Review of the flat season 2006
Another flat season – another look back, mainly at the fortunes of the horses on my list to follow.
Lincoln, board games and a Knight
Did you know that the Lincolnshire Handicap used to be run at Lincoln? The race was won by a horse called Mighty Gurkha in 1964 but the knives were out for the course and it closed later that year. . Another interesting fact about the Lincoln is that the winners of the race from 1926 to 1937 are the names of the horses in the board game Totopoly.
But I digress. The 2006 season could hardly have got off to a better start when one of my "listers" Blythe Knight, won the Lincoln at 22/1. The race was moved to Redcar as Doncaster was undergoing a facelift and the winner appreciated the prevailing soft going. This was the 3rd time that one of my "list" horses had won the big early season handicap, and like his predecessors, Pablo and Strands of Gold, Blythe Knight was unable to add to his winning tally during the remainder of the season. He has however since won over hurdles for his trainer John Quinn.
The Prescott theory
If the season got off to a flying start it certainly hit a flat spot in mid summer when winners were in seriously short supply. Luckily the tried and tested theory of following Sir Mark Prescott’s 3 year olds stood me in good stead. The most prolific of these was a strapping filly called Alambic who notched 6 wins from 10 starts and was only once out of the first 3. She ran up a sequence of 5 wins between the 10th of July and the 9th of August. Her career best display came in her final win when she galloped clear at the 2 furlong pole in a 14 furlong handicap as Musselburgh beating another horse from the list, Cool Customer by 3 lengths. She started at 4/1 and this in fact was the only win where she didn’t start as favourite.
During the same period 3 other horses from the same stable were racking up the wins, Liberate (4), Warsaw Pact (4) and Prince Picasso (3). Although their later wins were at cramped odds each initial success came at a generous price, 7/1, 12/1 and 15/2 respectively. Liberate won by a total of 19.5 lengths with winning distances between 11 and 16 furlongs. Like so many runners from this yard he has since gone hurdling and has already won twice for new trainer Philip Hobbs. All Warsaw Pact’s wins were over 12 furlongs and the last 3 were on the all weather. He has also joined Philip Hobbs. Prince Picasso is by the same sire, Lomitas, as Liberate. His wins came in small handicaps at Yarmouth, Brighton and Carlisle.
One of the stars of my list to follow was the sprinter Reverence, trained in the north west by Eric Alston, not one of the fashionable big names. The fragile five year old gelding was a late starter and due to injury didn’t make his racecourse debut until May 2005. His connections displayed an enormous amount of patience and persevered where others would perhaps have faltered. This all paid off when he popped up in this years Group 2 Temple Stakes at Sandown in May before going on to greater things when stamping his authority in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August. An exhilarating and close fought finish followed this performance with a victory over the evergreen Quito in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock.
His career reads eight wins from fifteen starts with prize money totalling £455,099. With very few miles on the clock and providing he doesn’t meet with any setbacks over the winter months he will be back to fight his corner, and crown next season.
If Reverence was the top sprinter in 2006 there were other sprinters on my list to follow that more than earned their keep. Pride of place should probably go to Borderlescott who won twice, at 10/1 and 12/1. After picking up a competitive 6 furlong handicap at York he went on to win the Stewards Cup at Goodwood. In his next outing he was 2nd to Fonthill Road in the Ayr Gold Cup.
Purely from the point of view of profit King Orchisios was one of the star sprinters on my list. Things looked far from promising when he was beaten in his first 5 starts but he found his form in a Haydock handicap just holding off the challenge of Burning Incense by a short head at 9/1. He was well beaten in his next 4 starts before popping up again, this time at Wolverhampton at 20/1 setting a new course record in the process.
Roger Charlton has become renowned for his handling of sprinters with the likes of Avonbridge and Patavellian. His lightly raced 3 year old Exmoor gave me some early season success, winning on his 3rd outing at Chepstow at 8/1 but his form tailed off and I exactly broke even with him as he ran 9 times with just the one victory.
Fullandby was another sprinter that won twice for the list to follow. Although his wins came at 4/1 and 5/1 he didn’t show a profit as he ran 12 times. His best runs were in defeat. He ran an absolute blinder to finish 2nd in the Great St Wilfred Handicap at Ripon and, stepped up to 7 furlongs, ran 2nd again in a valuable handicap at Ascot. He was 28/1 and 12/1 respectively for these two efforts so would have rewarded each way support. He is probably best over 6 furlongs on soft ground.
