Review of the flat 2005
Welcome to the 4th flat review since I started writing these literary gems. They are mainly intended to feature the exploits of the horses that appeared on my list to follow with a few thrown in from previous years lists that have become “old favourites.” As I joined the Elite Racing Club during the season I have also included a small selection of club horses.
In some ways it was an unsatisfactory season with so many of the classic generation having their careers cut short by injury. In addition our list to follow was seriously becalmed mid season before coming with something of a late flourish in the last few weeks.
A golden start
The season got off to the to best possible start when the list supplied the Lincoln winner with Streams of Gold at 5/1. He looked a group horse in the making when running away from a decent looking field but he didn’t really live up to that promise in 3 subsequent starts at the higher level, rather as Pablo had done a few years back In fairness though, on his last start he was 4th to David Junior, giving half a stone to a horse that went on to win the Champion Stakes.
Classic success and retirements
The list supplied many of the big 3 year old winners through Footstepsinthesand, Shamardal, Motivator, Dubawi and Oratorio. By the end of the season though all bar Oratorio had been retired. Footstepsinthesand came to Newmarket for the 2,000 Guineas on the back of 2 wins from 2 as a juvenile and with the benefit of K Fallon aboard. He started at 13/2, partly because of the presence in the field of a hot favourite in the shape of the Godolphin colt Dubawi (pictured below).
Dubawi appeared not to relish the unusually fast ground at Newmarket and failed to steer a straight course. Footstepsinthesand stayed on strongly up the hill and was clearly the best horse on the day. Sadly injury finished his short career and this was his only race of the season.
At the Curragh the Newmarket 4th and 5th, Oratorio and Dubawi started joint favourites and fought out the finish. Dubawi travelled well throughout to win by 2 lengths. And so to Epsom where the might of Godolphin and Ballydoyle lined up their big guns. Dubawi and Oratorio were in the line up as was an Aiden O’Brien dark horse, Gypsy King.
Gypsy King (above) had scored a remarkable win in the Dee Stakes at Chester where he ran green and even jumped a path at one stage. Somehow Kieren Fallon got him from last to first in the short straight to get up on the line. Many people’s idea of the Derby winner though was Motivator, who had maintained his 100% record when landing the Dante at York, usually an informative trial.
On the day Motivator (above) could be called the Derby winner a long way from home as Dubawi failed to stay and Oratorio was disappointing. The winning margin of 5 lengths was the widest since 1991 and there was talk of Motivator being the new superstar.
Godolphin held high hopes for the Giant’s Causeway colt Shamardal (pictured below) who started the season unbeaten. Plenty of doubts were expressed when he was beaten out of site on dirt at Nad Al Sheba in the UAE Derby but there was much better to come.
First he made all under Frankie Dettori to land the Gainsborough Poule d'Essai de Poulains (French 2000 Guineas). Given an almost identical ride by Dettori, Shamardal followed up in the French Derby, which was reduced in distance to 10 and a half furlongs. The general consensus of opinion though was that this form was still well below that of Motivator. He caste doubt on that theory though when winning the St James Palace Stakes in good style with Oratorio 3rd and there was talk of taking on Motivator in the Eclipse. Once again though injury intervened and Shamardal had run his last race.
And so to the Eclipse, the first clash between the 3 year olds and the older generation. It is a measure of the impression that Motivator created at Epson that he started as a 2/5 favourite at Sandown, with Oratorio a fairly unconsidered 12/1. The late defection of the injured Shamardal had seemed to set this up for the Derby winner but Oratorio proved too good on the day justifying Keieren Fallon’s confidence in the horse. Oratorio was able to confirm the Eclipse form in the Irish Champion Stakes when he again got the better of Motivator. The big disappointment on the day was Azamour who could only finish 5th.
The John Oxx trained 4 year old (pictured above) had earlier recorded back to back Group 1 wins in the Prince of Wales Stakes at York and the King George at Newbury. The latter of these was particularly impressive, as held up by Mick Kinane he came from last to first, treating his rivals with some disdain.
Dubawi was another who was retired through injury before the end of the season. His final run was something of a controversial one. In the Queen Elizabeth ll Stakes at Newmarket in September Dubawi was beaten 3 parts of a length by Starcraft after Frankie Dettori had ignored the trainers riding instructions. Whether or not this cost the Godolphin colt the race became the subject of much heated debate.
