June 2018

As Derby Day approaches it’s hard not to think back to 2005 when Motivator won the Derby but also to Highclere’s Housemaster who won the Chester Vase (Gr3) only to be disqualified for causing interference. It was a very long drive back from Chester that day but how quickly things turned around as Michael Bell insisted that we must go for the Derby and he duly went on to run in the Derby and gave his owners a huge shout to finish fourth, only just beaten on the line for third.

Once you have tasted from the Derby runner cup it’s impossible not to long for another day in the sun at Epsom on the first Saturday in June! Telescope so…

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Once you have tasted from the Derby runner cup it’s impossible not to long for another day in the sun at Epsom on the first Saturday in June! Telescope so nearly made it to the 2013 Derby but sadly he scraped his pastern when loading on to Sir Michael’s horse box a few days before and having got infected that was the end of another Derby dream. He was favourite at the time it all happened! It is so hard to get a horse to the Derby not to mention have one good enough to run in what I think is the greatest race on earth! But of course that is what fires us all up at the yearling sales when we search for the next champion and if we are fortunate enough to buy a horse that is bred to stay a mile and a half then the Derby dream begins right then.

Luminate winning the Group 3 Prix Penelope

We have had such an exciting start to the season with four of our horses already with black type to their names. These include Snazzy, Mam’selle, Archetype and Luminate and hopefully there will be more to come as the season unfolds. Luminate sadly was a very unlucky loser last week at Saint Cloud but she remains on course for the Prix de Diane (Gr 1) in a few weeks time. She will be one of the favourites on the day and for us to have another Classic contender is incredibly exciting.

Finally it just leaves me to say a huge thank you to Ali Begley who leaves us today having worked here at Highclere for over fourteen years. We shall miss her enormously but wish her all possible sucess in her new role. 

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

Snazzy booked her place in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot when running a fantastic race to finish third in a fiercely competitive Listed event at York’s Dante meeting. Had she been able to find some cover early on she would surely have gone very close. This brave filly showed plenty of early speed and stuck to her task with real determination.

Archetype also showed great courage to finish in the frame at Longchamp in a Listed contest. He was up there all the way and will surely be back into the winner’s…

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Caro des Flos winging the last en route to victory at Downpatrick

Archetype also showed great courage to finish in the frame at Longchamp in a Listed contest. He was up there all the way and will surely be back into the winner’s enclosure before long. Headway didn’t see out the mile (and the track) in the 2000 Guineas but The Royal Ascot Racing Club will be represented by their horse in the Jersey at the Royal Meeting next month. Occupy did much to restore his reputation when finishing third in a very competitive handicap at Nottingham and may also head to Ascot in the King George V handicap. Knighted was an impressive winner at the same track, battling on to get well on top having been headed in another competitive handicap. Whitehall looked all over the winner at Newmarket but failed to stay the trip to finish third. He is surely a winner waiting to happen once dropped back to a mile. Luminate’s unbeaten run sadly came to an end in the Group 3 Prix de Cleopatre where she got stuck on the rail before her jockey tried to find a way through and narrowly failed to get up on the line. She was then relegated to fifth following a stewards enquiry. Freddy Head was naturally highly frustrated but confirmed that this very talented filly will head for the Prix de Diane (Group 1) on June 17th where she will be supported by a large group of adoring owners!

Whatduhavtoget winning at Warwick

Three late but highly impressive wins in the National Hunt arena, two of which came from Whatduhavtoget who jumped brilliantly on both occasions at Warwick on her return to chasing. In Ireland, Caro des Flos made all to win easily at Downpatrick. We might have had two more winners as Peculiar Places was very unlucky not win at Hexham and will surely make amends in the right race next time.  Clondaw Anchor looked a really exciting chasing prospect when finishing second at Warwick and jumped with the fluency of a class animal.

Out and about with the Highclere camera

(Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge photos and see captions)

Rolfs Ramblings

If you were Japanese and you put £1 on Deep Impact when he won the 2006 Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun) you got a pound back - and you framed the ticket. Now he’s the most expensive stallion in the world – fee 40 million yen (at current rates one yen = £.0069); yes, more expensive than Frankel and Galileo put together. It’s not recorded how many of his ardent home fans – there were five thousand in Paris - committed hara kiri when Deep Impact met defeat in the 2008 Prix de l’Arc - and to rub it in he had a breathing problem and was disqualified from third place for inhaling ‘stuff ‘ Tour de France cyclists take to keep their yellow jerseys. If his sons Saxon Warrior and Study of Man double up - the 239th Investec Derby on Saturday and the Qipco Prix du Jockey Club on Sunday - even that forty million figure will look cheap – if not to you and me.

