Royal Ascot preview: Nothing fazes Sceptical says trainer Denis Hogan

The Irish handler on his star sprinters Sceptical & Make A Challenge who both run today.



Denis Hogan was speaking on Paddy Power Media’s new podcast, From The Horse’s Mouth ahead of a massive Saturday at Royal Ascot and Naas for him and his sprinting stars Sceptical and Make A Challenge

To have a runner at Royal Ascot today with Sceptical for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes 3.35pm  is massive for a yard like ours. I’ve been training 10 years now, but it’s so hard to come across horses like this.

Sceptical has just got an attitude – it’s unbelievable, you wouldn’t even know he’s in the string. You wouldn’t know he’s in his box – he’s just so calm, relaxed – nothing fazes him, a child could ride him on the gallop. You could put him anywhere in a race – up front, out the back, in the middle.

Nothing ever fazes him – he’s always ready to go when you want him, but the beauty of him is he actually relaxes so well. He saves so much travelling, in the parade ring, on the way to the start, in the stalls.

Sometimes you wonder if he’s going to wake up – then once he jumps out the gate, once the jockey asks him to pick up, he’s just instant.

I had to go as far as 6,5000 guineas for Make A Challenge, who runs at Naas 5.45pm today, but the lads only had to go to 2,8000 guineas for Sceptical! They certainly got the value this time.

We’ve been very lucky with our buys from the horses in training sales, especially off Godolphin. They’re a good operation tot deal with, they’re very up front and they know us. We just work around if we like the horse and then we find out what issues he had and if we think there’s something we can work with, then we’re happy to have them at small money.


If they don’t work out we haven’t broke the bank and we can re-home them or trade them on again.

We’ve been very lucky and I enjoy the in-training sales – I think we’ve been a lot luckier with the cheaper ones than we have the times we’ve ventured over 10 grand!

We’ve another runner too as Grammata runs in the Queen Mary Stakes 1.15pm earlier on the Royal Ascot card.  She’s a cracking filly. It’s a big ask turning out in the Queen Mary, but to be honest there’s a lot of improvement in her from her first run when finishing second at the Curragh last weekend. She, like the rest of my horses, haven’t been galloped on grass yet.

I was very impressed at how professional she was at The Curragh and she’s bound to come on for that run. The only thing is it’s only a week later and we could do with an extra week’s recovery really.  Hopefully, the sprint track dries up enough and the ground is ‘good’ without being sticky.

If it’s any bit dead, she mightn’t run so we’ll see.



Make A Challenge runs in the Sole Power Sprint Stakes at Naas 5.45pm. He’s good but has had a slow start to the season as the ground has been so hard and with the ‘lockdown’ and everything else. We did have plans to run him at Easter, but obviously they were squashed. Today is the starting point, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he gets on.

He’s actually in great nick and it should be a stepping point for some bigger targets later on in the season. We’re hoping the run today will leave him right for something like maybe the Greenlands Stakes and his long-term target is hopefully the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp in October. He loves a bit of cut in the ground and he’s a good chance of getting it then in France.

The July Cup at Newmarket might be a bit quick for him, but Sceptical could run in that. We want to split them up as much as we can. It’s exciting to have one good sprinter but to have two and to have a problem like splitting two top-class sprinters up is a great problem to have.

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