TWO of the best, and most informative, meetings of the early weeks of the Flat season are at Newmarket and Newbury. Our resident expert RICHARD SILVERWOOD was there for all four days and reports back here on horses to follow as the campaign progresses.
ALDBOROUGH (Unplaced, Newbury April 20)
Andover trainer Ralph Beckett has made a fine start to the new season, and although this big, scopy three-year-old did not trouble the judge, he showed enough to suggest he can develop into a decent type. Pushed along in rear from an early stage in what was a warm 1m maiden, he began to get the hang of things late on and kept on encouragingly. He’s so well bred that the dam is a sister to 2003 St Leger winner Brian Boru and a half-sister to the dam of 2010 Derby winner Workforce. It’s a pedigree that screams progress as he matures and steps up in trip.
CAPE PERON (Won, Newbury April 20)
Henry Candy’s handy three-year-old has not yet grown fully into his frame and is still living on his nerves. Indeed he wore a head collar for this warm 1m maiden to keep him relaxed. However, he’s very much going the right way, given the manner in which he picked up from an uncompromising position to sweep past a Sir Henry Cecil hotpot for just punched hands-and-heels riding. He should improve again over a bit further and might be worth bearing in mind for one of Royal Ascot’s handicaps.
DUTCH MASTERPIECE (Unplaced, Newmarket April 17)
A perfectly acceptable seasonal re-appearance by Gary Moore’s sizeable three-year-old sprinter, who was a progressive, well-regarded juvenile last term. Isolated a little on the far side in a richly competitive handicap, the son of Dutch Art travelled well and was not given a hard time by trainer’s son, Ryan, on ground probably a shade too quick for the gelding. Very lightly-raced, he has lots more to offer.
GRAPHIC GUEST (3rd, Newmarket, April 17)
To put it bluntly, Mick Channon’s filly was a bit of a madam in her juvenile campaign season when failing to fulfil her undoubted potential. For example, she twice ruined her chances in big Sales races by playing up at the stalls. However, this re-appearance performance suggests she still has a future if her temperament can be checked. It was a good, competitive sprint, yet she made striking progress from the rear to throw down a serious challenge up the hill. She certainly possesses the physique to make a mark.
GARSWOOD (Won, Newmarket April 17)
Winners of the least prestigious trial, this European Free Handicap, do not have a good record in the 2,000 Guineas. But there has rarely been an easier winner of the race than Richard Fahey’s rapidly progressive son of Dutch Art, who toyed with his opponents, barely coming off the bridle. Campaigned over sprint trips as a two-year-old, he was always going to improve over further. Fahey says he’s the best horse in his yard by some considerable margin, which makes him worth an each/way nibble at 25/1 for the Newmarket Classic.
GREATWOOD (2nd, Newmarket April 18)
It’s a while since seasoned Newmarket handler Luca Cumani had a potential Classic colt to get excited about. But he might just have cracked it with this lengthy, Highclere-owned three-year-old, who exceeded all expectations with a terrific effort that stepped up on the promise he showed as a juvenile. Running on very strongly at the death, he would have won in another stride and will improve again when asked to tackle 12f. He’ll be contesting a Derby trial next.
HOT SNAP (Won, Newmarket April 17)
One of the best and most competitive Nell Gwynns in recent years was expected to be won by Richard Hannon’s Group One winner Sky Lantern. She did nothing wrong (SEE BELOW), but the fact that she was readily upstaged by a filly having only the second start of her career speaks volumes for the potential of Sir Henry Cecil’s half-sister to the Warren Place yard’s former standard-bearer, Midday. The lengthy, athletic daughter of Pivotal was green and nudged along in rear for the first half of the contest before sprouting wings to power past the favourite in the final couple of furlongs. Whatever happens in the 1,000 Guineas, where she will not be able to afford to get as far behind again, she should develop into a filly of the highest class.
INTELLO (Won, Newmarket April 17)
On a day of wonderful individual performances on the Rowley Mile, there was even one supplied by France, from where master trainer Andre Fabre made a rare trip to the Craven meeting to saddle this son of Galileo as part of his peparations for the French Derby. The good-bodied, beautifully-bred colt did not let Fabre down, justifying heavy market-support to post a most impressive victory. After travelling well, he eased to the front and found more to quicken again when challenged by the smart runner-up, while always giving the impression that more was left in his locker.
IMPROVISATION (Won, Newmarket April 17)
Little did racegoers know what was in store for disgraced Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni only six days later. But it’s to be hoped that the doping revelations surrounding the stable do not hold back the progress of this son of Teofilo, who is heading for a Derby trial after a pleasing win on his return from a winter break. Considering the colt was far too keen for the first two or three furloings of this maiden, he did well to pick up so takingly at the business end. He’ll relish the chance to go up in trip to 12f or even further.
JAMMY GUEST (4th, Newmarket April 17)
Trainer George Margarson insists that this three-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade works like a 90-rated horse at home -- and has even entered him in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. Therefore, it was a shade disappointing that he wasn’t able to make a bigger impact on this belated debut. However, he is worth another chance or two, given the smooth manner in which he travelled through most of the race. A bit keen early on and a bit green late on, the colt was not given a hard time by jockey Seb Sanders and should have learned plenty.
