The Warrior Returns

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Redkirk Warrior at exercise in Newmarket | Emma Berry

By Emma Berry

Newmarket, UK—He’s travelled halfway around the world to come home. Redkirk Warrior (GB) (Notnowcato {GB}), as a representative of Australia’s powerful Hayes-Dabernig stable, was one of the stars of Royal Ascot’s international press morning on Thursday, but in fact the 7-year-old is back where it all began, on Newmarket Heath. This is where he was trained to win his first two races for William Haggas and is less than a mile from where he was conceived, at Stanley House Stud, where his sire Notnowcato once occupied the same stable as his own father Inchinor (GB) and the great Hyperion (GB) before him.

With Notnowcato having subsequently been sold to stand in Ireland as a jumps sire, his speedy son is something of an outlier when it comes to the progeny he left in Britain, though it didn’t appear that way in the beginning. Redkirk Warrior’s first two victories, and in fact his only two starts in England, both came over 10 furlongs in his 3-year-old season, and he continued at that trip in his next two outings after being sold to race in Hong Kong for Jenny Tam Yuk Ching. Problems with his feet meant that he failed to cope with the track in Hong Kong and was retired. This proved to be premature and, after moving again, this time to the training triumvirate of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig at Lindsay Park in Australia, some remedial farriery work meant that the gelding was brought out of retirement to resume racing at five.

“He has a high cruising speed and he can kick off a high cruising speed. In his early days when we were training him up the hill he was running times that sprinters run and we thought we’d try him fresh first up. He was ridden poorly but he finished well for second,” recalled Ben Hayes.

“Then next prep we trained him as a sprinter and we ran him in the Newmarket [Handicap] and he won like a very good horse, so we’ve kept him to sprinting ever since.”

That breakthough Group 1 victory down Flemington’s straight six furlongs has since been augmented by success in the G1 Lightning S. over five and a repeat win in the Newmarket back in March. The Lightning is now named after Black Caviar, who won the race ahead of her assault on Ascot and the G1 Diamond Jubilee S. back in 2012. In his attempt to emulate this feat, Redkirk Warrior has been assigned the same stable at Newmarket’s Abington Place which the great mare inhabited during her stay in the town.

As he exercised around his old stomping ground of Bury Hill on Thursday morning, on his toes to begin with but relaxing into a long loping saunter for home after a gentle six-furlong canter on the Polytrack, Redkirk Warrior appeared to have taken his latest round of world travels in his stride. He will have Frankie Dettori in the saddle at Ascot.

“He’s an old professional. He’s eating well and looks great so we’re happy,” said Hayes, whose father David previously sent out Nicconi (Aus) to finish fourth in the G1 King’s Stand S. at Ascot in 2010, as well as Criterion (Aus), who achieved the same placing in the G1 Prince Of Wales’s S. five years later.

He added, “There are plenty of good sprinters in Australia and to have one of the very best is a real privilege. We love trying to win Group 1 races overseas on the world stage so we were delighted to have the opportunity to travel with this horse.

His best performances have been on top of the ground so with the weather set to stay dry we’ve opted for the Diamond Jubilee [on Saturday]. We’ve raced Merchant Navy (Aus) before and it’s not often you can come over here with a familiar formline. Harry Angel (Ire) is a different prospect. He’s clearly a very good sprinter but it’s hard to judge that against the Australian form. If our horse runs to the best of his form then he definitely has a very good chance.”

Strong American Challenge
Wesley Ward has opted to base his team at Paul Cole’s Whatcombe stable in Oxfordshire, but Redkirk Warrior has two American challengers for company in Newmarket.

When a Japanese-bred horse is gifted the name Yoshida (JPN) then one would assume he’s pretty special and the 4-year-old son of Shadai Farm’s Heart’s Cry (JPN) has indeed already won at the highest level on the turf in America since being entrusted to the care of Bill Mott.

Yoshida doesn’t just carry a portentous name, he also runs for the syndicate of owners behind Justify (Scat Daddy), namely Winstar Farm, China Horse Club, SF Bloodstock, and Sol Kumin’s Head Of Plains Partners. The team may justifiably still be nursing sore heads after Saturday’s Triple Crown celebrations and the party will roll on into Tuesday’s G1 Queen Anne S., which two years ago was won by American raider Tepin (Bernstein).