Greek Renaissance was a sprinter who probably under achieved. He is a half brother to Machinist, who is trained by Dandy Nicholls and has won some decent sprints. Greek Renaissance, trained by Marcus Tregoning ended the season with form figures of 012212 with the wins coming at 4/5 and 7/2. He started favourite on 5 of his 6 starts and probably didn’t appreciate the tacky ground on the last of his runs.
The sprint kings
I always aim to have a couple of Dandy Nicholls sprinters in my list to follow. Moss Vale had been a high profile big money "signing" for Nicholls from Barry Hill’s yard. He was the most successful of my Nicholls listers this time winning 3 times from 10 starts, with a couple of Group 3 successes at the Curragh sandwiching a Group 2 win at Chantilly. In France he was chased home by another horse from the list, Benbaun.
Benabun actually filled the runner up spot in his first 4 outings, including a short head 2nd in the Group 2 King’s Stand at Ascot. It was no more than he deserved when he did finally get his head in front in a Group 3 over 5 furlongs at The Curragh at the end of August.
Another Nicholls runner, Tax Free, was one of my main hopes for the season. Unraced as a 2 year old he had won 4 of his 5 starts in 2005. He showed promise when 3rd behind Moss Vale and Benbaun at Chantilly.
After winning at Leicester Tax Free was out again a few days later to break the 12 year track record when winning a listed race at Goodwood. David Nicholls said the gelding hadn't really been right since he lost a shoe at Royal Ascot
My other Dandy Nicholls runner was the 6 year old Indian Trail who won once from 9 starts in a competitive Newcastle handicap at 11/4.
If Dandy Nicholls is generally regarded as the Sprint King, Milton Bradley is not far behind him. His Meikle Barfil, a maiden at the start of the season, was something of a dark horse on my list. The pundits were none too complimentary about his chances when he lined up at Salisbury for his 8th run of the campaign, having been quite well beaten in his other runs. I gave him a hopeful write up though as the handicapper had started to take a few liberties with his rating and he duly obliged at 16/1. That was one success amongst a row of duck eggs but although he ran 11 times in total that solitary visit to the winner’s enclosure was enough to insure he made a profit.
Another Milton Bradley sprinter, Harrison’s Flyer, has been something of a standing dish on my list to follow. I was hoping that he would come in at some stage at long odds but it wasn’t to be. He was probably a bit too consistent and there were numerous placed efforts amongst his 15 starts which meant the handicapper didn’t cut him very much slack. His one win came at Brighton in September at 6/1 so no profit on this one I am afraid.
Iffraaj and Bygone Days
Perhaps surprisingly 2 of my most successful sprinters came from the Godolphin operation. Iffraaj is a horse I had followed before. I fancied him for the July Cup but he couldn’t quite get to the winner, Les Arcs and was a very creditable head second. Moss Vale was 5th by the way. Big race success was only postponed for a fortnight however, as he was a wide margin winner of the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. He rounded off his season, and indeed his career, with a Group 2 success at York over 7 furlongs where the drying ground would have suited him. He was then retired to stud. A horse that possessed both class and courage and was very versatile with regards to trip, he was a winner of 7 of his 13 starts.
The other Godolphin sprinter to grace my list to follow was Bygone Days. To be honest I had more or less given up on this one as after running in Dubai in the winter and spring he took a long time to appear in the UK. When he did arrive he did so with some purpose, winning both his starts. The first was in a listed race at Hamilton where he accounted for Ayr Gold Cup winner Fonthill Road and Eisteddfod. He then won a Group 3 at Newmarket from a couple of other listers, Borderlescott and Tax Free. However, the winning margin could not have been narrower, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that Borderlescott would have held on but for hanging badly left under pressure.
Finding the Zs
One of the problems of following a long list of horses’ is remembering the names and spotting them when poring over the declarations. Anything beginning with "Z" is a boon as they always seem easy to spot. I was particularly thankful to the trio of Zeds this season as they all pulled their weight. Zidane may have let himself down somewhat on the World footballing stage but the horse of the same name picked up handicaps at Thirsk and Newmarket. In particular, he produced a memorable performance at Thirsk as he was virtually last entering the final quarter of a mile in the six furlongs handicap sprint. He is a half brother to Frizzante a horse I have had on previous year’s lists to follow.
