134-137-132-121-121-125-123.

[quote]It’s a big disappointment that he’ll miss the Eclipse, but he’s had a wonderful racing career and now it’s time for him to shine at stud. His book reads like a who’s who of all the best mares and breeders so he’ll get the best possible start. – Tom Magnier [/quote]  [frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/SYTD.png” href=””][/frame_right]

So You Think retires to stud down under with an impressive record of 23-14-4-1, unplaced only four times in a long career at the top level is a remarkable achievement and a testament to his consistency and ability. In his fourteen victories, he won 10 at the highest level (Group 1), one Group 2, and two Group 3’s – a total of 13 victories in graded stakes. So You Think amassed a total prize money haul of £5,058,956 throughout his illustrious career.

[quote]”So You Think is an extraordinary horse and it was a real privilege to have had him here at Ballydoyle on loan from Australia,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said. [/quote]

So You Think will now enter quarantine before being shipped home to Australia to stand at Coolmore Australia, where he will command a fee of $A66,000.

Flat 2012 – Ten Horses To Follow

CATFISH – 4yo filly
(One Cool Cat – Castellane (Danehill))Brian Meehan
This is a filly I’ve got plenty of time for, and although she is rated 91 I feel there is room for improvement and a couple of races are to be won with her before the season is out. After signing off last season at Goodwood in July with a win in a fast time, she returned at York at the May meeting and after travelling nicely she came home with a strong challenge after being briefly checked for room. The time once again was good, and signalled she had trained on and a win wouldn’t be far away. Her next run came at Epsom when third to Stone Of Folca in the fastest five furlongs ever run on record. She was well drawn but didn’t enjoy the clearest of passages throughout her race before finishing off her race strongly. Forget her latest run at Newmarket where she trailed in last of six, Brian Meehan reported after the race that she was in season. Hopefully she’ll turn up in a decent handicap over five or six furlongs next time, and she’ll be a good price and will almost certainly go close off this sort of rating.

CHEVIOT QUEST – 3yo gelding
(Sir Percy – Cushat Law (Montjeu))William Jarvis
A likeable chestnut and one which has been showing improvement with each run for trainer William Jarvis. The form of his comeback run at Nottingham is working out really well, and caught a tartar at Beverley when second to the seriously well handicapped Bridgehampton. He then turned up at Salisbury and was doing all his best work late in the day in what was a stop-start race and was better than the finishing position suggests. He was then run down late at Yarmouth in a good time, before finishing second to Mubaraza at Newmarket in another good time. He travelled the best throughout the race, but hung left just inside the two furlong marker, which took Harry Bentley a while to straighten him out but he galloped all the way to the line, only to be beaten by a better handicapped individual. I expect him to be playing a big hand in races over this distance for three-year-olds this season, and can easily see him winning two or three off this lowly mark of 62.

IBTAHAJ – 3yo colt
(Invincible Spirit – Maroussies Wings (In The Wings))Saeed Bin Suroor
This is a horse I like a lot, but seems to need to lead in his races. He was ridden with too much force on his return in desperate ground at Newbury, before an impressive second to Mukhaddram (very well regarded) at Newmarket where he ran all the way to the line (5L back to third place). He readily made amends with a facile success at Brighton in a fairly average maiden, and although he only won by 3.5 lengths, he could of won by triple that if he’d wanted. His most recent and most arguably impressive success throughout his career came at Kempton where he set a fast pace under a forceful Mickael Barzalona, before readily sprinting clear of his field to win by three lengths unchallenged. The speed figure for that race was big, and I expect him to continue to improve through the ranks before a crack at Listed company. He looks to have the scope to step up to ten furlongs before long, and given the way he wasn’t stopping on either of his last three starts it would be well worth a go. He is currently rated 85, but after his win the other day I can see him going up around 10lbs for that. He is entered at Kempton on Wednesday off a 6lb penalty, where he looks a shoe-in.

JOHNNO – 3yo colt
(Excellent Art – Vert Val (Septieme Ciel))John Hills
Made a very pleasing return when going hopelessly wide on seasonal reappearance at Wolverhampton back in April. He had to make his effort a little earlier than the principles, and from much further back before being forced extremely wide around the final bend, and despite that he almost got up. His next run at Kempton was another noteworthy performance in a race which has worked out fairly well, he was stuck behind the weakening Tidal’s Baby early in the straight before getting a clear run when the principles had early flown, he stuck on well though, suggesting a win wasn’t far away. His next effort at Sandown where he was ridden much closer to the pace was disappointing, but it could of been the ground was just too quick for him (although his relatives all liked quicker ground, he seems a gross sort who hits the ground fairly hard) so I’m willing to forgive him that effort. A return to form at Newmarket last time on the July course suggested once again a win is just around the corner, and encountering soft ground for the first time ran all the way to the line after leading throughout. I think what this horse needs is either Ascot or Doncaster to be seen at his best, or back on the all-weather. I would seriously consider his chances of winning a race from this rating of 79 at either of those two tracks, and I note he has a provisional entry at Doncaster in four days time.

JWALA – 3yo filly
(Oasis Dream – Kangra Valley (Indian Ridge))Robert Cowell
Trained by an emerging sprint king in Robert Cowell, Jwala showed solid form as a juvenile rounding off with a close third to Galician (now rated 88), before beating Pale Orchid (now rated 91) off levels easily. Her comeback run came at Bath in a fairly trappy three-year-old handicap, where Shane Kelly sat a scorching pace throughout and the daughter of Oasis Dream responded with an all-the-way success in cosy style. Given the nature of the race I can’t see her going up much from her current rating of 81, and she would be of interest either back on the all-weather, or at track which favours all-weather form. Certainly a filly to keep on side and could progress into something quite useful.

KUANYAO – 6yo gelding
(American Post – Nullarbor (Green Desert))Peter Makin
A horse which won six races on the spin as a four-year-old, he has taken a while to come back to hand but showed signs of a revival with a gutsy display under Seb Sanders at Yarmouth last time out, in a race which is working out and which a really good time was clocked by the winner. Given the position in which he raced that day it suggests he is ready to return to winning ways, and providing the sun comes out and we get some decent ground it should happen – wouldn’t be the sort to follow off the end of a cliff though.

