The Weekly Wrap: Times Are A-Changin'


Rachael Blackmore continues to be an inspiration |


It's Craven week, followed by Greenham weekend, both coming on the back of some interesting Classic trials in Ireland and France. It is, as some people prefer to say in midwinter, the most wonderful time of the year. 

There's no doubt, however, that the biggest racing story of the year has already happened. However much she wants to play down the gender card, Rachael Blackmore winning the Grand National aboard Minella Times (Ire) (Oscar {Ire}) was huge. In fact, Saturday was a big day on both sides for the world for women recording notable firsts. 

Around 12 hours before Blackmore's historic victory at Aintree, Jamie Lee Kah posted her first Sydney Group 1 win on the former French-trained Cascadian (GB) (New Approach {Ire}), in turn becoming the first woman to ride a winner at the top level for Godolphin. 

Kah is not new to success: she followed fellow Group 1-winning jockey Clare Lindop in landing the Adelaide jockeys' championship in her native South Australia. In fact, she won it three times, the first when she was still an apprentice. Between winning her first and third championship, Kah took a short time out of racing , prompted in part by the fatal fall of her friend Caitlin Forrest at Murray Bridge in a race in which Kah was also riding. 

On a busman's holiday she stayed with her compatriot Jeremy Gask in the UK and spent some time riding out there and in Newmarket.

Thankfully for the sport, she decided to press on with her riding career. Since early 2019 Kah has based herself in Melbourne, where she landed the first of her five Group 1 wins to date on another import, Harlem (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}), in the Australian Cup only weeks after her arrival there. She currently leads the Melbourne jockeys' premiership by a wide margin, her 80 wins putting her 26 clear of second-placed Damian Lane, who in turn is 10 clear of Damien Oliver. 

There's no doubt that there is still a dearth of female jockeys but, just as attitudes towards them from trainers and owners are changing, that situation will surely change too. Having come into racing from more of a sport horse background, where from my youth the role models Lucinda Green, Ginny Elliott and Liz Edgar loomed large, I've never quite understood the bias against females jockeys in racing. It always seemed ridiculous and now it is clear to see that it was.

In the last decade we've seen Hayley Turner become the first woman to win a Group 1 outright in Britain (not forgetting Alex Greaves's dead-heat on Ya Malak (GB) in the 1997 Nunthorpe). The recently retired Lizzie Kelly became the first woman to ride a Grade 1 winner over fences in 2015, two months after Michelle Payne became the first to win the Melbourne Cup. In the last year alone, Bryony Frost was the first woman to win the prestigious GI King George VI Chase, Jessica Marcialis was the first to win a Group 1 in France, Hollie Doyle was given a retainership by Arab owner Imad Al Sagar, rode a five-timer at Windsor and was named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year. Then there's Rachael, who is now so famous she only needs a first name. Six victories at the Cheltenham Festival saw her become the leading jockey there three weeks ago  before her arguably even more important success on Saturday.

Plenty of people have pointed to the fact that she will now have other women and young girls believing they too can be a jockey. That, however, is not the problem. The women have always believed, but not enough men in key positions felt the same. Times are changing, along with attitudes. It can't come soon enough. 

Frankel's French Romp

On Friday, it will be ten years since Frankel (GB) stepped out for his first 3-year-old triumph in the Greenham S. ahead of that breathtaking win in the 2000 Guineas. In the intervening decade, his name has rarely been out of the racing news, and that has been particularly true in the past week, notably in France. 

Last Monday Big Five (GB) had become Frankel's 100th black-type performer in the northern hemisphere with his easy victory in the listed Prix Right Royal at Chantilly. Then Juddmonte's Wensleydale (GB) dazzled brightly enough in her Saint-Cloud debut for Henri Devin that she became the latest TDN Rising Star.

Another Juddmonte filly, Petricor (GB), was just outdone in the G3 Prix Vanteaux on Sunday but even then it was by another daughter of Frankel, Rumi (Fr), who stepped up notably from her seasonal debut when fourth in the Prix Durban only a week earlier. Hurricane Cloud (Fr), the half-brother to promising young French sire Goken (Fr), provided another winner for Frankel on Sunday's Longchamp card, while O'Reilly (Fr) won on his 3-year-old debut for Jessica Harrington at Leopardstown, where Mehnah (GB), a half-sister to Irish 2000 Guineas winner Awtaad (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}), was beaten a head by Keeper Of Time (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) on just her second start in the G3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1000 Guineas Trial.