From a financial point of view Zidane broke even but another Z, Zowington ensured a profit for the season by winning an Epsom handicap first time out at 11/1. He ran 7 times so with 11 points in the bank from that Epsom victory we had no worries about his profitability. Zomerlust only won once from 10 starts but as that came at 16/1, when he showed his rivals a clean pair of heels in the spring, he more than paid for his keep. He came close to doing even better as he was 2nd of 26 in the Ayr Silver Cup at 10/1, only beaten a head.
The Royal Hunt Cup and other handicaps
Although I have quite a good record in the Lincoln I have been a lot less lucky in the big mid season mile handicap, The Royal Hunt Cup. Cesare ended quite a drought for me in the race winning at 14/1. Cesare had been sent off favourite for the Lincoln but in the rain sodden ground at Redcar could only finish 12th behind Blythe Knight. With the benefit of a favourable draw at Ascot he was a worthy winner holding off another horse from our list, Stronghold by a neck with Hinterland 4th and Pinpoint 6th.
It came as no surprise to see the first two home in the Royal Hunt Cup drawn low, in stalls three and two respectively. Cesare handled the fast ground better than many expected, just edging out Stronghold, who was better fancied than his 14’1 starting price suggests
Cesare added to his Ascot success with an impressive win in a conditions event at Warwick, beating Mostashaar. Cesare is lightly raced for a 5 year old having only had a total of 12 starts, from which he has won 6. He runs in the familiar red and white silks of the Cheveley Park Stud.
Stronghold, Hinterland and Pinpoint, who were all close up at Ascot had their own moments during the season. Prior to the Ascot race Stronghold had won a listed race at Lingfield and just been beaten a short head in a similar contest at Goodwood. Stronghold had been giving Cesare a stone at Ascot and on that form and his listed win he was entitled to try his luck in group company. He went to Goodwood again for a competitive group 3 over 7 furlongs and won under Richard Hughes, beating Byron by a length.
Hinterland was a profitable choice for the list. He won a mile handicap at Epsom at 7/1 in early June before taking a valuable heritage handicap at Sandown over the same distance.
Pinpoint is trained by former jockey Walter Swinburne, who is fast making a name for himself in the training ranks. Pinpoint ran 5 times winning a big handicap over 10 furlongs at Newbury in the middle of these at 7/1. He ran up to this form when finishing 3rd in the Cambridgeshire.
Another handicapper top show a profit was Brian Meehan’s Star of Light. He ran pretty consistently in his 6 outings but his only win came first time out in a heritage handicap at Newmarket over 9 furlongs at 9/1.
Of the 3 year old handicappers, Sir Gerard proved a good choice. After winning a handicap at Beverley he narrowly missed out in a valuable handicap at Haydock.
Sir Gerard went for a disappearing gap between the winner and Kalankari approaching the final furlong and had to be switched. He stayed on gamely under pressure, but the post was always coming too soon.
He quickened well to land the 30 runner Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot at 9/2. On his last run in the Totesport Mile at Goodwood he ran really well to take 4th from the "coffin box" in the number I stall. He powered through after being switched two furlongs out to beat another horse from our list, Easy Air, landing quite a punt in the process.
A decent handicapper can pay his way with just one big price win. One such was Michael Jarvis’s Consular. Given a bit of a chance by the handicapper he was only beaten about half a length at Epsom, but was still allowed to go off at 16/1 a couple of runs later in Haydock’s Old Newton Cup. Neil Callan kicked on from 3 out to account for a couple of other list horses, Ouninpohja and Star of Light. Raised to a rating of 96 from 90 Consular was unable to add to his winning tally but with a 16/1 success from 6 runs he was another profitable choice.
Consular’s half brother Ordnance Row did even better for me. A winner in the soft at Doncaster as a juvenile he didn’t show a lot in his first two outings at 3, but shaped well when 5th at Chester on his 3rd outing. Given some ease in the ground Ordnance Row was able to improve on that the next day at the Roodeye landing a valuable and competitive mile handicap. Matt Henry gave him an enterprising ride and he quickened off the bend and kept on gamely.
I have been quite successful following the Reveley stable over the years. Celtic Carisma was the representative from that stable this season. She was last on her seasonal reappearance but won a small 2 mile handicap at Southwell at 12/1 under Tom Eves. That was her only success from 8 runs and she has since been placed over hurdles.
