The Weekly Wrap: Old Guard, New Blood

Haqeeqy and Benoit de la Sayette burst to the lead in the Lincoln in front of empty Doncaster stands |


When we wrapped up last Flat season, the lofty assumption was that by the start of this new one we would be back to some semblance of normality. How wrong could we have been?

After a brutal winter, the pandemic is only now easing to the point where a limited number of owners were permitted to attend racecourses in England and Scotland from yesterday (Monday). 

There are not too many areas within racing in which Britain is ahead of Ireland or France—witness the Irish domination of the Cheltenham Festival and France's enviable prize-money situation. But one of the few consolations for much of Britain at the moment is the accelerated Covid vaccination programme which has hastened the return of owners. May is being pencilled in for the same to happen in France, while there is no clear indication in Ireland as to when owners can be welcomed back to the races for the first time since the initial lockdown began in March 2020.

In England, the two owners per horse rule has been increased to four for the Good Friday fixtures at Lingfield and Newcastle, and from April 12 it is the BHA's intention to increase that limit to six per horse. The planned June return of spectators at sporting events in Britain can't come soon enough. Holidays can be eschewed, but the prospect of another summer not being able to mill around the racecourse, eyeing up the runners in the parade ring and bumping into friends, would be too miserable to contemplate.

With the backdrop of Covid restrictions made even more onerous by the ludicrous amount of red tape and extra expense inflicted on horse movement between the UK and EU by Brexit, it has been a gloomy enough start to the year. This situation will ease, however. What cannot be rectified is the enormous loss for the racing and breeding industry brought about by the sad deaths of David Thompson, Prince Khalid Abdullah and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. 

When Sheikh Hamdan's passing was announced on Wednesday, the notable aspect to the many glowing tributes paid to the founder of the Shadwell breeding empire was the genuine emotion in the voices of those who had worked for him—usually over a period of many years. That in itself speaks volumes of a loyalty between boss and employee, owner and trainer, which can be all too sadly lacking in modern-day life.

It is why, across a blockbuster weekend of racing, the most pleasing result was that of the Lincoln. Of course for Flat racing fans in Britain, the Lincoln meeting is a longed-for annual marker which says goodbye to winter and all those slow jumpers. But these days it has to compete with its glitzier and much richer cousin, the Dubai World Cup.

An hour after winning the Lincoln with Haqeeqy (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), the partnership of John and Thady Gosden, with the ink barely dry on their joint training licence, had added both the G1 Dubai Turf and G1 Dubai Sheema Classic to an impressive weekend haul. But it was the Lincoln which gave perhaps the most important pointer towards the future.

Yes, the steady hand of the multiple champion trainer John Gosden is still on the tiller, but he made it plain when joining the TDN Writers' Room last month that he intends to step back completely in a few years after completing a transition period with his youngest son. Thus, Thady's name appeared on the stable's first heritage handicap winner of the new era, and is was alongside that of Haqeeqy's owner, Sheikh Hamdan's young daughter Sheikha Hissa, who had eight runners from the Gosden stable last season. Add to the mix a first win on turf for one of the most eye-catching young jockeys on the scene, 18-year-old Benoit de la Sayette, who is apprenticed at the Gosdens' Clarehaven stable. In many respects, it's the old team, but one boasting plenty of young blood.

Haggas Goes Walkabout

Three years ago, William Haggas used the Lincoln—a race he has won on four occasions—to set Addeybb (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}) on his way from being a decent handicapper to a Group 1 star. Some may sniff at the gelding's soft-ground form, others may point to the dearth of top-class homegrown middle-distance horses in Australia. But fans of the 7-year-old—and there's one right here—will appreciate his ability to take the travel between hemispheres with apparent ease and perform up here or down there with admirable consistency.

Addeybb was at it again at the weekend, this time not quite managing to avoid having the tables turned on him by the classy galloper but poor speller Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) when attempting to defend his crown in the G1 Ranvet S. at Rosehill. The 5-year-old mare has finished second to him in both Addeybb's Group 1 victories in Australia last year but he was relegated to the runner-up spot this time around. 

Haggas loves an international challenge and in December he told TDN that he felt the progressive 4-year-old Favorite Moon (Ger) (Sea The Moon {Ger}) was just the sort to send on an Australian mission. He was right, and the trainer duly won the G3 N E Manion Cup on the same Rosehill card for the second year running, following the success of Young Rascal (Fr) (Intello {Ger}) in 2020.

If Haggas was smarting at being beaten by Chris Waller in the Ranvet, the latter did at least provide some consolation for him at Doomben, the scene of the fifth Australian victory for Humbolt Current (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). Haggas formerly trained the 6-year-old for his breeder The Queen and, when recommending him to Waller was talked into taking a share in him. Perhaps Haggas can now talk Waller out of running Verry Elleegant back in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S., when Addeybb will be joined at Sydney's Championships meeting by Favourite Moon, who heads next to the G1 Sydney Cup.