MUBARAZA – 3yo colt
(Dalakhani – Mokaraba (Unfuwain))John Dunlop
A half brother to the mare below (Qaraaba) who has taken time to come to hand, but showed resolute stamina when running down the well-handicapped Cheviot Quest at Newmarket last time. Off the bridle quite some way out he gradually wound up under Paul Hanagan to get on top inside the final half furlong, to win in the style of a horse capable of improving over this sort of distance. At a time where John Dunlop’s horses aren’t running great this piece of form looks fair, and considering he took this off a mark of 79, you’d expect him to remain competitive up to around the low 90’s and is worth following on his next start.

NAABEGHA – 5yo gelding
(Muhtahir – Hawafiz (Nashwan))Ed de Giles
An import from France made an eye-catching return to action over seven furlongs at Lingfield on all-weather debut. Missing the break early he finished with a rattle to fill second behind My Freedom, showing he has plenty of ability. His next run came over seven furlongs on rain softened ground and he disappointed after travelling well. It looked to me that day he failed to see out the trip, and it was no surprise when Ed De Giles dropped the gelding back to six furlongs on his next start. Ridden prominently he was just run out of things in the closing stages, finishing sixth in a good time to Palace Moon in what rated a solid effort on the clock. He followed that effort up with a narrow second at Catterick after setting a strong pace under a forceful ride by Chris Catlin, and followed that effort up with an explosive performance dropped back to the minimum trip at Salisbury. He clocked a good time that day (as good as the Newbury run) and the manner of victory suggested there is plenty more up his sleeve down at this distance and given his vein of form he is currently in I think he is a sprinter worth following.

QARAABA – 5yo mare
(Shamardal – Mokaraba (Unfuwain))Seamus Durack
A mare which has improved out of all recognition this year for trainer Seamus Durack who is rapidly making a name for himself as a trainer. Two early wins at the start of the season followed up with a solid second to the well regarded Danadana at Newmarket in a good handicap. She then went to Doncaster and dispatched Dragonera (second in listed race next time) in a good time. Her run at Ascot came in another big time and she came with a huge run down the outside under George Baker but the line came too soon. She is a real improving sort, who looks capable of playing a strong hand in pattern races against her own sex. I’d like to see her aimed at the race Mirror Lake won at Doncaster last November, and I think she is pretty much unbeatable in that sort of grade, against her own sex, on a track like Doncaster or Ascot.

RUBY NIGHT – 3yo gelding
(Red Clubs – Stop Out (Rudimentary))Michael Bell
A horse which showed fairly decent form as a juvenile, made an eye-catching return at Leicester on his seasonal debut. Gelded over the winter, he travelled through the race with consummate ease and looked the winner for quite a way. Race fitness gradually took its toll though where he was overhauled by a more ‘race-fit’ rival in Lady Loch but put a distance of five lengths between himself and the remainder of the field. Given that he’ll come on plenty for the run, this was a pleasing return and although he has since risen 6lb in the weights for that comeback effort I think he’ll still remain competitive and looks likely to win a race or two this campaign.

Is the Derby in decline?

On Friday Brough Scott was interviewed by the BBC and told the world that the Derby’s in rude health and whilst acknowledging that it was dying on its feet a decade or so ago, the switch to Saturday etc. had rescued it and it was back in its rightful place and facing a prosperous future.

But this year we saw a record low entry since 1907. In addition we’re living through the start of a boom in French racing which looks like wresting the mantle of Europe’s premier racing country from the UK by the end of this decade. Their prize money exceeded the rest of Europe combined last year for the first time, and their betting turnover also overtook ours. In 2005 the Prix Jockey Club was switched to 10.5F’s to accommodate the demands of the American market in particular, and whereas 9 horses lined up today on Epsom Downs, 20 will load at Chantilly.

In truth the record low field would have been beaten long before now were it not for Aidan O’Brien. The 2011 and 2010 renewals would have matched it, and the 2009 renewal would have seen just 6 horses participate. During the last decade Aiden O’Brien has become the Derby, and before people moan about Coolmore’s mob handed entries, you wouldn’t want to see what the field sizes would look like without them!

You might also recall the difficulties that Epsom had securing a sponsor for the race weekend and eventually this quintessentially British event was rescued by a South African financial data company. The course itself isn’t exactly one that encourages owners to risk horses when they could be looking to a flat track at Chantilly that doesn’t involve running across public roads, going uphill and down dale, and do so for more prize money in a race that might ultimately be worth more for breeding in the longer term.

So what are the solutions? Will the Derby have to go to 10F’s eventually? What would be implications otherwise. Well at this rate it’s on target to slowly be overhauled by the Prix Jockey Club. If it does will the Oaks have to follow. I’d argue that the Prix Diane is already producing better horses than our fillies classic. One of the unforeseen consequences of the Prix Jockey Club going to 10F’s was the shot in the arm that it gave the Grand Prix du Paris (a race that was otherwise dying on its feet). Going with the times and reducing the Derby to a 10F race would of course allow the Leger to take a much needed rejuvenation and fill the vacuum and become a 12F race.

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/derby2.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]

[list type=”arrow_right”]

  • The yellow dotted line equates to 2005, the year the Prix Jockey club abandoned 12F’s in favour of 10F’s.
  • 1 = 1988 and 25 = 2012

[/list]

 
In 1988 and 1997 the Prix Jockey Club attracted a bigger field, but otherwise it was clear that it was the Derby which was the race that people wanted to win and the French equivalent was a poor relation. Then in 2003 they hit rock bottom with just 7 runners showing up, the Derby attracted 20. This was the single biggest gap between the two fields. By 2005 the French had taken steps to redress the demise of their own race and reduced it to 10F’s, but in truth there appears to have been two things happening here. Apart from 1998, 2002 and was the first year that Aiden O’Brien started to use more than a single representative. To some extent the fall off in the Derby entrant might even be traced to then as without the Coolmore contingent (the green line) the Prix Jockey Club has been opening up wider than that enjoyed by the Epsom Derby of its Chantilly competitor in the 1990’s. In the last 10 years, only 2003 and 2006 saw the Derby attract a bigger field than the Prix Jockey Club and the 2006 field was due to the 4 Aiden O’Brien runners.