A horse like Compromiznotension is a godsend to anyone with a list to follow. You can hardly miss him when scanning the deccies! Having shown some promise as a 2 year old he was a bit of a disappointment on his first two runs in May. I didn’t hold out much hope of getting a win out of him at that stage but he returned after a break in September to record 3 wins in 4 attempts. The wins came in a maiden at Newcastle and handicaps at Pontefract and Ayr, all over a mile. The winning odds were 9/2 (twice) and 7/1. He is related to winners in Greece, Sweden and the UAE.
Cool Customer was another 3 time winner. He was kept busy with 11 runs but as his wins came at 7/1, 8/11 and 11/2 he was another profit maker. Jamie Spencer partnered him on all 3 wins. He was also 2nd on 4 occasions, once to the prolific Alambic. The wins all came at a mile and a half.
Fear to Tread and Roman Quest are a couple of handicappers that more than paid their way. Fear to Tread was a major money spinner as her wins at 12/1 and 4/1 came from only 6 starts. Both wins were in little handicaps at Warwick, but hey – who cares – she made me a nice profit. Roman Quest’s 8 runs yielded wins at 6/1 and 9/1 so he also proved a nice little earner. A tall gelding given the statutory 3 runs to qualify for handicaps he won first over 6 furlongs at Folkestone in early season. That win had come on soft ground but he showed his versatility with regards to ground conditions by winning on a much quicker surface at Goodwood. He did OK for a horse that had gone off at 66/1 and 100/1 on his first two starts as a juvenile
I kept Halla San on my list after he gained a couple of wins in the previous season for Lynda Ramsden. When the Ramsden’s relinquished their licence Halla San moved to Richard Fahey’s stable and again enjoyed a successful campaign with five runs, 2 wins and one of those at 10/1. The successes came at Beverley and Goodwood, the latter under a strong finish from claimer Jamie Moriaty.
I made a small profit on Whispering Death named after the West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding. He won handicaps at Thirsk and York over 2 miles and 2 miles 2 respectively. He was also far from disgraced on his last run, which was when 6th in the Cesarawitch. Whispering Death followed the winner for much of the way and ran a fine race in sixth. He is unexposed as a stayer – this was his first defeat in three races at 2m-plus – and he is the sort to continue to make his mark next season.
Degas Art looked like proving an expensive flop as far as making profit is concerned as his only win in his first 6 efforts was gained at 2/5 in a maiden. There was better to come however as David Elsworth’s charge triumphed in a listed race at Newmarket in testing conditions at the end of September at 10/1. With all the other runners migrating to the centre of the track Kerrin McEvoy made all on Degas Art racing on the far side in splendid isolation.
Confide was involved in one of the season’s more controversial incidents. His wins came in a Catterick maiden and a handicap at Ayr, both over 7 furlongs but it really should have been 3 wins. Confide had his rivals comfortably beaten in a mile handicap at Carlisle but jockey Robert Winston took things too easy inside the final furlong and Confide was collared close home. Winston received a 28 day ban as a result.
Yorkshire trainer Julie Camacho does well with her small string and I included 4 horses from her yard in my list to follow. The most successful was Rio Riva who won 2 of his 7 starts and was 2nd twice. He showed himself to be versatile with regards to going by winning at Redcar (good to firm) and in a decent handicap at Ripon (soft). He probably favours some ease in the ground for preference.
I spent much of the season getting Rio Riva mixed up with River Bravo of Peter Chapple-Hyams. The latter won a 7 furlong handicap at Haydock on his seasonal return off a mark of 86.
Odds and ends
Luca Cumani is a trainer worth following, and his 3 year old Futun nabbed a couple of wins as well as two 2nds in his 5 runs. He won a maiden at Leicester and a handicap at Haydock at 7/1. He stays a mile and a half but is not short of speed. Tends to race freely.
Minority Report, another from the Cumani stable, also won twice. As a 6 year old he was one of the older horses on the list but soon justified his selection with a decisive win in the Thirsk Hunt Cup. He disappointed in the Royal Hunt Cup but came back to win a conditions event over 7 furlongs at Goodwood.
Roger Charlton’s Burning Incense turned into a useful handicapper. He put a string of unlucky defeats behind him when winning at Windsor and he showed a smart turn of foot to take a competitive handicap at Newmarket. He also ran well in defeat. He just failed to mow down King Orchisios at Haydock, and in his final run when 2nd at Ascot off 94 (the Windsor win had come off a rating of 78)
Raucous was only having his 4th career start when winning a 12 furlong Ripon Maiden in August. A well-grown, rangy individual, with plenty of scope, he has the size and shape to develop into a decent horse. As he was 8/1 and only ran twice in the season he was one of the more profitable selections.
