Seven Days: Monarchists Make Merry

Monday’s email bulletin from the The New York Times told us that Britain is largely apathetic about Saturday’s coronation. I guess they’d know, being on the other side of the Atlantic and all, but the bunting had already been strung through various Cambridgeshire and Suffolk villages by Sunday. In the leafy shires at least, the monarchists still hold sway.

On Friday at Newmarket, the King Charles II Stakes will be run in honour of the ‘Merry Monarch’ whose patronage made the Suffolk town famous around the world as an important centre of horse racing and who, until the late Queen Elizabeth II, can arguably be said to have had the closest links to the sport of any member of the Royal Family. Indeed, the Rowley Mile, on which both Guineas will be run, takes its name from Charles II’s mount Old Rowley.

This coming weekend, in Britain at least, most of the attention will be centred on King Charles III, who, for a tantalising moment, looked as though he could have a runner in the first Classic of the season in the midst of his coronation. 

By Monday, the King and Queen Consort’s racing manager John Warren had confirmed that the unbeaten Slipofthepen (GB) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) will be aimed instead at Royal Ascot, when the attention of his owners can be fully focused on the action in front of them rather than having to make an excuse on Saturday to leave the Buckingham Palace balcony to catch the 4.40 at Newmarket on their iPhones. 

The slightly belated start time for the 2,000 Guineas is a minor inconvenience compared to the massive reshuffling of plans for those involved in Derby day after it was announced last week that the Derby would be run at 1.30pm to avoid an ITV scheduling clash with the FA Cup Final. It is an undesirable outcome, for sure, but anyone who thinks that racing could flex its puny muscles in the face of the behemoth that is football has clearly never tried to find the few column inches of racing reports beyond the pages and pages of soccer analysis in the national papers. Good luck with that.

QIPCO has retained its sponsorship of both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas this coming weekend, as well as the British Champions Series, but its name, and that of Qatar Racing, is absent elsewhere on the card. It has, however, been replaced in quite emphatic fashion by that of Howden, a large insurance company owned by David Howden, a huge enthusiast for most equine pursuits, especially eventing, and increasingly for racing. Best of luck to him with Running Lion (GB), who, appropriately, is a daughter of the late Tweenhills stallion Roaring Lion and is entered for Sunday’s Oaks trial, the Howden Pretty Polly S. 

Kingman Ruling 

In the midst of such regal goings-on, it is appropriate to see Kingman (GB) having quite the time of it. His son Epictetus (Ire), representing a blend of two excellent breeders in George Strawbridge and the late Lady Rothschild, took the Listed Blue Riband Trial at Epsom on his first start since finishing runner-up to the lauded Auguste Rodin (Ire) in the G1 Vertem Futurity Trophy. 

Epictetus was in utero when his dam, the G1 Pretty Polly S. winner Thistle Bird (GB) (Selkirk), was sold to James Wigan on Strawbridge’s behalf for 750,000gns as part of Lady Rothschild’s Waddesdon Stud dispersal at Tattersalls in 2019. The half-brother to Group 3 winner Jumbly (GB) (Gleneagles {Ire}) has done little wrong since setting foot on a racecourse, with a Newmarket maiden win on debut, and two second-place finishes at two in group contests, behind Silver Knott (GB) and Auguste Rodin respectively, both of whom are on course for Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas.

The Prix du Jockey Club appears to be Epictetus’s Classic target, and here he may meet the progressive Feed The Flame (GB). Unbeaten in his two starts this season for Pascal Bary, the Kingman colt, bred by Ecurie des Monceaux, Lordship Stud and Clear Light Sas, is reportedly Chantilly-bound on the first Sunday of June, having been nominated as a TDN Rising Star on debut and then following that success with victory in the Prix de Ferrieres last Thursday. 

Before that, Kingman looks likely to be represented by the Gimcrack winner Noble Style (GB) and Fred Darling victrix Remarquee (GB) in the Newmarket Classics this weekend. 

The Juddmonte stallion’s early star was of course Calyx (GB), the winner of the G2 Coventry S. who has made a fast start to his own stud career. On Monday, he was represented by two new winners in France and England, Grand Son Of Calyx (Ire) and Nellie Leylax (Ire), to add to his previous pair which included the impressive Persian Dreamer, another TDN Rising Star when winning on debut at the Craven meeting. With those results coming from just seven starters, the Coolmore-based Calyx is at the top of the freshman table by prize-money, though his Darley rival Blue Point (Ire) is ahead by number of winners, on five. 

The past week has seen the names of Soldier’s Call (GB), Phoenix Of Spain (Ire), Inns Of Court (Ire) and Invincible Army (Ire) added to the list of those stallions with their breakthrough first winners, while Aidan and Donnacha O’Brien, the trainers respectively of the two winners to date for Ten Sovereigns (Ire), both appear to have group-race targets in mind for Brighter (Ire) and Monday’s Curragh winner Do It With Style (Ire).

Never on Monday

Ten Sovereigns‘ sire No Nay Never had a banner year in 2022, with his top runners including Alcohol Free (Ire), Blackbeard (Ire) and this season’s Classic contender Little Big Bear (Ire). His five-year-old son Visualisation (Ire), trained by Jospeh O’Brien, posted the biggest win of his career to date when landing Monday’s G2 Mooresbridge S., and though Aidan O’Brien may have been miffed at a relatively lacklustre return in the same race for Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), he can at least take some solace in having bred the winner with his wife Annemarie (and indeed the winning trainer). 

