It has been a long wait, but there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel as racing in the UK looks set to resume on June 1.
PINATUBO (trained by Charlie Appleby & owned by Godolphin)
Many lists of horses to follow for the new flat season will start with one horse, trained by Charlie Appleby and owned by Godolphin. PINATUBO was the best juvenile of 2019 having managed to win six from six and ending the season as the highest rated two-year-old (128) – a record not seen since Celtic Swing (130) back in 1994.
Having been described as a slightly backward type by Appleby, Pinatubo made his winning racecourse debut at Wolverhampton last May. His improvement was remarkable with success race after race as the season progressed. He secured an outstanding win in the National Stakes at the Curragh before closing the season with victory in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.
Having beaten the best juveniles from Ballydoyle and elsewhere, a tilt at the 2000 Guineas is the seasonal opener at Newmarket. Long-term, it will be interesting to see if connections stay at a mile or move towards the Eclipse, International and Champion Stakes’ route later in the year. In summary this horse has many options, but one unknown is whether a Derby trip is within his capabilities!
MILITARY MARCH (trained by Saeed bin Suroor & owned by Godolphin)
Saeed bin Suroor has been quite open in recent seasons about the lack of strength in depth he’s received regarding juveniles compared to those sent to Charlie Appleby. This coming season the Newmarket handler has several interesting three-year-olds under his care, including the unbeaten MILITARY MARCH.
The son of New Approach started his career over seven-furlongs on the July course at Newmarket, learning a lot on his winning debut under jockey Hector Crouch. Fast forward a few-months and a step-up in trip to a mile under Oisin Murphy on the Rowley Mile in a reasonably good renewal of Group 3 Autumn Stakes.
Murphy had him handy throughout but was headed by fellow Godolphin-owned Al Suhail a few furlongs down, before he battled back in game fashion to gain victory late on the line. He remains on course for the 2000 Guineas back at Newmarket and his pedigree also suggests a step up in trip will not be an issue later in the season.
QUADRILATERAL (trained by Roger Charlton & owned by Khalid Abdullah)
Roger Charlton has been training nice horses for Juddmonte Farms for many decades with his first big winners for Prince Khalid Abdullah being both Sanglamore and Quest for Fame. Ahead of the delayed start to the season, Charlton has another classic contender in the shape of Quadrilateral, our first filly to enter our top ten-list.
The daughter of Frankel is currently a deserved ante-post favourite with Paddy Power for both the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Oaks at Epsom. She heads into her three-year-old season following an unbeaten juvenile campaign with victories at Newbury (twice) and in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last October.
That performance had a ‘wow’ factor about it, considering she was being pushed along off the bridle over three-furlongs down by Jason Watson and looking unlikely to win. However, she stayed up the rail producing a fine turn of foot to secure victory in the closing stages. Charlton knows the family well having trained the Dam, Nimble Thimble and she’s a serious contender for classic glory this year.
SISKIN (trained by Ger Lyons & owned by Khalid Abdullah)
The unbeaten theme continues, and we once again look at a horse owned by Khalid Abdullah. SISKIN, our first Irish-trained runner in the top-ten. Ger Lyons has been improving his calibre of horse for many years and finally landed Group 1 glory in Ireland with this unbeaten juvenile at the Curragh last August.
Having broken his maiden at Naas in May 2019, connections went to the Curragh for victory in the Marble Hill before a return plan for the Railway and Phoenix Stakes at the same venue. Lyons was never pushed to send his horse to England and was rewarded with Group 1 glory despite concerns over soft ground in the Phoenix last August.
On pedigree the Juddmonte bloodlines suggest his talents lie between six-furlongs and one-mile and remember, he’s never raced beyond six-furlongs to date having not raced after that Curragh win. The dream of classic glory heads to the Curragh for the Irish 2000 Guineas, but in any other season the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot looked an ideal race for him in my opinion.
LOGICIAN (trained by John Gosden & owned by Khalid Abdullah)
St Leger winner LOGICIAN hit a set-back this winter having suffered from peritonitis, a condition which affects the intestines. But, he thankfully returned to training with John Gosden in February. Having never raced at two, the son of Frankel made a fantastic progression as a three-year-old winning five from five and ending the season with a classic at Doncaster.
He hacked up of a mark of 90 at Newbury last July, winning easily against little opposition as a 1/5 favourite before returning at the Ebor Festival in August. His victory in the Great Voltigeur, seeing off several Aidan O’Brien runners, including Irish Derby third Norway saw him remain unbeaten and placed ante-post favourite for the Leger at Doncaster.
