Horses To Follow » Empire Storm

Empire Storm

Empire Storm once again ran a big race at Ascot in finishing third in the Balmoral Handicap that brought the curtain down on Champions’ Day on Saturday.

Drawn towards the middle in stall 13 of 27, Mikey Ennis had to choose a side as the field split into two groups. As it turned out, he chose correctly in going far side, the far side group dominated the race. However, he was the highest-drawn horse to go far side, with the result that he was on the outside of the group, racing without cover from early. He went forward early, probably as a consequence, he was in the front rank passing the six-furlong pole, and he was the clear leader by the time they reached the four-furlong pole.

He travelled really well in front though. One by one, his rivals started to come under pressure in behind and, when his rider gave him a kick and sent him on his way at the two-furlong pole, he went two lengths clear of the pack and it looked more than possible that he would hold on. However, the two-furlong pole is a long way from home in a big-field straight-track one-mile handicap on soft ground at Ascot, and it was no surprise that he was caught, first by Bronze Angel and then, close home, by Maverick Wave. Even so, it was a massive run by Empire Storm, who belied odds of 33/1 to finish third, given how prominently he raced and how much daylight he saw from early.

This was Michael Attwater-trained gelding’s second big run on the bounce at Ascot. On his previous run, he had finished second behind impressive winner Intransigent in the Totepool Challenge Cup over seven furlongs off a mark of 104. A 2lb hike for that run was not enough to stop him running a big race on Saturday, and another 2lb hike for Saturday’s run is fair. He is seven years old, and he has run 43 times, but he is in the form of his life. A Group 3 winner in his native Germany, he wasn’t at all disgraced in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes last May. He did well in Dubai last spring – albeit on Tapeta, which is no more – and he will be of interest if he goes over there next spring. He can operate on good ground also, but he will be of particular interest in the early part of next season in Britain given how well he goes on soft ground, and he will be of most interest if and when he next races on soft ground at Ascot.

19th October 2014