It’s been some time now since the Aga Khan decamped to France and to a large extent that vacuum was filled by Sheikh Mohammed, but what would happen I wonder if Coolmore suddenly took a strategic view to concentrate a bit on 10F horses and French racing? There’s going to be no shortage of French owners winning bigger purses before long who will be able to afford better horses and this is only likely to increase the demand for horses who can win their Derby (albeit the Arc will still ensure that 12F’s remains in vogue).

Epsom ought to be considering building a statue to John Magnier!!

Horse Racing’s Top 50 Tweeters

Over the last couple of years Horse Racing has really been revitalised through the medium of Twitter, which has allowed users to interact with fellow horse enthusiasts, and share their views on whatever issues they wish to discuss.

The great thing about Twitter is you can discuss things with almost all walks of life, how else would you get to discuss the handicapping merits of a low-grade handicapper with the likes of Attheraces Hugh Taylor? How else would you enquire about the wellbeing of a Rod Millman trained horse with his son, and jockey James Millman, if you aren’t directly involved in racing?

Twitter provides the platform that bridges the gap, to the level which message boards and Facebook tried before, but far excels in the line of communication despite its restricted to 140 characters per message.

It has also been the scene of new partnerships formed, most notably with the faces behind the racing club The Twitterati, made up of Twitter racing enthusiasts and currently have a three-year-old colt called Trending in training with Jeremy Gask.

There is also The People’s Horse partnership run by The Millmans with their filly Tweet Lady. It is proclaimed on their website that is the largest free racing club in the UK, and it has all been built through the medium of Twitter.

After the Racing Post put together a piece on ‘Racings Top Tweeters’ I have to say I was disappointed in the way it was pieced together. The whole idea of being a top tweeter isn’t down to the amount of followers you have, it is about the content you provide to your audience. Obviously the likes of Michael Owen, a worldwide renown footballer for both club and country is going to top the charts given his huge fan base, but what exactly does he bring to the table in terms of racing debate on Twitter?

Whilst I realise it was probably all a bit of fun from the Racing Post’s perspective, I feel they’ve overlooked the true people behind the Twitter movement, in view of going with the ‘names’ amongst racings elite. I voiced my opinion on the list at the time and I wasn’t alone in my thinking, so with the help of Twitter regular @Sir_Back2Lay, I decided to construct a list of ‘Racings Top 50 Tweeters’. This list will consist solely of those people who bring something worthwhile to the table, people actually worth following for racing debate, and simply not just a case of who they are.

So without further ado I present to you a list of the ‘Top 50 Horse Racing Tweeters’ that are worth following, which come in alphabetical order as I feel nobody deserves to be ‘no1’ as each user brings something unique to the masses.

Name Twitter Handle Tweets Followers
Alison Cole @PaddockPick 8,989 1,032
Andy Richmond @Bickley14 15,693 1,696
Ben Aitken @Narrowthefield 20,648 3,427
Ben Haslam @BenHaslamRacing 256 1,395
Bill Esdaile @BillEsdaile 2,977 1,703
Bloodstock Al @bloodstock_al 7,179 1,776
Calum Madell @calummadell 15,094 915
Chris Cook @claimsfive 3,868 3,584
Cyrus Dailami @CyrusDailami 3,879 748
Dan Collins @dcollins2808 28,360 803
David Haddrell @DavidHaddrell 4,556 679
David Johnson @davidjohnson82 7,906 2,597
David Marnane @Marnane1 268 1,627
David Massey @chutneydave 18,097 1,393
Dubai Racing Club @drc_meydan 3,683 2,369
Ed Dunlop @EdDunlopRacing 1,326 10.038
Fred Eccles @FredEccles 13,884 1,177
Ian @wayward_lad 5,849 1,102
James Knight @jamesaknight 16,945 4,044
James Millman @jrmillman 16,444 5,374
Jonathan Babb @Baronbabb 3,923 946
Josh Fletcher @joshfletch 1,088 362
Luke Morris @Luke_Morris88 698 5,028
Marco Makaveli @Sir_Back2Lay 43,733 3,200
Mark Milligan @markmill_gg77 4,036 551
Mark Usher @MarkUsherRacing 956 1,915
Martyn Elvin @fibresand 14,064 1,189
Mick Channon @Mick_Channon_TV 430 9,048
Mike Bailey @slipperytoad 2,764 518
Mike Spence @mikespence8 3,633 1,348
Online Horse Racing @OHRacing 6,202 1,437
Paddy Power Racing @pphorseracing 18,643 6,870
Pat Cummings @DubaiRaceNight 2,240 1,156
Paul Jones @sportspunter01 5,335 3,391
Paul Ostermeyer @orsracing 11,515 1,150
Peter Chapple-Hyam @ChappleHyam 357 5,177
Phil Derbyshire @mo_licker 15,063 641
Proform Racing @proform_racing 1,791 1,939
Racing Post @Racing_Post 18,963 38,101
Ralph Beckett @RalphBeckett 620 4,385
Ricky Santini @RickySantini 2,206 549
Robert Cowell @cowellracing 1,802 2,502
Roger Charlton @RogerCharlton 1,509 8,738
Rory Delargy @helynsar 4,901 1,454
Ross Brierley @RossBrierley 5,215 1,041
Sam Turner @STurnerTipster 6,768 4,050
Scott Ferguson @borisranting 15,038 2,806
Steve Mullington @mulldog 33,869 1,834
Th£ Proph£t @theprophetbets 5,986 838
William Hill Radio @WmHillRadio 11,827 3,948

TOP 5 RACING TWEETERS by @Sir_Back2Lay

@RogerCharlton – Roger is not only one of my favourite trainers on twitter but also on the flat in general. He recently proved this by producing Cityscape in red hot form to demolish the field in the Dubai Duty Free over in Meydan. In general Roger is highly informative on twitter, responsive to the general racing fan and posts excellent links to his personal blog. I am very much looking forward to seeing how Top Offer gets on this season, main early target being the 2000 Guineas.

