Qipco 2000 Guineas 2021 Preview

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

The thrilling 2020/21 National Hunt season has come to a close and, now, it is time for the Classics. The 2000 Guineas is the first of the three ‘Triple Crown’ races for three-year-old colts, followed by the Derby in June and St Leger in September. Fifteen colts will take on the one mile trip over the unique Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, racing for a place in the history books.

Aidan O’Brien is a name synonymous with the Classics and he has won the 2000 Guineas an incredible ten times since 1998. He is represented by three horses here, all by different sires.

The horse with the highest reputation of the Aidan O’Brien trio is Battleground, due to his flashy pedigree – out of excellent racemare Found and by War Front. On jockey bookings, he could be the third-string with Wembley partnered by Ryan Moore and Seamie Heffernan on Van Gogh. Battleground was just fifth on debut, two and a half lengths behind Lucky Vega but broke his maiden in excellent style in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot over seven furlongs. At the same trip, he won at Glorious Goodwood in the Vintage Stakes, beating Devious Company by two lengths. Afterwards, he was targeted at the Breeders Cup, where he finished second after breaking slowly. Battleground, who is an absolutely massive horse, has avoided all of the major two-year-old races but there is a form line through Devious Company – he had previously been beaten three lengths by Master Of The Seas; fifth to Chindit and eighth in the Dewhurst, reversing the form with Chindit. It will be fascinating to see how he stacks up against the other runners who are tried and tested in group ones.

Roger Varian’s runner, Legion of Honour’s, form ties in with Devious Company, too, as he was a three quarter length second to the horse, who is now in Doha, on debut. One hundred and fourty eight days later, he won by a clear margin at Newcastle and his seasonal reappearance was at that track when he ran bravely to be second to Megallan, who has been behind One Ruler on two occasions.

It is always interesting to see how two-year-old form works out in the following season in the Classics. Wembley, the likely favourite, and Thunder Moon’s form is closely entwined. Their first clash was in the National Stakes at the Curragh on 13th September – the ground was good. Wembley has won his first race on his fourth attempt less than a month earlier and Thunder Moon was having just his second lifetime start. Held up on the rail, Thunder Moon was about three lengths ahead of the back-marker, Wembley. Declan McDonough had to wait patiently for a gap to open and it got slightly messy with Lucky Vega coming off worst. Wembley was switched to the outside and made fast progress with a clear passage down the outside. Thunder Moon showed a remarkable turn of foot to scoot into the lead, winning with one and a half lengths back to Wembley. Master Of The Seas finished fourth and Lucky Vega was fifth.

When Wembley and Thunder Moon met next at Newmarket for the Dewhurst, Devilwala jumped out and made the running. At two furlongs from home, Thunder Moon was on the outside with very little cover. Wembley was even further into the middle of the track. He came with a sustained run and both horses moved across to take on St Marks’ Basilica but that horse was just too good. Wembley was beaten three quarters of a length and Thunder Moon was one and three quarter lengths behind him.

The ground could’ve just dulled Thunder Moon’s turn of foot that day and these good to firm conditions should be absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t be surprised if Declan McDonough kept Thunder Moon away from the lead until the very final stages of the race where he can unleash the turn of foot. On pedigree, he should stay but Zoffany tends to sire two-year-old types so it will be fascinating to see how he has wintered. In contrast, Wembley seems to challenge with a sustained run and you could imagine that this son of Galileo, the only one in the race, would get a bit further in time. His full brother Johannes Vermeer was second in a Melbourne Cup and his full sister was a winner over one mile six.

Lucky Vega ran creditably behind Thunder Moon, Wembley and Master Of The Seas after a message passage through the race. He won his first race, an eighteen-runner contest at Naas, and twelve of those in behind have won at least one race since, including Laws Of Indices. Lucky Vega followed in Ken Condon’s charge when he won the group two Railway Stakes. In August, he won the group one Pheonix Stakes in excellent style, looking like a step up in trip would be perfectly in his comfort zone, and the Dewhurst winner was in behind. He stayed on over six furlongs to just be denied by Supremacy in the Middle Park. Supremacy ran an appalling race on reappearance but Tactical and Lipizzaner have both won since. Lope De Vega sired the winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas with Phoenix Of Spain. There have been two other runners with the sire Lope De Vega and damsire of Cape Cross – one won over one mile six and the other is a hurdler in Ireland. This suggests that Lucky Vega will stay.

The final Aidan O’Brien runner to mention is Van Gogh. He was beaten on his first start but was thrown in straight at the deep end in a group three, beaten a neck by stable companion Military Style. He was well-beaten in the Futurity Stakes before finishing second at Leopardstown in a group two before winning his maiden, beating Colour Sargent, who was previously beaten three and three quarter lengths by Thunder Moon. At Newmarket in the Autumn Stakes, he was beaten one and three quarter lengths by One Ruler with Albadri back in ninth. Two weeks later, he won a group one over a mile on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud last time. He’d probably just want a little bit more cut in the ground. He would be an exciting winner for stallion American Pharoah.