Superseus won first time up in a mile maiden at Newmarket. Trainer Hughie Morrison had toyed with the idea of running him in the 2,000 Guineas so he is obviously well thought of at home. He had been gelded by the time he won his second race, a 1 mile handicap at Ascot towards the end of September at 11/2.
James Fanshawe;’s Spectral Star won the middle of her 5 starts in a modest 12 furlong Leicester handicap at 8/1 so showed a profit, as did Sant Elena , who won once from 8 starts at 12/1, beating Greek Renaissance at Kempton on the all weather.
Art Deco, trained by Charlie Egerton won the Dee Stakes at Chester at 8/1 This was an inspired ride from Frankie Dettori, who kicked for home about a quarter of a mile out. The horse proved this was no flash in the pan when finishing 4th on the French Derby. In his 3rd and final run he was only beaten just over 3 lengths by rail Link in a Group 1 at Longchamp.
Dr Sharp didn’t show a lot in his first 5 runs but he nearly pulled off a major surprise when 3rd behind Detroit City in the Cesarawitch at 100/1. On the strength of that run I really fancied him next time out over 2 miles back at HQ. He duly won at 9/1 a real gritty pillar to post success for this dour stayer.
Signatory trained by John Gosden has joined Noel Meade in Ireland for a career over timber. This 4 year old son of Kris S had a liking for ease in the ground was sent off favourite for the Ebor at York but disappointed. The pick of his efforts came in Newmarket in May when defeating River Alhaaath by 3 lengths.
I had a few Willie Haggas runners in my list to follow and one of them, Primary, helped to get my season off to a good start. The Sandown Classic Trial at the end of April is not the strongest Group 3 in the World, but Primary could do no more than win which he did at 4/1. His other win came in a listed race at San Siro in June. That wasn’t the full extent of his globetrotting as he also ran in a Grade 1 at Arlington, where this Giant’s Causeway colt finished 3rd of the 6 runners in the Secretariat Stakes.
Heaven Knows, another Haggas runner won first time out in what was a bit of a slog in the mud at Thirsk. He was a beaten favourite next time out at Sandown but came back on his final run to show a smart turn of foot to land a handicap at Chester.
Another from the same stable, Edaara had been expensive to follow having gone down when favourite on his first two starts but he came nback after a 110 day break to win a Leicester maiden.
Geoff Wragg didn’t have particularly good year and I had to wait until September before his 3 year old Hotel Du Cap appeared. After an absence of nearly a year he made a pleasing reappearance when 2nd in a Leicester maiden. He looked one to be on next time and he duly bolted up at Kempton winning by 9 lengths in a 12 furlong maiden.
Sir Michael Stoute
I have a pretty indifferent record following Sir Michael Stoute and once again I managed to pick a few duds. City of Troy, Kalarni, Greek Well, Hard Top and others all failing to record a single victory. The most profitable was the filly Allegretto. After winning a Chepstow maiden she went up to Haydock to win the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks in decisive fashion at 13/2. Upped to Group 1 class in the Yorkshire Oaks she was no match for Alexandrova but she stayed on in courageous fashion to finish 3rd. She again didn’t lack for resolution in her last run when occupying 3rd place in the Park Hill Stakes where she perhaps didn’t quite see out the longer 14 furlongs. Scottish Stage won a listed race at odds on and Sindirana struggled to win the Lingfield Oaks trial but both failed to win again. The enigmatic Rob Roy also managed to win once, in the Betfred Mile a Group 2 at Sandown but didn’t win again and is now racing in America. His best run was when 2nd to super filly Pride in the Champion Stakes.
Things began "stately enough, with Public Forum winning a 1 mile handicap at Sandown at 7/1 first time up. Many paddock judges felt he was badly in need of the run beforehand but he belied that theory and also the drop back in trip to beat Hail The Chief. Drifting out in the betting from 7/2, he stayed on strongly under Richard Hughes
As he had an entry in the Irsh St Leger I had hopes he would add to his tally when tried over further but it didn’t turn out that way. His next 3 efforts were disappointing but he did show a glimmer when a staying on 5th on his final outing at Newbury.
