Hello Good Morning and Welcome
THE CRAVEN STARTS WITH A BANG
The Craven Meeting sensibly returned to its three day format and despite soft ground I daresay most trainers were happy to get their charges onto the historic turf.
Thunderstorms were promised for the three days but failed to materialise as expected. However things changed markedly before the Craven Stakes itself when the loudest thunderclap I think I have ever experienced exploded above the grandstand. I expected the whole building to collapse but thankfully nothing was hit.
All through the week most of the horses were dull in the coats with many still trace clipped. I would also add that the form of the Craven Meeting can be overestimated and the form from The Guineas Meeting usually works out better but as the man said – you have to start somewhere.
On the Tuesday heavy rain for about twelve hours prior to the afternoon, ensured soft ground and slow times but it should always be remembered that this is the best turf in the world and there is always a rich cushion of roots underneath which absorb much of the rainfall. The going therefore never gets as testing as elsewhere. There was no wind for the three days and time figures should be true.
First off the blocks in the fillies maiden was Swiss Range trained by John Gosden. My pre race view that this was the nearest thing to a certainty was confirmed when spied in the paddock. She had done well since last Autumn and was fit enough to do herself justice. Declared to wear a hood, she also had a cross nose band which did raise something of a doubt. On the way to post she tracked her stablemate but although a little keen was pretty much under control. In the race itself, Frankie had no intention of covering her up behind other horses, preferring instead to let her stride out on the wide outside. Racing nicely she quickened well when asked and came clear to land me a punt. She will step up in class.
The Richard Hannon trained Desert Force looked to have continued his development and will do better in 6 furlong handicaps. In the Fielden Stakes Tathqeef gave them all start and did well to get close till giving best close. He can only improve.
The first Classic Trial of the year took place with the Nell Gwyn Stakes for 3yo fillies and as expected the favourite Nathra took the spoils. She was fully fit and did it nicely but this was way short of Guineas standard. The form of Aiden O’Brien’s horses have been extremely variable so far this term with most needing the run. Quite simply I tend to ignore the runnings and trust my eyes as to whether they have trained on. His filly in this race was Coolmore who has done well since last year and has overtaken Nathra on inspection. She will step up a deal on this.
Wednesday kicked off with the Wood Ditton Maiden Stakes. This race always gets criticised for failing to turn up top prospects but it is only a Class 4 Maiden after all and not a Classic Trial. If there is a Group horse in the race it could be the winner Sky Kingdom trained by Willie Haggas and ridden by the maestro Pat Smullen. He carried condition and will come on a ton for the run and is a nice prospect. There were plenty of good sorts in the race but most were backward and I would prefer to reserve judgement to see what is left when the puppy fat comes off.
The juvenile Sutter County had bolted in first time but failed to impress though he was still green and will do better. Dream of Dreams gave favourite backers a fright and he is a nice workmanlike stamp who will win his share.
Michael Tabor was on course to see his Waterloo Bridge and there were rumours he was punting it but this did not indicate on the boards and he went off 3.65 on the machine. The colt has filled and done well and can show when next at Ascot. Ibn Malik took the Free Handicap and paid his Champagne conqueror – Emotionless a massive compliment. Mahsoob was victor in the Earl of Sefton and has strengthened a deal since last term. Second in was Air Pilot who was punted and looked well primed beforehand.
John Gosden was in top form all week but one colt of his that failed to impress despite being backed was Satish. Sent off a 6/4 favourite he was nowhere near fully fit and I have doubts about this one. Daqeeq finished second despite being very backward and I expect a heap of improvement. He will stay further and could be good for Royal Ascot and the King George V Handicap.
Talking of Royal Ascot, Jadaayil took her maiden despite being very dull and trace clipped. She shouldn’t get too bad a mark from this will and will blossom with some sun on her back. She would be worth support in the Sandringham Handicap run on the Wednesday.
Fiery Character was the paddock pick for the Juvenile Maiden but was allowed to go off at an amazing 33/1. This was no fluke and her stable loves a runner at Chester so the Lily Agnes looks likely.
The Aiden O’Brien trained Landofhopeandglory was made favourite for the Tattersalls Million and has made up into a fine beast but was not fully fit. There will be plenty of opportunities in the months ahead. The winner Linguistic was likewise short of his peak and just lasted home. He might get a fair handicap mark from this and can only get better.
Pretty soon after the heavens opened and viewing was curtailed including The Craven itself.
There were quite a few racecourse gallops during the three days and a couple were very informative for differing reasons.
The much vaunted Emotionless reappeared on the Wednesday before racing and attracted intense interest from the Press. Being Godolphin’s main Classic prospect probably has much to do with it and the colt came out on time. He was in superb trim and had probably benefited from time spent under a sun lamp. His demeanour was relaxed. In the gallop he worked with the 4yo handicapper Bow and Arrow. The gallop was leisurely and Emotionless was asked to quicken between horses. He moved through smoothly but did not go ahead as expected and Buick gave him a couple of slaps to finish a couple of lengths clear. As a Gallop it was unimpressive but when I joined the Press boys to talk to Charlie Appleby he was at pains to stress it was not the intention to ask a searching test and that the gallop succeeded in meeting every requirement the team had.
My own opinion is that he should have quickened a bit more even allowing for the probability that Bow and Arrow is most definitely better than a 95 handicapper. More disconcertingly though is that on his return he walked feelingly on his near fore which was the subject of his operation and there is a chance that it is still problematic. If this is the case then there is a real possibility that he might miss the Guineas in a fortnight’s time. My advice is to hold bets till the day. If he were mine I would skip the undulations of the Rowley Mile and go straight to York assuming his leg holds up.
Mark Johnston let Buratino and Lumiere loose on the Thursday. The former floated to post and fairly bounded clear in most impressive fashion. He has to take a hand in the Colts Classic if this is anything to go by. The filly was given an easier assignment and was satisfactory in her work.
On the previous Sunday at Leopardstown there were plenty of Classic aspirants on show and the one who definitely took my eye was the Aiden O’Brien trained Idaho. I was particularly impressed with him last term and he confirmed that optimism with a bold show just giving best to the talented and race fit Harzand. As a Galileo full brother to Highland Gift he will have no problem getting a trip and has to be included in Epsom calculations.
It has to be said that the grainy pictures on ATR are very poor in this day and age and they should pull their finger out and try and get high definition as soon as possible.
Be Lucky and May The Gambling Gods Be With You
Chris Anzani Racing