Two star fillies
Two of the leading fillies of 2004 had been Ouija Board and Attraction. But at one stage of the season it seemed as though neither would be able to recapture their best form. Attraction suffered an unhappy experience in Hong Kong in May, while Ouija Board was behind Azamour at York where she lost a shoe and then had some niggling problems. In both cases there was a happy ending though. In mid September Attraction (pictured below) achieved her fifth Group 1 victory at Leopardstown with a reproduction of the front-running tactics that were a hallmark of her brilliant three-year-old career. This was to be her last race as she later sustained an injury and Mark Johnston decided to retire her.
A couple of weeks after Attraction's win in Ireland Ouija Board won a Group 3 at headquarters in September and then made a brave effort to retain her Breeders Cup title when 2nd at Belmont Park. The fact that the race was shortened this year to 10 furlongs would not have helped her cause. She continued her globe trotting with a fifth place in the Japan Cup followed by a scintillating victory at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong Vase. Held up in the pack by Kieren Fallon she finally saw daylight and found a devastating turn of foot to win going away.
Ouninpohja's 5 timer
Leaving the classic contenders and Group race winners aside for the moment, if there was an award for the “Russellform Horse of the Year” it would most certainly go to Ouninpohja, who won 5 times in succession. After an early sighter at Doncaster Alan Swinbank's gelding was an unlucky loser in both his next two runs, failing to get any daylight until it was too late on both occasions.
He landed handicaps at Doncaster, Pontefract, Newcastle and Newmarket (twice) going up 19 lbs in the process. Connections have shelved plans to send him hurdling and he will now winter in Dubai. He was one of the most progressive middle distance handicappers in Britain. Good horse.
Sticking with the multiple winners, Notable Guest (below), Linngari and Peeress, all trained by Sir Michael Stoute, did a good job for the list to follow.
Notable Guest was raised 11 lbs for an easy win in a Newmarket handicap but that didn’t stop him from following up in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at York where he got the better of Crow Wood by half a length. He was down the field in the John Smith’s Cup before landing the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Group 3 level from subsequent Champion Stakes winner David Junior. He was then a tad disappointing when 3rd at Newbury in the “Arc Trial".
Linngari didn’t show much on his first two starts but a win in a 4 runner field at Hamilton seemed to restore his confidence. He appeared to have matured both mentally and physically when winning the William Hill Superior Mile at Haydock, a listed race, at 12/1 ridden by Ryan Moore.
The filly Peeress was consistent throughout the season winning 3 from 6 and running creditably in the others.
After winning a listed race at York she returned to the same track to take the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes where Soviet Song, admittedly making her seasonal debut, was back in 3rd. Her biggest success was in the Group 1 Sun Chariot at HQ where she had her favoured soft ground and was intelligently ridden by Kevin Darley. Rather like Linngari, Peeress proved a profitable selection for the list as her last two wins came at 14/1 and 7/1.
Musicanna was 3rd to Peeress in the Sun Chariot and had earlier run up a winning sequence of 3. After winning handicaps at Newmarket and Newbury she won a listed race at Sandown on soft going which certainly seems her favoured ground conditions.
Another to run up a hat trick was James Fanshawe’s Cesare. He won at Leicester, Ripon and Lingfield and was also a fair 3rd on his final outing only beaten a neck and the same by Unshakable and Crosspeace.
Stronghold, trained by John Gosden also won 3 times as did Mick Channon’s Dream Tonic. The latter won fast ground handicaps at Salisbury, Thirsk and Ayr in the space of 4 weeks in mid summer. He was made favourite for all 3 wins. From a horse to follow point of view it was rather a shame that he didn’t win earlier in the season when he was beaten a short head at Leicester when 20/1!
Iffraaj was one of the more progressive horses of 2005. After an early success at Kempton, Iffraaj was well supported for the Victoria Cup, switched to Lingfield this year and he duly prevailed at 11/4 favourite. The draw no doubt played a part with the first four coming from stalls 5. 1. 2 and 4 respectively. Next stop was another of the season’s big handicaps, the Wokingham at York and he was always going well and won by 2 lengths. Upped to Group 1 company he could only finish 14 in the July Cup where to be fair the softish ground was against him. Back on a firm surface he won at Group 2 level at Doncaster in September, just getting the better of Sleeping Indian by a short head. The going preference was confirmed on his last run when 7th of 8 in the soft at Longchamps. As a horse to follow Iffraaj did us proud winning at 11/4, 9/4 and 7/1.
