Horses To Follow » Casamento


The Michael Halford-trained Casamento took another significant step forward when he landed the Group 2 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday. There were a number of things to like about this performance. For starters, there was the manner in which he settled in the early stages of the race. On his racecourse debut at Tipperary, the son of Shamardal was drawn wide, he bounced out of the stalls, led from early, moved over to bag the rail, and wasn’t headed. On his second run in the Group 1 National Stakes at The Curragh, he again hit the gates running and Declan McDonogh just allowed him stride on. On Sunday, you could see that he was anxious to lead, but you could also see that Pat Smullen wanted to get him to settle. It wasn’t certain how this one was going to go, because Casamento threw his head around for a couple of strides, apparently not happy that Robin Hood was leading him, but he quickly got the message, transmitted from Smullen’s hands through the reins, and he dropped the bridle, quite content to allow the other horse bask in the early glory.

After that, Casamento relaxed and travelled well. It did take him a little while to pick up when Smullen asked him to do so, passing the two-furlong pole, but once he did he showed an impressive turn of foot to draw clear. Smullen said afterwards that he had switched off so well that it just took him a couple of strides to get him switched on again, but once he did, he picked up like a good horse.

This was just Casamento’s third ever run. He almost beat Pathfork in the National Stakes on just his second start, he went down by a fast-diminishing head, getting back at Jessica Harrington’s colt after being headed, and this Group 2 victory was deserved. It may not have been the best renewal of the Beresford Stakes ever, but runner-up Mawaakef was well fancied and well backed, and the style of Casamento’s win was impressive.

Sheikh Mohammed’s colt has to be high on your shortlist now for next year’s 2000 Guineas, insofar as you can have a Guineas shortlist in October. The Beresford is often a really good pointer to the following season’s Classics, having been won in the recent past by Alamshar, Azamour and, of course, Sea The Stars, and there is every chance that this fellow can further enhance the race’s reputation. He is a big scopey individual, his trainer has never tried to hide his high opinion of him, and you have to think that he has significant scope for progression when he begins to fully fill his frame.

Of course, there is a chance that he will be whisked off to join the Godolphin team in Dubai for the winter, but there is also a chance that he will be left with Halford (Godolphin may have set something of a precedent with Eastern Aria), which would probably be a positive in the context of the Guineas, given that Godolphin haven’t won the 2000 Guineas with a winter-warmer since 1999, and that Halford has proven that he is up there with the best of them when he has the right raw material.

26th September 2010

© The Irish Field, 2nd October 2010