‘We’ve Got A Queen Mary To Win’ – US-Based Morley Hoping Bold Plan Pays Off

It was Mike Tyson who famously said, ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.’ Racing is a sport where the metaphoric punches can be unrelenting. 

Therefore, when New York-based trainer Tom Morley dreamed up the idea of purchasing a filly with the idea of returning home to England to try and win the G2 Queen Mary S. at Royal Ascot, he knew the plan was a daring one. 

But credit to Cynane (Omaha Beach), bought for $250,000 through Oracle Bloodstock at the Keeneland September Yearling Sales, she delivered a suckerpunch of her own when winning impressively on debut at Belmont Park last week. 

That performance put Cynane firmly in the Queen Mary picture, and Morley ever closer to a dream first winner back home in Britain at the royal meeting. 

“You don’t often get emotional when you train horses that win maidens, but for the people involved in her ownership, it means an awful lot,” Morley told TDN Europe.

“I have trained for Gregg and Cathy Palesky [VinLaur Racing Stables LLC] for a long time and they haven’t had a huge amount of luck. They did claim an Into Mischief filly called Xantique and she won a stakes race for them but they have had some bad horses in the meantime. It is huge for them. 

“West Paces have been wonderful supporters of our yard–are made up by a group of guys from Atlanta who I would describe as great mates–and they go to Royal Ascot every year. To be able to go with a runner is huge for them as well.”

He added, “Rainbow’s End are also great supporters, and only have horses in training with me, so it’s a really cool group of owners. 

“And then you realise what the horse herself has managed to do. She has put herself in the thick of things for the Queen Mary by being an impeccable student.”

That Belmont Park victory, where Cynane pulled clear of the short-priced Wesley Ward-trained favourite Sam’s Treasure (Munnings), was the culmination of the excellent homework the filly had been showing ever since she was broken by Raul Reyes. 

Cynane was identified, like a lot of Morley’s stock, by the Oracle Bloodstock team, who signed for the Hinkle Farms-drafted half-sister to classy middle-distance performer Cat’s Claw (Dynaformer). 

Cynane | Chelsea Durand

Recalling what he liked most about Cynane as a yearling, Morley said, “”The first time I saw her, I wrote, ‘what a walk’ and gave her two ticks. I went back through my Keeneland Sale catalogue and she was one of four fillies that I gave two ticks to. I absolutely adored her.

“Conor Foley, Jim Hatchett and Scotty Everett at Oracle Bloodstock do a lot of my shortlisting at the yearling and two-year-old sales. This filly was on their list. 

“Conor and I put her ownership group together and, I was so high on her, I probably would have gone strong on her if I had to. I’m delighted we didn’t have to. She’s obviously got a very strong female family and looks to have given herself a real shot at competing on a huge stage.”

Morley added, “She was the only one who we bought last year with Ascot in mind. We wanted to give her every opportunity to do this if she could. I said to Raul Reyes when she went down to Florida, train her like a very, very precocious two-year-old until she tells you that she can’t do it, and then we’ll just build her back to what we normally do. 

“On March 2, he rang me and said, ‘Tommy, that filly is leaving tomorrow,’ and I said, ‘Raul, well done.’ That’s how it went.”

“She has never missed a day of training and eats like a pig, so it’s all credit to her. You can’t miss a day if you are going to do this. Then you have to be enough to deal with Wesley [Ward] on debut. It’s then, and only then, when you can start to think about trips like this.”

The seeds of this Royal Ascot plan were not set back in September when Morley first set eyes on Cynane but much further back than that. The son of a successful breeder and owner, he is also the nephew of multiple Group 1-winning trainer David Morley, whose Royal Ascot victory in the Gold Cup with Celeric  (GB) (Mtoto {GB}) sticks out in the memory for the young handler. 

A graduate of the Godolphin Flying Start programme, Morley could have set up training anywhere in the world, but on the advice of his former boss in Newmarket Jeremy Noseda, took out his licence in America. Fast-forward 13 years and he is still there, building his stable bigger and better, season after season. 