@jrmillman – James is one of the most active jockeys on twitter and is very informative about his stable runners. He has always been friendly when I have tweeted him and he is often seen converging with other twitter racing regulars.

@proform_racing – Proform is really worth following due to his interesting blog posts and useful stat analysis covering all forms of horse racing. He runs the software Proform which provides an endless amount of stats, trends and ratings for any horse racing enthusiast.

@Bickley14 – Andy has extensive knowledge of the horse racing game both over the jumps and on the flat. When he is not on twitter you can catch him on Racing Uk providing expert racing analysis. Andy also loves his NFL so tweeting about sports is what he is all about….

@narrowthefield – Now Ben is a man worth following on twitter if you have any sort of interest in the National Hunt game, he will discuss pedigree and breeding till the cows come home. A nice guy to boot, he is one of the first people I followed on Twitter that provided quality over quantity.

TOP 5 RACING TWEETERS by @OHRacing

@jrmillman – One of the first people I followed when I joined Twitter. James was always happy to respond to any questions I threw at him regarding his father’s string. He is a hardworking soul in a constant battle with the scales, and for him to take the time out at the end of a long hard day to answer my questions went a long way. I have never seen him lose his head in a Twitter debate, and is the consummate professional. I wish more jockeys were like James, but the majority seem to feel they are above conversing with the lifeblood of the sport.

@davidhaddrell – David is a mate of mine, and I always look to see what he puts up on Twitter. He has been involved in various Twitter debates across a range of subjects (even goading William Hill at one point), but his views are well worth taking into account. Add to the fact he is a speed figure obsessive and a thoroughly helpful/knowledgeable chap to boot he really is a must follow. Just don’t ask him for any fashion advice!

@KPMcEvoy – Like James, Kerrin McEvoy always takes time to answer any questions the racing public throw at him. He has been nothing other than a gentlemen towards any questions I have fired his way, and always answers them in the most helpful/honest manner that he can. He is also one of the most talented horsemen I have ever seen and although he returned home to Australia to ride for Darley back in 2008, he is still sorely missed on these shores.

@orsracing – Paul Ostermeyer is a racing fan and reporter that travels up and down the length of the country providing news from the heart of the action. His tweets about the wellbeing of horses as they manoeuvre around the parade ring are an excellent tool to have in your armoury, and he tells you what you need to know from the horse’s mouth. I haven’t had much correspondence with Paul over Twitter, but he comes across as a thoroughly nice chap, and is definitely worth a follow.

@pphorseracing – The media team behind betting giant Paddy Power are by far the best of any bookmaker operating an account in Twittersphere. They bring forth up to date news, latest results and all the latest in weird and wacky betting markets. They also get involved in conversation with us mere mortals, and it is quite refreshing to see a bookmaker operating this way considering all the bad press betting firms get generally. They run competitions from time to time, and will get involved in answering any questions (within reason) you may have, and are certainly worth following.

Please note this has only been done as a bit of fun and as a reference point to any future visitors of the OHRacing website, who wish to converse with some of the most knowledgeable brains on Twitter. Whilst we make every attempt to include everyone in our ‘top 50’ some obviously have been missed be it through error, or us not coming across them as yet so please don’t be offended if you are not on the list above.

We would also appreciate everyone on this list to RT out Twitter post, to help get some new visitors into the OHRacing blog and website in general.

So from myself (@OHRacing) and Marco (@Sir_Back2Lay) thanks for taking the time to read through our thoughts and if you have any comments to make on the above article either leave us a message in the comment box below, or catch us on Twitter with the hash tag (#OHRacing).

Juveniles of 2011

Just thought I’d make a point to say that TDR (The Duke Rating) and OHR (Official Handicap Racing).

Colts

Horse TDR OHR
Dabirsim 119 119
Crusade 116 113
Parish Hall 116 117
Harbour Watch 116+ 117
Most Improved 115+ 115
Power 114 112
Camelot 113+ 117
Dragon Pulse 112 116
Requinto 112 110
Crius 112 113
Red Duke 112 107
Caspar Netscher 112 114
Saigon 112 110
Bronterre 112+ 114
Nephrite 110+ ?
Trumpet Major 110 114
Tell Dad 110 106
Frederick Engels 109 111
Born To Sea 108+ ?
David Livingston 108 114



DABIRSIM (119) is my top rated colt and top rated overall for the Juveniles of 2011. The Christophe Ferland trained son of Hat Trick swept all before him in France during a lucrative juvenile campaign, which culminated with victories in the Group 1 Prix Morny, and Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere; the latter getting Frankie Dettori out of trouble with an explosive turn of foot inside the final furlong.

I agree with rating given to him by Timeform, and providing he trains on as a three-year-old will see him winning further Group 1 prizes over a mile this coming season.

One horse I don’t agree with is Harbour Watch (116+) is the best I can give him, which is some way off the lofty (121p) awarded by Timeform, but that doesn’t mean to say he can’t progress to that sort of level and beyond this season, after an injury curtailed his juvenile campaign at Goodwood.

I see I also differ with Camelot (113+), who is given (117P) by Timeform but I genuinely can’t see how. His Doncaster time was nothing flash, and although he won it convincingly he is rated up more on potential and hype than what he has actually done on the racecourse so far. I don’t see him as a Guineas type either, and wouldn’t be surprised if the O’Brien team swerved the Guineas and went straight down the Derby route. With the high profile failure of St Nicholas Abbey in the Newmarket Classic still fresh in the memory, and how long it took them to bring him back to his peak.