The Other Sir Mark

It was a good day for ex-pat trainers at Rosehill on Saturday, as Haggas and Waller, a New Zealander, was joined in the list of winners by British-born Annabel Neasham, who celebrated her first Group 1 success in the Rosehill Guineas with Mo'unga (Aus) (Savabeel {Aus}).

Waller's fellow Kiwis Sir Mark Todd and Peter Vela teamed up in Britain on Friday with the patriotically named Tasman Bay (Fr) (Le Havre {Ire}), an easy winner at Newcastle on his second start, and a colt with a Derby entry. 

Those who have followed British racing for the last 50 years will be of the opinion that there is only one Sir Mark and his surname is Prescott. In fact, if you've been following three-day eventing during much of that same period, you'll know the other Sir Mark better as 'Toddy'. 

The latter, who retired from the eventing scene in 2000 with two Olympic Gold medals to his credit, made good use of the break from riding by training the New Zealand Oaks winner Bramble Rose (NZ) before making a comeback and competing at another three Olympics up to 2016. 

The potential excitement of Sir Mark Todd, who is already revered as one of the greatest horsemen of our time, turning up at Epsom with a Derby runner might be all too much for some horsey ladies of a certain age to bear.

Winter Warmers

We see plenty of high-priced yearlings change hands at Tattersalls in October, but those who do their homework properly have proved the benefit of hanging around to the end of the month in a bid to try to find a bargain at the Horses-in-Training Sale.

Indeed, two of the busiest and most successful horses of this winter's all-weather season were bought for a total of 15,000gns and have subsequently won 11 races between then since Nov. 24.

Nortonthorpe Boy (GB) (Swiss Spirit {GB}), like the dependable Spare Parts (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}) before him, is a product of the Phil McEntee academy which espouses the ethos of letting the horses roll in the mud between racing as frequently as possible. Now three, Nortonthorpe Boy was bred by Eleanor Kent, matriarch of the Kent dynasty of Co Cork. He'd already managed eight starts at two for Tim Easterby, including two placed runs, when he was sent to the sales. 

A month after buying him for 7,000gns, McEntee sent his newly gelded recruit to Lingfield for the start of a sequence of 14 runs in the last four months, while has included six victories, most recently at Kempton on Saturday off a mark of 84. For his first win on Dec. 30, Nortonthorpe Boy was rated 58.

Another to have shot up the ratings is Khatm (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), bought from Shadwell by the astute partnership of George Boughey and Sam Haggas for 8,000gns as a once-raced gelding. Khatm won for the first time on his fourth start for Boughey when rated 50. He has now won five times from six starts in the last month to improve his mark to 79 and is entered on Tuesday at Wolverhampton and again at Chelmsford on Friday. He needs just one more victory to join Nortonthorpe Boy at the top of the leaderboard for the winningmost horse in this year's All Weather Championships which conclude on Friday with Finals Day at Lingfield.

A Classic Family In The Reckoning

When winning the G1 Prix Royal-Oak last October, Subjectivist (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) became the second Group 1 winner in three years to have emanated from Susan and Barry Hearn's Mascalls Stud following Urban Fox (GB) (Foxwedge {Aus}).

On Saturday, the 4-year-old backed up that success with a rout in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup and he will be a fascinating contender in the major Cup races this season. 

The establishment of Subjectivist's family as a force to be reckoned with is largely down to Mark Johnston. The trainer bought his year-older sibling Sir Ron Priestley (GB) (Australia {GB}) for 70,000gns at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale and returned a year later to buy Subjectivist for 62,000gns. Johnston duly beat a path to the New England Stud draft again in 2019 to buy their half-sister Alba Rose (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) for 100,000gns, and it is easy to see why. By that stage Sir Ron Priestley had already won the G3 March S. and finished second in the St Leger. Subjectivist followed his example by also winning the March S. and, though he could only finish seventh in the St Leger, he has since surpassed his brother with his Group 1 success. 

Though last year's yearling, by another son of Galileo (Ire) as a member of the first crop of Ulysses (Ire), was bought back by Hearn, she too has joined Johnston's Kingsley Park stable from which she will race in the colours of her breeder. Alba Rose, meanwhile, who was third in last year's G2 Rockfel S., could yet become the third Classic runner from the first four foals of her dam Reckoning (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}).

Pat Smullen Remembered

As our accompanying story details, Pat Smullen will be remembered on the first day of racing in Newmarket in 2021 with a race named in his honour.

It is scarcely believable that almost 18 years have passed since Smullen rode Refuse To Bend (Ire) to glory in the 2000 Guineas, carrying the Moyglare Stud colours with which he would become so strongly associated during his long tenure at Dermot Weld's stable. 

A lifelong Irish resident, Pat Smullen was nevertheless revered throughout the racing world, and he will be in the thoughts of his many friends and admirers in Newmarket and beyond as racing returns to the Rowley Mile in a fortnight's time.

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