Horses To Follow » Ocean’s Minstrel

Ocean’s Minstrel

Ocean’s Minstrel ran an eye-catching race when he finished third behind Theola and Red Cadeaux in the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket on Saturday. Held up out the back in the early stages of the race, he was travelling best of all but he was still last of the 14 runners passing the three-furlong pole. Michael Hills went for a run up the far rail, but his path was blocked, and he had to switch around horses out into the centre of the track. By the time he did, Theola and Red Cadeaux were both in full flight on the far side, he had three lengths to make up, and they were passing the furlong pole. It took Ocean’s Minstrel a little while to build up momentum, but once he did he finished to great effect, moving from ninth place to third by the time they reached the line, staying on better than noted stayer Ajaan and failing by a neck to catch Red Cadeaux for second place.

This really was a noteworthy effort from Ocean’s Minstrel. These long distance flat races are more about stamina and momentum than they are about speed, and John Ryan’s gelding was just too late getting into his stride here. If he had got out earlier, or if he had followed Theole through on the far side, he would almost certainly have beaten Red Cadeaux for the runner-up spot, and he may have won. He is without a win since he won the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom’s Derby meeting last year, and it isn’t as if he hasn’t had many attempts since. Including his runs at Meydan in the spring, he has raced 14 times to date this year. However, he has improved since he has been stepped up to staying trips. He didn’t do too badly on his first attempt over a marathon distance in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he has shaped well on a couple of occasions since, including when beaten just a total of a length by subsequent Summer Stakes winner Martyr in a two-mile handicap back at Ascot in July, and when third to promising young stayer Maxim Gorky at Newmarket on his penultimate run. He had been gelded between then and his run at Newmarket last Saturday, and it may not be a coincidence that he put up his best performance for some time there. He has dropped down to a mark of 85, which is 16lb lower than the mark off which he began this season, and he could be a really well-handicapped horse now if the gelding operation has re-kindled his enthusiasm. On Saturday’s evidence, there is every chance that it has and, as such, he is very interesting now for the Cesarewitch. We know now that he stays the Cesarewitch trip and handles the track, and, as a son of Pivotal, it is probable that he will handle the easier ground that we are likely to get in mid-October. He ran well on soft ground at Newmarket at the end of August, and easier ground may even bring about further improvement. He is number 31 on the list now for the Cesarewitch, so he will get into the race if that is his target, and it is a logical target. He is set to carry 8st 2lb now as things stand, so he should end up with a nice racing weight even if some of the top ones come out. A big run could be on the cards, and current odds of 33/1 look very big indeed.

18th September 2010

© The Irish Field, 25th September 2010