Crusade (116) comes out co-second best on his rating, which is some way ahead of what he got with Timeform (isn’t in the top 20 list), but I think they’ve overlooked him for horses with a ‘sexier’ profile but he could develop into a really smart sprinting sort this season. He will no doubt line up in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but I’m not sold on him being a miler and his pedigree is stacked full with speed, he will be a very interesting proposition when dropped back to sprinting trips this season, but it still remains a mystery why they send him for the Breeders Cup Juvenile Dirt at the big meeting in November – he never had a hope in such a race.

The Jim Bolger trained Parish Hall (116) comes into his classic campaign on the back of victory in the Dewhurst at Newmarket on future champions day. His pedigree suggests he’ll be better at distances in excess of a mile at three, and looks the sort of horse to handle the quirky cambers of Epsom, and at present looks to have a live chance in the Derby in June.

Both Power (114) and Dragon Pulse (112) have pedigrees stacked with stamina despite both being by Group 1 winning sprinters. The fact that they have won good races over shorter distances at two will stand them in good stead for this season, and I expect them both to develop into seriously good animals over trips in excess of a mile.

One horse I am looking forward to this season is Most Improved (115+). He has shown a really nice attitude to date in his races, and almost won on debut without being touched at all by Martin Dwyer at Newmarket. The horse that nailed him on the line that day Kinglet – has since gone on to success out in Dubai, capturing the UAE 2000 Guineas, and heads towards the UAE Derby on World Cup Night at the end of March, with a live chance. His final run of the season at Newmarket was very eye-catching when third to Parish Hall, and given the fact he was keen in the early stages he finished his race off very well, and wouldn’t of been the most streetwise in the field either. I think he has plenty of scope for improvement over the winter, and has been supported in the market in the last week after Brian Meehan signalled his intentions to start off in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, with a view to taking in the 2000 Guineas in May.

Fillies

Horse TDR OHR
Discourse 118+ 109
Wading 116+ 116
Maybe 115 116
Samitar 115 105
Lightening Pearl 112 111
Best Terms 112 115
Lyric Of Light 110 112
Twirl 108+ ?
Coral Wave 108 109
Homecoming Queen 108 106
Gamilati 107 108
Pimpernel 107 106
Princess Sinead 107 105
Hazel Lavery 106 95
Angels Will Fall 104 104
Desert Gazelle 102 90
Alsindi 101 102
Artistic Jewel 100 101
Anjaz 98+ 89



Unlike Timeform, I have the Mahmood Al Zarooni trained DISCOURSE (118+) top rated on my juvenile filly figures, and she narrowly misses out on joining Dabirsim at top rank in the overall juvenile standings. This very likeable and strong-travelling daughter of Street Cry cut a very favourable impression getting up to nail first string Gamilati on debut (Gamilati since gone on to excel out in Dubai), before absolutely thrashing a fair Group 2 field at Newmarket in the Cherry Hinton.

She then suffered a setback and has been kept off the track with a view to returning for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, in which if she turned up with expected improvement would be a serious contender in taking top honours in the first fillies classic of the season.

Second in on my figures is the Aidan O’Brien trained WADING (116+) who hails from the powerful Ballydoyle outfit, and narrowly edges ahead of Maybe on my rankings. A choicely bred individual out a daughter of Urban Sea, she is by Montjeu who is known for siring top class middle distance colts, but you’d be hard pressed to find a top class female in his progeny list. Perhaps Wading is the one to change all this? She has shown plenty on the track so far, and readily dealt with Pimpernel at Newmarket when last seen in the Rockfel Stakes.

With her pedigree it remains to be seen whether the Master of Ballydoyle will elect to send her to Newmarket, and instead could use Maybe (115) to attempt to take out that prize. You have to take into account her pedigree and it just screams out The Oaks as being her big target this season, but should she turn up at Newmarket, you’d have to take note.

Maybe (115) tops the Timeform list on (117p) and although she has shown solid form to date, I didn’t think she really warranted a rating in excess of 115, so I’m happy where I am at with her. She looks the type to get further than a mile this season, and could develop into a high-class recruit over ten furlongs, and could end up attempting to win the Irish Guineas/Nassau Stakes double the yard completed with Halfway To Heaven back in 2008.

I have Samitar (115) which is around +10 better than its current official rating of 105, so I’ve either made a mistake with this one by overrating it, or the handicapper has undervalued it’s form shown. I got a couple of big ratings for Samitar last season and although she hasn’t really got the scope that some of her sex will have this season, I could see her placing at large odds at Newmarket, providing she goes well in a trial beforehand to show her wellbeing.

Lyric Of Light (110) I have in at two points lower than the official assessor, and although unbeaten has scope to improve further this season.

Two which should have little trouble winning a handicap if my figures are correct are the Godolphin pair Desert Gazelle (102) and Anjaz (98) who have upwards of 9lbs in hand on their official figures, along with the Charlie Hills trained Hazel Lavery (106) who has around 11lb to play with, providing I’ve got them right of course.

I for one am looking forward to the flat season, and I feel like it has been a long time coming. We’ve got little over a week left until the opening meeting of the season at Doncaster; where they line up for the William Hill Lincoln Handicap. However for those of us who can’t wait until then to get their flat ‘fix’ there is racing on the level this Sunday at the Curragh, featuring the Irish Lincoln Handicap, and the Park Express Stakes (Group 3).

In the Park Express Stakes the race looks a really good renewal with the return of some classy three-year-olds in Homecoming Queen, Twirl, Princess Sinead, Kissed and Cleofila and between them they look to serve it up to the older contenders Anam Allta, Chrysanthemum, and Kissable. The race could be a solid pointer towards future success for the season but at the same time is worth bearing in mind that Aidan O’Brien has only won the race once in the last ten years (Kitty O’Shea in 2005).

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave any comments that you wish.