Albadri has been highly tried after winning his first race at 100/1 under Tim Clark. He was seventh, fifth, ninth and sixth in class one company but managed to win by a length under Hollie Doyle at Southwell in January. She partnered him at Riyadh, finishing ninth on the dirt. Last time, he was last in a conditions race at Kempton and will be the 150/1 outsider.

One Ruler was an excellent winner of the Autumn Stakes and is one of three runners for Charlie Appleby, the stallion Dubawi and Godolphin. This horse started his career coming second to the well-regarded Etonian before winning at Sandown. Upped to listed company at Doncaster, he had an awful passage but managed to be third. Everything came together for the Autumn Stakes, when he had Van Gogh and Albadri were in behind. Next, One Ruler was favourite for the Vertem Futurity, the race that has thrown up the last three winners of the 2000 Guineas. He finished second to Mac Swiney, who unfortunately doesn’t take his chances here. There have been hugely positive mentions for him in the lead up for the race, but it appears that he is the second string with James Doyle getting on him for the first time ever.

William Buick has chosen Master Of The Seas. Out of group one placed Firth Of Lorne, Master Of The Seas was a comfortable winner on debut before romping to victory in the Superlative Stakes. He didn’t have a great started butt skipped clear of his rivals to win readily. He ended up joint favourite with Lucky Vega for the National Stakes and was beaten two lengths into fourth, but didn’t disgrace himself. His first start in 2021 was in Meydan when he was keen and beaten by front running winner Naval Crown in a listed race. In the Craven Stakes, he was keen again even with a first-time hood. He ran on very well after being switched left and was in the lead right when it mattered.

Naval Crown is an extremely consistent racehorse. Out of a listed winning mare, he wasn’t beaten far when third on debut on the July course before finishing third to Chindit in the listed Pat Eddery Stakes. He won his maiden in great style at York and was third in two group threes subsequently. He returned in February in Meydan with a third place before convincingly beating Master Of The Seas, who’s win in the Craven adds strength to the form. In a listed contest. He was only beaten a neck when racing freely over seven furlongs at Newmarket. The trip will be no problem and he looks like he could be good value here under the excellent Adam Kirby.  

Mystery Smiles and Devilwala both ran great races in the Craven. Mystery Smiles represents last year’s winning trainer, Andrew Balding. Impressive wins at Windsor and Chester on his first two outings were followed by third place finishes in group two and group three company. In the second of those races, which was at York, he finished behind Devilwala but that form was reversed on his first start of the 2021 season in the Craven he met a bit of trouble in running but he was no match for Master Of The Seas. The York race was Devilwala’s first start for Ralph Beckett and he subsequently went to Keenland for the Breeders Cup. He had a horrendous start and actually ran a blinder to be eighth, four and a quarter lengths behind second placed Battleground. Losing his left-fore shoe would’ve hampered his chances in the Craven Stakes so he by no means disgraced himself. He is by Kodiac, who is closely related to Invincible Spirit, sire of 2019 winner Magna Grecia.

Invincible Spirit is represented by the twice-raced Mutasaabeq. The Charlie Hills team are in good form and this horse started his career on heavy ground at Newmarket in October. He backed it up over the same course and distance by winning emphatically by six lengths. The extra furlongs shouldn’t be a problem and he is related to the smart Wafy and Royal Ascot winner Afaak. He has a lot of promise but goes against much more experienced rivals.

Richard Hannon managed to win this in 2014 and he is represented by Chindit here. Pat Dobbs has a great relationship with this son of Wootton Bassett. He won strongly over seven furlongs on his debut, which earned him the step up into listed company. He handled it perfectly and he was impressive in the Champagne Stakes. Things went wrong in the Dewhurst as he hung right throughout and didn’t last home. That looked like a blip as he won the Greenham Stakes by a neck on his seasonal debut. He led right at the end and he is stepping up in trip to a mile. He is related to a winner over one mile four and Wootton Bassett didn’t stay a mile but his best son Almanzour stayed one mile two furlongs.

One place behind Chindit in the Dewhurst was Poetic Flare. He didn’t get a clear run but was well-beaten in the end. This is the only time he has tasted defeat. He beat Lipizzaner on his debut, which was his sole start before the group one. Only a week later, he won a group three by two and a half lengths on yielding to soft ground over seven furlongs in strong style, which implies he will stay the trip. He won impressively on his seasonal reappearance and that should put him spot on for this, representing the 2013 winning combination of Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.

After almost 2000 words, it is time to pin my colours to a horse. I think Wembley is a worthy favourite and look forward to the outcome of the third Wembley vs Thunder Moon clash. They will both run excellent races. Battleground was my idea of the winner before the final declarations but I’m now not as convinced as I was. I’m going to take a chance on LUCKY VEGA. This horse was a very good two-year-old and managed to win a group one. I’m hoping he retains that ability as a three-year-old and Jessica Harrington’s horses have been running very well at Punchestown this week with three winners. I expect him to stay. At a larger price, Naval Crown is very consistent and beat Master Of The Seas over in Meydan. A lot of these horses could find the relevant improvement and win.

