Things We Learned » Endless opportunities

Endless opportunities

Endless Drama put up a high-class performance to finish third in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last Saturday, given that it was his first run since he finished second behind Gleneagles in the Irish 2000 Guineas on this day last year.

Ger Lyons’ horse raced a little more keenly than ideal through the early stages of the race, but that was understandable, given that he hadn’t raced in over a year.  He moved into the race nicely on the far side for Colin Keane and, while he could not match Belardo’s finishing kick, he kept on well all the way to the line to take third place, just over a length behind the winner.

The Lockinge is a often good race for seasonal debutants, seven of the previous 10 winners were winning on their seasonal return, but Endless Drama was off for almost a year and he still did best of the three horses – Limato and Kodi Bear were the other two, and both were shorter in the betting – who were racing for the first time in 2016 on Saturday.

It is interesting that the trainer said afterwards that Endless Drama would get a mile and a quarter, and that opens up options for the son of Lope De Vega.  He holds an entry in both the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes over a mile and a quarter at Royal Ascot, but it seemed as if his trainer was favouring the shorter race, before giving his horse a mid-season break and bringing him back for the Irish Champion Stakes.

He is a lightly-raced, strapping individual who has bundles of potential for further progress.

Lyons said before Saturday’s race that, if Endless Drama wasn’t a Group 1 horse, he didn’t have one.  He probably is, he probably does.


Keatley making Ayr waves

And speaking of Irish trainers competing in Britain, Adrian Keatley sent four horses to Ayr on Wednesday.  The first, Mo Wonder, could finish only third in the second division of the six-furlong, but the next three, Nice Vintage, Anonymous Lady and Millefiori, all won.

It was the second time that Keatley had sent Nice Vintage and Anonymous Lady to Ayr.  He sent them both over on 25th April, along with Mo Henry and Patience A Plenty and Rock Montjeu, and he had three winners on that day too.  And Anonymous Lady finished second, beaten just a neck, in a handicap at The Curragh in the interim.

Keatley may be becoming to Ayr on the flat what Gordon Elliott is to Perth over jumps.  He had three winners from just nine runners at Ayr in 2014, and he had three more winners there last year.  Of his 13 winners in Britain to date, 12 of them have been at Ayr, where he has a strike rate of a hugely impressive 39%.

And just as Elliott did over jumps when he was starting out, Keatley is making waves on the flat in Ireland too.  Jet Setting is obviously his flag-bearer, winner of the Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last month and set to take her chance in tomorrow’s Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas tomorrow.  


Derby picture still in flux

It is difficult to remember a Derby in which the picture has been in such a state of flux just two weeks out.  Few of the trials have gone the way that the market expected, and the two horses that top the market are both quoted ‘with a run’.

No horse has really grabbed the race.  US Army Ranger had his chance, but he wasn’t impressive in winning the Chester Vase.  Midterm had his chance, but he was well beaten in the Dante and is now in a race against time to get there.  Idaho had his chance, but he was beaten in the Derrinstown.  And the market has not grown to love the big trial winners yet.

But the uncertainty only adds to the intrigue.  Sure, you love to see a Sea The Stars or a Camelot or an Australia winning all before him and winning the Derby as well, but there is just as much enjoyment to be gleaned from taking all the pieces in this puzzle and trying to put it all together. 

And there remains the fascinating possibility that something could win out of the park.  Something could step forward now from their trial and blitz the field.  It could be US Army Ranger, it could be Wings Of Desire, it could be Moonlight Magic, it could be Cloth Of Stars, it could be The Gurkha.

The uncertainty also adds to the income from supplementary entry fees.

Leicester maiden tops

The 10-furlong maiden that was run at Leicester on 23rd April did not look like anything special at the time.  The Roger Varian-trained debutant UAE Prince was sent off the 4/5 favourite, so it was disappointing at the time that he could only finish third behind Imperial Aviator and Ulysses.

Now look.  Imperial Aviator danced in in the London Gold Cup at Newbury last Saturday, a race that has thrown up Al Kazeem and Time Test and Green Moon and Monterosso, and is now as short as 3/1 in places for the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Ulysses (by Galileo out of Light Shift) won his maiden at Newbury last Friday by eight lengths and is now under consideration for the Derby, for which he is no bigger than 16/1. (Ref. flux, above).

UAE Prince also holds an entry in the Derby.  That is probably flying a little high at this stage, but it may pay to retain the faith in him for just a little longer.


Almodovar exciting

It was only a Class 3 handicap that Almodovar won at Kempton Park on Wednesday evening, but he put up a seriously impressive performance in so doing, and there is no telling how good he could be. 

The son of Sea The Stars settled into a lovely even rhythm for George Baker in front through the early stages of the race and, when Baker took him towards the centre of the track in the home straight and gave him a squeeze, he came right away from his rivals.  He was eased heavily close home, but he still recorded the joint-fastest comparative time of the night.

The David Lanigan-trained gelding won two of his four races last season, and he might have landed his last three had he not hung to his left close home at Pontefract on his final run.  That was in August, he had been off the track since then, but he had been busy: he had an operation to remove a chip in his knee and he had been gelded.

Bjorn Nielsen’s horse was still a little green on Wednesday, he hung to his left just a little, but that is forgivable, and it means that he still has scope for further progress as he learns more about this racing game.  This was just his fifth race ever.

The handicapper will have his say now, he is probably in for a fair hike, but he was racing off a mark of 93 on Wednesday, so he should be able to take a fair hike in his stride.  The fact that he holds entries in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, as well as in the Eclipse, gives an indication of the regard in which his trainer holds him.  

Lanigan mentioned the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot as a possibility now, and, as long as the handicapper does not go bananas, that would be an ideal target.



© The Irish Field, 21st May 2016