The Dukes NH 2011/2012 Ten To Follow

I shall clear this up straight away before you read any further, this is in no way written to correspond with the popular ‘Tote Ten To Follow’ competition that is currently ongoing, and is my own personal thoughts about horses with the potential to come to the fore in their relative departments this season.

I have, on the whole, skipped through the well known and over hyped types and tried to focus my attentions on those with potential that haven’t been relentlessly plugged in the racing media. Hopefully we can all get some enjoyment out of these animals in the winter ahead (and importantly some profit too).

So without further ado and in no particular order (other than alphabetical) I present to youThe Duke’s NH 2011/2012 Ten To Follow list – I hope it proves useful to some throughout the winter months ahead.

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BOG WARRIOR

7-y-o (19May04 b g)
Strategic Choice (USA) — Kilmac Princess (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Always take a chance when putting up something trained by Tony Martin as you never know which way they are going to go, but I was really impressed with his debut over fences at Navan. A winner of three of his four races this big strapping son of Strategic Choice set a strong pace for his rivals to catch but kept thumping out the sectionals and won easily. Given his time proximity to Big Zeb (he was actually quicker) and the ease of his success this would put him in the top tier of Novice Chase territory, and something like Drinmore Novices Chase at Fairyhouse has to be on the agenda, and I think he’ll go mightily well should he line up – certainly one to keep a very close eye on.
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CAPTAIN CHRIS
7-y-o (23Feb04 b g)
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Function Dream (IRE) (Strong Gale (12.5f))
A horse which has already shown a clear level of top-class form over fences in his Novice season, he made his comeback at Exeter when unlucky to have fallen when coming to win his race in the Haldon Gold Cup. His target for the season I believe is the King George where he will be up against the likes of Long Run, Master Minded and the revitalised Kauto Star which makes life difficult for him, but he is a lovely scopey and improving sort, and I wouldn’t rule him out. Not sure where he will go at The Festival but may end up lining up in either the Champion Chase or Ryanair depending on how he runs in the King George – a very smart horse.
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FINGAL BAY
5-y-o (02May06 b g)
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Lady Marguerrite (Blakeney (12.1f))
This is the novice I am most excited about out of all the horses on the list. He has that rare blend of speed and stamina that you see in only the very best racehorses. He first caught my eye when thrashing his bumper field by 22 lengths at Exeter in February of this year, before making his return at Chepstow to start his hurdling career winning the Persian War Novices Hurdle (Grade 2) with consummate ease on his first try over timber. His most recent start came at Cheltenham in a Grade 2 Novices Hurdle, where once again he showed that trademark acceleration to maintain his unbeaten record. Sitting handy throughout, Final Bay quickened up to lead four from home, before completely smashing the second last out the ground, after losing ground the rapid acceleration shown to get back into contention really impressed me, and he continued to increase his speed all the way to the line. I believe this horse will win one of either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, before developing into an immense chaser the following year.
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GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN
6-y-o (14May05 b g)
Tikkanen (USA) — Golden Flower (GER) (Highland Chieftain)
A very likeable staying hurdler last season from the Colin Tizzard yard that looks to turn his hand to novice chasing this season. A faller on his first try over the larger obstacles I wouldn’t read too much in to that as it was the horses’ first try over them, and you can rest assured Colin Tizzard and his team will have had him extensively schooled since that run. The gelded son of Tikkanen seems to relish the extremes of going, and soft ground looks a massive plus for this long-striding sort. I’m unsure what sort of heights he will scale over the larger fences, but that Uttoxeter race he won so well (off 129) over hurdles is working out extremely well and I can see him developing into something like a Welsh National candidate in the long term – and could potentially take in something like the Jewson Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 2012.
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GRANDS CRUS
6-y-o (01Apr05 gr g)
Dom Alco (FR) — Fee Magic (FR) (Phantom Breeze (8.8f))
Well this one doesn’t really need any introduction really does he? A top class staying hurdler last season for David Pipe, and one who got closest (yet still failed) against Big Bucks in both the World Hurdle and the Liverpool Hurdle last season. This season looks an exciting one for connections of the keen-going grey, as he bids to make a name for himself over the larger obstacles. A winner on his first start over fences at Cheltenham, he pulverised his opposition with an excellent display of attacking fencing, and pulled readily clear of Champion Court; a very good horse in his own right. The form of this race I think will work out really well, and cements just how good Grands Crus could be over fences. I wouldn’t be adverse for stepping out of Novice company and going for something like the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival this season, as that race is well within compass. I can see either the Centenary Novices (the race Noble Prince won) being his main target at ‘The Festival’ but wouldn’t rule out a tilt at the RSA Chase over the extra half mile.
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INVICTUS
5-y-o (03May06 b g)
Flemensfirth (USA) — Clashwilliam Girl (IRE) (Seymour Hicks (FR ) (10.1f))
I backed this son of Flemensfirth when he made his chasing debut at Hereford earlier in the week off what looks a lenient mark of 122. The form of his Ascot race has worked out really well (Barbatos second to Fingal Bay in Grade 2 Novice) and so he has further scope for improve given he has only really had a handful of runs. I was really impressed with his jumping at Hereford, he jumped with alacrity and fluently en-route to success and although he will go up plenty after that ten length demolition job, I still believe he has plenty concealed from the handicapper at present. I can see him developing into a high 140’s/150’s chaser with more experience and one of the large handicaps at ‘The Festival’ could be well within compass, perhaps something like the Jewson Novices Chase would be an ideal target?
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KAUTO STONE
5-y-o (07Mar06 ch g)
With The Flow (USA) — Kauto Relka (FR) (Port Etienne (FR ) (14.7f))
A half-brother to quite possibly the greatest chaser I will ever see in Kauto Star, this chestnut gelding has plenty to do to live up the exploits of his illustrious half-brother. However he posted an immense first impression on debut for Paul Nicholls after a lucrative career in his native France. The manner of his victory when thumping the likes of Roi Du Mee (previous G3 chase winner and 141 rated), and Blazing Tempo (151 rated, and won G3 chase next time out) giving away weight to both of them is impressive. He is an athletic sort with plenty of pace, just like his brother, but looks set to continue over distances in excess of two and a half miles instead of reverting back to the minimum like his illustrious brother. Based on that performance a tilt at the John Durkan (Grade 1) at Punchestown looks likely, and from what I’ve seen he’ll have nothing to worry about – I wouldn’t mind him stepping up in distance for something like the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown either.
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PROSPECT WELLS
6-y-o (02May05 b g)
Sadler´s Wells (USA) (11.4f) — Brooklyn´s Dance (FR) (Shirley Heights (12.3f))
One I presume the breeders of this full brother to Prospect Park would never have assumed he’d end up going hurdling given his regal flat pedigree however despite his solid form on the flat in both France and England he has found himself over hurdles for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. I think he has shown improved form since switching to the Ditcheat handler from Howard Johnson and I also think he comes out of that Grade 2 Cheltenham Novices race (beaten narrowly by Steps To Freedom) the best horse, despite in receipt of 3lbs from the winner. He is a lovely big well bodied sort, with a loping long stride and wouldn’t have been suited by the slow early fractions in that hurdle race last time. The race developed into a sprint for home from three furlongs out and after being rushed into the race made a slight mistake over the second last. Prospect Wells managed to battle back and take the lead over the last before inching a length clear on the run-in, before being run down late by the classy Steps To Freedom. I believe a combination of the stop-start fractions, ground quicker than ideal worked against Prospect Wells and I thoroughly expect him to make up into a seriously good novice hurdler as the season progresses.
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SIMONSIG
5-y-o (02May06 gr g)
Fair Mix (IRE) (14.3f) — Dusty Too (Terimon (12.0f))
A graduate from the point-to-point scene over in Ireland, this lovely galloping grey made an impressive debut under rules when thrashing a good field of bumpers at Fairyhouse in the Champion P2P final. Lengthening all the way to the line, the Ian Ferguson trained grey cut a favourable impression on that occasion and has since switched yards over to England to be in the care of Nicky Henderson. His owner has reportedly turned down some rather large sums of cash for this gelded son of Fair Mix, and he looks certain to pay his way for connections. His debut over hurdles came at Ascot on Friday (18th November) and he readily dispatched a field of probable ordinary horses but the manner in which he drew clear without any assistance suggests he is a serious horse – one to keep a very close eye on, and will make up into a lovely staying chaser.
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SPRINTER SACRE
5-y-o (23Apr06 b/br g)
Network (GER) — Fatima III (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR ))
A handsome strong-travelling son of Network, this horse cut out a favourable impression over hurdles last season, and the sight of him travelling down towards the final flight in the Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) lives long in the memory. He clattered the last and that took almost all his momentum away, but was potentially beginning to feel the pinch after going on three from home. I believe he will be going Novice chasing this season, and I think he could become top class over the larger obstacles. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him follow a similar route that stable-mate Finians Rainbow took prior to finishing second to Captain Chris in the Arkle back in March, and I predict it’ll take a seriously good novice to beat Sprinter Sacre over two miles this season.