As a horse to follow Fonthill Road only broke even winning once from 8 starts at 7/1, the single success coming at Beverley. He deserved better though as he was 2nd on 4 occasions, twice beaten by a short head. One of those short head defeats was in the Ayr Gold Cup, while he was only beaten into second in the Stewards Cup by a quarter of a length. His conqueror at Goodwood was Gift Horse, trained by sprint king Dandy Nicholls.
Gift horse gets the better of Fonthill Road (far side)
I decided to keep Gift Horse on my list to follow even though he had failed to win during 2004. He had been 2nd at 20/1 that season and I hoped that the move to the Nicholls stable might see a change in his fortunes. He proved an excellent choice, winning 3 of his 5 outings, the Stewards Cup success following wins at Doncaster (18/1) and Epsom on Derby day. Kieren Fallon rode him on the latter 2 wins. The other Dandy Nicholls sprinter from my list to follow worth a mention was Machinist (seen below).
He won a small race at Donny in May but topped this with a 12/1 success in the Ayr Silver Cup.
Another horse that seemed to benefit from a change of scenery was Mutamared. Previously with Marcus Tregoning, he was gelded and switched to 6 furlongs by Kevin Ryan and it certainly paid off with a win on his first start for his new connections. This came in a Newmarket handicap where he moved smoothly into the lead a furlong out and held off the challenges to win in a blanket finish where only about 3 parts of a length separated the first 5 home. Border Music was 3rd and Machinist 5th and snatched up close home by Adrian Nicholls. Mutamared disappointed in the Ayr Silver Cup but returned to form on his next outing to win a handicap at Salisbury.
Hughie Morrison got the list to follow going in the early part of the season with the progressive sprinter Intrepid Jack. He won his first 2 starts but arguably his best run came when 2nd in the valuable William Hill Trophy at York. Intrepid Jack ran a blinder from his low draw, which prevented him getting any real cover. He appeared to take a slight advantage entering the last, but then the whip fell from Steve Drowne's hand and he was worried out of it late on.
With some of these handicap sprinters the only way to get a profit is to back ‘em blind in the expectation of a big win along the way somewhere. Three that came into this category were Seafield Towers, Wyatt Earp and Cape Royal. Seafield Towers had only entered the winner’s enclosure once during 2004 and that was at 33/1. 2005 followed a similar pattern with one win from his 5 starts but that coming at 20/1 at Ayr. Wyatt Earp was kept on the go by trainer Richard Fahey, running 11 times. After a couple of placed efforts he deserved his win at Redcar on his 4th start at 13/2. That win came off a rating of 77 and after 6 runs out of the first 3 I was not over hopeful come his final run of the season at Catterick where he raced off a mark of 80. Shows how much I know as he won at 20/1.
Cape Royal had already won once before I latched on to him. After 10 duck eggs to his name following that success he started to look an expensive choice when popping up at 14/1 in a Sandown handicap in August. He may have been a little lucky to keep the race after a stewards enquiry that must have been a close call after the 2nd appeared to be hampered. In fairness though, Cape Royal retained his form really well subsequently and came 2nd 4 times in the remainder of the season. They were all good efforts, in particular when filling the runners up berth behind Green Manalishi ay Haydock when racing in isolation up the stands rail.
Firenze is a sister to useful sprinter of recent seasons Frizzante. She won a couple of handicaps, at Leicester in June and at Newmarket in July. On her penultimate start she finished well in third in a handicap at Newmarket. She remains lightly raced and there may be more to come.
Horses from the list to follow enjoyed reasonable success in some of the better handicaps. I was particularly pleased with Another Bottle from Tom Tate’s yard as he was something of a fringe choice that paid off. He won twice from his 7 starts and would have paid to follow. His first win came in a Ripon handicap at 16/1, but his best effort was when landing a decent handicap at Newbury in mid July when lengthening well to win a competitive affair by a length and a quarter.
Another very profitable handicapper to follow was Hartshead. He won the Carlisle Bell handicap coming from last to first up the inside rail under Fergal Lynch. He looked all over the winner in his next race at Newcastle only to be mugged on the line by the fast finishing Uhoomagoo. Five runs later Hartshead looked to be in the Handicapper’s grip but defied a career high mark to round off his season with a win at York at the juicy price of 20/1.
Two greys landed handicaps at 9/1. Fine Silver’s effort came early season when he took the Newbury Spring Cup on his seasonal reappearance under Frankie Dettori, clearly enjoying the ease in the ground. He was below form subsequently. Zeitgeist quickened well after tracking the leaders to win the Old Newton Cup at Haydock in July. He also put in a creditable effort when 5th of 20 to Sergeant Cecil in the Ebor.