Preview of racing at Punchestown 28/04

After a few big priced placed horses yesterday, we move onto day two with an exciting eight race card to cast an eye over and hopefully pick a few winners. The feature race of the day is the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup over three miles and one hundred and twenty yards. This looks an open renewal with the withdrawal of Minella Indo earlier in the week. Dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo heads the market with Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy his main market rivals.

I like the Willie Mullins trained, Kemboy with Danny Mullins in the saddle. The Mullins pair teamed up to take the Grade 1 Novices Chase yesterday and I think they could do the same here. Kemboy never seems to run his race at Cheltenham and this year was no different. Prior to Cheltenham, he had been in great form winning the Irish Gold Cup and was narrowly denied in the Savills Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown. Excluding his runs at Cheltenham, he has only been out of the first two places over fences twice and one of those was when he fell in the Irish Grand National at the first fence. He is unbeaten at Punchestown on the chase track, including victory in this race two years ago when he bet Al Boum Photo and provided Ruby Walsh with his last winner on the track. I think his price of 4/1 is very fair considering he has bet both his market rivals before and never performs at Cheltenham. I think he will go very close for the inform Mullins duo.

The first race on the card is the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs. Mt Leinster Gold is the favourite and I think she could take a bit of stopping. This seven year old mare maintained her unbeaten record on the race-track when fending off Rocky’s Howya over three miles in Wexford. Prior to that, she gave Jordan Gainford one of his early winners when winning at Fairyhouse over two miles. I think she won despite the trip on those occasions and this intermediate trip will be ideal for her. She has one of the rising stars of the jockey ranks on her back and I think she will go very close.

The second race on the card is the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final over the intermediate trip again. This series has been a great addition to the fixture list for the past few years. Heather Rocco is the favourite and looks hard to oppose. Either side of his mid-season blip at Thurles he has been flawless. He was an easy winner last time out when Mr Coldstone came down at the last when looking like he was booked for second as Heather Rocco appeared to be going better. He was very impressive on debut when winning in Limerick back in December, doing so with the minimum of fuss. He is clear of these on ratings, and I think he can claw one back in the jockey’s championship for Rachael Balckmore.

The next race on the card is the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle over the intermediate trip. There isn’t much between Blue Sari and Decimation in the market and on ratings. My preference is for Decimation. He first run on the track was back in October and he has been progressing nicely throughout the season. After a run of seconds, he got his head past the post in-front on his penultimate start when he bet Hallowed Star with ease. He then stepped up in grade last time out when he ran a cracking race to be second to the very experienced Ashdale Bob. The step up in trip to the intermediate trip last time seemed to be very beneficial and he looks on an upward curve. I think he can provide Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead with a quick-fire double.

Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier looks to gain back to back Grade 1 success in the Irish Mirror Novice as he takes on a field of eight including two other Cheltenham Festival winners. I will be siding with Vanillier. He was very impressive at the Festival when routing the Albert Bartlett field by eleven lengths. Prior to that he was below par at the Dublin Racing Festival when at the time Gavin’s horses were not flying. He ran a fantastic race at Limerick when he was just held by Farouk D’alene on desperate ground and I think they are the best staying novice hurdlers around. I do not think he will be winning by a wide margin, but he is a horse on the up that could take a bit of beating with Jonathan Moore back in the saddle after missing Cheltenham with an injury.

The ITM-Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race sees Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit clash once more.  These two are very exciting horses and there was not much between them at Cheltenham with Sir Gerhard coming out on top after getting a fantastic ride from Rachael Blackmore who is now replaced by Patrick Mullins. I will be siding with Kilcruit, Blackmore set perfect fractions on Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham, but I do not think Sir Gerhard will have things all his way in front this time. I think Derek will be closer to the pace on Kilcruit compared to his Cheltenham run. Kilcruit was breath-taking when winning by 12 lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival, albeit the race fell apart. I think he was bet by a fantastic ride on the winner at Cheltenham and I think he will reverse the form here and win.

Preview of day one of the Punchestown Festival

By Luke Keena (@lukekeena1)

Day one of the Punchestown Festival looks to be one of the best days of racing all year and it is a real shame that there will be no crowd there to witness some of the best clashes all year. The clashes at this year’s festival look exceptional, none better than Envoi Allen and Monkfish in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase over 3 miles and 120 yards.

I think its fair to say that neither horses were foot perfect at Cheltenham. Monkfish’s jumping was -not good at times and gave everyone a fright at the last but he always found a leg whereas Envoi made the one mistake and paid the price when falling at the fourth. Up until the Festival both horses came into their races unbeaten over fences.

