Haven't a Scooby

Haven't a Scooby

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I'm pleased to say we continue to have the wind behind us.

Since last week's column we've had four more wins, including yet another (the fifth this season) from Goodwood Crusader at Newmarket. We're already on to the 30-winner mark for 2017, which is only six victories shy of our total for the whole of 2016. We had a dose seconditis in the spring - we've already had 38 seconds this year - so we'll enjoy this spell of good fortune while it lasts.

A reasonable question to ask would be why are our horses suddenly in such red-hot form. I would love to be able to give you an answer, but I'm not sure I can.

It stands to reason a yard's horses can't be wonderfully healthy all the time. One extreme has to have another. The important thing is to stick to what you believe in.

We had a tough spring in Lambourn with the weather and pollen. We had no rain to dampen the bits and bobs that float in the air.

I remember Joe Tuite and I having a good old moan about it just over a month ago. Horses have a very sensitive airway. That means when they breathe in pollen or dust on a regular basis their throats can become sore, in the same way ours can. They don't end up with an infection, as such, but they do find themselves with a problem and when they come under pressure in a race that problem is magnified. Fortunately, the pollen seems to have gone now.

You will always get one or two horses who continue to run disappointingly. At a time like this I feel particularly sorry for their owners, as it's almost as though there's a great party going on and they haven't received an invitation. The truth is, though, a slow horse is a slow horse.

Logic dictates any yard is surely going to be in better form at some times in a year compared to other times. That's why the Signposts section in the Racing Post points out which trainers are in or out of form.

During those times a trainer grows in confidence. You might take a chance by running a horse in a 0-85 handicap when, in other circumstances, you would stick to a 0-75. You become a bit braver and stick out your chest. Sometimes that can pay off, especially as hen you're being that bit braver, other people might be being that bit more cautious.

As you would expect, the mood in the yard is great. Long may that continue. We've even been contemplating tacking up Harvey and Phoebe's pony, Scooby, putting him on a box and sending him to the races!

Jumping Jack went to the races on Tuesday and won. He was due one, too, so it was lovely to see him score at Brighton. He is going to make someone a fabulous three-year-old hurdler. We've already schooled him and he loves it.

See Of Rome was very good when winning at Salisbury.

A mile and a quarter on slower ground was right up his street as he's a horse who will get two miles next year. I was delighted for his owners, John and Jordan Lund, as they've been very patient.

Patience has also been needed with Zavikon, who got off the mark at Windsor on Monday. We have been struggling with his weight, as he always been a little light. Horses won't just eat more so we've been trying to keep the condition on him, using every possible remedy in the book.

When I was a jockey I enjoyed some wonderful days in India, where I was fortunate to win most of the country's major races. So, too, has Desert God, who since those glory days has moved from Bangalore to Lambourn and starts out for us at Windsor on Saturday.

Desert God really was a champion on his home soil. His triumphs included the Indian Derby, the Indian St Leger, the Bangalore St Leger, the Calcutta Derby, the Calcutta 2,000 Guineas, the President Of India Gold Cup and the Indian Turf Invitational Cup.

The last of his Indian victories came in September, after which his owner and then trainer, Paddy Padmanabhan, sent him to race in Dubai. Things did not work out as hoped in two runs at Meydan, but I'm honoured Paddy, who is India's top trainer, and his wife Sharmila have asked me to look after him in Britain.

He is a horse I already had a connection to, as I rode his mother, Running Flame, to win the Invitation Cup and Oaks. She was a very good staying mare and, from what I've seen of him, I think Desert God could prove to be a useful stayer in this part of the world.

I have ridden him twice since he came to me and my belief is he will be at his best when he goes over two miles. Looking at the videos of his races makes me even more confident in that opinion, particularly as one of his most impressive wins was in the Indian St Leger over 1m6f, although on that occasion Paddy felt he simply stayed better than the opposition.

This Windsor 1m3f handicap (3.55) looks a nice starting point for him, although it's impossible at this stage to know whether a mark of 97 is workable. What I do know is how much it would mean to Paddy and Sharmila if he could do well over the coming weeks and months.

They believe their horse can strike a blow for India by becoming a rare Indian-bred horse to win in Britain. Zenon, who was out of an Indian superstar I rode called Jacqueline, won for John Gosden the other day but he was bred in Ireland.

It's going to be a busy day for us with our other runners including Nathania, who tries to go one place better than when second at Goodwood in Newmarket's 1m4f fillies' handicap (4.20).

We were pleased with her at Goodwood, but I think she will benefit for the extra two furlongs at Newmarket. She has thrived since her last run, which is very important with a filly.

At Lingfield, Beepeecee, who came close to following up his Salisbury success when narrowly failing to win at Brighton, goes in the 7f turf handicap (7.40). The pace they hit down the hill at Lingfield will suit him. I think he'll run a solid race.

Earlier on the card (6.10), Leapt, a 16,000gns purchase at the horses in training sale, makes his debut for the yard. He'll get 1m4f so this 1m2f auction maiden is a good point of entry for him.

It should be worth keeping an eye out for Angel Of Rome, who runs at Windsor on Monday. She was disappointing last time, but when we got her home we found out she wasn't right. I think she is off a good mark.

Another one to note would be Let's Be Happy, who might go to Brighton on Tuesday if the ground is fast.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby looks like being a fascinating showdown between the Epsom first and third, WIngs Of Eagles and Cracksman, and the Prix du Jockey Club second Waldgeist.

With five of the nine runners representing Ballydoyle, it is going to be very hard indeed to stop Aidan O'Brien winning another Irish Derby.

Ryan Moore will have everything in his favour aboard Wings Of Eagles. He is the only one who will know what the other four stablemates are doing.

I would always massively respect Andre Fabre, so the fact he sends Waldgeist is a tip in itself. John Gosden must also fancy the chance of Cracksman, who wore his heart on his sleeve at Epsom. He was always up there with the pace, which meant he was less likely than the winner to being going strongly to the line.

On that occasion Wings Of Eagles was ridden for luck. The scenario for him this time will be totally different. Even so, I think Ballydoyle will make this a gruelling test and that should suit Wings Of Eagles. That's why I make him my choice.

I was delighted to see 12 horses declared to run in Friday night's high value claimer at Chester.

It's a real shame there are not more of these races. As the maximum claiming price is £30,000, an owner with a horse who has been running consistently well but without winning has a chance of landing a prize and then moving the horse on for a fair price.

The races give people a valuable extra option. It's so hard for trainers to persuade owners to keep horses who show consistency but find it tough to win handicaps as a result of that consistency.

If it was up to me there would be a race like the Chester claimer programmed every week.