Visualisation’s family is one that has served the O’Briens and the Crowleys well. His third dam Offshore Boom (GB) (Be My Guest) was bought by Annemarie’s father Joe Crowley from her breeder Moyglare Stud in 1997 for Ir£11,000 and in turn gave them the outstanding miler Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire) (Danehill). The latter’s unraced full-sister Ruby (Ire) produced Group 3 winner Precious Gem (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) and the multiple Grade 1-placed Fiero (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) as well as Visualisation’s dam Roselita (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells).

No Nay Never had featured earlier on Monday’s card as the sire of the first juvenile stakes winner of the year. The colt has been given the lofty title of His Majesty (Ire) (not to be confused with the broodmare sire of Danehill of the same name), and it will be no surprise to see him head for his own juvenile coronation at Ascot in June after his imperious debut win. His Majesty’s dam Czabo (GB) (Sixties Icon {GB}) was fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas before winning the G3 Park Express S. the following year for the partnership of David Wachman, MV Magnier and Linda Shanahan, after she was bought privately from her breeder Norman Court Stud.

The enduring lure of Royal Ascot was evident in the post-race comments from the connections of two other winners at the Curragh on Monday. American owner Jonathan Green spoke to Brian Sheerin about his family’s desire to take the aforementioned Do It With Style to the G3 Albany S., while Honey Girl (GB) (Mayson {GB}), winner of the G3 Athasi S., is owned by Australia-based Tim Porter. 

“We don’t have anything immediately in mind,” reported Honey Girl’s trainer Joseph O’Brien. “But her owners are Australian and they are going to Royal Ascot so there is a fair chance she’ll turn up there.”

Irresistible Iresine 

It is not uncommon to encounter soft ground in France but this season’s Classic trials in the country have so far generally been run in pretty testing conditions. The Ballydoyle raider Greenland (Ire) (Saxon Warrior {Jpn}) had a fight on his hands for the G3 Prix Greffulhe and squeaked home a nose in front of the game Harry Way (Fr) (Galiway {GB}). The result gave a boost to the form of the G3 Prix La Force, which had been won by the Christopher Head-trained Big Rock (Fr) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) with Greenland in third. They look likely to meet again in the Prix du Jockey Club.

A few big bubbles popped over the weekend as the Group 1 winners Luxembourg, Bay Bridge (GB) (New Bay {GB}) and Vadeni (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) all ran below expectations on their seasonal debuts, but there is a long year ahead. The last two named finished third and fourth in the G1 Prix Ganay, which produced arguably the biggest crowd-pleaser of a result this year when Marie Velon, the country’s leading female jockey, posted another top-level win aboard Iresine (Fr) (Manduro {Ger}).

Back-to-back group races at Longchamp on Sunday went to horses sired by stallions with Schlenderhan connections. Manduro was a rare non-homebred to race for Baron Georg von Ullmann, and he was represented posthumously by the six-year-old Iresine, the star of Jean-Pierre Gauvin’s stable who, like his sire, demonstrated his versatility by taking the Ganay over 2,100m, having won last season’s G1 Prix Royal-Oak over almost two miles and the 2,400m G2 Prix Foy. He’s a smashing horse, who traces back to the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Riverqueen (Fr) (Luthier {Fr}) as his fourth dam, and he was bought as a yearling by his trainer for just €6,000. Not bad for the winner of 12 of his 17 races, including two Group 1s.

Iresine was followed by India (Ger), a five-year-old Gestut Ittlingen homebred by the late Schlenderhan representative Adlerflug (Ger), whose talents by now need no explanation. She, too, is a consistent campaigner. Prior to her G3 Prix Allez France victory, India’s six wins had all come on home turf in Germany where she is already a treble Group 3 winner. 

Notably, India was runner-up in last season’s G2 T von Zastrow Stutenpreis to Amazing Grace (Ger) (Protectionist {Ger}). Both Amazing Grace and the third-placed filly that day, Atomic Blonde (Ger) (The Grey Gatsby {Ire}), have now relocated to America and they are among four German-bred runners in a field of only five for Friday’s GII Sheepshead Bay S. at Belmont Park. Recent Gulfstream Grade III winner Mylady (Ger) (The Grey Gatsby {Ire}) and the dual Grade II winner Virgina Joy (Ger) Soldier Hollow ({GB}) complete the quartet, with Higher Truth (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) ensuring an all-European line-up.

In Kentucky Derby week, the 2011 winner Animal Kingdom had his name in lights at Longchamp when his son Big Call landed the G3 Prix de Barbeville. The six-year-old boasts a truly international profile, have been bred in America, exported to Ireland after being bought as a yearling by Eddie O’Leary at Keeneland, and then breezed in France at the Arqana Breeze-up Sale. Back to Ireland he went, initially to be trained by Joseph O’Brien, before making three starts in Hong Kong for Richard Gibson and then returning to France to the stable of Christophe Ferland, who owns him with Flora Scott. Since then, Big Call has packed his case again several times to race in Spain and Saudi Arabia, and he landed his first group success at the age of five in the G3 Prix Gladiateur. Let’s hear it for the well-travelled oldies. 


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