But is there value in the short odds about Saxon Warrior?  I look askance at the prices of most of the Classic principals this season and wonder if they reflect…

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Deep Impact

But is there value in the short odds about Saxon Warrior?  I look askance at the prices of most of the Classic principals this season and wonder if they reflect a classic generation whose pecking order is not yet determined. Saxon Warrior is odds-on for the Derby but Romanised, 25-1, won the Irish Two Thousand Guineas obliterating two of those behind Saxon Warrior in our Qipco Two Thousand Guineas where runner-up Tip Two Win was a 50-1 ‘rag’. Billesdon Brook was a barely conceivable 66-1 winner of the Qipco One Thousand: at ParisLongchamp the winner of the French One Thousand, the Pouliches, was double figures on the PM and the runner-up in their Two Thousand, the Poulains, 32-1. The Irish One Thousand one-two went off 12s and 33s. Should we be prepared for a 40-1 Wings of Eagles or a 50-1 Qualify at Epsom this weekend? I can’t unequivocally say we aren’t. Unbeaten Saxon Warrior has accounted for his apparent dangers, Roaring Lion, twice, and Masar by two lengths when the Godolphin hope (favourite) was third at Newmarket. York’s Dante saw a different Roaring Lion to the one slaughtered by Masar in the Craven. The time was slow but Roaring Lion wasn’t – sprinting away from the bunch in the last furlong.  In eight races Masar has won but three, yet in last year’s Solario he beat Romanised comprehensively. To my eyes had Masar not been caught isolated in the Guineas, he would have got closer to Saxon Warrior than their current respective odds – Masar 16-1 - suggest.

Young Rascal

What might also concern punters (it bothers me) is rumour has it a true blue Ballydoyle colt (a Galileo) called Amedeo Modigliani, though he hasn’t run since a setback last August, is the true ‘heir apparent’. And, fanciful as it seems, Coolmore have always reserved memorable names for their best prospects – they waited years to use ‘Camelot’ on what became their 2012 Derby winner: Saxon Warrior? What sort of ring has that? Young Rascal, named for a pop group by Bernard Kantor, boss of sponsors Investec, wasn’t on anyone’s lips at the start of the season but then neither was William Haggas’s first Derby winner Shaamit 1996 – until the trainer’s father-in-law Lester Piggott had the last word. Haggas is abstemious with his Derby tilts –just three runners in the intervening years; Sheikh Mohammed’s various incarnations have totted up nearly fifty attempts; Coolmore approaching eighty. James Doyle is relieved to be relieved of Godolphin duties on Saturday and he and Haggas have found the trainer/jockey relationship that both have sought for years. The reason Yorkshireman Haggas gave for Young Rascal’s limited appearances is how “gormless” the colt was at two: only a true son of God’s Own County can employ the word as defined “doesn’t understand very well” by accredited sources in Heckmondwike, Harrogate and Halifax. The penny has dropped for Young Rascal.

And now for the trimmings: forty three horses have won the Derby with the initial ‘S’ but they have the advantage of ‘Sir’ and ‘Saint’ to call on. The only ‘Y’ was Young Eclipse in the second Derby, 1781. There’s never been a ‘Z’. A grey hasn’t won since Airborne in 1946 (only four ever have); that year, the post-war return to Epsom, a million people were expected but “foul weather kept the crowd down to half a million” – do we therefore hope for similar inclement conditions on Saturday? They didn’t have the ‘tele’ in those days. So what chance the grey/roan Roaring Lion?  In the Second War the US Airborne Division was stationed at Windsor House Stables, Lambourn from whence this season’s Lingfield Derby Trial winner Knight To Behold sprang (unfortunately for synergy not grey - but 50-1 Snow Knight also won at Lingfield before his 1974 Epsom shock). John Dunlop, father of Knight To Behold’s trainer Harry, sent out Let The Lion Roar to be second to North Light in 2004, virtually the only year since Aidan O’Brien’s first crack, 1998, that the master trainer has been an Epsom also-ran: Meath was last.

Roaring Lion

The old saw that if Ballydoyle sends a posse to Epsom then they don’t have a ‘winner’ has been shot to pieces time and again – just the six last year and seven lined up now for O’Brien’s record equalling seventh Derby: if not a ‘magnificent seven’ all deserve their places. All have shown they act with give in the ground – but then so have virtually the whole field. The Aga Khan’s reputation has been uneven. In the eventuality of Hazapour winning the potentate his fifth Derby - marginally more likely after the Gallinule victory of Platinum Warrior (thumped by Hazapour in the Derrinstown), dedications will be elsewhere. Pat Smullen, eight-time Irish champion jockey, fighting cancer, cannot take his ride. Hazapour’s odds will be a reflection of emotion as much as form – Frankie Dettori does the honours. Saxon Warrior already has an indelible name in the history books as his trainer’s 26th and record breaker for the number of Group Ones in a season. Now talk is of him being the first Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky. He may already have achieved the hard part at Newmarket.