It looked an average edition of the final classic, but Logician was always placed and travelled in the right position throughout under Frankie Dettori and secured victory in a record-breaking time. It looks likely his return will be in the middle to late part of the season, but races like the King George at Ascot and even the Arc at Longchamp could be well within his grasp if returning to full fitness.
JAPAN (trained by Aidan O’Brien & owned by Derek Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor)
Our first of two Aidan O’Brien-trained runners is last year’s Epsom Derby third JAPAN who ended the season joint highest rated three-old alongside stable-mate Ten Sovereigns. He was impressive when dropping down from Group 1 company to win the King Edward last summer before victories in the Grand Prix de Paris and International Stakes back at the highest level.
He ended the season finishing a respectable fourth behind Waldgeist in the Arc before skipping the Breeders Cup in America. His season opener was likely to be in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in late May, but the rearranged programme for older horses across Europe means the Ballydoyle team are revising plans everywhere.
In any other season, a similar programme to last year looked likely – with a possible run in the King George at Ascot or perhaps heading back to Paris on Bastille Day. The long-term goal is another challenge at the Arc at Longchamp, while it’s also interesting (consider the horses name) that leading Japanese owner Masaaki Matsushima has bought a half-share to enhance his partnership with Coolmore.
KEW GARDENS (trained by Aidan O’Brien & owned by Derek Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor)
We stay with the master of Ballydoye for our next horse. KEW GARDENS a leading challenger for all the top staying races in 2020. It’s hard to believe this horse is only aged five, having already raced 17-times in his career with notable victories in the 2018 St Leger at Doncaster and the Long-Distance Cup at Ascot last October.
That cracking finish and victory over Stradivarius suggests more amazing rematches await between the two again this year. Kew Gardens has a very similar profile to many previous staying types from O’Brien, including Leading Light and Order of St George.
His programme in any normal season would be the Vintage Crop at Navan, but with racing delayed a new plan needs to be formed.
ALBIGNA (trained by Jessica Harrington & owned by the Niarchos Family)
Jessica Harrington’s success on the flat over the past decade has been outstanding having started to see major success at the top level with Pathfork and many others. More recently her partnership with the Niarchos Family has bloomed with Alpha Centauri, and once again she’s another top filly for the same owners in ALBIGNA.
The daughter of Zoffany made her winning debut at the Curragh last May before following up a month later in the listed Airlie Stud Stakes. That staying on success saw her rightly step up in trip in the Moyglare, but she disappointed finishing sixth and was later found to be in-season. She found redemption in Paris a month later under Shane Foley claiming the Prix Marcel Boussac at the highest level.
Her run in America in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies was respectable considering she was drawn wide and stayed on well to finish fourth. It looks likely connections will closely follow the same route used with Alpha Centauri and head for the Irish 1000 Guineas, skipping the Coronation Stakes and heading towards the Falmouth and back to France in August for the Jacques le Marois.
BRENTFORD HOPE (trained by Richard Hughes & owned by Bernardine and Sean Mulryan)
One dark horse for this season is the Richard Hughes-trained BRENTFORD HOPE, who made a winning debut at Newmarket last October. What he beat that day remains very unclear at this point, but the manner of victory was visually impressive under Jamie Spencer. He looked green and noisy before travelling on a bridle to secure an easy five-length victory to enter many trackers and note-books.
He’s a son of Camelot and his sole big entry comes in the Irish Derby this summer at the Curragh for the Mulryan family. “In the last month the pace Brentford Hope started showing me was unbelievable. I knew he’d stay but with the pace he was showing me lately I thought he must be a good horse,” said Hughes to reporters after his success at HQ.
Hughes is still looking for that top-notch quality performer as a trainer and it would be fantastic to see him train a good horse like the superstars he guided home in the saddle season-after-season. Brentford Hope could be that star and before the Covid-19 suspension of racing Hughes reported the horse in good form. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he returns in a Derby trial in early June.
WHITE MOONLIGHT (trained by Saeed bin Suroor & owned by Godolphin)
We return to the Saeed bin Suroor stable for our final horse to follow, in the shape of the unbeaten filly WHITE MOONLIGHT. She has a very similar profile to stable-mate Military March having raced twice and won twice – she was very sluggish away from the stalls on debut at Kempton before a battling winning performance under Oisin Murphy.
Murphy remained in the saddle when stepping up a furlong in trip for her second start, a novice stakes at Newmarket last October. Unlike her debut at Kempton, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro broke well and dominated from the front to win impressively over the mile to end her season unbeaten.
Saeed bin Suroor indicated possible runs in Dubai in early 2020, but she currently remains unraced at three and she could be now aimed at the rescheduled Oaks at Epsom. The lack of early season trials might now be against her, but she will warrant respect and close attention in any return trial in the early part of June.
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