Tawqeet was a profitable horse to follow winning twice in handicaps at 3/1 and 11/2. Stepped up in class he ran 3rd behind Scorpion in the St Leger briefly threatening the winner 2 furlongs out. He was possibly not over that effort when a below par third behind Art Eyes in a listed event at Newmarket.
Let’s Roll (pictured below) from the northern stable of Chris Thornton ran consistently throughout the year.
He won twice from 10 starts but put in some fair efforts in defeat. His first win came in a 4 runner handicap at Ayr where he was allowed a soft lead and quickened under apprentice Danny Tudhope from 2 out and his rivals never looked like pegging him back. His other win also came at Ayr and he was again apprentice ridden. This time by Salem Golem who was to go on to share the apprentice’s title with Hayley Turner. Let’s Roll again turned this one into something of a procession winning by 10 lengths. Crow Wood and Polar Magic were a couple more handicappers that ran consistently.
Crow Wood's only win came on the 4th June in a handicap at Epsom. This was his first win for 2 years and although he has run big races in top 10f handicaps, this step up to a mile and a half looked to make the difference as he saw it out well and the further he went the better he got. Prior to his win at Epsom Crow Wood had run a fine race to finish 3rd in the Zetland Gold cup. He had been third in this race for the previous two seasons. He was 2nd to Notable Guest in the Duke of Edinburgh stakes and also 2nd in the John Smoth's Cup where he ran another rock-solid race.
Polar Magic was another that ran consistently in handicaps. He was only out of the first three twice in his seven runs but only had a narrow win at Southwell to show for his efforts. His best run was when 2nd in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket beaten a short head by Mine.
Polar Magic is trained by James Fanshawe. Another handicapper from the same stable that did manage to pay his way was Unscrupulous. Although a 6 year old he has only run 9 times in his career and this term he was restricted to just one run, winning a 10 runner handicap at Newmarket at 9/4.
On the sand
All weather racing has gained in popularity and in quality over the last few years. Over the course of the season we had a few notable successes on the sand. Geoff Wragg’s Autumn Glory has helped to get our season off to a good start by winning the Doncaster mile, a listed event, on the last day of March.
He went on to make history by winning the Group 3 Ladbrokes Silver Trophy in July (picture above), the first Group race run on the all weather in Britain. At the nice price of 9/1 as well.
It seemed as though I had followed Border Music for ever with little or no reward. I was always afraid to desert him on the basis that he was sure to win as soon as I stopped backing him. It seemed to be business as usual as he failed to win any of his first 7 starts. Then his trainer found the key to unlock his potential. Switched to the all Weather at Wolverhampton he turned a reasonable handicap there into a procession, winning as he pleased by 9 lengths at 7/2. He ran three more times on the turf without winning , although he was a close up third behind Mutamared at Newmarket. For his final 2 starts he went back to the all weather winning both times at Lingfield, the first at 9/1. Jamie Spencer rode him each time he won and has a 3 out of 4 record on the horse.
Our third all weather star was Rampage. He had won a maiden at Newcastle on his only start as a juvenile and we had to wait until October 10 for him to reappear. He finished 2nd at Windsor but went on to score twice in 11 days at Southwell and Wolverhampton. Neither win was by much – a head and a neck, but they all count.
Group and listed class
We had a fair degree of success in Group and pattern races. In a number of cases horses won when I had just about abandoned hope of them ever getting their heads in front. Before coming to England Le Vie Dei Colori had notched up 15 wins. Most of these had come at Capannelle (Rome to you), with a few at San Siro (you must know where that is!). His only win outside of Italy had come in a Group 3 at Longchamp. After winning a listed race at Leicester in April he was most disappointing on his next 4 runs. Galvanised by a first time visor for his last start in Group 2 in mid October he rediscovered his best form wining well at 20/1. He has some other horses that figure in this review behind him. Notably Sleeping Indian (2nd), Peeress (4th) and New Seeker (9th).
The oldest horse on my list to follow was Millenary (shown below), at the age of 8, who has won the St Leger as far back as September 2000.
He looked a spent force in some of his early races last season but revived memories of the glory days with a couple of memorable back to back victories in August and September. For me Richard Quinn produced the ride of the season on Millenary in the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at York. He dropped Millenary out the back and kept him covered up until the very last moment, not moving a muscle. Produced well inside the final furlong the old campaigner found a real turn of foot to sweep into the lead.
The second win, in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup, was similar. Quinn again employed exaggerated waiting tactics as Millenary stalked the leaders like some sort of hooded assassin and won with another late, late burst. As his wins came at 12/1 and 11/4 he proved a profitable horse to follow.