Rolfs Ramblings - Gusto Special

All Indian racing is talking about Gusto. Even Gurpreet Singh who stands the former Highclere (Rock Sand) sprinter at his Bishan Stud in the Punjab, a restrained and pacific individual, could barely contain his delight e-mailing and exhorting us to watch his stallion’s stunning double at Bangalore last Sunday. (The races are available on the India race site).

A first-crop sire standing in India at a ‘boutique’ stud of just fifteen mares (stallions in Indian only cover their ‘own’ mares) isn’t supposed to take Bangalore, vying with Mumbai…

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Gusto winning at Kempton Park

A first-crop sire standing in India at a ‘boutique’ stud of just fifteen mares (stallions in Indian only cover their ‘own’ mares) isn’t supposed to take Bangalore, vying with Mumbai as India’s top racing centre, by storm. Yet last Sunday the winners of the two juvenile (in India ‘juveniles are three) races were Gusto’s sons Capricious and Knotty Ash, the latter making a winning debut by ten lengths; Capricious remained unbeaten in his second race – as impressive as the first. Between October 2010 and May 2011 Richard Hannon Snr trained Gusto won five successive races, four of them Listed, for Highclere before a knee injury curtailed his career. The almost black son of Oasis Dream and Pickle had understandably become a great favourite with the members of the syndicate and more than one was apprehensive about the “tigers and snakes” at his new home. Those days are history of course and the early pictures of Gusto at Bishan showed a horse in the pink. His offspring are copies – perhaps bigger than one would expect from a small but well-formed stallion – very dark with plenty of white about the face; Gusto stamps his stock.{

The most notable British classic winner to stand in India was Sir Henry Cecil’s 1997 Derby champion Oath. Currently Multidimensional, a Group winner for Cecil and Aidan O’Brien’s Excellent Art the 2007 winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes rule the roost in Indian breeding. My great friend Major Srinivas Nargolkar who established the Indian Stud Book’s worldwide reputation and who is consultant for the leading Indian stud,  Usha, was happy to put flesh on Gusto’s achievements. “Ten new stallions are retired to stud in India each year from all over the globe. Indian horses rarely find a job. The smaller stud farms really need speedy stallions to get early and frequent winners but are more often than not foisted with horses more stoutly bred, unsuited to the kind of mares they have. The sons of Green Desert do well here and Gusto is of course by Oasis Dream, a son of Green Desert. “Bishan Stud near Jalandhar - Jullunder, if you are of the Raj vintage - in Punjab is a new stud farm and started off its innings by standing Gusto. He was the right kind of horse for a new stud. Gusto covered 24 mares in 2014 some of which were cast-offs from leading establishments such as Usha and Dashmesh Stud. Gusto was up for the job, displayed good fertility and produced 15 foals in his first crop which contained a high number, eleven, of colts. “But Gusto was behind in the numbers game.   All but one of his contemporary Freshmen sires had bigger crops – the biggest leading the way with nearly fifty foals. The big stud farms launch their new stallions with massive books in India. The Coolmore discard Excellent Art, for instance, had 83 in his first crop in 2014. 

Pesto - Gusto's 2yo half-brother

“Gusto's first winner came at Bangalore on 10 March when Capricious (out of Vivacity) scored impressively on his debut to win a good maiden, beating the progeny of proven stallions like Phoenix Tower. On 27 May, Capricious came out again at the same venue and won just as well in open class. A little later that very day Knotty Ash won his maiden on his debut by a distance, beating an Excellent Art filly. Both winners are owned by Mr Kamesh and trained by Prasanna Kumar. “Come the end of the year, Gusto may not be very high in the table of Freshman Sires, shortage of runners compromising his position. You can be certain, though, there will be much interest in the nineteen Gusto two-year-olds coming up for sale.” Obviously Gusto’s half-brother Pesto who recently made his Newbury two-year-old debut, has much to live up to.

The Taittinger Moment

This month’s Tattinger moment was never in doubt – it goes to Alison as we say farewell and thank you to her on behalf of the entire Highclere Team and all of our owners after nearly 15 years of service.  Her knowledge, dedication and hard work will be hugely missed but we all wish her well and look forward to seeing her out and about on the racecourse – Good Luck Ali!xx

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