Horses To Follow » Court Masterpiece

Court Masterpiece

Court Masterpiece had a big question mark over his head before the seven-furlong conditions race at York on Saturday on his first run in over two years after a stint at Woodlands Stud in Galway. He has since traded the blue and white Gainsborough Stud colours for the black and yellow of Maxilead Limited, and Ed Dunlop for John Quinn, but he appears to have lost little or none of his racing ability. Easy enough to back beforehand, he was settled in rear by Graham Gibbons, was still on the bridle passing the two-furlong pole, then quickened up nicely when he got a gap a furlong and a half out to mount a serious challenge to Regal Parade, but he just couldn’t go on inside the final 100 yards, and went down by a half a length in the end.

This was a hot conditions race, at least deserving of listed status, and Court Masterpiece ran a cracker. It was noticeable that his rider didn’t lift his stick, not even once, he kept both hands on the reins all the way through the drive to the line despite the temptation that must have been there to give his mount a smack. He may well have won if he had had one, but this was obviously a fact-finding mission, see if the nine-year-old retained any of his ability after his attempt at diversification. The emphatic answer is that he does.

Of course there is the chance that he will bounce now after this, but he was always an honest-to-God horse who gave his all, and there is a greater chance that he will go on from this now. He always gave the impression that he was a seven-furlong specialist, despite his win in the Sussex Stakes and his second placing in the Queen Anne. He was never a really fashionable horse, and he will probably be under-rated more than ever now as a nine-year-old returning to the track, but this performance suggests that there is still fire in his racing belly, and he should be over-priced and worth backing next time as long as he has conditions in his favour. The Group 2 Lennox Stakes, run over seven furlongs at Glorious Goodwood looks like an ideal target at this stage. He has won four times, including once at Group 1 level and once at Group 2 level, in eight visits to Goodwood, and he won the Lennox Stakes itself in 2005. He could be a leading player again in that contest, four years later.

30th May 2009