One of the first names in my notebook for the 2005 flat season was Sir Michael Stoute’s Rob Roy on the back of his win in an autumn maiden at HQ. Things didn’t go according to plan for the big son of Lear Fan. He was short of room when failing to get up on his seasonal reappearance and failed by a head to peg back Democratic Deficit. He was 6/1 for the 2,000 gns but finished last, totally unsuited by the very firm going. He returned in the autumn and won the middle of three runs. He put up a good performance to win the Group 3 Joel Stakes at Newmarket at 17/2. It will be interesting to see if he stays in training.
Sleeping Indian ran some good races just below top class. He won the John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock and deserved his Group 3 win in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. His close seconds to Iffraaj and Le Vie dei Colori have already been mentioned.
Trainers to follow
Although I tend to follow horses these days rather than trainers I usually have a few on my list to follow from the yards of Sir Mark Prescott and Mark Johnston.
The theory of backing Prescott 3 year olds in handicaps didn’t really pay off for me this time as well as in previous years. Tangible won at 6/1 first time out but that was her only win from 4 starts. The most successful of the Prescott 3 year olds on the list was Oblique who ran up a four race winning sequence culminating in a win in the Musselburgh Gold Cup over 12 furlongs at the Scottish track. Although she lacks size and scope, she clearly has a good engine, and her win here was gained off a mark 21lb higher than when she started the season. She couldn’t make it 5 from 5 when coming 3rd on her next run but her astute trainer found a listed race opportunity for her in Sweden in mid November for her fifth win.
I don’t usually have Prescott 2 year olds on my list to follow but an exception in 2005 was Violette who proved very consistent and ended with form figures 1202111223. Her wins included a 17 runner nursery at Doncaster where although not well drawn she was given an excellent ride by Seb Sanders and eventually won going away. She followed this up with a win in quite a strong listed race at Ayr. She also came 2nd in a 24 runner listed race at Redcar and a neck 2nd in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at HQ. She made great strides during the season but may be hard to place next year.
At one stage I thought my pick of the Mark Johnston stable was not going to work out but some late winners at nice prices turned things round.
Quizzene and I’m So Lucky got the season off to a good start, both winning twice, Quizzene (picture below) at 11/4 and 13/8 and I’m So Lucky at 4/1 and 9/2.
The first race meeting I ever went to was at Chester to watch the Chester Cup and I have always retained a soft spot for that course and in particularly that race. Swift Sailor was a game winner of the Phil Bull Trophy at Pontefract, one of the two races he won, but his career best came when he was 2nd in the big race at Chester. He has since been sold to go hurdling.
The two Johnston runners that came good at the back end of the season were Crosspeace and Kindling. Crosspeace was placed in all but 2 of his 10 starts and deserved his win in listed company at Doncaster in November which he won by 14 lengths in heavy ground having been stepped up to 12 furlongs. His other win came in a Newmarket handicap over 7 furlongs. Crosspeace nearly became only the third three-year-old winner of the Totesport Mile at Goodwood in 15 runnings when only beaten a neck by Unshakable in a blanket finish. In fact before that win at Donny Crosspeace put is a whole string of placed efforts. These included a third in a Group 3 in Norway, a runners up spot in another Group 3 at Baden-Baden. After being placed in these two continental Group 3 races, he ran 3rd in the John Smith's Stakes (Heritage Handicap) at Newbury. He emerged the best horse in the race, as he was only three and was giving weight away all round taking into account weight-for-age. He was then 4th in the Cambridgeshire off 9 stone 4, one of only a couple of three year olds in the race.
Crossspeace (pictured above) won at 9/2 and 5/1, but little filly Kindling did even better as a horse to follow. She didn’t register a win in her first 7 starts although she was only beaten a short head at Ripon. She showed her liking for easy ground when taking a handicap at Haydock and followed up the week after at Epsom when she scooted clear in great style approaching the furlong marker under Greg Fairlie. Kindling is nothing if not game and after a third in a listed race at Deauville she rounded off her season in style winning a listed race at Musselburgh, again in soft ground at 10/1. This will have greatly enhanced her paddocks value.
The two year olds
I have already mentioned Violette who was one of the more successful 2 year olds I followed. Perhaps the highest profile juvenile was Flashy Wings of Mick Channon’s. I put her on my list to follow after she had won on her debut and she went on to win her next three. Two wins at York stamped her as a top class filly. She won the Queen Mary Stakes in impressive fashion and extended her unbeaten record to four with a workmanlike display in this Group 2 Lowther Stakes.