Book of Music didn’t always get the best of luck in his first 4 starts but came good in a strong handicap over 10 furlongs at Ascot in October at 9/2. With Donacster having a facelift the November Handicap was run round Windsor’s figure of 8 track. Book of Music was well fancied and kept on stoutly for pressure suggesting that we might see him in a better light next term.
There were high hopes for Rohaani, who was 2nd in the Roseberry where Kempton’s tight turns and short straight may not have suited him. He went on to gain a battling success in a York handicap at 5/1 but finished the season well down the field in the Cambridgeshire. Mostashaar, a half brother to Maarahel, had won the Britannia Handicap the previous season but was largely out of sorts until winning on his 6th and final start on the all weather at Lingfield over 7 furlongs. Unlike Mostashaar, Queens Best, another Stoute runner, did show a profit winning one of her 3 starts at 3/1. Her win came in a 1 mile handicap at Ascot.
I retained Peeress on my list after her successes of 2005 and she again ran consistently well. Her one win came in the Lockinge when she had the likes of Soviet Song and Court Masterpiece behind. On the day, in testing conditions, the mile trip took some getting but Peeress acts well on soft ground and was clearly best on the day. She very nearly added a second Group 1 win in September at Leopardstown just failing to catch Red Evie and going down by a short head. Other horses from the list to follow were Flashy Wings (3rd) and Nannina (4th).
Nannina had earlier returned to her best on the fast ground to beat one of the strongest Coronation Stakes fields I have ever seen.
The Derby and other Group races
The Derby gave us one of the most thrilling finishes seen at the Epsom Classic for many a long year with Sir Percy flashing home late to pip the maiden Dragon Dancer on the line. Having tipped Sir Percy I was happy enough with the result, although as the runner up was also on my list to follow and started at 66/1 he would have done wonders for my stats. In truth though, exciting finish apart this was probably an ordinary renewal. Sir Percy had a few problems after Epson and only ran once more when well beaten in the Champion Stakes. He has clearly been difficult to train. Dragon Dancer failed to win in his remaining 4 starts.
Horses from our list to follow captured many of the season’s top prizes and the Eclipse at Sandown went to Brian Meehan’s David Junior. Another Group 1 winner was Court Masterpiece who beat Soviet Song in the Sussex Stakes. This consistent 6 year old was not winning out of turn having finished 3rd in the Lockinge and 2nd in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Battle of the giants
The Ballydoyle versus Godolphin battle is a bit like the Chelsea/Man U situation in football with one suspects little love lost between the protagonists in both cases.
Honours this time went to the team from across the Irish Sea who were winning classics while the "boys in blue" were having trouble winning anything. Two of Aiden O’Brien’s superstars were the colt George Washington and the filly Alexandrova.
Aiden O’Brien obviously thinks the world of George Washington and he was strongly fancied for the first colt’s classic.
Although on his toes throughout, George Washington never became as restless as he did when walking around the same area before last year’s Dewhurst – a race from which he was subsequently withdrawn.
Word was about beforehand that the colt had produced some mighty impressive sectional timings in his work at Ballydoyle, and In the event he did everything expected of him, quickening through the middle of the pack to put his seal on the race by the final furlong. As usual he started to idle once he hit the front, but there was never any danger of Sir Percy catching him.
The colt’s subsequent refusal to enter the winner’s enclosure was, I gather, not unexpected. George Washington is a prima donna of the first order – one of the most ‘arrogant’ horses his trainer has ever known –
Sir Percy gave an indication of better things to come, staying on strongly in the closing stages
In bottomless ground at the Curragh for the Irish guineas George Washington was unable to pick up and had to give best to Araafa. After a break he returned in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood but raced far too keenly and could only finish 3rd, again raising doubts about his temperament.
Much has already been written and discussed about the performance of George Washington in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. The vibes from Ballydoyle in the days preceding the race had been very positive, to such extent that the son of Danehill was as short as 5’4 in one place on Wednesday. Then doubts began to build when the rain started to fall through the course of Friday, leading the colt to drift to as long as 4.2 on Betfair on the eve of the race.
That was too big for some, especially those who were aware of how fast the track at Ascot would dry and the forecast for dry weather.
As the race drew near George Washington attracted steady support down to a solid 13’8 favourite. The money proved well founded, with the colt producing a seriously impressive performance.
It’s most unusual to see a Group 1 – especially one of this calibre – won on the bridle. It’s fair to add that there were a few other reasons why Mick Kinane was never going to rush for the whip, but nobody could disagree with the jockey's post-race assertion that the colt won ‘at half-speed’. George Washington conclusively reversed Irish Guineas form with Araafa, with the consistent Court Masterpiece a creditable third.