Monkfish won his Beginners chase at Fairyhouse before winning two Grade ones on route to Cheltenham. Envoi started off his season in Down Royal winning impressively before sweeping all before him in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse. The fall at Cheltenham was very unlike him, up to that point he looked foot perfect over his obstacles. He had never been beaten until that fall at Cheltenham.

I think Paul will make the running on Monkfish with Rachael following on Envoi Allen. The step up in trip is interesting with Envoi Allen. He has never looked short of pace throughout his career and if he sees out the three miles he could be even better over this trip with the mix of stamina and pace. Monkfish is the marginal favourite, but I will be siding with Envoi Allen. This will be the first time since his champion bumper success that he is not odd on. I think he is the best horse in training and his class will bring him through over this longer trip.

The feature race of the day is the William Hill Champion Chase over two miles and sees another big clash as the Mullins pair of Chacun Pour Soi and Allaho meet. Chacun was slightly disappointing at Cheltenham when I do not think he ran up to scratch. On the other hand, Allaho put up a career best when tearing apart the field in the Ryanair.

I will be siding with Allaho on what could be a good day for Cheveley Park Stud. He had good horses drunk coming down the hill after going a ferocious gallop in the Ryanair and he maintained that all the way to the line. I think he will be able to gallop these into the ground like at Cheltenham. Min is not a slow horse and he had him struggling to keep up from a long way out. The form has been boosted since with Fakir D’oudairies winning at Aintree. He is only a seven-year-old and I think the best is yet to come and the drop in trip will be no inconvenience to him. I think we will see a better Chacun Pour Soi here and he will reverse the form with Nube Negra, but I think Allaho could gallop them into submission.

The first race on the card is a novices handicap hurdle over two miles. Scholastic will enjoy the return to a track with an easier run to the line. She ran a cracker at Cheltenham a few weeks ago when travelling very well to the last before getting tired. She made a desperate mistake at the first that day and was lucky to stay up. She won a three year old hurdle back in September over course and distance beating Jeff Kidder easily. I think her mark of 123 is a fair one and receiving all the allowances for being a four year old fillie, I think she will go close for Joseph O’Brien with J J Slevin in the saddle.

The second race on the card is the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles. Without Appreciate It lining up it leaves Echoes In Rain as the favourite in what looks a march with Blue Lord. Echoes In Rain was impressive the last day at Fairyhouse but her main market rivals performed well below par. I will be siding with Blue Lord with Paul Townend in the saddle. He was bound for second in the Supreme before falling at the last. His form ties in closely with the two best Novice Hurdlers, Appreciate It and Bob Olinger. I think he will win and he should be favourite.

The Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle looks ultra-competitive with twenty-five runners heading to post. My main selection is the Denise Foster trained Magic Tricks, while he may be a short enough price for a race of this nature, he ticks all the boxes. He ran a fantastic race last time out to be second in a similar race at Fairyhouse when he travelled best before getting passed by Hearts Are Trumps. He made an impressive hurdles debut back in December when he bet Great Bear by over eight lengths. He was then tried in graded company when he was all at sea. Back in handicap company last time he looked to be going the right way again. He got a four pound rise the last day, but I think he could improve and leave that mark behind him. He is only a five year old and I think he will go very close with Mark Walsh in the saddle.

At a bigger price, Golden Jewel could outrun his odds. I would forgive him his last run when he ran below par. Prior to that he ran an ok race at the Dublin Racing Festival when running on to be fifth behind Drop The Anchor. His best run of the season came at Down Royal when he was only one length behind Cayd Boy. He has not got much wiggle room in his handicap mark, but I think he could run on strongly late and grab a place at 33/1 for Edward Cawley with Chris Timmons in the saddle.

Flat 10 To Follow

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Over the past three years, I have put together 20 To Watch articles for the National Hunt season with at least one Cheltenham Festival winner each time. For this flat season, I’m trying something new – I have put together a 10 To Follow for the upcoming flat season.

The horses included in my ’10 To Follow’ are all of a range of different abilities and ages – from unraced two-year-olds to experienced six-year-olds. The majority of horses are by no means group one contenders but the idea with this list is that they will win a few races each this season

Here is my inaugural Flat 10 To Follow…

Nurseclaire (NO1)

No 1 – Nurseclaire

2yo Bay Filly (Ribchester x Nymeria) (Soldier Hollow)

Trainer – Richard Fahey

Owner – Nick Bradley Racing

Breeder – ?

I met this filly when I visited Nick Bradley’s yard for my two-part article about the bloodstock/syndicate operation. They purchased this filly from France’s Deauville Select Sale at Arqana for roughly €30,000 as a private sale. She is by Ribchester and he was an impressive racehorse, winning four group ones. He seems to be making a pleasing start to his stallion career: I have only heard good things about his progeny when they went through the sales ring and, from four runners, two have placed. Nurseclaire will be the second foal to race out of Nymeria. A daughter of Soldier Hollow, who offers a stamina influence, Nymeria won at seven furlongs as a two-year-old and her only other win was over one mile two furlongs. Her first foal, Romanello, by Vadamos, was well-beaten on his only two-year-old start before finishing a good second over one mile three earlier this year. Nurseclaire is a gorgeous individual and Nick Bradley racing achieved a lot of success with their juvenile fillies, Dandalla and Fev Rover, last season. Hopefully, this filly can follow in their hoof-prints.