After that things went slightly awry. Rather surprisingly she next ran in the Watership Down Stud Sales Race at Newbury. Made favourite, she hit the front 2 furlongs out but hung left in the centre of the track and was collared close home by Expensive who had the benefit of the rail. She was 3rd in the Group 1 Cheveley Park at Newmarket next but may have been a bit unlucky as she found herself short of room when starting to mount her challenge and although she powered up the hill the winning post came too soon and she was beaten by two necks.
Another Mick Channon juvenile served me well. Ajigolo won three times including a Group 2 at Baden-Baden, This was probably a poor race and he ran better in defeat next time out when second to Hunter Street in a bobbing finish despite carrying a 7 lbs penalty in the Cornwallis Stakes at Salisbury, generally accepted as a fairly ordinary Group 3 contest. Hunter Street was 4/1 and Ajigolo 25/1 so I was rather hoping they would finish in the reverse order.
Hunter Street was winning for the second time and had also run 2nd in the Flying Childers at Doncaster. According to his trainer he has “the heart of a lion.” Reportedly he has been sold to race in the US.
River Thames, under the same ownership as Hunter Street, was 3rd in the Flying Childers, just behind his stable companion. He had earlier won a maiden at Yarmouth from Expensive, later conqueror of Flashy Wings and he also won a nursery at Newmarket.
Other notable 2 year old winners were Championship Point, another with Mick Channon, and Signor Peltro. Championship Point only ran three times winning the first two, a maiden at Newbury and a 12 runner listed race at Royal Ascot at York. He also ran well when a head second in a valuable listed race at Deauville giving weight to the winner. His wins came at 15/2 and 4/1, but Signor Peltro was an even more profitable selection as his only win came at 22/1 first time out. This win came in a 16 runner maiden at Haydock but he showed little in two subsequent starts.
Some big priced winners
Needless to say the big priced winners always linger longest in the memory. I was particularly pleased with Kenmore’s 20/1 win late on in the season as it came after poor run of results for me. I had high hopes for Barry Hill’s colt, especially after he started the season with a win in a Nottingham Maiden in April. He didn’t get the run of the race when 4th at Goodwood after that but a couple of disappointing efforts followed. Then came that win in a 23 runner 7 furlong handicap at Newmarket towards the end of the season.
I will mention a handful of other big priced winners that I had during the course of the campaign. Penny Wedding won at 20/1 in a maiden but failed to make much impression in handicaps in a couple of starts after that while Cornus, a promising juvenile in 2004 seemed to have lost his way when failing to get his head in front on his first 10 starts only to win at 12/1 on his last outing.
The well bred Gifted Musician contributed to my profitable end of season run when capturing an ordinary maiden at Catterick at 13/2 after 3 losing efforts. Another to make a profit from just one win was Mineko. He has been second on 3 occasions before coming in at 7/1 in a late season maiden at Nottingham.
River Royale trained by Peter Chapple Hyam won both his starts, a maiden when odds on followed by a Newmarket handicap where he quickened well to lead close home at 11/2. Wild Savannah was another that would have shown a profit if backed blindly as he won 2 of his 7 starts at odds of 7/2 and 13/2.
Wild Savannah didn’t run as a 2 year old. Alfred the Great only had one run at 2 and went on my list to follow as the sort of 3 year old that Mark Johnston excels with. Come his first run though he had changed stables and was with Pat Haslam so I was rather less optimistic, but he came good for me. After a couple of fair placed efforts he won a Newcastle handicap in November at 5/1 and has since won over hurdles.
Flat horses have short enough careers when compared to their national hunt counterparts. I am always pleased to be able to follow a horse over more than just one season and I decided to keep Vaughan on my list to follow even though he didn’t win during 2004. This big gelding proved a useful and consistent performer in 2005, winning 2 of his 8 starts. He also ran well behind a couple of other horses on our list, He kept on well behind Notable Guest and Crow Wood at York for 5th place and then finished 3rd to the prolific Ouninpohja at Newmarket. A long striding galloping type with a liking for a sound surface Vaughan seems at home at Newmarket and his first win came in a 12 handicap there, although he needed every yard of the trip. His second win came in his last race of the season, over the same trip and at Newmarket where he sported first time blinkers. His wins came at 13/2 and 3/1. This was one of the new premier claiming races and Vaughan was claimed for £50,000.