“We were here last year with Long On Value so we got the lie of the land and we learned that you need to bring over a really good horse. We told ourselves that if we had a horse of the talent level to compete here we’d come back,” said Riley Mott, in Newmarket on his father’s behalf to oversee the final preparations for Yoshida, who had an easy canter over a mile on the Polytrack surface of the Al Bahathri gallop.
“He’ll have a light piece of work here in the next few days just to open up his lungs and keep him on course for the race but whatever the conditions may be on Tuesday I think we have a horse who will adapt very well. He’s arguably in the top two or three turf horses back home. Mr Ward and Mr Casse have both had success on turf over here and that gave us the confidence to come.”

Out earliest of all on Thursday for a sedate stretch on the short half-mile of Newmarket’s Town Canter was Bucchero (Kantharos), who will be flying the flag for college teacher-turned-trainer Tim Glyshaw in Tuesday’s G1 King’s Stand S.

“No sheikhs or billionaires need apply,” reads the strapline on the homepage of the website of his owner Ironhorse Racing Stable and, indeed, victory for the 6-year-old entire at Royal Ascot would certainly be a great fillip for the smaller ownership groups around the world.

Bought by a partnership headed by Harlan Malter for $43,000 as a juvenile, Bucchero has subsequently netted his five owners in the region of $780,000 and has brought them on a transatlantic journey few would have expected when Malter was ringing around trying to find partners to take a share in the bonny chestnut colt who was fourth in last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar.

“As an owner getting into the game as just a true ran of horseracing, getting to the Breeders’ Cup for an American is really high on the list and I don’t think most owners even think about getting to Royal Ascot, but for this to come up as an option is really special,” said Malter.

Glyshaw, who is based predominantly at Churchill Downs, takes extra pride in the fact both he and the horse he trains were born and raised in Indiana, which in equine terms would be several rungs beneath their new Kentucky home.

“It’s kind of a dream,” said the softly spoken 49-year-old. “If he shows up and runs his race I think we’re right there. We’re just very proud of our horse that we’re here. I think he’ll like the straight. There are some questions: we’re running without Lasix but that’s never been a problem for him. He didn’t turn a hair [when racing on Kentucky Derby day] at Churchill Downs so the crowd shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Appleby Marches On To Ascot
Charlie Appleby joined the international press conference in the Jockey Club Rooms to issue an update on some of his runners for Royal Ascot and, asked if winning the Derby had changed his life, he replied, “Not in my household. I’ve had to get back to all the daily chores with the children and the ponies and the dogs.”

Dog-walkers and babysitters will hopefully be on hand next week to allow the Godolphin trainer to turn his attention to the five days of the Royal Meeting for which his representatives include recent Oaks runner-up Wild Illusion (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who will be dropping back in trip for the G2 Ribblesdale S.

“Will Illusion lost nothing in defeat in the Oaks and has come out of the race well. The winner was just a better filly and she was drawing away from us at the end, but we were drawing away from the third so I don’t think it was a case that she didn’t stay,” said the trainer.

Hawkbill (Kitten’s Joy) played his part in a memorable Dubai World Cup meeting for Appleby when winning the G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic but was disappointing on his first start back in Britain this term when fifth behind Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 Investec Coronation Cup.

“He’s becoming more versatile as he gets older and has coped with quick ground as well as soft ground,” said Appleby of the G1 Prince Of Wales’s S. contender. “He can get himself a bit worked up but he’s come out of [Epsom] well. We’re dropping back in trip again and the plan is to be positive.”

Another to be taking a step back in distance is Blue Point (Ire) (Shamardal), who was withdrawn at the start ahead of the G1 Al Quoz Sprint and has something to prove after a below-par effort in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize in Hong Kong.

“Dropping back to five [furlongs] is within his compass I feel,” Appleby offered. “Things didn’t go to plan in Hong Kong but he’s had a nice break since then and he put a serious piece of work in on Saturday. He’s showing all the right signs.”

The other big sprint hope in the trainer’s camp is last Saturday’s G3 John O’Gaunt S. winner D’Bai (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who drops down to six furlongs for the G1 Diamond Jubilee S.

Appleby added, “I’ve felt for the last six or eight months now that he could be a sprinter. He broke the track record over seven at Meydan. I was delighted with his run when fourth behind Jungle Cat and then he was second to The Tin Man (GB), which was a very positive run. The way he travelled in the John O’Gaunt Stakes he showed a bit of class. They’re going to go hard in the Diamond Jubilee and he could well be running on late.”

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