Nick Bradley Racing Stable Visit Part One – https://reinitinracing.wordpress.com/2020/09/17/nick-bradley-racing-yard-visit-part-one/

Nick Bradley Racing Visit Part Two – https://reinitinracing.wordpress.com/2020/09/19/nick-bradley-racing-yard-visit-part-two/

No 2 – Instinctive Move

2yo Bay Colt (Showcasing x Peach Melba) (Dream Ahead)

Trainer – Clive Cox

Owner – Isa Salman Al Khalifa

Breeder – R Kent & The Executors of Lady Lonsdale

Instinctive Move is out of a mare called Peach Melba, who I was a massive fan of when she was racing for Mark Johnston. She ran fifteen times between May and November 2017, winning five races, including a listed race at Hanover in Germany. Her half-sister, Dam Beautiful, has produced three winners. Showcasing sired speedy two-year-olds like Advertise, Quiet Reflection and Soldier’s Call. On pedigree, it looks as though Instinctive Move will be a fast horse. In training with Clive Cox, he is in the perfect hands. Cox is an extremely good trainer in general but especially so with sprinters and two-year-olds like Supremecy, Isabella Giles and Nando Parrado last season as well as incredible sprinters like Harry Angel, Tis Marvellous and Profitable. In November 2020, Instinctive Move’s half-brother by Zoustar was sold for 90,000 guineas at the Tattersalls December Foal Sale.

No 3 – Love Is You

3yo Bay Filly (Kingman x Fallen For You) (Dansili)

Trainer – Roger Charlton

Owner – Normandie Stud LTD

Breeder – Normandie Stud LTD

Being by four-time group one winner Kingman and out Coronation Stakes winner Fallen For You, it makes Love Is You a half-sister to Glorious Journey, a multiple group two and three winner. Love Is You started her career faultlessly with a neck win at Ascot in September and followed that up in listed company at Newbury on heavy ground in October. She has already had the benefit of one run in 2021 when she ran at Newmarket in the Nell Gwyn on 14th April. She finished third that day, beaten by Sacred and Saffron Beach. She was keen and just couldn’t quite quicken at the seven furlong trip. It is slightly disappointing that she wasn’t part of the latest field for the 1000 Guineas as I think she would enjoy the extra furlong. I’m sure she will be successful over that trip during the rest of the season. She comes from a brilliant yard and their stable jockey Jason Watson is extremely talented.

Jason Watson Interview – Chatting With… Jason Watson – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)

No 4 – Montego Bay

3yo Bay Filly (No Nay Never x Lessons In Life) (Duke Of Marmalade)

Trainer – Aidan O’Brien

Owner – Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith & Mrs John Magnier

Breeder – Camas Park & Lynch Bages

Montego Bay is on my list because I was impressed with her first start of the 2021 campaign. She was quite keen early and raced in mid-division, before staying on to be fourth, in a Leopardstown maiden. The fascinating thing about this is that the race was over one mile. At the backend of last season, she ran in two races over five furlongs. Aidan O’Brien very rarely get things wrong but this filly seemed far more comfortable at a mile and has two good entries at around that trip. Being by No Nay Never, conventionally, she would be a sprinter but it appears she has inherited stamina from her dam, who raced solely at one mile one furlong or further. Montego Bay’s half-brother Pasley won over one mile six before moving to the Jonjo O’Neill stable to run in hurdle races. I’m sure Aidan O’Brien can find a nice race for her this season.

No 5 – Candescence

3yo Chestnut Filly (Power x Bright Flash) (Dutch Art)

Trainer – Mark Walford

Owner – Ursa Major Racing, Lady Legard, J Craggs

Breeder – Lady Legard

I featured Ursa Major Racing for a ‘Syndicate Spotlight’ article and Craig Talbot, their racing manager, described Candescence as their “star”. A daughter of Irish 2000 Guineas winner Power, she is out of Bright Flash, who won three times in the North of England and is half-sister to a group one winner in New Zealand. Candesence made her debut at Pontefract last June, winning at massive odds of 25/1, beating Kraken Power, who went on to win and follow home Method, Battleground and Happy Romance. She was beaten three lengths at Musselburgh next time and probably would’ve won at Wolverhampton last time, had she not been stopped in her tracks at two furlongs out. I hope she gives her passionate owners a great season.

Craig Talbot says – “We have high hopes for her as a 3-year-old, we would love to give her a chance to run in a Listed Race and achieve Black Type, possibly in a race in Europe this Spring/Summer.”