I don’t always seem to have much luck following Sir Michael Stoute’s horses but 2005 bucked this trend. I have already mentioned the likes of Linngari, Rob Roy, Notable Guest and Peeress. Hard Top (pictured below) looked one to follow when winning a maiden at Lingfield and he confirmed that promise when taking the Great Voltigeur at York staying on strongly to lead close home in a 6 runner race at 6/1.
He may have been unsuited by the soft ground when beaten in the St Leger.
There were fears that Echelon had not trained on having been a leading fancy for the 1,000 guineas she could only finish 9th in the classic. She faired much better in the 2nd half of the season though. After a slightly unlucky 2nd in a listed race at Sandown where she didn’t get a clear run she picked up well to score decisively in a similar event at Newbury. She evidently needs fast ground as she floundered in the soft going next time out at Sandown behind the mud loving Musicanna before rounding off her season and advertising her potential as a valuable broodmare with another listed race win, this time at Newmarket.
Of the other Stoute runners King’s Majesty was certainly profitable. He only ran twice winning a Newmarket handicap at 6/1 and was only beaten a head on the same track in September. He is lightly raced and may do better yet.
Art Eyes was an interesting and progressive hoes to follow. She was kept on the go by trainer David Elsworth running 12 times in all. For much of the season it looked as though connections had got the tactics wrong as despite putting in some creditable displays she only had one win to show for her first 10 runs, a 12 furlong handicap at Leicester. From then on she competed in a much higher grade, an excellent 2nd at Goodwood and a very creditable 4th to Mubtaker in the Match Stakes at the same track and a career best 4th behind Ouija Board in a Group 3 at Newmarket. These runs in better class events did not bring a win though and wrecked her handicap rating. The question could be posed that perhaps her lower rating could have been exploited in handicap company. The trainer's approach was vindicated though when she won a listed race at Newmarket at the end of September at 8/1.
Trainer Lynda Ramsden announced that she would be retiring at the end of the 2005 season. She has trained the likes of Arcalis and Trojan Flight in recent seasons. I had Halla San from her stable on my list in 2005 and having been pretty expensive to follow he finally came good with two victories. A winner off only 59 at Gosforth Park he made light work of a 4 lbs rise at Haydcok next time under a fine ride from Alan Munro. These wins came on the back of 7 defeats so at winning odds of 11/4 and 3/1 it was not enough to make a profit on the season.
Last gasp winners
With racing patience is most certainly a virtue. If we had to wait a long time for the likes of Halla San to visit the winner’s enclosure, Don't call me Derek kept us waiting until the very last day of the season. He had been successful over hurdles twice in the winter and didn’t reappear on the flat until the 22nd October. He was well down the field that day but came back with a bang on November 5th in testing conditions in a 6 runner Doncaster handicap, when he was allowed a soft lead and nothing could get in a blow as he galloped resolutely to the line. Don’t Call me Derek was returned at 11/1 and with Crosspeace a 5/1 winner on the same card and Kindling winning at 10/1 only 2 days before the season could hardly have had a more upbeat finale.
The French connection
I included a small selection of French horses on my list to follow and two of them are well worth a mention here. Valixir mixed it with the best and won three times, twice in Group ones. He won with tons on hand at Longchamp on the first of these and then plundered the Queen Anne Stakes at York. While Rakti would not be the best of yardsticks here, having misbehaved in the preliminaries, Valixir impressed with the ease with which he took his measure inside the last two furlongs – sooner than had been planned – and he was always in command afterwards. The Gallic star of the season though was the brilliant filly Divine Proportions (picture below). Unbeaten as a 2 year old she continued to sweep all before her at 3 in sensational style including victory in the French Oaks.
Her only career defeat came on her last run when beaten by Dubawi in a Group 1 at Deauville where Valixir was 3rd. She was subsequently found to have an injury and was retired.
I always keep an eye on horses that I have had on my list to follow in previous seasons. In particular I have a soft spot for sprinters. In 2004 Sierra Vista obliged for me at 33/1.
That was her only win of the season and came in the Totesport Northern Sprint handicap at Newcastle at the end of June beating Ellen’s Academy by a neck. Remarkably, her first win in 2005 came in the same race with Ellen’s Academy once again beaten a neck in second. One of the more bizarre coincidences of the racing season. Sierra Vista was returned at 16/1 this time. She went on to land 4 more sprint handicaps at 11/2, 11/1, 25/1 and 8/1. Not half bad for a horse that only cost 500 gns as a yearling.