“I started off with Eddie Kenneally in Palm Meadows and Brendan Walsh was an assistant there at the time. We then went to Keeneland, followed by Churchill, and by the time I got to Saratoga, I thought ‘this is a wonderful life’. 

“Then I began to think about what it would take to get started up in England compared to America. You don’t need an enormous amount of capital over here. I literally started training with one horse, one bridle, one saddle, two water buckets and a feed tub. That’s it. 

“I groomed the horse every morning and my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife [Maggie], rode him out and he won his second race for us. That was it, we were up and running at that point.”

He added, “I just felt that young people get afforded a little bit more of an opportunity out here. It’s very hard to break into the upper echelons as a trainer anywhere in the world but we have been lucky this year in that I came back very strong about the bunch of yearlings we purchased and am very strong on our two-year-olds for this year. You’ve got to feel good about the horses you are going to war with on a circuit like New York. For me, it’s the toughest place in America to be competitive.”

Morley’s confidence behind Cynane’s ability to handle the demands of the royal meetings stems from his insight into the tried-and-trusted criteria that Noseda followed so successfully during a golden period in the early noughties. 

Tom and Maggie Morley | Walter Wlodarczyk

He explained, “Jeremy used to come to America to buy fillies just like Cynane and we would have runners and winners every year in the Queen Mary. This filly reminds me enormously, physically, of the fillies that Jeremy used to be so successful at buying in America and bringing back to Europe to have a crack at these races. 

“This is the model that Jeremy used to buy so I will have to credit my ex-boss for giving me the idea on what to look for physically on a Queen Mary type. I was very fortunate to be there for Laddies Poker Two (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}), Fleeting Spirit (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), Sixties Icon (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), Strike The Deal (Van Nistlerooy), Simply Perfect (GB) (Danehill), the list goes on and on. They were wonderful, wonderful years and Jeremy was an unbelievably talented trainer. He was the reason I came to America. He told me to go for a year or two to get some experience and I never came back.”

Of course, you can’t mention Noseda without bringing up Laddies Poker Two in detail. Morley is all too aware that he bore witness to one of the greatest Royal Ascot training performances of the modern era. Oh, and he also pocketed himself a few quid in the process!

He recalled, “Laddies broke her pelvis and then she got a tendon. She would have won the Wokingham as a four-year-old but got a tendon getting ready for that race off the back of fracturing her pelvis the previous year. It was an extraordinary training feat to win the Wokingham after 610 days off the track. And it was like dealing with a priceless vase because we knew how good she was but we needed to keep her in one piece. 

“She did one piece of work with Fleeting Spirit who had been the European champion sprinter the year before. They did a piece of work in the spring and they worked very nicely together so we knew that, if you were going into the Wokingham off 8st 3lbs and had been working with the European champion sprinter, you knew you were going to have a decent shot to say the least. She was incredibly talented and has obviously gone on to be a very good broodmare being the dam of Winter (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).”

And that famous gamble?

“I might have had a few quid on in the weeks leading up to the race,” comes the reply. “I certainly wasn’t one of those people who got involved on the day-there was too much to do at that point. But it was rather remarkable watching a horse open up at 10-1 for the Wokingham, which is normally the starting price of the favourite in that race, and then get absolutely hammered in the betting before the race. It was great to be a part of that.”

As Morley acknowledges, rare is the day where a plan is executed to a nicety in this game. Rarer still when that plan just so happens to involve purchasing a yearling with the distinct aim of travelling halfway around the world to compete on one of the greatest stages on turf. 

Morley has avoided the many and obvious pitfalls that come with negotiating something so daring and, with the royal meeting inching ever closer, is starting to believe that this bold piece of planning could be about to come off. 

“We’ve got a Queen Mary to go and try to win,” he says. “It’s very exciting and it will mean the world to me if we can do it. The day Celeric won the Gold Cup at Ascot sealed my faith in becoming a trainer. He was a horse who meant so much to me and my family. Ascot is a very special place.”

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