Horses To Follow » Saddler’s Rock

Saddler’s Rock

Saddler’s Rock ran a cracker to finish second in the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown on Friday evening, a perfect prep race for the Ascot Gold Cup, and he is really interesting for the Royal meeting now, and indeed for all the major Cup races for the rest of the season.

Some people were disappointed that he didn’t win, some people questioned his Gold Cup claims on the back of defeat to a 100-rated mare, but everything was against John Oxx’s horse on Friday. The ground was too soft, the distance was too short, and he was taking on race-fit rivals on his seasonal debut. As well as that, he had suffered a slight setback beforehand, and John Oxx had to rush him a little to get a race into him before Ascot.

Furthermore, that 100-rated mare, Midnight Soprano, is hugely progressive. This was her fourth win on the bounce, and a 4lb hike to a mark of 104 may still under-estimate her ability and her rate of progression. Saddler’s Rock apparently blew up half way up the home straight before getting his second wind and rallying to get to within a half a length of the winner, one length in front of the talented and race-fit Unaccompanied. It was a big performance, and one which has been under-rated by the Gold Cup market.

Saddler’s Rock shaped like a Gold Cup candidate last season. He didn’t have the run of the race when he finished third in the Irish St Leger Trial at The Curragh in August, yet he still finished just a length behind Fame And Glory. It was significant that Oxx ran him in the Doncaster Cup on his next run, and the colt didn’t disappoint him, staying on really well to beat Opinion Poll by an ever-increasing four lengths. He was admittedly getting 17lb from Opinion Poll, but that included the three-year-olds’ allowance over the trip, Opinion Poll was only carrying a 3lb penalty. Also, that was only the sixth run of Saddler’s Rock’s life, his first at beyond a mile and three quarters, and he won decisively in the end.

The fact that he was such an accomplished stayer last season as a three-year-old augurs really well for this term, when he should be even stronger at four and when his stamina should be even better. The step up to two and a half miles for the Ascot Gold Cup should really suit him now. He is probably at his best on fast ground but he proved on Friday that he can also operate under easier conditions, conditions which are possible at the Royal meeting now. He is still probably an under-rated horse.

8th June 2012