Whatever people say about John Magnier’s Coolmore operation, the outcome here and the canny manner in which the team prepared him for the race – with particular reference to that Group 2 at Goodwood – establishes beyond doubt their status as the worlds most professional and, one has to say, most astute of racing operations. He probably didn’t stay or act on the dirt surface when 6th in the Breeders Cup.
Alexandrova proved a class act, turning the Oaks into a procession and followed up in the Irish equivalent, again winning very much as she pleased. She completed the Group 1 hat trick with another effortless win in the Yorkshire Oaks. She was beaten over 10 furlongs at Longchamp in October. That may have been down to the shorter trip or to her just being "over the top."
I had quite a long wait to get any joy from the Godolphin representatives on my list. Echo of Light, by Dubai Millenium, was by far the most profitable, winning 3 times. His first win came at 7/1 in the Group 3 Summer Mile on Lingfield’s all weather track. Kerrin McEvoy had the ride as Frankie Dettori has opted to ride the other Godolphin runner in the race. The Italian was on board for the next win when Echo of Light ran his rivals ragged to make all in a Group 2 at York over 9 furlongs, with the 3rd win coming in a Group 2 at Longchamp in the Autumn.
Into the Dark had won all his 4 starts in 2004 but had failed to add to his tally in 2005. He clearly has his quirks and did not appear until mid September when well beaten at Southwell, hardly a promising start. His critics were still not over impressed when he was 2nd to Degas Art at Newmarket but he came good on his 3rd and final start in a 10 furlong listed race back at HQ where he quickened away to win by 6 lengths.
A Godolphin quartet
Rampallion, Seabow, Sharpsburg and With Interest all provided me with late winners from the Godolphin yard.
Rampallion had won a Newmarket maiden on his only start at two and returned to Newmarket to win a handicap despite an absence of nearly a year. He just pipped his stable companion Prior’s Hill. He was a good short head second at Windsor after that on a track that might not have suited him. He looks the type that could do better next year.
Seabow had gone into my notebook when 6th in a Newmarket bacxk end maiden, a race where River Bravo was 5th. He was another that had to wait a year before racing again when he ran out an impressive winner of his maiden at Nottingham and provided the list with a 9/4 winner. Reappearing only a week after his belated seasonal bow, he relished the step up to ten furlongs to beat Galactic Star with something in hand.
Sharpsburg, a son of Giant’s Causway, had produced a most eyecatching performance to finish 2nd in a Newbury maiden as a juvenile when trained by John Gosden. Snapped up by Godolphin, he won on his only start as a 3 year old, a maiden at Salisbury. He looked a useful performer in the making but sadly had to be put down in October.
The last of the late flowering Godolphin quartet was With Interest. He has been most impressive when producing a scintillating turn of foot to beat Ordnance Row, another lister, in a 19 runner 7 furlong maiden at Newbury in October ’05. Trained then by Andrew Balding he was acquired by Godolphin. Despite being off the track for over a year he looked fit and well on his return when winning a 5 runner minor event at Nottingham in November, Confidently ridden and getting to the front readily. He is open to further improvement and could make his mark at a higher level.
I have always been lucky with horses from Mark Johnstone’s stable. Atlantic Waves only ran twice as his season was curtailed by injury. He won the 8 runner Feilden Stakes at Newmarket in April from the unlucky in running Olympian Odyssey but was below par when finishing down the field in the Epsom Derby.
The real star from the Johnstone yard however was Peppertree Lane who notched up 5 wins. He progressed into a smart performer during the season. He won a maiden at Ripon in April, and handicaps at York, Ripon, Haydock and Ascot. The Haydock success came in a heritage handicap, the Old Borough Cup over 14 furlongs. Ridden by Kevin Darley, he had to fight off the persistent attentions of stable companion Quizzene. He was the only 3 yaer old in the 13 runner field and won as 9/2 favourite.
His win as Ascot came over 12 furlongs but as it was run at a fact pace in testing conditions it played into Peppertree Lane’s hands. He was once again favourite, this time sent off at 7/2.
