Horses To Follow » Spark Plug

Spark Plug

Spark Plug put up a really impressive performance to win the one-mile handicap that concluded proceedings on Lockinge Stakes day at Newbury on Saturday.

Held up through the early stages of the race by Jimmy Fortune, he was still stone last as they passed the two-furlong pole. The field was racing in arrowhead formation at that point, and Spark Plug moved to the outside of the field so that he could deliver his challenge. He was about four lengths behind the leader at that point, and in clear daylight, which was not ideal. Even so, he showed a really good turn of foot from a furlong and a half out and, despite moving to his left, moved forward quickly to hit the front before they reached the half-furlong marker, keeping on well to hold GM Hopkins’ late lunge by a neck.

There was lots to like about this performance. GM Hopkins is a talented performer, he was progressive last year as a three-year-old, he was sent off the 6/1 favourite for the Lincoln on his debut this season, and he was a really well-backed favourite here. There was a sense that Spark Plug got first run, that Frankie Dettori had to wait in traffic on GM Hopkins before he could ask him for his effort and that GM Hopkins was closing markedly close home. However, Spark Plug showed the better turn of foot, even after GM Hopkins had got into the clear, it was a race-winning move and it was the turn of foot of a talented individual. GM Hopkins is also talented, and the pair of them came clear with the well-handicapped Pastoral Player, which adds ballast to the performance. Also, the winning time was good, less than half a second slower than the time that Night Of Thunder clocked in winning the Lockinge over the same course and distance 70 minutes earlier.

Brian Meehan’s horse has run just seven times now in his life. On his debut this season, he finished second behind the impressive Ayaar in the Spring Cup over Saturday’s course and distance, coming from the rear in a race in which it was an advantage to race handily. He progressed from his seasonal debut to Saturday, and he should be able to progress again now, especially on fast ground. The handicapper has raised him 6lb for this to a mark of 108, but that is a mark off which he will still be of interest in a big handicap, a race like the Royal Hunt Cup. He could be even better than a handicapper, but the two best runs of his life now have been in big-field straight-mile handicaps, and it may be that they produce the fast pace and the traffic that brings out the best in him.

16th May 2015