Syndicate Spotlight: Ursa Major Racing – Syndicate Spotlight – URSA Major Racing – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)

No 6 – Bolshoi Ballet

3yo Bay Colt (Galileo x Alta Anna) (Anabaa)

Trainer – Aidan O’Brien

Owner – Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith

Breeder – Lynch-Bages & Rhinestone Bloodstock

Bolshoi Ballet made his debut at Newmarket in early October on soft ground and he was quite green, finishing third. He must’ve learned an awful lot from that as he made all next time to win easily over a mile. Stepped up one mile two, he was fifth in a French group one, beaten two and a quarter lengths. I pinpointed him for the St Leger at the start of the season as many factors signify that he will handle a step up in trip. He is out of an unraced mare, Alta Anna, and by Galileo, which makes him a half brother to Southern France and Palm Beach. Southern France was third in the 2018 St Leger and got to within three quarters of a length of Stradivarius before being sent to Australia, where he won a group two. Palm Beach ran in three hurdle races around the turn of the year and was second each time. Bolshoi Ballet ran once so far in 2021 and Ryan Moore was allowed to dictate the race, winning by two and three quarter lengths. He’s a stunning looking individual and has a massive future.

No 7 – Gold Maze

4yo Bay Colt (Golden Horn x Astonishing) (Galileo)

Trainer – Jessica Harrington

Owner – Long Wait Partnership

Breeder – Apple Tree Stud

Gold Maze is a horse that I really liked last season. He was unsuccessful as a two-year-old and returned at three with a decent second behind Crossfirehurricane, who has the same owners. He finished sixth when very keen in the Irish Derby, beaten eleven lengths, and he was defeated by the same margin when he was ninth in the Epsom Derby. Pyledriver, Mohican Heights and Emissary were behind him that day and have all won since. Gold Maze finally won for the first time in a maiden at the Curragh in August but couldn’t cope with subsequent St Leger winner Galileo Chrome at Navan next time. Last time, he was beaten by Bowerman, who won a group two in Doha in February, and he might not have suited the all weather surface at Dundalk. His dam Astonishing won at Kempton in July 2013 before winning a listed race over one mile and a half by seven lengths. He is by Golden Horn, the Derby winner, and his progeny tend to stay trips over one mile four quite well so a step up in trip could been seen this season for Gold Maze.

No 8 – Wise Words

5yo Bay Mare (Sepoy x Akhmatova) (Cape Cross)

Trainer – James Tate

Owner – Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum

Breeder – Ropesley Bloodstock Llp

I was really impressed with Wise Word’s return to action in the middle of April. She was midfield and ran on smartly to only be beaten a head by a tough individual in a competitive listed race at Bath. Last season, I put her into my tracker after she was only beaten one and three quarter lengths at in the Scarborough Stakes, when she was unlucky to finish only fourth.  She finished last on her only other start last term but was mightily consistent as a three-year-old. She is one of the top twenty progeny of her sire Sepoy, who won four group ones over sprint trips and she is out of Akhmatova, who won four times over trips further than a mile. Wise Words seems like a very fast mare and I think she has a nice race in her this season.

No 9 – Atalanta’s Boy

6yo Chestnut Gelding (Paco Boy x Affirmatively) (Diktat)

Trainer – David Menuisier

Owner – Mrs Monica Josefina Borton & Partner

Breeder – Monica Martinez-Trumm

Atalanta’s Boy ran in six races last season. He won his first outing and I was really keen on him for the Stewards Cup two starts later. Unfortunately, he lost many lengths at the start and had no chance at all of winning. He returned to Goodwood next time and managed to win really well under Thomas Greatrex. At Ayr for the Silver Cup, everything went wrong yet again – he missed the break and was hampered multiple times. He was fourth at Kempton on the all weather last time but he might not have suited the track and is better on turf. He has won on every type of ground, even though he has only raced fifteen times. He’s by dual group one winner Paco Boy and his dam Affirmatively was one from thirty-five starts in her career. I think Atalanta’s Boy should win a nice handicap at some stage this season.

Spoof

No 10 – Spoof

6yo Bay Gelding (Poet’s Voice x Filona) (Motivator)

Trainer – Charlie Hills

Owners – Gary and Linnet Woodward

Breeders – Scuderia Blueberry SRL

Spoof is the most exposed of all the horses on my list but I still think he is capable of winning more races. He’s by the versatile stallion Poet’s Voice, who’s best progeny is Poet’s Word, and out of Filona. He has won six of his thirty-six starts and three of them came last season when he won at Windsor twice and Sandown in really brilliant style. After a 102 day break, he raced at Wolverhampton in December and finished last, but the jockey reported that he stopped quickly. It was in really competitive company and that wasn’t his true running.

On 20th April, the day I posted this, Spoof ran earlier in the day at Epsom. He struggled to feature over the sharp five furlong track against extremely quick horses. He will come on for the run and remains a good hope for the season. We should see him to good effect at tracks like Windsor.

Wonder Mares : Dubacilla

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

The Aintree Grand National is always one of the most highly-anticipated races of the year. For the fifth edition of the ‘Wonder Mares’ Series, I take a look at Dubacilla, a much-loved mare who went very close to winning most famous race of them all.