If Peppertree Lane was one of the most prolific winners on our list, the honour of best winning odds went to Classic Punch. A half brother to the late great Persian Punch by the brilliant sprinter Mozart, Classic Punch had looked a horse to follow on the promise shown in his 2 outings as a two year old. In the event he didn’t really live up to expectations and only won 1 of his 6 outings. That win came in an 18 runner maiden at Windsor at 25/1.
Who else do I need to give a mention to ? Tungsten Strike won the Henry ll Stakes at Sandown and was 3rd to Yeats in the Goodwood Cup, while Innocent Air, after an indifferent start to the campaign won a listed arce at Newmarket over 10 furlongs in Ocrober at 16/1. Her trainer HJogn Gosden reported that the filly had not been right earlier in the year and that she would not now race again in the UK.
Best of the rest
That then was about it from the list to follow. I have just picked out a dozen or so other horses that deserve a mention. The super mare Ouija Board has been the subject of much more eloquent praise than ever I could bestow so I will leave her out of this section.
Three of the elite
Another mare bowed out this season. Soviet Song for long the darling of the Elite Racing Club was not the force of old but still managed to land the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes at Ascot in June, from Sir Michael Stoute’s Echelon. Soviet Song had just seemed to lose that burst of acceleration that had served her so well over the years and connections decided to retire her at the end of the season. She had still managed to finish 2nd in the Sussex Stakes, behind Court Masterpiece. In a glittering career "Sovie" won 9 times, 5 of them at Group 1 level.
There were some amongst the Elite faithful who thought that New Seeker was in decline but he proved his critics wrong in no uncertain terms. He had some top handicap form over the years, twice a winner of the Totesport International, he had also won the Britannia Stakes and the Royal Hunt Cup as well as finishing 2nd in the Lincoln. During last season he moved from Clive Cox to Paul Cole and the change of scene obviously did him good as he made all in typical fashion on his debut for his new trainer in listed company at Redcar in September.
Another Elite club horse, the dual purpose Monolith, trained by Len Lungo is a bit of a favourite of mine and he won the two and a half mile Pontefract Cup in June. Thrilling stuff in this long-distance handicap, with Monolith getting up in the shadow of the post to nail the aggressively-ridden Our Monogram.
The winner, who had a mountain to climb from six furlongs to go and catch the clear leader, was given a wonderful ride by Paul Hanagan, who kept him up to his work in terrific style and was handsomely rewarded for his heroic efforts.
The 1000 Guineas produced a fairytale ending with the Pam Sly trained Speciosa winning. She may not be mentioned in the same breath as George Washington but this was one for the underdog and her success is richly deserved. Her trainer is better known for saddling jumpers around the gaff tracks.
Zero Tolerance, one of those memorable zeds from a previous year’s list stepped up from handicap class to win listed races at York and Haydock over a mile. Both were on his favoured soft ground. He has earlier finished 4th in the Lincoln.
The remarkable Quito won 3 times in listed class at Haydock (twice) and York, making 18 career wins in the UK. Now a 9 year old he came close to winning a Group 1 for the first time in the Betfred Sprint Cup only beaten a neck by Reverence. Sierra Vista as always won a handicap at a nice price, this time it was Haydock at 16/1.
In 2005 Fonthill Road was runner up in both the Stewards at Goodwood and the Ayr Gold Cup and it was good to see him capture one of the big sprints this season. He suffered from a back problem in the earlier part of the season but returned to land the Ayr Gold Cup by a length from Borderlescott.
Sticking with the sprinters Further Outlook and Smokin’ Beau were a couple of old timers that tasted success in their old age. Further Outlook was in fine form at the age of 12 and won 4 times, a seller and 3 claimers. A grey front runner with courage in spades, he has certainly not lost any of his enthusiasm for the game. He duly took his place in the greys only sprint at Newmarket and finished a very creditable 5th.
Echelon enjoyed a successful season, winning Group 3 races at Lingfield and Epsom while Detroit City took time off from a blossoming hurdles career to win the Cesarawitch. Another list horse from previous seasons, Sleeping Indian, won a Group 2 at Newmarket in mid October.
My horse of the year though has to be the 8 year old Collier Hill. Coming into this season he had won 12 times. His first win was a Catterick bumper, and on his CV he can boast a Kelso maiden hurdle, The Stockholm Cup (twice), a Group 2 in Cologne, a listed race at Hamilton and a handicap in Dubai. Most famously he also won the Irish St Leger in 2005.
His globe trotting continued this season when he landed the Woodbine Canadian International and the Hong Kong vase, both by a nose.
See you next year!
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