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THE REAL ARTICLE 
6-y-o (13Apr05 b g)
Definite Article (11.1f) — Soul Mate (IRE) (Phardante (FR ) (12.7f))
An improving sort from the Edward O’Grady yard over in Ireland, he has gradually improved his hurdling after an inauspicious start to his hurdling career and he begun to show real promise in his last three races. He narrowly failed to give Captain Cee Bee 4lbs and a beating (beaten a shd) over hurdles back in July and although that sort of form would leave him with plenty to do with a view to any Champion Hurdle aspirations his comeback from a layoff recently has been impressive. He truly hammered Luska Lad at Tipperary (giving him 4lbs too) and given that Luska Lad is rated 150, and third placed Donna’s Palm, although on the decline was still rated 150 at this time. The figure I have for that race would put him in the Champion Hurdle picture, and his next performance when beating Kalann (giving him 9lbs also) was even more impressive given just how impressive the Sabrina Harty gelding was at Cheltenham on his previous start – the figure for that race rates very well, and First Fandango has since won a handicap hurdle off 135 yet was beaten some 20 lengths. He is certain to appreciate the better ground we are likely to get at the Cheltenham Festival and would be my idea of an outside bet to spoil the party at around 25/1.

Giant’s Causeway – The Iron Horse

I was asked earlier in conversation by a friend what my favourite racehorse of all-time was, and without hesitation I relayed to him that it was a horse called Giant’s Causeway.

For those of you who don’t remember Giant’s Causeway (and I am almost certain there are those reading this now who it applies to) you need to look up the YouTube videos of ‘The Iron Horse’ I have provided throughout this story.

As a two-year-old Giant’s Causeway; a Kentucky-bred son of Storm Cat raced three times, winning his maiden at the first time of asking by seven lengths, before dispatching future Group 1 winner Brahms on the snaff in the Group 3 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh. His next and final run in an unbeaten juvenile campaign came at Longchamp, in the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre over seven furlongs; where he readily dispatched future dual Guineas winner Bachir amongst three other rivals with consummate ease.

He returned to the track for his classic campaign with a workmanlike victory in the Gladness Stakes (Group 3) at the Curragh before finishing runner-up in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas. His next run came at Royal Ascot in the St James Palace Stakes (Group 1) where he atoned for his defeat in the Irish 2000 Guineas putting Bachir back in his place with an all-the-way success to out-battle Valentino in a tight finish.