Dubacilla was bred by Henry Cole and was foaled on 8th May 1986. This bay mare’s sire was Dubasoff. He won over $300,000 from thirty starts, winning eleven and placing in four. Her dam, Just Camilla, raced twice without winning. Cole purchased her for 1250 guineas and, in an interview, described her as an “ugly old thing” but knew she would be a good broodmare.

Her first foal was a black colt named Just So. He won three point-to-points before he began his rules career in December 1989. He ran in the 1992 Grand National and came sixth but didn’t partake in the void 1993 renewal. His best performance in the race was in 1994, at the age of 11, when he stayed on from the elbow to only be beaten one and a quarter lengths by Miinnehoma. 

Spectacular photograph by Hamish Mitchell of Dubacilla (pink cap) standing off an open ditch.

By the time it came to Dubacilla’s first race, her brother had won one race under rules and she was sent off at 50/1 for a bumper at Newbury. It was won by subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Royal Miller but Dubacilla was thirteenth of twenty-four rivals.

Dubacilla wasn’t an instant sensation. She ran eight times for a few different trainers without even placing before she won in a mares’ chase at Wincanton in January 1993 for her owner/trainer Henry Cole, who never had more than four horses in at a time. She followed up at Taunton by twelve lengths and earned herself a place in the Scilly Isles Novices Chase. Unfortunately, she parted company with Simon Burrough at the thirteenth fence. It was won by Young Hustler, who went on to win the Sun Alliance Chase (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase) at Cheltenham.

After the unseat at Sandown, Dubacilla won at Taunton and was then beaten by the subsequent National Hunt Chase runner-up, Claxton Greene. To conclude the 1992/92 season, she won at Uttoxeter and Ascot by a combined thirty-five lengths. At the beginning of the next season, she was second, giving nearly a stone to her rival, and then she was third at Newbury. She returned to Uttoxeter in the December to win by three lengths.

In January 1994, she was the 8/1 third favourite for the Timeform Hall Of Fame Chase, now known as the Cotswold Chase. Ridden by Dean Gallagher, she raced with Sibton Abbey in mid-division, jumping very well. By the last ditch, Dubacilla was stalking the leading pair – 5/6 favourite Run For Free, a Scottish and Welsh National winner, and her old foe, Young Hustler. Run For Free was first to crack with Young Hustler taking the lead and Dubacilla following him. By the third last, they were neck-and-neck. She cruised to the lead, shortly after, and pinged the last two obstacles.

After this, she went to the Comet Handicap Chase at Ascot, which is now known as the Swinley Chase and was won by Captain Chaos this season. She was held up at the back of the field but made steady progress amongst the chasing pack that loomed behind long-time leader Cuddy Dale. She jumped to the lead at three out but, by the last, Rough Quest, 1996 Grand National winner, was matching strides. The little mare was tenacious and managed to beat the larger gelding by half a length. She had 12st on her back and Rough Quest carried just 10st10.

She didn’t run at the 1994 Cheltenham Festival but she would’ve gone to any of the races with a strong chance. Instead, they went to Aintree where she was only third after a last fence error beaten by Docklands Express and Black Humour, who ran two days later in the Grand National and fell at the Chair.

The incredible run of Just So to be second in the 1994 Grand National sparked a plan in owner/trainer/breeder Henry Cole. Dubacilla was to be sent to champion trainer David Nicholson in order to have the mare in the best shape to try and go one place better in the following year’s Grand National.

Dubacilla got off to an excellent start with Nicholson as she won the Gunpowder Plot Handicap Chase at Sandown under Adrian Maguire, reversing Aintree form with Docklands Express. She was 3/1 favourite carrying 11st9 in the Hennessy Gold Cup (Ladbrokes Trophy) but could only manage seventh behind the wonderful One Man.

Next time out, she finished second at Ascot in the Betterware Handicap Chase (now known as the Ascot Silver Cup). She couldn’t quite give the weight to Raymylette. Next time, she was defeated again at Sandown, finishing fifth of ten, but only beaten three lengths. She was carrying 12st, which made this run even more impressive as the others were carrying 11st3 or less. Dean Gallagher was back on board her after Henry Cole decided he understood the mare better than Nicholson’s stable jockey Adrian Maguire.

Dubacilla was guilty of an “old family trait” when she raced. Cole said in an interview that she “drops herself out and takes about a mile or so to get the adrenaline pumping, to get her temper up”. She often came from the back and you could argue that this tactic made racing against Master Oaks at Cheltenham in the Cotswold Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup so difficult. She was tailed off at times in both races. The trips only differed by a furlong but, by the time Master Oats hit the front, Dubacilla had no chance of getting past him. She was beaten fifteen lengths into second in January and the same again in March.