Sierra Vista's stable companion, Celtic Mill is another that has found his way onto my list to follow from time to time. David Barker enjoyed a terrific campaign with his sprinters and his stable star was Celtic Mill. He scored a career best when taking the valuable Group 2 Temple Stakes at Sandown in May. He was lucky to survive a very nasty fall later in the season at the same track but has come back to win on the all weather since.
Another sprinter from former lists to follow to excel during 2005 was Fire Up the Band who won three times, including the Vodaphone Dash at Epsom, and a Group 3 at Goodwood. He also won at Chester beating Fonthill Road by half a length. His wins came at 14/1 twice and 10/1. Striking Ambition had a successful European Tour winning in Ireland, France and Germany, the latter two in Group 3 class, while at a humbler level Harrison's Flyer picked up 3 small races at 25/1, 3/1 and 13/2.
Bandari has been knocking around in the higher echelons of flat racing for a few years and he again tasted success in 2005. He only won once in 2005, at 10/1 in the Hardwicke Stakes at York, beating Maraahel and Gamut. Bandari has now won 3 times at both Group 3 and Group 2 levels, but that Group 1 success has continued to elude him. Gamut also won once, and that was also at Group 2 level under an intelligent front running ride from Kieren Fallon at Newmarket. Gamut has won at least once in each of the 4 years he has been in training.
Zero Tolerance was a successful horse on my 2004 list to follow with his best win coming with a pillar to post victory in a mile handicap at Newmarket in October. He did well to win the same race in 2005 off a 6 lbs higher mark. The horse clearly likes soft ground and he also won in May when he had conditions to suit, under a canny front running ride from Jamie Spencer.
Uhoomagoo has had plenty of mentions on my web site down the years and proved as good as ever in 2005. As well as mowing down my selection practically on the line in a Newcastle handicap he also won a valuable handicap at Galway coming with his usual terrific late run.
I put Blue Monday, a relative of the top class performer Warrsan, on my list to follow in 2004 but he didn't run through injury. Trainer Roger Charlton got him back to his best to win a couple of prestigious handicaps in 2005 though. Blue Monday was in the front rank throughout in the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar and scored in game style in a thrilling finish with Crow Wood third and Another Bottle in mid division. He then went on to win the ultra competitive Cambridgeshire. A lightly raced individual he may well go on to even better things next season.
Ouninpohja was one of the season's prolific winners and was compared to another star from the same stable Collier Hill. Collier Hill has had a wonderful career. He has won Group races in Stockholm and Cologne, a handicap in Dubai, a bumper at Catterick and over hurdles at Kelso. Now that is a versatile horse! He surpassed himself this season by winning the Irish St Leger at The Curragh, beating the local favourite and 4 time winner of the race, Vinnie Roe into 3rd. How many Group 1 winners boast a success at Kelso on their CV I wonder?
One of the Elite
I have been thinking about joining some sort of a ownership syndicate for a few years and finally took the plunge in the summer, choosing the Elite Racing Club from the half dozen or so that I had looked at. I have really enjoyed the feeling of involvement and the club is run on both professional and friendly lines.
The club had two winners the day after I joined through Eisteddfod and Ionian Spring so I had something of a dream start. Eisteddfod won a total of 3 races including valuable and highly competitive handicaps at Goodwood and Windsor. The highlight of his season though was a superb Group 3 triumph at Deauville. He was also a trifle unlucky in listed and Group 1 races at Chester and Longchamps. Ionian Spring only won the once, and that was a fairly modest premier claimer at Chester but he was kept busy all season and retains ability despite being a 10 year old.
Soviet Song (pictured below) is the pride and joy of the Elite Racing Club and once again she didn’t disappoint her followers.
She only ran 3 times but again won the Falmouth Stakes, a Group 1, and only failed by the narrowest of margins to peg back Proclamation in the Sussex Stakes after being stuck in a “pocket” which allowed her rival to get first run.
Two year old Oceans Apart was only beaten a neck by Flashy Wings on her racecourse debut and went on to win twice. She is a half sister to Eisteddfod so not surprisingly had the speed to win a maiden at Windsor at the minimum trip. Her other win was a pillar to post success from the number 1 stall at Chester where she handled the track well for a big filly.
Finally, one of the star handicappers of the season was Clive Cox’s New Seeker, pictured below.
He started the season by running second to Streams of Gold in the Lincoln and went on to enjoy a highly lucrative 2005. He won the Royal Hunt Cup, run at York rather than Ascot of course as well as the valuable Totesport International Stakes. He also made the successful transition from handicap to pattern class with an impressive victory in a listed race at Newbury.