Giant’s Causeway returned to the track in the Eclipse (Group 1) at Sandown, trying ten furlongs for the first time in his career, ‘The Iron Horse’ faced formidable opposition, and encountered older horses for the first time; this was to be a true test of his ability. Lining up against him from the older generation was Kalanisi; his ultimate opponent, and horse which went on to win the Champion Stakes defeating the classy Montjeu, before winning the Breeders Cup Turf later in the season. Shiva; a group one winning racemare and winner of the Tattersall’s Gold Cup that very season defeating globetrotter Daylami. Fantastic Light; a future multiple Group 1 winning globetrotter. Aside from that he also had hot competition from his own generation in the form of Sakhee; a horse that would go on as a four-year-old to win the Juddmonte International (Group 1) by seven lengths, and the Prix L’Arc de Triomphe (Group 1) by six lengths after being beaten into fourth in this race just shows the sort of opposition Giant’s Causeway was up against. Without the assistance of Mick Kinane for what would be the only time in his career, he was partnered with an able deputy in the fifty-three year old George Duffield, who sent ‘The Iron Horse’ to the front from the outset, not only did he fight off the challenge of Sakhee at the two-furlong pole, he then re-rallied as older horse Kalanisi charged down on his outside, to win by a head.

That race really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, and I recommend you watch the replay of that on YouTube by visiting this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzJZpPdfsss

It wasn’t long before Giant’s Causeway rocked up on the racecourse once more, this time dropping back to a mile in the Sussex Stakes (Group 1). He would be taking on three-time Group 1 winning miler Aljabr, Valentino a horse he was all out to beat at Royal Ascot in the St James Palace, and the highly touted group winning Dansili (who has since become a sire sensation at stud). Giant’s Causeway once again ridden to the fore, he first broke the heart of pace-setter Aljabr, before fighting off Dansili in what would be his third consecutive Group 1 victory of the season.

Just twenty days later, Giant’s Causeway would turn up on the Knavesmire at York Racecourse for the Juddmonte International (Group 1) where he would once again lock horns with Kalanisi, the older horse who ran him so close at Sandown two starts ago. It was a small select field which revolved around the front two in the market, and it was once again a race to savour. Settled in second in the early stages Giant’s Causeway took up the running three furlongs out, and look beat as his rival Kalanisi swooped down his outside, away from Giant’s Causeway thus not drawing into a battle with his battle hardened foe. It was a tactic that seemed to work as he hit the front just over a furlong from home; however under a right-hand drive Kalanisi began to hang in-towards Giant’s Causeway who was reignited by the presence of his rival coming close and under Mick Kinane was galvanized to secure yet another hard fought and gritty success, in another epic battle which I guarantee will give you goose-bumps. You can watch that race here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDPyQA-WWGo

It wasn’t long before Giant’s Causeway was next seen on a racecourse, nineteen days to be precise as he re-appeared in the Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) bidding to make this the fifth straight Group 1 success of the season, he wouldn’t face Kalanisi this time but once again ‘The Iron Horse’ battled on with the heart of a lion, breaking Best Of The Bests (future Group 1 winner) in just under two furlongs, before holding off the late challenge of Greek Dance; who had won a Group 1 in Germany on his previous start.

Another fortnight passed and Giant’s Causeway was back on the racecourse again, dropped back to a mile for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) at Ascot, in what would prove to be his final start on UK soil. Once again Giant’s Causeway out-battled everything around him, but a smart tactical approach from John Gosden (possibly devised from replaying the York run) saw Observatory challenge wide, so that Giant’s Causeway didn’t have time to react and fight back like he had done with Kalanisi in the Juddmonte, this tactical proved successful and ‘The Iron Horse’ was beaten for the first time in six starts, finishing second by half a length.

His final start of his career would come at Churchill Downs in November (Breeders Cup Classic, Group 1), trying dirt for the first time he was stuck out wide for majority of the race, and gave away valuable ground throughout to the hardened Tiznow, turning for home Giant’s Causeway was around two lengths down on the lead, but in true fighting spirit negated that deficit with a thundering run down the outside. He drew alongside Tiznow and for a split second it looked like ‘The Iron Horse’ would do it, but just yards from the line Mick Kinane muddled up his reins handing valuable momentum back to Tiznow on his inside, gathering them in just strides before the line Giant’s Causeway was given one final crack of the whip by Kinane, and closed again as they hit the line, unfortunately it proved not enough to topple Tiznow on this occasion, but the mighty horse went out on his shield and lost absolutely nothing in defeat.

That proved to be the final outing on the racetrack for Giant’s Causeway who was shortly after retired to stud. In his first season he sired Shamardal; who earned the title of Champion European Two-Year-Old Colt in a lucrative juvenile campaign culminating in success in the Dewhurst Stakes, before returning the following year to claim the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the Prix du Jockey Club and the St. James’s Palace Stakes, in the gritty no-nonsense style of his father before him. Shamardal has since gone on to do very well at stud, and continues to produce top quality offspring.

Giant’s Causeway finished his racing career with 13 starts, 9 wins and 4 seconds – amassing £2,031,426 in prize money and leaving memories that will live long in the minds of racing fans.

Giant’s Causeway has proven adept at producing horses to win over an array of distances, and some of his best offspring include Eskendereya, Ghanaati, Footstepsinthesand, First Samurai, Aragorn, and more recently Await The Dawn, some pretty illustrious names I’m sure you’ll agree.

During his classic season, Giant’s Causeway raced an incredible ten times; something which is almost unthinkable for a horse of his calibre these days, and during that golden year he was awarded European Horse of the Year honours.

This was the first time I became gripped by Horse Racing, as a twelve-year-old boy, watching that great chestnut in full flight has made me a lifelong fan. I don’t think I’ll ever see another racehorse like Giant’s Causeway, sure we have horses that may have achieved more (Sea The Stars) and done it in exciting style (Frankel) but I will never forget the feeling I got from watching Giant’s Causeway do what he did eleven years ago, and he will forever remain close in my heart for that very reason.

I hope my little story on Giant’s Causeway has given you an insight into this wonderful racehorse, and I would encourage you to reply with your favourite racehorse and the reasons behind why you have formed that decision.

I hope one day I get to meet Giant’s Causeway in the flesh.

On that note I’ll leave you with a YouTube video taken of Giant’s Causeway in 2011, he still looks powerful and in great shape at the ripe age of 14, and clearly has a great character and still loving life. Who’d have thought such a warrior in the heat of battle could be so soft and cheeky in later life?

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ7Xne4zDsw


Thank you for reading.