This was a remarkable feat by the gutsy little mare. There was no 7lbs mares’ allowance back then. Just one mare has ran in the Gold Cup since Dubacilla did in 1995. That was Shattered Love, a grade one novice chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival before. She started at 20/1 and finished ninth in 2019.

Now, connections were eyeing up the final stages of their plan – the Grand National. With Master Oats in the race, there was a compressed handicap. He had 11st10lbs. The previous year’s Grand National winner, Miinehoma, had 11st4lbs. Dubacilla’s old adversary Young Hustler, who became a regular runner over National fences, had 11st2lbs and Dubacilla carried 11st. Horses numbered five through to ten carried between 10st and 11st and the remaining thirty carried 10st exactly.

Dubacilla was barely mentioned in the commentary until they went out on the final circuit and she was second last. It is miraculous Dean Gallagher managed to keep her out of trouble because it was messy – like any Grand National. At two out, the commentator said, “And Dubacilla making ground is but has still a tremendous lot to do.” As they jumped the last, there was six horses in front of her but she was galloping relentlessly in pursuit. She, along with another runner, was making incredible progress around the outside of the field. In the end, there was no chance that she could get to Royal Athlete, who had been give an excellent ride. Party Politics was seven lengths behind him with 100/1 shot Over The Deel in third. Dubcilla finished fourth, beaten thirteen and a half lengths by horses carrying less weight.

I can’t quite decipher how Dubacilla managed to finish fourth. She was a long way behind the leaders but Dean Gallagher was patient. He used this mare’s strengths of finishing fast and late – even over four miles and four furlongs. The racecard was right – she did stay all day.

Ten mares have run in the race since Dubacilla. One was favourite – that was Fiddling The Facts in 1999 under Mick Fitzgerald, but they fell at Bechers on the second circuit. The best finish was from Magic Of Light in 2019, finishing second at 66/1. In 2021, Magic Of Light (who wouldn’t look out of place amongst my ‘Wonder Mares’ series) is trying to go one place better. Cabaret Queen has won four times over fences and placed in a Galway Plate. Shattered Love looks to emulate Dubacilla in running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.

The Grand National was the last race of Dubacilla’s career. She was retired and became a broodmare. She had six foals that raced – Cillamon (Terimon), a point-to-point winner; Priscilla (Teenoso), who didn’t win; Dare To Dream (Thowra), three-time point-to-point winner and winning hurdler; Master Quasimodo (Busy Flight), winner of two bumpers, two hurdle races and four chases; Triggernometry (Double Trigger), three-time chase winner, and Justabout (Classic Cliche), who won five chases and a point-to-point.

Even though Priscilla didn’t win a race, she turned out to be a very good broodmare. Her 2003 foal, Chilla Cilla, is the dam of three-time chase winner Midnight Chill. Her next foal was named Hameldown Tor and he was by Kayf Tara. A winner of ten point-to-points, he was fifth in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham. Next, Priscilla visited Irish Guineas and Derby winner Desert King and the resulting foal was named Desert Queen. She won two point-to-points, three novice hurdles and two listed chases. Drucilla was born in 2009 and Kir Royal in 2011. In 2014, Lyrical King was foaled. However, a year before, Priscilla’s best progeny and Dubacilla’s best grandchild was foaled – Mister Malarky.

Dubacilla
Dubacilla’s grandson Mister Malarky in full flight captured by JTW Equine Images (Photo Copyright by JTW Equine Images)

Mister Malarky has had twenty-six starts and won six of them. This chestnut, by German Derby runner-up Malinas, took a while to win, just like his granddam. His first win was in November 2017 after five previous attempts. He won two of his first three chases and won the grade two Reynoldstown Novices Chase over three miles at Ascot. His next win came a year later at Kempton. In December 2020, he won the Ascot Silver Cup Handicap Chase, a race Dubacilla finished second in when it was called the Betterware Handicap Chase. Mister Malarky’s next target is the Aintree Grand National. Connections will be hoping he can do better than his great uncle Just So coming second and his granddam coming fourth.

Dubacilla passed away aged twenty-five. She was an incredibly versatile mare and was so brave. I can’t comprehend how she managed to finish fourth in a Grand National after being out the back of the field for the majority of the way and accelerating in the final four furlongs of the stamina-sapping Grand National trip. She held her own in a Gold Cup, as well, and went on to be a successful broodmare. The fact that just one mare has run in the Gold Cup and ten mares in the Grand National since 1994 just accentuates the achievements of Dubacilla.

It would be great if Mister Malarky could get into the winners’ enclosure after the Grand National for his breeder Henry Cole after he tried so hard to win the race with Just So and Dubacilla.

Further Reading

I found this article from The Independent very helpful in my research for this article –

Sleepwalker stirs Cole’s dreams | The Independent | The Independent

The ‘Wonder Mares’

Petite Etoile Wonder Mares: Petite Etoile – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)

Signorinetta – Wonder Mares : Signorinetta – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)

Sun Chariot – Wonder Mares : Sun Chariot – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)

Function Dream – Wonder Mares : Function Dream – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)