Among Frankel's spate of other winners worldwide, Delaware (GB), who was previously a Group 3 winner for Andre Fabre, notched his first win since joining Chad Brown's stable and he did so in some style, setting a new Aqueduct track record in the listed Danger's Hour S.

Blue Collar Heroes

In the very early skirmishes in the first-season sire championships, Overbury Stud's Ardad (GB) is leading the way as the only stallion with two winners to date. His first came last Tuesday at Bath with Blue Collar Lad (GB), who was bought for just 1,000gns by his trainer Robyn Brisland.

Then on Monday at Windsor, the track where you often find a Richard Hannon hotpot in the early juvenile races, the 150/1 shot Arboy Will (GB) made all the running to outdo that hotpot, Zoltan Star (GB), who incidentally was co-bred by Overbury Stallions with Dukes Stud and is by Ardad's sire Kodiac (GB).

Bred by Anthony Byrne, Arboy Will was unsold at 1,500gns as a foal when offered at Tattersalls, and is out of a dual-winning half-sister to the GII Santa Ana S. winner Madam Dancealot (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}). He became the first debutant 2-year-old winner for his veteran trainer John Bridger who admitted he is “getting near 80”.

Ardad could be in for a big week as among his six entries this week he has two horses set to make their debut at Newmarket's Craven meeting. One of those, Beautiful Sunshine (GB), was withdrawn from the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-up Sale by consignor Robson Aguiar and has instead been sent into training with George Boughey for Amo Racing. Aguiar notably enjoyed success last year with another breeze-up withdrawal, The Lir Jet (Ire) (Prince Of Lir {Ire}), who was trained by Michael Bell to win convincingly on debut at Yarmouth before being sold to Qatar Bloodstock and landing the G2 Norfolk S. at Royal Ascot.

Blue Collar Lad and Arboy Will were not the only inexpensive winners over the last week. The Marco Botti-trained Atalis Bay (GB) (Cable Bay {GB}) was bought by his Italian owners Scuderia Blueberry for just 800gns as a yearling at the Tattersalls February Sale. The colt has now won four of his seven starts and landed the conditions race at Nottingham off a mark of 97. 

However, there's no doubt that the bargain buy of the week was G3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1000 Guineas Trial winner Keeper Of Time (Ire), who gave Mehmas an important boost as he bids to build on his exciting start to his stud career last year. John Nolan bought the filly for just €3,000 at the Goffs February Sale from the Phelan family's Tullogher House Stud and she became the first group winner for Johnny Feane. The trainer indicated after the race that Nolan has already had offers for Keeper Of Time, who is not entered in the Irish Classic and could be sold to race on in America. 

Eagle To Swoop Again?

Gestüt Schlenderhan and partners suffered a cruel blow last week with the death of German champion sire Adlerflug (Ger) at the age of 17 .

A day later his son Martial Eagle (Ger) carried the Ullmann family colours to a stylish victory at Saint-Cloud for trainer Francis Graffard in the Prix Amour Drake. The colt holds entries for the Prix du Jockey Club and Grand Prix de Paris but he may well be aimed to follow the example of another Graffard-trained and Schlenderhan-bred son of Adlerflug, In Swoop (Ire), in the G1 Deutsches Derby, for which Martial Eagle is currently favourite. 

In Swoop, who subsequently finished runner-up to Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) in the Arc, has remained in training and is entered to return to Longchamp on Sunday in the listed Prix Lord Seymour. 

Lord Grimthorpe

Another regrettable piece of news in the last week was the announcement that Lord Teddy Grimthorpe will step down from his position as Juddmonte's racing manager in June. 

In a tenure of more than two decades, he has overseen the careers of some of the greatest names of the turf in a pivotal liaison role between stud managers and trainers within the sizeable Juddmonte empire. 

Moreover, Grimthorpe has been the operation's faultless spokesman throughout the heady years of Frankel (GB) and Enable (GB) in particular, when press and public interest was at its peak. From a journalist's perspective, and doubtless from many others, he will be much missed. 

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