KING GEORGE RIVER (2nd, Newmarket April 17)
Even though he made an impressive winning two-year-old debut last summer, this son of Danehill Dancer was soon sold on the cheap out of Aidan O’Brien’s yard and ended up with Alan Bailey at Headquarters. Bailey has bagged a bargain judging by the way the big, strong colt chased home Andre Fabre’s classy winner, Intello (SEE ABOVE). He unleashed a tremendous turn of foot when throwing down his challenge and although he held a fitness advantage over most of his rivals, I have little doubt he can win a Group race over 1m or 10f. He has bags of scope.
KYLLACHY RISE (2nd, Newbury April 20)
Annoyingly, course commentator Richard Hoiles persisted in referring to Sir Henry Cecil’s three-year-old as Kyllachy ROSE. I feel sure Hoiles will know his name good and proper by the time the season is out, such was the impression he made in this warm maiden. OK, he was a beaten 6/4 favourite, but for most of the contest, he travelled like a class act and just lacked race-sharpness at the death when jockey Tom Queally seemed at pains not to ask too many questions on his seasonal debut. A ball of muscle, the colt boasts a huge home-reputation, complete with Classic entries.
MAGIC OF REALITY (Unplaced, Newbury April 19)
Newbury’s two-day meeting was littered with horses from the Sir Henry Cecil yard failling to bolster their reputations. But I’m sure this impeccably-bred daughter of Galileo out of a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine Six Perfections won’t be long in putting things right. She was tapped for toe when shaken up to join issue, but eventually got the message and was staying on strongly when running up a blind alley and getting badly hampered in the final furlong, forcing jockey Tom Queally to snatch her up. She’s entered in the Oaks.
PAVLOSK (Won, Newbury April 19)
A big season lies ahead for brilliant trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who will be hoping to arrest a recent decline in fortunes. Helping him on his way will be this three-year-old filly, who took the eye in the paddock ahead of this 7f maiden and made no mistake in the race itself with a professional performance that belied her inexperience. Stoute has won the contest before, and connections disclosed afterwards that her victory was no great surprise.
SKY LANTERN (2nd, Newmarket April 17)
It’s not often a Group One winner contests the Nell Gwynn 1,000 Guineas trial these days -- and even rarer for one to be beaten in it. However, the performance of Richard Hannon’s lovely-looking grey only enhanced her reputation, giving 3lbs to a seriously good winner and finishing clear of the rest. For most of the race, she travelled so powerfully and looked so sure to win that jockey Richard Hughes took a pull about 2f out. No sooner had she quickened up than the winner had swooped, but I wouldn’t rule out significant improvement in the Guineas itself. Definite place claims at least.
TICKLED PINK (Won, Newmarket April 18)
In the week that the legendary Black Caviar was retired, another sprinting mare of immense talent could well have been unearthed by Sir Henry Cecil. Eyebrows were raised by Cecil’s decision to pitch this four year-old grey daughter of Invincible Spirit into the Group Three Abernant Stakes on the back of only four runs in modest maidens. But those eyebrows were sent through the roof by her scintillating front-running triumph that left seasoned speesters toiling in her wake. The trainer is sure she will improve again. Intriguingly, her dam, Cassandra Go, won the 2001 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot before finishing second in the July Cup.
TORONADO (Won, Newmarket April 18)
If you weren’t a fan of Richard Hannon’s unbeaten powerhouse before this Craven Stakes victory, you certainly were afterwards. Personally, I’m an ardent fan of 2,000 Guineas favourite, Dawn Approach, but there’s little doubt Hannon’s colt will give him a thorough test in the May 3 Classic. After setting a healthy gallop, jockey Richard Hughes wound it up approaching The Bushes before his mount surged clear from The Dip when properly shaken up. Hannon described him as a machine and outlined plans to go on to the Derby whatever happens in the Guineas.
WINDHOEK (Won, Newmarket April 18)
The increasing popularity of the £200,000 Tattersalls Millions Trophy yielded a high-quality field for this year’s renewal. Yet the race was won by a colt who’d run only once, had been off the track for 331 days, had sustained a fractured pastern, suffered with an eve-of-race foot-abscess and, according to his trainer, Mark Johnston, was about 30 kilos overweight! All that underlines what an outstanding performance the handsome son of Cape Cross delivered -- and also gives an indication of the kind of animal he might be when he’s A1! Not surprisingly, Johnston is now eyeing the Dante Stakes at York before a possible tilt at the Derby.
WINNING EXPRESS (3rd, Newmarket April 17)
I doubt whether Ed McMahon’s compact filly has the stamina to win the 1,000 Guineas. I doubt whether she could ever reverse from with the impressive first two in this splendid renewal of the Nell Gwynn Stakes. But I’m certain the daughter of Camacho, who did nothing but improve as a two-year-old, has trained on and can land some decent prizes this term. Having travelled nicely throughout, she was desperately unlucky not to finish closer after repeatedly hitting traffic problems as jockey Franny Norton tried to manoeuvre a run. When she got out, she ran on nicely, only to find the front two had flown.